Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Henry Miyatake Interview I
Narrator: Henry Miyatake
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: March 26, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-mhenry-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Today's date is March 26, 1998. We're at the Densho offices, 1416 South Jackson. And my name is Tom Ikeda and I'm the interviewer. And today we're interviewing Henry Miyatake. Henry, I'm going to start. There's a lot to cover, but what I thought I would start with is your childhood, and would start with the question: what are some of your earliest childhood memories?

HM: I had two real interesting accidents, and that might have had some effect on what happened afterwards. One of them was, we lived in an area where there was a very steep hill that was adjacent to this long building that composed a whole bunch of units, housing units. They had closed the road because the road was too steep for vehicles to traverse. And consequently kids used to play on this, the long areas where you had a deep drop which was protected by a fence which was not very well maintained. The consequence of that, during the summertime when the kids used to play around on this high level area -- I was about, I guess about two and a half years old I guess at that time -- but, I was walking along the side of this fence line and there were kids playing around with a portable pool, water pool. And they're running around, I guess it was a counter-clockwise direction and here I'm going towards these guys and one of them hit me. And unfortunately, there was an opening in the fence line there and I went down, about probably about 30 feet or so. At that age, you're not too fearful, so consequently I saw the world go around me, it was kind of interesting. The next thing I knew I was in the bed and the doctor was trying to revive me. But I was unconscious for about two days I guess.

TI: So you were in a coma of some type.

HM: Yeah, I was in a coma for... but that wasn't too bad. But the next accident was a little bit worse. This was within the same year. And my father had a grocery store at that time, and this salesman came and gave me a brand new pencil. In fact, he even sharpened it up for me, which was kind of a problem later on. [chuckles] And Nobi Shigehara, the neighbor friend of ours, had a brand new tricycle. So he said he'd like to have me go for a ride with him. So, yeah, fine. So I was holding my brand new pencil, sharpened, and we were on this tricycle. I was standing in back of him, and we were going along on about a block away from our residence, and there's a oak tree that had uprooted the sidewalk to about a thirty degree angle. Anyway we were rocking away, we were just yelling and having a great deal of fun. And unfortunately, there was a guy riding a bicycle coming the other direction, so Nobi, in order to avoid the guy, made an abrupt turn. And the consequence, I went rolling over on the side. Unfortunately, the pencil penetrated the side of my head. [Laughs] In fact, there's a hole here. And I didn't come out of it for about two weeks. They thought I was going to expire, I guess. [Laughs]

TI: So this was another coma that you were in? Two weeks?

HM: Yeah.

TI: How old were you on this second accident?

HM: Must have been about three years old, I guess. And the thing I remember about that thing was, I had a tremendous fever. I guess I got infected. And the problem was that they were worried about the graphite that broke off inside my head here. And they thought that I might be getting some poisoning from that, so the doctor wanted it out and there was no means of getting it out without an operation. And he said let it come out by itself, if it will. Anyway, that was kind of a difficult period because when I was able to talk to other people, I had a difficult time even focusing my eye. I couldn't see right. So it affected me, I think it for... maybe that has a lot do with how my life got perturbed. [Laughs]

TI: Well, that's the question I was going to ask is, when you think back to those two accidents, I mean, can you see an effect? Or what effect did those two things have in your life? Is there anything that you could sort of pinpoint?

HM: Well, for one thing, my mother -- at that point I was the youngest of three children -- and my mother thought I was accident prone and felt that I should be taken care of and paid more attention than the other children. So I did receive a lot more attention and I was the baby of the family. My mother, I guess, felt that I was the prize of the family, or you know, the baby, so I should be taken care of more closely so...

TI: You mention your mother. I take it both these accidents happened in Seattle?

HM: Yes, uh-huh.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: Why don't we back up a little bit and why don't you tell me a little bit about your parents and how they got to Seattle?

HM: Okay. My parents, my father, came from a farming area in Japan. Initially he landed in California and he was farming in Huntington Beach. He was in partnership with another farmer from Japan and they were growing lettuce in Huntington Beach because they could grow multiple crops and they thought that was the way to go. And lettuce was in pretty high demand and unfortunately they used to get this black oozy stuff occasionally and that would cause them to have this splattering of black stuff when they used to cultivate the lettuce.

