Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Hisaji Q. Sakai Interview
Narrator: Hisaji Q. Sakai
Interviewer: Patricia Wakida
Location: Walnut Creek, California
Date: April 12, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-475

<Begin Segment 1>

PW: My name is Patricia Wakida, and today is April 12, 2019. I'm interviewing Hisaji Sakai in Walnut Creek, California. First of all, thank you so much, so much, for agreeing to this.

HS: You're welcome.

PW: So my first question is, when and where were you born?

HS: I was born in San Francisco.

PW: And what year?

HS: Oh, February 28, 1925.

PW: Where in San Francisco? Which neighborhood?

HS: Actually, we had a, they call 'em doulas now, but she was a midwife, and her name was Matsumoto, and her daughter was a pediatrician, became a pediatrician. But I was born at home. We were all born at home.

PW: And you told me you were the youngest of your siblings?

HS: Yes, there were nine children, five boys and four girls.

PW: Can you tell me everyone's names?

HS: [Laughs] Yeah. Tamotsu... okay, we'll start with the girls. Shizu was the oldest, Tamotsu was next, and Eiji was third. Fusako was fourth, and Iku was (sixth), Yozo was sixth... I'm missing one. And Katsu was seventh, eighth, and I was ninth. Did I miss one somewhere? (Asako, the fifth.)

Off camera: Your favorite, Asako.

HS: Oh, Asako was fourth and Iku was fifth.

PW: So tell me the names of your parents.

HS: My father's name was Kitaichi, and my mother's name was Tei, T-E-I, and her maiden name was Imai.

PW: Do you know which prefecture they came from?

HS: Yes, they were both born in Matsumoto-shi in Nagano-ken. He was born in (1879), and she was born seven years later, can't add anymore. And actually, my father had, according to my sisters, a very hard childhood. His mother died when he was quite young, and his father remarried. And by the laws of primogeniture, a male would inherit the farm, they were born on the farm. And, of course, the mother understandably, the second mother, or the father remarried, was going to protect her children, she had three daughters and a son. So my father left to go to live with the neighbors, the Imais, so he stayed there and actually lived in the storage house part where they kept the family goods and treasures. So he left early, my father left early for the United States because at that time, they were having unemployment in Japan, and he had worked for the Imais, they had a fish store, and that store still, I believe, still exists. And he earned enough to make his fifty dollars, so they needed fifty dollars to come into the United States. And the oft-told story was that fifty dollars was always passed to the next person so they would reuse it. I don't know how true that is. But he came into San Francisco.

PW: How old was he?

HS: He was probably sixteen or eighteen, so he came in the early (1890s).

PW: And did he know your mother before, or did they meet here in the United States?

HS: I'm sorry?

PW: Did he meet your mother in the United States or did they know each other in Japan?

HS: Oh, yes. When he was assigned to the Imai family, my mother was an Imai. So she was the oldest daughter of the Imais, so she was not a "picture bride," and she was seven years younger. And he called for her as soon as he had enough money to support a bride.

PW: Did he come straight to San Francisco?

HS: To San Francisco, yes. And my mother did, too, apparently, not Seattle.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

PW: So your family, I know that your father eventually had a business in San Francisco Japantown, but was that the only, do you know if he did other work in San Francisco?

HS: He started out as a houseboy, domestic, and he learned how to cook. So every Christmas and Thanksgiving, he (would) roast the turkeys, but he would not cook any other time. Then he went to work on the farms, and so he apparently went to Winters, and that's another story I can tell you that has some relation to Wayne Collins. You want me to tell you now?

PW: Sure.

HS: Okay. With the alien land law, which existed at that time, Asian aliens could not own land. So my father worked for a man named Yamamoto, his name was George. His wife was Alice Yamamoto, and they were prominent (farmers) in Winters, California, which is north of here. And when... Mr. Yamamoto ran a very productive apricot and peach farm. My brothers used to go up there for summer and cut the peaches for dried fruit. And I remember going up there once, and the peach fuzz was very itchy. And it was a Sunday, they served chicken, roast chicken, it was awful. (...)

PW: So where did your parents get married? Like in Japantown?

HS: I don't know that for sure, but I'm sure it was Japantown.

PW: And what neighborhood did you grow up in once you were born?

HS: Well, it exists even today as Japantown, on Post Street. My father started a grocery store on Geary Street, and Japantown was a very confined, close community, and probably the Japantown, the greater Japantown was about twenty to thirty blocks from Geary to Pine, and from Octavia to Fillmore. And the original Japantown started in South Park, that was south of Market Street. But the Japanese followed the Jews, and the Jews would leave as each community became more affluent as they... what is the term? Well, anyway, it has different meanings. Each would leave, so the Jews would leave to go lower, Pacific Heights, and Fillmore Street and beyond west. And so even today, the temple, the Jewish temple was on Pine and Laguna, then they left to build theirs on Fillmore and California, I believe, and then the larger temple on California, Presidio. So everybody's following each other as they earn or their income increases.

PW: What was the name of your father's store?

HS: It was called Uoki, "uwo" for "fish," and "ki" for Kitaichi.

PW: Describe the store for me. Do you have memories of when you were a child?

HS: I don't know much about Geary Street, because Japantown started on Geary Street, and they moved on to Post Street. And all the homes were Victorians, and they were jacked up, they were two-story homes, and there were never spaces between homes and stores. And the homes were raised to three floors, and the base floor, first floor, became the store. They would screw it, use jack screws to bring it. So those homes were well-built, because they used prime redwood, first grade redwood. And that home, during the renovation of Japantown, where they renovated homes, that home still exists. It was moved to Fillmore Street, I've never seen it.

PW: Did the kids all have to work at the grocery store?

HS: Yeah. We all did, everybody did, and it was Chie, Tamotsu's Chie would be sure to always, during the summer, invite all the relatives and all the children of good customers, and hire them for summer vacation. She's very good about that.

PW: And did your mother work as well, or was she mostly at home? That's nine chidren.

HS: She was always at home with her nine children, she had to. At some time, she would wait in the store, she learned how to use the meat slicer. In fact, that was always my lunch. I had two pieces of bread and one slice of ham, that's all I ever had for lunch. And first she would get up at five and go to bed at midnight with all the children, she was a hard worker. Never complained, never seen her cry.

PW: Did you and your siblings play well together?

HS: With mother and father?

PW: Well, yeah, let's start with your mother and father. What was their relationship like?

HS: Well, my parents both spoke only Japanese. And my father spoke a little English, so there was hardly any communication. My sisters actually brought me up, and so they used to play with me as  a child as though I was a doll or something. So when I was in grammar school, they would dress me in Peter Pan collars, and short pants, and I just hated it. But they loved to take care of me. And my father, after he was able to retire, he retired quite early, because he had several employees. And Eiji, my brother, of course, Tamotsu, the older brother, they all worked in the store and they had a manager (who) embezzled all the money, all the family money. So my sister, all my sisters had to go to work to try to regain (the family fortunte), because he was quite in debt because he owned a third of the block. He had a five-unit apartment on Bush Street and a twenty-unit housing unit on Geary Street. He held on to the five-unit apartment on Bush Street, and the family still owns it. And he lost the Geary Street, but he kept the store and the family house, but he lost the other properties on Post Street. He was doing well, though. They went through the Depression, I still remember the Depression when he was in trouble, I had to go answer the door and say, "No one's home."

PW: Why do you think he was in trouble?

HS: Well, because of the Great Depression, that was, began about 1928 and worse in 1930. But came out of the Depression slowly enough to support nine children.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

PW: Where did you go to school, elementary school?

HS: Grammar school was on O'Farrell Street, that was two blocks, one beyond Geary Street. I don't know if the Japanese were the majority, but there were mostly Japanese, one or two blacks, and the rest were Jewish children. The black child was one of my best friends, his name was Jeffrey. And I brought him home all the time, and my sisters and brothers, they were quite tolerant, and they were very good. And so they would always smile when Jeffrey would come.

