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-1000-464-5

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

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BN: At Heart Mountain, do you have memories of going to school or activities there?

AK: Yeah, I was pre-school, so that's why my cousin Miki and I would hang out. Everybody remembers the fact that we had a wagon, because you could order through Sears and Roebuck, and the wagon, you can make it what you want, you could make it... because it had those side rails on it and so forth, you could pull each other around on that. You could turn it upside down and stand on it like a boat or something. So there were different things that we would do like that. We would crawl underneath the barracks and hide and things. I would remember episodic things like the fire. One of the barracks was burning, and everybody's yelling and screaming, you could see the black smoke and so forth. Or standing on an anthill, and all of a sudden the ants are crawling up me and biting me. So those are the memories that I have.

BN: Then you mentioned your dad and grandfather worked in the hospital, did your mom work at Heart Mountain?

AK: You know, of the girls who had different things, I mean, Clara was the Nisei Week queen, my mom was the sewer, she used to be a seamstress and went to L.A. Trade School, to Tech, to learn sewing. So she sewed a lot of clothes and everything for people, drapes or whatever. In fact, if you go to Heart Mountain, Wyoming, to the exhibit there, the Americanized costume that this Issei couple was wearing, is the costume or the dress and so forth that my grandfather sewed. He was quite a character -- this is the Suski one -- he used to be a seamstress of sorts, so he would make a coat or...

BN: You're talking about Dr. Suski?

AK: Suski.

BN: In addition to all the other stuff he did.

AK: Yeah, he needed to stay busy, and he needed to stay creative. After the war, or not after the war, but even before the war, he used to service the Mexican community because if it wasn't Japanese or Mexican, people wouldn't see you. So he learned Spanish. He doesn't accept money, I mean, if you can't afford to pay, that's fine. So he would bring home a chicken, or he would bring home groceries, raw products kind of thing. So that was sort of the things that were going on and bartering and things like that. But he would be the pretty active in some of these other things. But he wasn't a club joiner like Kumamoto side. So you had the Kumamoto side contrasted with the more industrious, wanting to be productive.

BN: Sounds like most of the Suskis kind of had this artistic bent.

AK: Yeah, in fact, well, Elmer, the one in Indio, his biggest hobby was golf. Maybe it's from the Olivers, maybe it's sports and things like that, but he was quite a fixture in the Imperial Valley -- or not Imperial, Coachella Valley, because that's where all the golf courses and all the golf tournaments here. And he was active with the Lions and some of these other service organizations.

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