TI: So black spots on the leaves of the lettuce?

HM: Yes, so consequently my father decided well, both of them couldn't make a living on this farm so he sold his rights, his lease rights, to his partner. Well, the black stuff happened to be oil. During that time period, the lease rights had the mineral rights function attached to it. So as a consequence of that, of course, he made a lot of money. And the irony of it was, he went back to Japan and the family in Yokohama. And during one of the bombing raids that -- ironically my friend at Boeing happened to be the pathfinder pilot -- they wiped out this whole area of Yokohama. It was a fire bombing and demolition raid, and they wiped the whole area out. And my brother searching for that family in 1946, after when he was in occupation forces, found that the whole family got wiped out. So it was not a good thing to have made money and go back to Japan.

TI: So that's amazing... so this was your father's partner in Huntington Beach, made money because there was oil in this, underneath the ground where they were farming. He sold or got money for this, went back to Japan, Yokohama. And then you're saying that a friend of yours at Boeing... you could actually pinpoint him being the pathfinder for the raid that perhaps wiped out...

HM: I don't want to mention his name because he feels very, not embarrassed, but he feels that he led so many of the pathfinder raids in Japan. He led thirteen of them. And in fact at one point at Boeing, he brought in these so-called formerly highly classified aerial photographs, before and after. And they would make a reconnaissance flight to gauge the target areas. That was part of his job and they used to have the photo equipment, run over the target areas before the raid and then consequently, after the raid, they did the same thing to see what damage functions they had performed. But he had a whole bunch of these things and he brought 'em in one day and Seiya Sakurai who happened to work with me, lived in Yokohama during that wartime period. He was born in the United States and was brought back to Japan when he was about ten years old, before World War II started. And he survived through that Yokohama raid process. And in the examination of the Yokohama area, Seiya identified where he used to live and what had happened to his residence area, and it was all burned up. And he says to my compatriot, "You so-and-so, you bombed my house!" But that was part of the war.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: But it's just so interesting to me how, something that happened before you were born could have made such a difference. Here you have two men, one who stayed with it, found oil, and got money and then went back to Japan. Whereas your father, sold his rights and at that point what happened to him, what did he do?

HM: He went to work on the railroad. So he had a lot of memories about all the railroad work they performed and one of the projects that he was involved in was this tunnel they have in the Cascades there, that eight mile long tunnel. They were working on that for years, he said. He was familiar with a lot of the railroad work that was done, Columbia Gorge area, lot of it in Eastern Washington. In fact when I took him on a trip one time, he recognized a lot of the areas that he had worked as road gang member. Then he decided well, railroad work wasn't that complementary in terms of salaries. And as he was getting older I guess he decided he'd resort back to farming again. So he bought a large piece of property in what is now the Kent Space Center. He used to own that piece of property.

TI: That's ironic.

HM: That's where I worked too, in years to come.

TI: And was he able to buy it or did he lease this land?

HM: Well, at that time, they were leasing through a trust organization because they couldn't own property because of the alien property laws.

TI: What was your father like?

HM: Well, when I was born he was fifty years old so, fifty-one years old I guess. So there's a lot of difference in age functions. Lot of the things that, in my upbringing, my brother had a lot to do with it rather than my father. My father was the breadwinner and you know, he was working all the time. But my brother had a very large influence on my education process, the informal education process.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: Before you get to your brother, because there's a lot there, why don't we talk a little bit about your mother and then we'll talk about your siblings.

HM: Okay. My mother was from Osaka and she was a rather educated, cultured person, which was kind of different from my father. There was a lot of educational and cultural differences between my parents. She was a teacher of ikebana, she had done koto work and she was familiar with the tea ceremonies and she had some very good credentials in all these areas. But my father was just a regular farmer and he didn't have any of these cultural aspects so he really didn't care for some of the interest areas my mother was engaged in. But nonetheless, my mother's main objective was to raise children and educate them and help the family enterprise, and the grocery store. So she sacrificed all her cultural interests on behalf of the children.

TI: With these cultural interests, did she try to impart them on her children? Did she try to make sure that her children had a sense of Japanese culture and the richness of that?