PW: What did you do for fun? Like what were your favorite things to do?

HS: For fun? Well, because I was the youngest, I got to go to camp, join YMCA, join Boy Scouts, I went to Japanese language school, camps, YMCA camp, and poor, my brother just above me, (Katsu), was always ignored. So I'm sure he felt badly about it, because he wouldn't come back to San Francisco. He became a dental technician, he was very good with his hands. And he married a Seattle girl and so he went to live in Seattle and started his own dental technician practice, and he always took one apprentice. I went to Lowell High School. Lowell High School was supposed to be the academic school. Unfortunately, most of the teachers were about retirement age, and they (didn't work) hard, and they really didn't put up... (though) the young teachers were great, like Ms. Reskan in French. Ms. Diflora... Italian in math, and George Lornear in social sciences, they were really very good.

PW: Did you have really good friends in high school?

HS: Good friends?

PW: Yeah, did you have really close friends in high school?

HS: It was a Japanese community, Lowell High School had a fairly large number of Japanese kids, so we were always together, the Jewish kids were always together, and I didn't know very many whites. The only white kids that I knew were Jews. Well, Lowell High School was really good. Alexander Calder, the sculptor, artist, Breyer, who was now Associate Justice, (Supreme Court), was two years behind me, I think. His brother is U.S. Attorney, and there were two Nobel laureates. It was not a tough school, we made sure we never brought books home. Today, it's entirely different, everybody studies. They were the first school in San Francisco, as far as I know, to start Advanced Placement. There weren't very many schools teaching, so four of us were put in a pre-calculus course. I don't know the name, I forgot the names of two white boys, and Ken Yoshimura was the other. But he, interesting enough, he went to Armstrong and he worked for Lockheed, and he worked in the skunkworks and that apparently a secret work camp. He wouldn't tell me too much about it.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

PW: So in December 1941, you were still in high school, yes?

HS: December of '41 I was in high school, that was a three-year high school, so (...) I was a junior, no, it was the second year, I was a junior.

PW: Because there were many Japanese Americans in the school, do you remember what the feeling at school was when everybody heard the news about Pearl Harbor being attacked?

HS: You know, it was Sunday when we heard the radio about the bombing of Pearl Harbor. And it was time for basketball, but it was really very a quiet week around Post and Buchanan, didn't know what to do. And it was awful because journalism was like Fox News today, and you couldn't believe what they (would) say, and they said that the Japanese were dancing in the streets. It's not like Hawaii, dancing in the streets and that we were hiding all our rifles and cameras. (Those items) were banned almost immediately, so when I went to college, they always asked, "Didn't you bring your camera with you?" I said, "We couldn't have any cameras."

PW: Did your family talk about international relations or what had happened with the bombing?

HS: We are not too communicative. We would always read or... the whole family read, we would read for ourselves, and we would listen to the radio. Because... what they call it? Blackouts, we had to have a special, we'd put blankets, because the shades were not good enough, we had, every night we had to close off. Because there were actual bombings, submarines came and bombed Santa Barbara, and there was, I think, something going on in the Northwest, they sent balloons with explosives, hoping to start a forest fire, which was not successful.

PW: Was your father affected directly and immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

HS: The first person in the area (to be arrested) was Mr. Kataoka. They ran a hotel, and the (tenants were mostly bachelors), there were about seven hotels run by Japanese. They had bachelors and those people who ran hotels also ran travel services, too. And I remember, you can cross Post Street in those days, and everybody just jaywalked, and this poor man was in handcuffs, his head was bent, and you could see the fear on his face. He was the first taken because we thought they (were arrested) alphabetically, his hotel was Aki Hotel, so A, and our store was, Uoki was U, so we didn't have... and by the time they came to my family, my father, we had five rooms in the house for the nine children and parents. And the master bedroom was so large that it was, the wall was taken down so there were two double beds in there. My parents was on one side, and my brother and I, Katsu, was in the other. And I knew when they came (to arrest my father), very polite agents came in at seven o'clock in the morning. And we were still asleep, but my mother, of course, was up, and had prepared, they had suitcases. And my father had bookshelves of Japanese books, they didn't even bother with that. They looked in my drawer, and they saw all the things I had made, I wasn't as good as Katsu, but I was fast. So I had made a telegraph set, a model lighthouse, lots of things. Because I was still, I mean, I kept from my junior high school days. And these agents were so good, they're quiet, and then they asked, heard that they're going to arrest my father. They didn't look at anything, they apparently had seen so many before that they didn't care about, or they knew they were not going to find.

But I must admit, my father's store, the family store, also chandlers. Whenever a Japanese ship, commercial, or a warship was sighted coming into the bay, they would receive a phone call from the maritime service. They paid for that service so that that would make him a (competitive)... it would make him a target because he had dealt with the Japanese warships and would provide provisions for them. My brother would (frequently) talk with the agents, and they said the agents would tell them how they were following all the people on the ship if they went from San Francisco to Los Angeles on the cars and they would tail them. He was on good terms with them, but I don't know why... I know my father was involved in the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, so then I knew he would be (arrested). (At) that time, he had (also) sponsored the Japanese (Chamber of Commerce) band, marching band, for the celebration of the building of the two bridges, San Francisco Bay bridge and the Golden Gate bridge. They had a fair in Yerba Buena (Island), so our band would go whenever there was a celebration.

There was also the Boy Scout (troop), they were much better, they had a drum and bugle corps. I'm telling you about that drum and bugle corps because there was an Italian American family that owned United Fruits, United Dried Fruits, and (the owner's son) was a musician besides running the dried fruit producers group. (Fortunately) he heard the Troop 12, and (thought that) they were (not very) good, but (because) he was a musician, he thought they were awful. So he said, he came to the Boy Scouts, it was Troop 12, my troop, and said, "We're going to teach you how a band should be doing." So he came and taught for over two years twice a week. And he was a good friend of Beniamo Bufano, and he was told that Bufano, we had a cemetery in Laurel Heights, that wasn't too far away. But (later relocated in order to gentrify) that area. And that Bufano and he were to go pick up the marble stones, and that's how we would... because stones cost quite a bit. But they did get many awards for their drum and bugle band, and they served a purpose, they weren't as good as, they were so far better than we were.

PW: When did the FBI come to talk to your dad? How many days later? When was this?

HS: We know that it was before February 1942, because he didn't go to, in February of '42, everyone in the Japantown area went to the Tanforan Assembly Center, which was formerly a racetrack, and he was already taken to Missoula, Montana, which was an old fort. And I had written to Ennis of the DOJ, Department of Justice, asking for his release. I also wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt... none of them, and my congressman, or our family's congressman, and none of them replied. But he was the first to return from Missoula to the assembly center before they all went to a more permanent, he liked to call them concentration camp, they euphemistically called them relocation centers. Anyway, so the comment he made was that because he was an enemy alien, he was officially a prisoner of war. So he was covered by the Geneva Convention, so he told my family that food was much better, certainly the living quarters were much better.

PW: I've heard that story also about the DOJ camps. So maybe it was in January? You said before Executive Order 9066 he was picked up and taken to Missoula.

HS: I'm sure 9066... I don't know which month it was.

PW: 9066 is February 19th.

HS: Well, you know that the family already was, a lot of people were already in Tanforan in February, so I don't know the exact date.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

PW: So what happened with your, so the family started preparing, they were told they have to go to...