HM: Well, unfortunately, during this time period, especially when my older sister was growing up, the emphasis was being American. And my sister was more interested in people like Kate Smith and some of these so-called female singers, and wasn't really interested in the Japanese cultural part of it. It's really unfortunate because my mother had some very high aspirations for her in this area. But culturally, my sister and brother both were not too involved with the Japanese cultural aspects.

TI: How about with you? Did you get a sense of some of the culture when you were growing up?

HM: No, I got the same brain washing at Bailey Gatzert. We were given the routine that the American system, society, and so forth, was superior to that of Japan. So consequently I think all of us felt that way. This reflected on our studies in terms of Nihongo, also. I think my mother was very disappointed in the fact that we had no aspirations of following Japanese cultural benefits.

TI: Within the community because your mother had this background, this experience, could you recall her being different or having perhaps more pride in things of Japanese nature because of her background?

HM: The only time she really showed it was when we used to have Boys Day or Girls Day and she used to have all the dolls and the whole set-up. She had a very elaborate display system and she had the Emperor and Empress and the Peach Boy and everybody else all decorated. And she had a great deal of pride in that respect. Other than that, she didn't show too much of her interest. Maybe sometimes she did play the koto once in a while by herself, but just to entertain herself, I guess.

TI: You described your father and mother as being quite different. How did they come to be together?

HM: Well, she was one of the victims of the picture bride system, I guess. I guess my father had sent the picture of himself much younger than he was at that time [chuckles] and my mother thought that this was a young man that she might be able to relate to. And unfortunately, their age difference was greater than she had imagined, when she came over here.

TI: What was the age difference?

HM: There was about twelve, thirteen years. But culturally, they were so different that it was a difficult transition for her to make. In Japan, she was treated as a cultured person. She comes over here, she becomes a farmer's wife and the consequence of that was that she lost all her ability to pursue her cultural interests.

TI: Can you recall any instances where that frustration came through, that you would see that, that difficulty that she had?

HM: It reflected more on what she felt was happening to the children. And she felt that we weren't getting the true aspects of being Nihonjin. And I think she was right! [Laughs]

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Let's talk about your sister. Why don't you tell me a little bit about her?

HM: Okay. She wanted to be the total American kid, I guess. She had some very interesting idols. One of them was Kate Smith. At that time, Kate Smith was a singer that was coming up through the radio media. And she represented the "God Bless America" type womanhood and she was kinda on the chubby side, and so was my sister at that time. She felt that it was the ideal idol for her to follow. And so she was kind of preoccupied with being totally American, not being Japanese, and I think this was a problem later on. But her education process was geared to going into tailoring and being a seamstress and all this kind of stuff. I guess my parents didn't think that was totally ideal for her but nonetheless that's what she pursued.

TI: And how much older was your sister?

HM: My sister is seven years older than I. So she became a big sister and tried to influence my thinking a little bit. My brother was one year younger than my sister, he was six years older than I was. My brother was kind of a free wheeling character and he liked to do things like model airplane work, he was a ham radio operator. And he was screwing around with hot rods, putting v-8 engines into model-A chassis and shaving down the cylinder heads to get higher compression, and they were doing all kinds of funny things. He helped build a boat which was about a 26 foot mahogany hulled boat, and I helped do some of the work on that also.

TI: These activities sound pretty extraordinary. Was he pretty extraordinary in doing these things or was this common activity for the Nisei?

HM: I think the area that we lived in -- we had Minoru Yamasaki, who was the guy that designed the Science Center here in Seattle as well as the IBM Building and a whole bunch of other places -- used to be a neighbor of ours, used to live about a block and a half away from us. We had guys that had graduated from the University of Washington in our area that were honor students when they graduated, but lot of them couldn't find work. In the case of Yamasaki who became one of the best known architects in the United States, he could not find a job in architecture when he graduated from the University of Washington. So consequently he was a swamper for North Coast Importing Company who used to service our grocery store and they used to deliver like rice, and shouyu and everything else and he was the swamper guy that used to bring the stuff to our store. He was an honor graduate student at the University for architecture and he couldn't find a job.

TI: So it was a group of peers that your, your brother had, and they were all pretty extraordinary?

HM: They were all fairly good performers but they were held back in their endeavors because of the discrimination functioning at that time. So my brother instead of going to an academic realm, seeing all this happen around him and knowing how smart these kids were, decided that he was going to go into a more useful practice of being involved with electronics or radio, automotive work and all this kind of stuff. So he wanted to be a practical individual. And he was, I mean, he was a good radio amateur and they did this all on their own. They had a group of young Nisei kids that studied radio and they passed their ham license, and they taught themselves radio Morse Code and some of these other things that were essential to pass the exam. And fortunately, I was the benefactor. I benefited from all the work that they did. And that enabled me later on to get my FCC licenses and my ham license and so forth, but they did it on their own. I was a, kind of a beneficiary of all those functions that these kids were doing.

TI: Because you could watch them do things and then you would learn as they did these new things?

HM: Yeah. And also like for instance, Morse Code, they would teach me the fundamentals of it and they'll take... probably it strained their patience just to try to teach me some of the low speed Morse Code. 'Cause I could never teach anybody, I never had the patience of teaching anybody else but these guys were able to teach me.

TI: How old were you when they were teaching you Morse Code?

HM: Well, I was supposed to go after my ham license exam on Christmas vacation of 1941. That was what I was scheduled for and that time I was twelve years old, I guess. I was going after my ham license then. I had passed the written part of it but I did not pass the Morse Code part of it. That's thirteen words a minute at that time and that was what I was programmed to go to. But since the war started on December 7th, all the Federal Communication License examination stuff was all postponed.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: What neighborhood did you grow up in? Where...

HM: My earliest residence was on 9th and Washington, we had a grocery store there. Then, we went to Yesler and 9th Avenue, we had a grocery store there, Sun Grocery. Then we moved to 14th and Yesler, no, sorry, 14th and East Spruce and we had a grocery store there.

TI: Let's go to your elementary school experiences. Why don't you tell me some of your memories from elementary school. Where did you go? Any thoughts about teachers?

HM: I went to Bailey Gatzert Elementary School like lot of the other Nikkei kids did. And it's located on 12th and I guess, what is that?

TI: Weller?

HM: Yeah, Weller and Lane, between Weller and Lane. I guess most of the Nikkei kids went there but they were mainly Japanese American kids, Chinese American kids, and a slight smattering of Caucasians, very slight. The principal there was Ada J. Mahon, and she was a staunch American in the true sense. Singing "Star Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America" and we marched to the "Stars and Stripes Forever" and all the John Phillip Sousa marches. And you march out of the school everyday, hearing this "Stars and Stripes Forever" and all this kind of marching music. Kind of indoctrinating us on how to become a good American, I guess. And she did a helluva good job. In fact, she did such a good job that we weren't able to see the perspective of being Japanese American. We were trying to be so totally American that it prevented us from looking at our parents' culture and truly reflecting on what we could gain by being both Japanese and American.

TI: And when you think about this indoctrination that you're talking about, it sounds like a large majority of the Japanese American kids went to Bailey Gatzert so a large majority of them got the same indoctrination that you're talking about.

HM: Yeah, unfortunately. I don't think we knew we were getting indoctrinated but that was what was happening. As I look back on the process, in fact I was so indoctrinated that I -- when we got through with the sixth grade I made a speech that I couldn't -- I guess from my viewpoint today I thought, "Gee, did I make that crazy speech?" But I made a speech about the future of Japanese Americans. [Laughs] And I had absorbed all the stuff that the principal had inculcated us with. I was more like Mike Masaoka at that time period. [Laughs] I hate to say that but...

TI: Explain to me. What did you say in your sixth grade speech?

HM: Well, I said that, "America is the best place in the world, and that the American democratic process was superb and without comparison with any country in the world. Our future was as bright as it could be. We have unlimited possibilities and potential," and all this kind of stuff and that... my brother kind of helped me on the speech and he thought I was going overboard. [Laughs] But nonetheless, the principal liked it. As I look back, I wonder to myself, was I that propagandized to the point where I couldn't see anything else but what I was taught? Maybe this kind of flipped over when I went to high school because of the things that I had experienced in that time period.