HS: Yes. So what they did was, in fact, in the Tolan (Congressional Report on War Relocation) in Katsu's, they show a picture of him boarding, because we didn't rent the store out, we jacked the Dodge sedan and the delivery truck, and put it right into the store and kept it there. I remember all the canned goods were put into wooden boxes so they could be shipped, and most of the, although the government finally offered public storage for the evacuants, evacuees. Anyway, whatever you want to call them, Tamotsu didn't trust that they would be lost. Anyway, at that time, I did not go to assembly center because I was to go to Grinnell College, and that's another story. But my train was going to leave two days after my family went to the assembly center, so a Mr. Tanimura, who was a stockbroker, something that I knew nothing about, and I stayed over his home, and he took me to Third and Townsend. So I get on the train, and the Union Pacific train, I don't know how that crossed, that was San Francisco, and I crossed over to Oakland and I was taken to Grinnell College. And on that train, a kind gentleman sat next to me or in front of me and said, "Where are you going?" And I said, "I'm going east." Says, "East, where?" I said, "To Grinnell College in Iowa." He said, "Son, Iowa is not the east." I remember that, that's about the only thing. And I must have changed trains in Des Moines to go to Grinnell, on the Rock Island Rocket, it was called, they woke me up at three a.m. and said, "Son, this is your stop." The conductor was very nice, "This is your stop." I got off, and the whole freshman year class was there at three o'clock in the morning to welcome me. So they really wanted to take you. The reason I went to Grinnell, never having heard of the institution, is that the Quakers had started, they had the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and was offering colleges for college students, Japanese college students to go to several schools that would accept them, and I believe we were one of the first if not the first two girls from Los Angeles, Barbara Takahashi, who was as bright as she was beautiful, she was, actually, she was from Hawaii, and Aki Hosoi from Los Angles, she was fifth in our class, Barbara was first, and William Keiyasu, father's a doctor, he was a sophomore in Berkeley. And his family received, I think all three of them got a scholarship, and they needed a fourth to match the group, two boys and two girls. So all of a sudden I'm told to go, "You're going to go to Grinnell." I said, "Where's that?" and they told me. So I said, "Pay tuition, room and board," which was pretty good by today's standards. Room and board, tuition was a thousand dollars. My sister paid for that, then two days before I left, she took me to the Bank of America on Fillmore and Post, took out seven hundred dollars, and that's what I used for change money. I never asked for a penny after that. Of course, the reason was that I worked through Grinnell and Michigan, so I worked all the time. There were always jobs available, because it was wartime. Of course, paid twenty-five cents an hour, but that was a lot of money in those days.

And then when I came home, when I knew I was going to Berkeley, so I entered Berkeley for my third year, and I was given, we were all given one year for every year of service, GI Bill, and the other year, so I had three year, I saved that. And on the third year, I saw the announcement, the board announcement that this is the last day for applying for medical school. So I applied though I was only in third year, so they let me in the third year, and I used every bit of the GI Bill, and I got microscopes, a small stipend, and all textbooks, which is unimaginable today, to pay for all that. So everything that happened to me was luck. Well, anyway...

PW: What was the environment like in Iowa? What was the town like and the jobs you did?

HS: Well, I never had any problems because Grinnell, the city of Grinnell was about fourteen thousand population. I avoided it, and I'm sure the school was very careful how they assigned rooms for room and board. I lived in, well, first year students, the men, in a building called Reid Hall, and we were in the basement. Each of us had individual rooms, but they were interconnected with the other two neighbors from next door. And the people that were next door to me were marvelous kids, and I'm sure they were selected for that purpose. So two of them became professors, one was a minister's son, and all he did was play Stravinsky, so I learned a bit about music, he'd have that all the time. They all died before me, Al Greeley, Jack Hartley, Phil Hailey. Phil Hailey was the brightest of them, he had a scholarship. He became professor of philosophy at (Weslyan)... anyway, it was a big school, it wasn't ivy league, but it was in Connecticut. He wrote a book about the Jews, and there were Protestant (Hugenots), and I can't think of the name now, it was about how they protected the Jews in France. There's a special name for the Protestants that protected the Jews.

PW: I'm curious, going back to San Francisco, you left two days after your family. Did you go with them to the civil control station to watch them go to Tanforan, or what happened to you?

HS: No, I did not. I went to the Tanimuras and stayed with them, they took care of me.

PW: So while you're in Iowa, so I understand you took the train and went up to Iowa and were in school, were you corresponding with family and who? Who did you write to or what was that like?

HS: I'd write my sisters and my brothers, I'd write frequently, and they would tell me what was going on. But it was all by mail.

PW: Did they share anything that was difficult or do you think they were telling you the reality of their conditions or were they kind of soft?

HS: Well, I lost, it was a postcard, Katsu drew a picture of a horse in a stable where they were living. He was very good in doing cartoons and drawings. I know I have it somewhere, I couldn't find it.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

PW: So you said that your father was released from Missoula kind of early and was able to join them at Tanforan, is that correct?

HS: Yes, he came back... he never went to Tanforan, he went straight to Missoula, but he returned to Tanforan.

PW: And then from Tanforan, was your family moved to a permanent concentration camp?

HS: To Topaz, Topaz in Utah.

PW: Do you remember anything specific they told you about Topaz?

HS: I went to Topaz just before I was sent overseas, so that was the only visit I had. But I was in the service. I wrote to many schools because I couldn't afford Grinnell, Grinnell was very good to me, they offered me work scholarships, and that's how I had enough money to use for my personal needs. But it was during that summer after my first year I did work on detasseling corn on the farms, that's what they do, is to make hybrid corns, you had to pull out the tassels, which were the male sperms. It was quite high, tall, the cornstalks were somewhere around six to eight feet. And fortunately, the sociology professor, I had not taken his course, was a man named Bouma, was very kind. And it is said that his aunt was Katharine Hepburn. Anyway, some tassels I couldn't reach, he would reach them and would drop them on the floor. I learned about detasseling, and then after the first year, the first summer, that was what I was doing. But by that time, it was 1943, I went to the University of Nebraska because Yozo, my brother, had entered Nebraska, and I was able to join him at a co-op. The co-op was almost all Japanese because there weren't many students. And I got a job which was fairly easy, at the Nebraska Hotel, and that was their big hotel. I used to polish the floors and all that. But then I worked on icing, refrigerated cars, and that was hard work, and I was too small for it. So the Niseis who were there, and there were lots of students going to Nebraska because the president was very generous and understanding. And I look at it now and I said, was it because he was understanding, or was it because they needed students? And Nebraska did not have a student military service, it was called ASTP. ASTP, Army Specialized Training Program, and Navy B-12, if you're a college student attending college, at the time you were able to go to these services while you were in the service. I had a friend, Joe Starr, very close, he was in the ASTP at whatever college he was. But he, as soon as the last push by the Germans were made, all of them were taken. They had to go into combat with those training.

I'm sorry I'm jumping. The cars, the train cars were refrigerated by ice, and the ice were picked up during the wintertime on the rivers, they were cut and put into these sheds, and they were brought up by elevators. And fortunately there were a few, I was five-foot-two, I wasn't very big. So they would help, and they were strong and they were farm boys, they could put ice up. And that paid fifty cents an hour, so it was better, but Nebraska could get hot in the summertime. Well, then because... I think I applied to about seven colleges, Chicago, among which was Nebraska. Nebraska, I got accepted to four schools. Nebraska, Michigan accepted me, they wouldn't believe me, I told them I was not in camp ever. And they said they could accept me because they had an ASTP program and they would accept me because I had not been, and they didn't believe me, but I had to prove it and I had papers, records. And I was the only Nisei in school except for another from the East Coast, and I used to tutor in math. I was the only person they'd speak to, that was from my second year in sophomore. But the strange thing was, unknown to me, there was a Japanese language school taught by Japanese, Isseis, mostly Isseis, (few) Niseis, I never saw one on the streets in Ann Arbor, one because I never went into town, two, because they probably kept to, they were told not to go into town. But the interesting thing is that during the summer, just before I entered the University of Michigan, I worked at the University of Michigan (Hospital) running their elevators. And while I was working there, I lived at the neuropsychiatric hospital, which was empty at that time, this was Michigan. And it was filled with Japanese who were, Japanese Americans who were released to go to work outside. And even though I'm sure, a surgery suite, because there were drains right in the middle, I got to go, they had dances and so forth. But after school began, I never met one of them. I kept in touch with Albert Saijo, you probably know him. He was an artist in every sense of the word, a nice person. He's in Hawaii now, isn't he?