TI: Going back to the sixth grade speech, to whom did you give that speech to?

HM: It was for the whole student body. And that was the assembly program for the graduation of the sixth grade before it went to junior high school.

TI: So this was... were you sort of like the valedictorian... or how were you chosen to give this speech?

HM: [Laughs] Well, I was chosen because one of the teachers liked some of the stuff I was writing and she thought maybe I had some, some capabilities in this area and she wanted to encourage it. There were several of us that made this kind of crazy, I shouldn't say crazy, but this kind of speech.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: As you were going through Bailey Gatzert, were there any things that made you think that you were different than the other students?

HM: For one thing, they had a policy where if you were underweight, so called underweight, that they would feed you milk. Some of us were lactose intolerant. [Laughs] The nurse at that school -- we had a full time nurse at Bailey Gatzert -- she thought there was nothing like lactose intolerance function. So she insisted that we drink the milk. In my case when I drank the milk... they said I was underweight but I didn't feel that way. But nonetheless they forced me to drink the milk. As a consequence of that, I used to get diarrhea. It completely upset my digestive system. I got to a point where I was losing so much of my ability to use my nutritional capabilities because of the milk problem that I started losing more weight. And so because I was losing more weight, they insisted that I drink more milk and that compounded the problem.

It got to a point where my mother got worried about it and our family doctor says, "No, this can't continue." So I said, I told him that they're making me drink the milk. So he wrote a letter saying that he wants me to stop drinking the milk and that kind of resolved the problem. But that nurse thought that she knew all about medicine and she practiced this milk habit on a bunch of us and we're going through the same process. There were a couple of Chinese kids in there, I remember, that had the same problem. After I got off it, they said, "How come you don't come and drink milk with us anymore?" So I said, "I'm not going to do it anymore. [Laughs] My doctor says it's not the right thing to do." So they got their doctors to send in letters. It kind of changed the whole balance of the system. And I think that helped kind of convince some of the teachers that maybe some of these Asian kids are little bit different.

In terms of what the school thought of us, I had some very good teachers at Bailey Gatzert. They were very honorably intended. They had all the right things to try to get us to do. We were very well disciplined as a result of that and also because of our family upbringing. The teachers were very respectful of what lay in front of us in terms of the future potential. They realized that some of the honor students that they had in previous years going through high school and through university functions, were not given the potential but they thought that eventually this type of treatment would change. And that was the principal, Ada J. Mahon's belief also. So consequently the school itself was driven to help us achieve some degree of excellence.

TI: How did you know, or find out that teachers were tracking Niseis as they went through college and weren't getting jobs? Did you ever have a conversation with them?

HM: Because they would come back to the school and talk about what had happened. When they go to high school, for instance, they would come back to the grade school and they talk about what they've been doing, what their future looks like and all this kind of stuff. And then they would read in the newspapers about what had happened to some of these graduates. They had some community newspapers that would be given to these teachers and they were aware of what was within the prospects of jobs for these individuals. And scholastically they would have the name appear in the Seattle Times as honor students and so forth. Unfortunately, during that time period, we just were not given the opportunity.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: One of the things that, while doing my research, I recognized that you were younger than the classmates in your own class. Can you talk a little bit about that? Why you were younger than the other students?

HM: It started because my... I guess my brother thought that because my parents were so much older, that he took it upon himself to be the second parent, I guess. [Laughs] Before I went to grade school, I was able to read fairly well. I could count money because I was working in the grocery store. If need be, I'd go and help, make change and things of this nature. So I was used to counting money, I could read sufficiently well. So when I went to the grade school they thought well, my capabilities were beyond the normal student at that grade level so they pushed me to the next grade. So I was the youngest kid in the class. And the other thing that they looked at me as being kind of strange, was the fact that I didn't like the lunches they had at the school. So, consequently I went home for lunch every day. It was a forty-five minute lunch hour and that meant that I had to go from the school which is about seven blocks away from our house. I used to run home and eat my lunch, and then I used to try to walk back to school. But if it was raining, of course, I'd be running both directions. I did this through the entire period from elementary school through junior high school.