PW: Unfortunately, Albert has passed, and his brother Gompers also has passed, but I know who you're talking about.

HS: He's a gentle soul, a nice man. Well, anyway, there were nurses and technicians. If it weren't for them, the hospital couldn't have survived. And the other people working there were white kids from the Appalachians, I never met anybody like that before, they were interesting. After I got to know them, they told me what to do on the elevator. He said, "Now, if you're getting tired, what you do is you overfill the occupancy on elevators, make sure you have a lot of people on, and then take the elevator as high as you can, and it will drop all the way below level in the basement, and then it won't move again and you'll have to call maintenance." I did that only once, I thought it was silly. And he told me, says, "Now, you're going to be hungry at times," and he says, "what you do is you wait for the food service cart to come out," he says, "You take it back, and you don't take any passengers with you, and you stop between levels, and then you can eat all you want." That's how I survived.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

PW: What year were you in Michigan?

HS: Pardon me?

PW: I'm sorry, what year were you in Michigan?

HS: 1943.

PW: And then Nebraska was...

HS: Summer (before Michigan). I just had the one, I did something just to go, I wasn't interested in studying. But Michigan was good because I had nobody to talk to. Even those Japanese Americans in that neuropsychiatric hospital over there, and the Japanese instructors, I never knew about them. I paid a small amount to an osteopath for a room, I had a small room, just holds a bed or something like that. And I didn't know anything about bowling, but I applied for a job. I lasted one night because I didn't know what to do, because I didn't know when to put up the balls, when to stop, when I put up the pins. So it was good, just an experience.

PW: So when you were at Michigan, was that when you were recruited to the Military Intelligence Services?

HS: No. Michigan, I was drafted, they let me finish -- I can't pick it up -- they let me finish my sophomore year, and I was drafted after that. And I met some of my friends from San Francisco and we were drafted from the same, Detroit, and actually, they needed soldiers... I wouldn't call myself a soldier, they needed some, and they didn't care whether you (could) see or not. I was not kidding, the doctor or whoever was testing my eyesight said, "Now, can you see the first line?" I said, "What first line?" And he says, "Okay, see that..." I guess it was the (first) line, says, "Can you see the (first) line?" I says, "It says E." I didn't know it was E, but it had to be. He says, "Okay, good eyes." So I was selected. Most everybody that went in with me were college students, so I went and trained, at Camp Shelby, I was training with the Hawaiians and they were different from us. We were quiet, they were happy guys. And they really, we got the thirteen weeks' training and everybody else started getting eight weeks, got thirteen weeks. And on the shooting range, to tell you how bad I was, the first day I got there, we're bouncing up and down when you march to the field an exercise, and I immediately fainted. So I had to go to first aid, and then the captain was there, and he said, "Son, what's the matter?" He was Japanese American, so, "Son, what's the matter with you?" I said, "I think I fainted." And he said, "You say, 'Sir, to me." I learned quickly, I said, "Sir." And I was in the hospital three days, never saw a doctor. And then I got back, I knew to say "Sir" to everybody.

And then they took me out to the shooting range, we got... at that time they had changed to M-1s, and of course, at that time, they were using World War I Enfield 1909 rifles. And we got to shoot the M-1s. but they had (a row of) these targets side by side, and I can see the target, but I had to look to find out, but they were side by side, I didn't know if I'm supposed to shoot at target number two or three. And the bolo flag (waving), saying you missed it, about ten targets away, they gave up on me, but they couldn't do that, they had what is called the M-1 pencil and they would pass you. And I don't know if they were upset with me, they probably were. They made me the BAR man, that's an important post, Browning Automatic Rifle, the automatic rifle, it weighed fourteen pounds, and (required) heavier bullets, but it was important because there were only (one) in each squad, BAR people And the enemy would always try to shoot off the BAR, and so I was always paranoid, they want to get rid of me. By the time we finished training, fortunately, the recruits from Fort Snelling came and who should that be, but Minoru Endo. And he happened to be a family friend, and probably would have been taken because I went to Japanese school, so we were all transferred after thirteen weeks. Interesting, almost all the kids that went to language school, the rural kids, they only went Saturdays, right, but they were the ones that were very good. But yet, they were not as good as the Kibeis, you needed Kibeis. And they really, the teachers were nice, but they were not educators. I look back on it, and I was there for nine months, school, and that's what we did eight hours a day, and in the evening, go to Japanese movies, and it was only 1,800 kanjis, Chinese characters to learn, I could learn that. But I was bored, so I took two courses, physics and calculus from Berkeley, because it was free, and I used to do that. By the time I finished, I was shipped. Interesting, we were shipped from Pittsburg, California, where I began my second year of practice in radiology. I still don't know how I got on the ship, we had to, we ship changed boats in San Francisco, and the war was over, because that was in August, and we finished in August, but we were waiting for... there were five thousand, four or five thousand people finishing at the same time, ready for the invasion of Japan. Anyway, I wasn't a very good soldier, I mean, they weren't getting a bargain. But I said I could always handle myself.

PW: I'm curious, since you hadn't gone to the camps, like most of the students in the, first at Shelby and then also in Fort Snelling in Minnesota, most of these kids had gone to camp and then you're reunited with them. What was that like for you, because you hadn't been in the same situations. Did you talk about that, or was it very different for you to be reunited?

HS: No, there were lots of kids from San Francisco, most of them had gone to Japanese school, so we were reunited, and the Japanese community was small, you knew everybody. Interesting, (before) Japan, (...) we first were sent to the Philippines because that was the staging area. And the war was over, and then we went to Tokyo, and the buildings were all standing, so we (were quartered at) the NYK building, and we were about eight to each room, and they were all from San Francisco in the same room. (...) It was wintertime, so we had to go to the warehouses to guard the warehouse. Oh, incidentally, in the Philippines, the only time we were assigned weapons and ammunition was whenever you had to go and pick up beer at the storage. And I did not drink at that time, and so we'd go and then we'd get off and we'd pile all the beer, and my experience, people would tell you, "Okay, open this case, and put it in everywhere you can put it," and then we got to the gates, and they would tell us to get off, and they knew where all the (cans of beer) were hid and they took (them) back, and they went back to camp. About maybe 500 yards from the camp, then these (guards) would say, "Okay, now throw all the beer you can," there were two cases to the bundle, "off the truck." And then we'd go back in the evening and pick up the two cases. And then I didn't drink, so I gave it to everybody else. The Hawaiians, of course, drank, and the kids from the States, they sold it on the black market.


PW: I want to back up just a quick second. So I know that the war was over when you went to Japan in the Philippines, but when did it end? Like were you in, were you in Fort Snelling when the war ended?

HS: Yes, we finished in Fort Snelling.

PW: And when you went to the Philippines, did you do any interpretation there at all, or just transition?

HS: No, I wasn't good enough for that, because they were, we were at the Santa Rita race track, and there was a river running by us, sometimes you would see dead bodies going down, don't know who they were. And Santa Rita, they moved ATIS, the Allied Translation and Interpretation Service, to the Philippines, to Manila, that's where Santa Rita were, in Manila. And they must have taken the better ones, better translators, to go with them to pick up the people who were still out there that wouldn't surrender. And the better interpreters and translators went straight on to Tokyo, and when the war was over in August, September and so forth, we got there in about January. They employed Japanese much better, of course.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

PW: So tell me more about what your work was like in Tokyo and where you lived. Describe what it was just like, because this is immediately after the war ended. Well, January.