TI: So there's a combination of not only being the youngest in your class, but also doing something different at lunch time, not eating lunch with the other kids and playing at lunch recess, probably.

HM: Yeah. So I was not able to do any of the sports activities during the lunch hour that a lot of the kids were engaged in. So I was considered a little bit different. Well, maybe they had the right to feel that way. [Laughs]

TI: An observation that I'm making right now is realizing you skipped a grade, so you're the youngest in your classroom. But even with that, by the time you got to sixth grade, you were recognized as one of the outstanding students to give the speech. Were there other instances or examples which, where teachers mentioned to you how bright you were?

HM: They selected some of us to do a play for the school. This was the open house, the annual open house for Bailey Gatzert. I remember they selected some of us that they thought [Laughs] had some unique capabilities, and some of them did. In fact, as time progressed, I think all of the people that were in the play went to college and graduated from college and they did something in their life. I think they did it on the basis of the people that they could depend upon, they would know their lines, could act the part, and so forth. They were looking for individuals within each of these classes to pinpoint and try to encourage.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: Let's talk about some other things. Outside of school, were there any incidents that made you feel as if you weren't viewed as an American? You told me a story earlier about something you did with your brother once with the B-17 incident? Can you talk about that?

HM: Yeah. My brother was a model airplane enthusiast and you know, he'd make, spend hours making these model airplanes and flying the things. And they were really hip on airplanes as such. Unfortunately, there was no job prospects in any of the aircraft production areas because Asians at that time in general were forbidden from being employed in any of those companies, Boeing especially. Boeing didn't hire their first Asians, I don't believe, 'til after World War II. Anyway, they used to make these model airplanes and they're all enthused about airplanes and whenever they saw a P-26, which is a Boeing fighter airplane, they used to you know, go out and look at the airplane. In fact, they tried to get down to Boeing Field to see it land and all this kind of stuff. But this one occasion they had a report on the radio saying that the prototype or the first B-17 airplane had crash landed at Boeing Field, attempting a landing.

So anyway, all the kids in the neighborhood were yelling, "Hey, let's get down there and let's go see that airplane." And so, I wanted to go and I was the youngest kid in the group there. And my brother said, "They won't let you go, you're too young. They don't want you around, you can't keep up with us," and all this kind of crap. So I said, "Yeah, I'm gonna keep up with you guys. I walk more than you guys do because I walk back and forth to school," and all this kind of stuff. "I'm in better shape than you are." Anyway, they reluctantly agreed that I could go. So we rode the street car down to the mud flats, and this is down Airport Way when they had the streetcar down there. We could see the tail of the airplane sticking up. It was about a mile walking through that mud flats and here, there's a whole bunch of people around the darn thing. They got a rope cordoned around the place and the police are there, the Seattle Police Department's there. So as we were approaching this whole area, this one cop says, "Hey you Japs and Chinks aren't allowed in this place. You better go back home where you belong, keep yourself out of trouble." After coming all the way down there, one of the guys says, "Hey, let's go around to the other side where that cop isn't around." Well, the cordon was all around that airplane and as we walked around to the other side the guy followed us around on the cordon and he said, "Now you guys get the hell out of here."

The other incidents about being Japs and Chinks, well that was kind of a disturbing element. I was learning all of this stuff at Bailey Gatzert and how American we were and all this kind of stuff and that was the first instance where I thought gee, maybe there is something different here. [Laughs] We were in a kind of protective environment because we were living in Nihonmachi really and there was no instances of people coming and raising Cain with us because we're Nihonjin. I was kind of protected by my parents about all this, this discrimination and this kind of stuff, and I was kind of naive about this whole thing.

TI: When the police officer said that, "Japs and Chinks get out of here," can you remember how you felt? Were you shocked?

HM: Well I was kinda taken aback because I didn't think people would be shouting at us like that, not knowing us. I had seen words like "Japs" in the newspaper and stuff like that but this was the first instance where I saw a policeman tell us like that. Because when the policemen used to come to our grocery store, they were well behaved. They were well behaved primarily because my father used to give them a lot of stuff for free. Like apples, and they wanted to cut up some oranges he would say, "Help yourself," and they'd pick up a couple of oranges, or couple of apples and stick it in their pocket and that was their normal behavior, and they would treat us very well. My father would say, "He is a policeman so you have to treat them well. He's looking after our neighborhood," and so forth. So the police never said anything like that before and here this guy is hollering at his top of his lungs to have us out of there.