HS: We stayed in Tokyo for a while, we were assigned to different regiments depending... and I was assigned to the Fifth Cavalry Regiment Headquarters, and there was another fellow named Shintaku, I forgot his name, but he and I were the only interpreters. But they had employed a Japanese, a major whose name was Horiuchi, and he was a nice man, and I'm sure he must have been a pacifist. Anyway, he tried to speak English as I tried to speak Japanese. We got along fine, because I could understand him, he could understand me, and then there was even a younger man, I don't know how old he was, he must have been younger than I was, he was a barber. And, of course, I don't know if he ever charged anybody, he never charged me. And I wasn't sophisticated enough to tip him, but I did give him goods and so forth. But we didn't even have to, Shintaku and I, never had to get up, (no assembly, no inspection), nothing. I could have gone off and stayed away for a month at a time, and they would have missed me. What happened is (that) they were changing officers, and there was no intelligence officer, it's called S-2, the regiment, S-2. Two was intelligence. S-3 was operations, so they just brought in this man (...), and he was Polish, his name was Prokup. And so I (thought), "Here's my chance." All of us were always going for KP, no, what is the place where you buy...

PW: Commissary?

HS: No, you buy and the GIs could buy things. Anyway, there was a place, it wasn't called the commissary, but it was the same idea. And one of my roommates in Tokyo, he went so often he was kicked out, they would not let him. So that day, he gave us all the stuff he had. He had moved up in the black market chain. Anyway, he became a very successful entrepreneur in San Francisco. In fact, he ran a Japanese tea garden for a while, I'm not giving names. But he was a, what you call an entrepreneur. Anyway, I was saving things for my nephew, my relatives in Matsumoto. And the moment that this new S-3 man, who was serving S-2 as well, I went in and I wore what I always wore, they call them camos now, we called them fatigues. I smartly clicked my heels like a chairman, saluted him, and said, "Sir, Sergeant Sakai requesting a three-day pass." He looked at me (puzzled) and said, "Oh, go see your employer," meaning that he thought that I was one of the employees. He never knew that we existed. So anyway, I asked to see the colonel. Colonel knew we were there, he was too busy. He said, "What do you want to do?" I said, "You have interpreters here, and they do what they can, I wasn't even called to interpret once." So I said, "Sir, I have an idea. If you provide me a driver and a jeep," because I didn't know how to drive, "I'll go out and survey the populace and I'll give you a report every day." I knew I wasn't going to do that, so I took the major, the major would give me entre to people in the agricultural service and all that, and we got a free, whatever, the cooks gave us, made us lunch. So the Japanese major, who was my interpreter, was really pleased, because they were starving at that time, so he could take it home to his family. So I'd say he'd make some arrangements, but I wanted to see the Buddhist temple and all these things. If the story wasn't good, I'd make up things. Nobody's going to read all that stuff. And I learned how to type myself at home, so it was terrible typing, but I had an English dictionary. And I was thinking of all the ten-syllable words I could, I was practicing how to write. And that was really worth something, so I learned how to write, I learned how to write fiction, but I always couldn't do, I had to write in the present, I didn't know how to write in the past. So present-tense was all I can... but I enjoyed doing that, I was doing something.

Then I finally got my three-day, I turned it to a five-day pass, I went to see my relatives in Matsumoto. And my family obviously knew the Akabanes. Akabanes were, what you call the politics of Matsumoto, and they made shoyu, they did miso, they made all the things. And Matsumoto was pretty well-off, they were politicians, and they had six children in the Akabane family. My mother's sister, that's my aunt, was an Akabane, that's why we were close to the Akabanes, I guess. I didn't even know who the Akabanes were. And I stayed with Jiro, "Jiro" means "second son," and he was dean of the Matsumoto medical school. And I got "the trots," he knew that. But he's a wise man. The only station, American stations were what they called the Railhead, they just watched the rail station, and they said that, "This American soldier is staying at my house and he's sick." And he'd tell me, "I (don't) understand Occidental bodies," that's a lot of baloney. And I knew how the army worked. Immediately, they sent a doctor and two other officers in a helicopter. In those days, helicopters were rare, and they sent the helicopter to look after me. And they took me back into Nagano. And I don't know if they knew whether I was a Japanese soldier or American soldier. I was isolated away from the general hospital population, and I got fed, I didn't care. After I got well, it was two days or something like that, and when I was discharged, they write on the discharge which hospitals you were in, what you were treated for, no record. We were all given special identification, make sure, so it's all right. I was discharged in New Jersey because I had a girlfriend who was in Washington, D.C., that was the closest. I got discharged in New Jersey, hopped over to Washington, D.C., spent a few days with her, then went back to New Jersey... no, I don't know, Washington, D.C., maybe. I got on DC-4, I was discharged already, but I had my uniform, that's the only clothing I had, uniform, but I knew I can get a free ride. And so all I had to do is wait, and I waited and I got a free trip to San Francisco. Oppenheimer was on that same... but anyway, if you're in the army long enough, you know how things work. Everybody's always... I knew that whatever I was doing, wherever I was, I made up an excuse, and it was always in my mind. If anybody stopped me, I could tell them what I was doing. And I'm sure, to everybody else, they knew, so everybody played that game.

So I got home, and I was not discharged in San Francisco, they would have discharged me. On that ship there was nothing to read, except I'm forgetting... there's a whole four-hundred page book on Catholic teachings, there's a term for it but I forgot. Anyway, I read every page. I said, "I'll never be a Catholic."

PW: What year were you discharged?

HS: When I was discharged?

PW: Yeah, what year?

HS: 1946.

PW: I had one other question about being in occupied Japan. How did the civilians, how did the civilians react to you, Japanese civilians, and also your relatives? Like was there an emotional feeling about your being a U.S. military person?

HS: The only person I was... of course, my relatives, my mother's brother's name was Hachiro. He was a, what do you call, anyway, he was a spendthrift and went to geisha houses and spent money. He's not the bright one. He told my, I forgot who was there, I knew Japanese at that time, says, "Don't talk too much. After all, he's the enemy." So he wasn't too bright. The others were sophisticated enough. And I noticed one of the Akabanes was a, he and his wife went to MIT, and he was a, near the end of the war, he became, what do you call people? Not pacifists, but he wanted to end the war, and he was imprisoned. But he worked for Toshiba. Anyway, the first born in Akabanes, he was mayor, he was everything, and he came over and saw a swimming pool, he put it a swimming pool at the house. And next time I visited, I noticed that the swimming pool was no longer there. It takes a lot to take care of a swimming pool.

Well, okay, but I didn't get to know the major who was my interpreter, he was a real gentleman, a nice person, and I think he was a pacifist. He was transportation officer, so he never saw service, combat service. And the Japanese people were very obedient and I didn't see any people who were the enemy. I met my daughter-in-law's father, he's far right, and I'll just leave it there. We learned Japanese war songs and so forth, and they were, we grew up on the streets, the street where my daughter's father was, he had a home, and he took me around to see all these, what you might call right-wingers. So there were, you just didn't see it.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

PW: So once you were discharged or back, I understand you went to D.C. first and then came back to San Francisco. Was everybody back home in San Francisco by then?

HS: Oh, yes, they came back almost... oh yeah, they came back in 1944, about that time. They had difficulty, I know they had difficulty with the bread people, and later on they wanted space. But it was hard to get them, they were purveyors, and they worked to get the bread. What was it... I forgot the name, it was a big canned food, not Del Monte, it was the second biggest canned food. And I was a resident radiologist, those days it was a three-year program. And one year was devoted to therapy, radiation therapy, and we took care of inpatients. And this man was suffering horribly, he had cancer of the jaw and was really a mess coming off all that, and he was dying. And he... oh, the telephone company gave us a bad time, too, telephone service. And this man was a patient at UC Hospital, University of California Hospital, I was a resident. And I was taking care of him because one year I had to take care of radiation patients. He was dying and he said, "Are you the psychiatrist that has the grocery store on Post Street?" I said, "Yes, my family has a grocery store." He said, "I want to apologize." He says, "I wouldn't sell them our canned goods, so apologize to your brother." And my brother, when I told him, he said, he swore.

Anyway, everything always went my way, I don't know why. I was an intern at San Francisco General, and that was the county hospital. At one time, one service was Stanford, the other was Cal, and the nurses always took care of us, almost as a baby. Always took care and said, "Come over here. Look down the hallways, you see that doctor, intern, residents, they're wearing white coats. See that doctor?" Says, "That's a Cal man, that's a Stanford. The Stanford men were always dressed perfectly, the Cal people were... I was thankful when I got the first, the first lecture was given by the professor of surgery, he says, "Look to your left, look to your right." This had never happened. He said, "One of you will be gone before you graduate," which is not true. There were seventy in our class, and only one man, one person, Jimmy Wei, he was Chinese, was expelled. I don't know why. His brother taught pharmacy, and we never asked him. Anyway, it happens.

PW: So postwar, again, to clarify, your family came back to San Francisco, the house, they could just move back into their same house?

HS: We came back to the same house.

PW: And the store, they just reopened the store?

HS: Reopened the store, it was done quickly. And the neighbor next door was called Bop City, because the blacks took over the neighborhood, but Bop City was the only remaining black enterprise. His name was Edwards, he was the chief salesman for, I forgot the Chevrolet dealer in San Francisco. He came, Bop City was a jazz site, and opened at two a.m., and they served alcohol in coffee cups. You name... I can't even think of any of these names, you name any jazz person that was known in the United States, they were there. I never heard any noise, because I would go to sleep at seven-thirty. And Edwards came into the store the day it opened and Asako was keeping store. And he wanted to look over, so he looked at the store and he smiled and picked up a watermelon. Anyway, he was a smart man, Edwards. Asako always remembers that. Well, we had trouble opening the store, but we survived.

PW: Do you remember noticing ways that San Francisco had changed?

HS: You know, I was a resident... that happened in the '60s, and I, of course, was not reading the ethnic dailies, the Nichi Bei and Hokubei. So I didn't know what was going on, but they were, what did they call that, when the redevelopment was going on? There was a big fight about people who had properties, others who did not, those who had properties did extremely well, that included my family. They moved to what was known as Aoki Taiseido was a stationery store, they made that into a grocery store. And the upper level was called Cherryland, it was a dining place. And they did very well with the store, they also were able to get... 1684 Post Street was our home, that's now Japanese Historical Society. From the Japanese Historical Society to the present, the new store, that was our property. And they did very well, the Ashizawas. But I didn't know anything about them, because I was not reading Japanese and redevelopment, I thought it was a good idea, because those homes were old. If I knew about the difficulties some people had, obviously. And you know, the Kinokuniya that was designed by Min Yamazaki. And, of course, in a sense, it's a failure because it's closed, as shopping malls are having a difficult time now. But that would have been a great Japantown if it had been an open mall. But we can't complain, our family did well, some people did not.

PW: So when you were studying radiology, at that point, you were at UC (San Francisco)?

HS: I went to UC Berkeley (as an undergrad) after I got home, discharged in 1946, '47. And I was, applied for medical school in '47, they gave (me) a three-year accelerated program, so I didn't have to take a fourth year. The fourth year became the first of year of medical school, but that was in Berkeley. By that time, I had injured my back because I was lifting hundred-pound rice bags, and I was just this small and I crushed my back. So I got excused, and my sister bought me a car, so I got to get to park on campus, that's unusual. Today, you can't do that, but I got to park right in front of (the Life Sciences building)... what's it called? So everything always happened, I always took two or three of my neighbors that were going to Cal, and took them. And before that was the key system, there was a train. You know all that stuff. But anyway...

PW: So you still lived at home and you commuted to Berkeley?

HS: Yes, because I purposely saved my GI Bill for, I knew I was going to graduate school somewhere.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

PW: So then when did you meet your future wife, Jean?

HS: Jean... well, anyway, she worked Opa and Deguchi. She was one of Wayne Collins' volunteers, well, they were paid. And it was at her engagement party to, I forgot the Deguchi's name. Anyway, I met her there. I was twenty-seven or something, was getting on, so we got married.

PW: Tell me about who Wayne Collins was. Who was Wayne Collins?

HS: About Wayne Collins? John, can you get me... Wollenberg says that they were volunteers, but I know that Jean was paid, because when I was a resident in radiology, even though I was a fellow receiving three hundred dollars a month, which is more than most people get, she worked 'til the day she delivered our firstborn. So she was paid. She said, "I think I'm going to have a baby today," he said, "Go home." Wayne Collins was, I never saw him smile, but he was a widower, and he had an office, a radiology office, across from a restaurant called the White Horse. He would invite me to have... he was a lonely guy, and he, very tough talker, but a real nice man. [Addressing someone off-camera] The white papers. And I know that all his secretaries were Japanese American.

PW: He was a lawyer, correct?

HS: He's a lawyer, he's a tough guy. And he was telling me all about things, how he's doing. And Jean's brother, what was his name, Jack, was a renunciant, "no-no boys." And so Jean, that's how they got the, besides, the secretaries knew each other anyway, so she'd gone to work there. She was a good typist, she had beautiful handwriting, they taught writing in the schools in those days, I don't think they do anymore. So she did very well, she worked to the last day she had the baby. What was I going to tell you?

PW: Just to clarify, her brother was a renunciant, and Wayne Collins was the lawyer from the ACLU who helped with his case. That's how you think she met him?

HS: Yes.

PW: That's how she met Wayne Collins?

HS: I met Wayne Collins because my wife first was the, one of the secretaries. And he would call me in all the time, he'd take me out, I would talk, he loved to talk, he's a good talker. But you know, he pulled his wallet out, and he says, "I always carry this," and it was an Athenian creed. The creed read, "We believe in Athena, goddess of military views. Protector of our people, destroyer of our foes, defender of truth, justice, and democracy." Here was a man who was a regular Democrat. Well, you know, they tell me this story that I'm sure has been told many times before. He went to Crystal City because he represented lots of renunciants, and he saw these Japanese faces from another compound, and he couldn't understand why they were speaking Spanish. So he went up and talked to them and found out who they were. He was an immediate action guy, he picked up (and called DOJ) and says, "Let me speak to Ennis." He didn't even say, "Mr. Ennis." Ennis was the enemy control officer, and he says, "Ennis, what the hell are the..." he would swear, he says, "What the hell are these guys doing?" And he said he gasped and said, "He's found them."

PW: These are the Japanese Peruvians?

HS: Yeah, he said, "He's found them." You know, it wasn't only Peruvians, the other Latin Americans, too, and even Spanish Japanese. Well, he became our family lawyer, because you run a grocery store nowadays, there are all kinds of litigation, all that. He's a good man to have. And his son took over and became a lawyer, but I don't know much about the store. My brothers worked in Winters for George and Alice Yamamoto, they were childless. When they had to "relocate," they left... when you give the right of acting in your behalf. There's a term for it. Maybe I got it here.

PW: Power of attorney?

HS: Power of attorney, yes. He gave the power of attorney, and this lawyer took everything away from the Yamamotos, because they had no child, and the land was held in the name of my older sister Shizu. So they came for the trial, Collins waited 'til the last minute before, to appear, and he strided into this courtroom with two briefcases full, he had no witnesses. He had records in one briefcase, he's telling me this, and puts another briefcase down, and then the opposing lawyer asks for a, what are they called? Legal terms, talk to the judge. And so he settled. Didn't much, but probably got... and Collins told me that all he had in there were telephone books and law books. He was really imposing, but he's a good man, never smiled.

PW: Explain for this history purpose, what did Wayne Collins do that is so significant for Japanese Americans? Not everybody knows about the cases, the renunciant cases specifically, or Tokyo Rose.

HS: He was Northern Cal, he must have been the chief operating officer, even though he had a private office, he was Northern Cal ACLU, so the ACLU knew about these people all the time. And, of course, the renunciants, Jack actually was sent back to Japan and came back, and died of stomach cancer, bad food. Well, that happens.