TI: What was the reaction of your brother and his friends? At this point, they were young teenagers.

HM: Yeah, well they were more realistic about the thing. And they had incidents like this occur before so they took it as one of another events. I guess we'll never get into The Boeing Company, things of this nature.

TI: What about the reaction of others around? Were there other people gathered around? Was there any reaction from other people when the police officer said this?

HM: No, they just looked around, turned to look to see who we were and that was about it. There was no utterance or anything. They were more interested in seeing what had happened to the airplane. It was a nose down crash. They had a stall and they stalled right into the ground. That was the early B-17 so it was a large prototype. They had a bigger wing span and it was relatively under powered. But I learned about this when I started working at Boeing and trying to do the history of that airplane to find out what had happened.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: Were there any other incidents like this that you can recall as you're growing up, again, in prewar Seattle where, again, you felt like you weren't an American?

HM: Yeah, a couple of times, I guess. My brother, he had a friend named George Sekiya and they were ham buddies. George was a, he was a really enthusiastic ham operator. In fact, when the war started he wanted to join the Navy because he was a ham operator and he thought he could do some good for communications systems. [Chuckles] He tried to join the Navy. But before that, we went down to see the Tacoma Narrows Bridge inaugurated down in Tacoma. George had a, I think he had a '39 Chevrolet sedan, at that time. That was his father's sedan. But we drove down to Tacoma and we never realized, or I never realized, that at that time that Tacoma was a hotbed of anti-Asian feelings ever since the Chinese labor gangs used to be thrown out of Tacoma. They used Tacoma as the base for bringing the Asian employees for the railroads into Tacoma. And they had some very interesting race riots down in Tacoma. But nonetheless, when we went down to that ceremony there was a area where they had, we didn't realize that was dedicated to some invited guests and we had unfortunately gone into this area. When we did that, they had some very interesting remarks about the Japs and, you know, all these dirty... I guess it's kind of uncivilized language that they used. [Laughs briefly] But I thought that was not really should be forthcoming from these individuals. We didn't do anything wrong.

TI: And who were these individuals? Were these officials?

HM: They were officials from the State Highway Department. That was another indication that... by that time I had grown up, quite a bit older and guess I had seen other instances where we were treated not like other people but because we were Asians or Japanese.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: Going back to more your family life now, as you're growing up, what exposure did you have with things that were Japanese or Japanese visitors?

HM: Well for one thing, I went to Nihon gakkou and that was every afternoon after regular after Bailey Gatzert or the junior high school, I used to go to Nihon gakkou. I used to be there from about four o'clock to maybe about five thirty or so. And so I was a student of Japanese language for quite a few years, from when I was six 'til I was twelve, so about six years. So I should have been pretty good in Japanese but we were more interested in goofing around than studying. And I had a very good teacher, Mrs. Hashiguchi was my teacher. And she tried her best to try to get us to learn Japanese because she knew we weren't dumb, but we acted like we were dumb. And we wouldn't do the things she told us to do. My mother would say, after I got term paper or exam, I would bring it to her and she would shake her head and say, oh, just mutter to herself. But [Chuckles] the fact that I was handing good papers in at Bailey Gatzert but I was not so good in Japanese school and she was kind of bewildered as to why I was not trying as hard in Nihon gakkou. Anyway...

TI: And why weren't you trying so hard?

HM: I was getting too propagandized by the Bailey Gatzert system. I could say this now...[Laughs] But at that time I couldn't perceive what I was going through. In my own mind, I couldn't fathom that I was consciously being biased against things Japanese and being, like, a total American. I guess I was too naive at that point to understand some of these things.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: And so when you came in contact with people from Japan, did you feel, what were your feelings towards them?