PW: He was sent to Japan and then came back and was able to file a case?

HS: To get his citizenship back. All the renunciants got the citizenship back.

PW: And you were describing that there were many Nisei secretaries that worked for...

HS: Yeah, 'cause Wollenberg said that they were all volunteers, they were not. I don't think so. Well, I know that Jean got picked because he was a generous man.

PW: Tell me the name of the secretaries that were working with Jean.

HS: Oh, it's Pat Dobashi, Dobashi, Pat Wada, the Handa girl's name, I don't... you know who has all the lists of that? Japan Historical Society. Because they had the whatever, the ideas to raise money, so she's very good at raising money.

PW: Rosalyn Tonai?

HS: Yeah, Rosalyn Tonai.

PW: And so Jean was already working for Wayne Collins when you first met?

HS: Yes.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

PW: And I love that you said, "We were both twenty-seven and getting on, so we just got married." Where did you get married?

HS: San Francisco. We got married in sort of a... my brother-in-law, Katie Yamashita's father, John Yamashita, a minister. And so we got married and it's called All Saints or something, on Polk Street. It had several ministers, and everybody was rotating through, so John married us. John actually married my son, Richard, too.

PW: And where were you living at that time? Were you in the East Bay, or were you in San Francisco?

HS: San Francisco. I was a resident.

PW: Where?


PW: And tell me a little bit more about Jean's family. Like was she from the San Francisco Bay area?

HS: She grew up in Los Angeles, father was prominent, doing well in the produce business in Los Angeles, and they had relatives from Oregon and Washington growing flowers down here in the flower business, good business. So they came up and apparently bought this land that they used, these glass houses. They grew gardenias first, and Jean was attending UCLA when she came up here, and they needed the help, so she had to quit Berkeley, and she helped. And the other father's son was helping, he was an apple farmer from, I said, Oregon or Washington, or something, Hood. Anyway, so they did do well, I guess, they grew carnations later, carnations was easier than gardenias. And the other son... oh, Jack took over the flower business with his brother-in-law, and so they jointly worked it. By that time, Jean was married to me, and they didn't need her.

PW: And so when you were all in San Francisco, I can picture this, and where did you and Jean move to, or where did you settle for yourselves?

HS: I was lucky, I can tell you that. One of the residents, he was Japanese American, he was leaving. I was graduating, and he said, "Do you want a good house?" And it was a good house, it was a two-level house and we lived in the lower level, and it was reasonable, we can afford it. So we were always afraid because the baby's crying, Rich is crying, so it was the tradition, we gave it to another resident or whoever was coming in.

PW: Which neighborhood was that?

HS: That was just east of the UC campus, it was, on the streetcar it's Carmel, that's where the fog stops, so it was a nice area.

PW: And you were explaining that Jean waited until the day she was delivering Richard to stop working. I think you told me a story before that Richard also is named in honor of Mr. Collins?

HS: That's right, Richard Wayne. When did I tell you that?

PW: I came and interviewed you casually with a friend probably about three years ago.

HS: I'm sorry.

PW: Well, I didn't ask you all these other questions. So how many children did you and Jean have altogether, and tell me their names?

HS: Four. It was three boys and one girl, they're all tremendous. Actually, we lost one baby after Richard.

PW: Tell me the children's names.

HS: Pardon me?

PW: Tell me all of the children's names. So first there was Richard.

HS: Richard was the oldest, Richard Wayne. And next was David, David Ralph. Ralph was, David Ralph is an obstetrician. At that time, the professors of obstetrics would be delivering all, because they knew the residents and interns were not being paid well, so they did all the... free surgery the second child who died had was called a hydroma, that's a growth, and didn't survive, but was operated on by the surgeon, and they're never paid. And the third was Jon, Jon Philip, where did the Philip come from? I think we made that up. And we got wise about keeping the first name short, J-O-N. And Ann is, I wanted A-N-N-E, for British monarchy, but she wanted Ann, so we got Ann.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

PW: So I know that you had the children and eventually you moved to the East Bay because of your practice here. Did you have... well, tell me about moving your practice to the East Bay. I know you were starting to tell me earlier a story about Pittsburg.

HS: Really? Boy, I lost the... what happened was that I couldn't find work up here, radiology, gets hard by one, the first year, you're paid a salary, and the second year, you're offered a partnership if you made it that far. So I couldn't find anything here, so I worked in Los Angeles, so we went to several hospitals, three or four hospitals. Things were tidier in Los Angeles, it was easier to get along. So we'd go to one hospital, read the films out, go to the next hospital, read the films out, and so forth. But we weren't, at least I wasn't too happy in Los Angeles, although my sister was living there married to (John Yamashita). Anyway, it was nice to have somebody to go. So one of my co-residents was leaving Pittsburg because he wasn't being offered a partnership. He said, "This man will never offer a partnership," but I wanted to go leave early, so I went to work for this man in Pittsburg knowing that he's not going to give me a partnership. But I worked hard, and everybody liked me, and it was good. And most of the people there, there were only three other specialists, pediatrician was young, he was a good pediatrician. There was an older pediatrician who was really general practice, she was a nice person. And her husband as an ENT man, but they were not referred patients because everybody else was practicing general practice. And the pathologist was, had a specialized position. That was, the radiologist, pathologist and pediatrician, there were only three specialists, and I covered a lot and I never complained. The radiologist I worked for was not a very nice person, he would take Christmases and Thanksgiving off, he'd take most of the holidays off. But I didn't care, I liked to work. So the man that had the hospital contract, they were hospital, I forgot his name. I was nice to him, every time he'd go out of town, he would ask if I would cover him, that means I'd do all the work. And he liked me because I helped out and never complained. The Antioch hospital was so small, you went through the kitchen to go to one ward. But they were nice, they liked me. So when I said, when I was not offered a partnership, I bought a practice in San Francisco,  a new office in San Francisco. The people who ran it didn't think it was worth working in the office because it wasn't busy enough, so I bought it, not knowing any better. I paid sixty thousand dollars for it, I thought I bought everything. Actually, the equipment was leased, so I had to make payment. So I covered that by working in Franklin Hospital, a friend, what do you call, a resident, I'd go in at seven-thirty, start early, leave and go to the office at ten-thirty, go to lunch, quick lunch, and go to --


PW: So you were still telling me about that medical practice in Pittsburg, California. The medical practice in Pittsburg, California, and that you purchased a business, a practice in San Francisco?

HS: Yeah. Well, anyway, I worked at four hospitals, Jean tolerated it. Maybe she didn't care whether I was around. Anyway, she took care of the kids, so she was very good. And it wasn't long before we were renting... oh, incidentally, we were renting a home in Concord. Concord was maybe forty thousand, fifty thousand people, and they didn't want to rent homes to Japanese or any Asians. Yoshiye Togasaki, who was a doctor, family of three women doctors, all Johns Hopkins, she couldn't rent a home or buy a home, but there was a guy named Coffee, he was the only realtor that permitted, would become a realtor. So we were able to rent a home in a new development in Concord. The guy next door, young man, they're all young ones there, new developments. He was very nice to us, and he owned it, he rented it to us. A deer hunter would give us deer meat, never ate deer meet before. Anyway, then we made friends with the neighbor next door, they were named Savacool, Joan Savacool, and his husband, he worked for AT&T, and she, we became good friends. She revealed to me that she was one of those who picketed and didn't want us to move in just to rent the place. So she was living in this small development, actually, she moved right there afterwards. After we had moved... no, we eventually moved, after we were doing better, we bought a home in what's called the Eichler tract. Eichler, Joseph Eichler, was the first developer to sell homes to anybody. So it was known as a very liberal area, they said the Eichler tract owner shops at the co-op, we used to have a co-op here, has a Volkswagen and goes to the Unity, it's called something else, Unity Civic Church or something, Unitarian church. So that was the joke. But it was a nice area, all the homes were nice and new.

PW: Concord, is this Concord still?

HS: No, this is in Walnut Creek.

PW: And what year are we talking about?

HS: 1960. But they opened some homes, but unfortunately, Eichler homes were not really built for, Walnut Creek (which) was warm, because there are no trees there, and there were no air conditioning in these homes, it was all glass, had floor, what do they call floors, what do you they call those floors?

Off camera: Radiant heating.

HS: What?

Off camera: Radiant heating.

HS: It's something heating. Anyway, it runs hot water underneath the floor. The floor is hard because it's concrete, but it's very comfortable. So anyway, the only thing was they had flat roofs, and that was about the only thing, but it had lots of glass and lots of room, the kitchen was the living room, so it was way ahead of its time. But they had lots of homes in Marin County and Peninsula. So Eichler really started the, made it possible for blacks and Asians to buy, so there were a lot of Asians in these homes, and two black couples, both doctors working. Now, where was I? We're back to the Concord home. Joanne Savacool moved here, she told us that she was the one that picketed, there were others who picketed. And the other good neighbor was Madeline, what's Madeline's last name? Nunn, they moved in the same time we did. This woman named... there was a neurologist there, English neurologist, who came over and taught at New York, NYU, and he was a writer, his name was Oliver Sacks. Was it Oliver? Anyway, Sacks was the last name, he's a poet, sold, every book he wrote, and he wrote many books, was a big winner. He had Prosopagnosia, he cannot remember faces or names, me. So everybody thought he was a stuck-up, but he revealed that he could not remember, so he asked for apologies. But there's an opposite disease, there are people who cannot forget names. And the Nunns who moved in was this woman, she came from Vallejo, moved in with us to Eichler's, very friendly woman, and the husband was a Cal grad, and they were good to us. And they moved, they didn't know it, they built this new home right here. So we had a common gate to their home there, common gate. So we really had a nice... and then several other Pittsburg doctors, and Pittsburg eventually built up to have more specialists and were living because we were, bring the doctors here, two doctors over there. So what's the... old farmers, one of the generations was living right there, the lady was one of the Philadelphia hundreds, nice woman. And we used to have parties, we don't anymore, because the kids are all grown up.

PW: So you would invite all of your friends and neighbors to come to your house here?

HS: They used to, huh? And one, I knew he was conservative, and he wanted to run for an office in Walnut Creek, council or whatever. So I became his campaign manager, me a libertarian, not a libertarian, a liberal. I put up signs, I gave him money, and we had a party. He lost by a wide margin.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

PW: Is there much of a Japanese American community here in Concord or Walnut Creek?

HS: Well, I started the practice because they wanted me back at... first they wanted me to stay, but I said no, I can't do that, because they wanted to kick the radiologist out, and I said no, I wouldn't do that. So I bought this practice in San Francisco and made a go of it. And then the one that replaced me was also a resident that I knew, and he said he's leaving, he wanted to go to Florida. So he says, "I'm gonna recommend," that I return. And of course it was easy, they all wanted me, so I came back. And a hospital is a gold mine, and most people don't know that. I didn't have to pay for the employees or the equipment, all I had to do was produce. So I did, and so that... over the years, I ended up with two Japanese, that's me and Carl, that is, I and Carl Muto was AOA, that means Honor Society in medical school, very difficult to get. He came and joined us, and I had two Chinese and two of Jewish faith. All of them were super students, one, when the Chinese came, they were the businesspeople, they came and changed... I had my name and two others on the name, of course, it was getting too many, it was not a law office, so they changed the name to Walnut Creek Radiology, and we turned into a corporation. But the Chinese guys, they were great entrepreneurs, immediately I was the liberal. Six weeks' vacation after five years, pension plan, off days, and on hospital plan and so forth. I provided all that. And as Warren Buffett said, well, Warren Buffett said they get paid more in percentage, I actually got paid more in... but anyway, I succeeded the two families, two Chinese.

Now, I'll tell you about the Chinese. What happened was that this guy appeared out of nowhere, of course, we advertised for a radiologist. His name was Bailey Lee from Greenville, Mississippi. And I knew he was... oh, the first white guy I'm going to get, came, he's Chinese from Greenville, first in his class. Tough guy. But anyway, the two Jewish guys were very good as you might imagine. Anyway, we had a super group. And when I (retired), they replaced me with a Korean American. We did okay.

PW: When did you retire?

HS: 1993, I was sixty-four, sixty-five. I knew I was going to retire at sixty-five. But then when I retired, I didn't have that much money for radiology, I had three hundred thousand dollars saved. Jean did the savings. Oh, in the meantime, we moved, Jean wanted to move because we were having four children, and I realized that I was not a very good person. So I said, "Okay, Jean, you go and buy a house, I don't care where, and you tell me how much it's going to cost. But after we decide that, I'm not going to have anything to do with it." She came, and it was a new development, paid sixty thousand dollars, bought these two parcels. So, okay, I'll put a tennis court on it. Anyway, she came, she bought, I never saw the house, she came and looked at the house every time it was being built. She knew how much, how it was paid and so forth. And I'm sure she felt good about it. So I was, what do they call the people who aren't very understanding? So she was pleased with what I did for a change. Anyway, so we moved here. We've been living here fifty years now.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

PW: So I think I'll just ask you one last question just kind of reflecting. So this interview, we're trying to also really capture postwar stories and how people came back, or came to California after the war and resettled. Are there any things you can think about that you want to share about the changes that you saw in San Francisco or what it was like to build your practice? Any thoughts that you have about postwar for Japanese Americans?

HS: My practice was not Asian, it was all white. So, I mean, I didn't have to deal with that, but obviously people who wanted to hire me, they had to think about their practice. It worked out with the Asian group, because we produced... there were five thousand Japanese Americans before the war, but everything is dated before and after the war. I doubt if there are two thousand left in San Francisco. And you don't see Japanese Americans in this area. All my friends did well. Those that worked for the city of San Francisco, they did extremely well. Obviously in the professions, they did well. I don't know about attorneys, because all our attorneys were white. It must be awfully hard to start a law practice, because you really have to have very fancy clients that can afford attorneys' fees unless you're in a big Japanese community.

Well, my kids, Jon was only Caucasian people who helps him, they come and help paint and do whatever structural work and so forth, and of course, they come to smoke pot, too. They're all good about... well, he goes and plays golf with them, so he is good friends with them. My best man for marriage was a fellow student, but he's a Caucasian. But this is interesting, he was a German American, and their family used to come to the store to buy Japanese goods all the time. I used to remember a real fine class, they were all veterans, but because at that time, there were only seven and they took veterans preference, one of the guys, Arthur Stone, used to come buy fish from the grocery store. He was a musician, played the piano, a fine student. So I might have met some prejudice, but I really can't complain about, I expected. You know that I did, with my friend Kats, Katsunori Handa, picket Sutro Baths. Do you know about the Sutro Baths?

PW: Tell me the story.

HS: Sutro Baths, they just tore it down. It was on Ocean Beach, and there's a little restaurant, it's a tourist place, lots of class and see the ocean. I don't know why they suddenly, I used to be on the swimming team so I knew how to swim. And Sutro Baths had five pools, and they were different temperatures, so it was unusual. And all of a sudden they decided the Japanese will need health certificates to get in. So I was in junior high school at that time, I took my friend Kats Handa, we picketed that, but picketing was not unusual. I think my sons picketed our own store. He took his cousin, they picketed, though they were very good to him.

PW: Why did they picket your own store?

HS: Yeah.

PW: Why? Why were they out there protesting?

HS: They wanted more money, is that right? Well, they were family. But gee, it was so good, they wouldn't have them, or anybody work, he would get college soon. Chiyeko, your aunt, also worked there, she's a hard worker, but they were friends.

PW: Well, I'm just going to say thank you again, because...

HS: I'm sorry I took so long.

PW: ..we've had a wonderful, long conversation, and thank you again for your time.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.