HM: I thought they were pretty interesting because all of them were people of some capability and some standard of excellence, they were of some professional category. And the one person that came to our place to stay for awhile was a reporter from, he was a newspaper reporter for a Tokyo newspaper, the Mainichi newspaper. And he also was doing press releases for, I think, the Domei news organization which is like Reuters or one of these other outfits. And he used to live at our place, and this was starting about, it was before the war in Europe started so it was probably in '37 or something, around that time period. He used to write articles about the Nikkei in the United States and also about some of the different businesses that we were involved in and also the different industries that Nikkei had some involvement in.

TI: This is interesting. How did he come to live with your family?

HM: My father's... there was some kind of relationship with my father and one of my father's brothers that lived in Japan. He was connected with one of the newspapers. And this guy was, he wanted to use Seattle as a baseline because he was going up to Alaska, and then he was going down to California. So he stayed at our place for awhile and then he'd take a trip up to Alaska. Then he'd come back and write all the articles and send them off and then he'd go down to California and write some more articles and send 'em off. I never thought about it until real later on but I don't know... he was a very smart guy. He was lots smarter than what I would assume a newspaper reporter to be because he had a lot of information about things like the kind of airplanes people are developing and all this kind of stuff. And my brother used to make these model airplanes and at that time some of the airplanes that were coming onstream that they were making models of were the military type airplanes, like the German airplanes. The Germans were developing some of the stuff for the Spanish-American War. I mean not... the Spanish Revolution. And the Germans were involved with the forerunner of the Luftwaffe aircraft. Things like the Messerschmidt 109, which was the high performance fighter aircraft, started to appear in some of these conflicts in Spain. Because of that there were models being built. And I think one of the interesting part of it was that this reporter knew everything about this airplane. My brother thought gee, this guy is really smart. [Laughs] This is a pretty new airplane and not too many people know about it and he's making a model of this thing and the guy knows all about it. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if he was doing some intelligence work in the meantime alongside with his reporting job. But he had a lot of knowledge about a lot of different things. Even ham radio operator stuff that my brother was involved with, he knew quite a bit about different things in terms of communication and things of this nature.

TI: That's, that's really interesting.

HM: But as it turned out -- while he went back to Japan in 1940 and then he came back to the U.S. again. And then about the time they did that Enemy Trading Act which was July of '41 -- he was called back to Japan. I remember that when he went back, that we brought him down to Pier 41, and on the way back to our house, my father says, "Well I guess that might be the last time you'll see that person." But he was always very realistic about what was happening in the Far East, especially with the relationship between the U.S. and Japan.

If you're a student of Japanese American history, in 1939 U.S. started an embargo process of keeping Japan from having military supplies and so forth. In 1940, they had this restriction of oil being imported to Japan and rubber importation, scrap metals, things of this nature. And then in July of '41, they instigated the Enemy Trading Act, which is, it's a World War I act that still is enforceable in Congress. They stopped all the commerce essentially from, between Japan and the U.S. And that meant they stopped all the businesses that were involved in import-export functions. Anybody that was dealing in scrap metal, sending it to Japan, their businesses were stopped all together. The banks that were involved in monetary functions between Japan and the U.S. like Yokohama Specie Bank and Sumitomo Bank, they were seized by the Justice Department. And all the stuff that we were getting from the import-export companies, they were just completely stopped. So their business was taken over by the Department of Justice. At that point in July of '41, it became kind of obvious that there was going to be some kind of confrontation, I don't know what kind, but when this reporter came back the last time before he went back to Japan, we had a pretty big dinner for him. He said very frankly that he sees nothing but conflict coming about. And he thinks it's going to be a military conflict, it's just a matter of time, when we had war between U.S. and Japan. And he sees nothing other than that, he sees no hope of peace.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: Right before the break, we were talking about a Japanese reporter that came to Seattle and lived with your family for several years. He went back to Japan and then he came back and then right before the war started he was called back and he was, at a big dinner, talked about how war was imminent between the United States and Japan. I just want to do a follow-up question with that to ask, how did the Isseis feel about this? Did they also feel that war was imminent between the U.S. and Japan?

HM: A lot of them felt this way. They felt that it was a matter of time and they were trying to make a decision in the 1940 time period whether they should all go back to Japan or send the kids back there or... try to resolve this issue and make the best decision possible for their own families. In fact, when they did the Enemy Trading Act and when all the import-export companies got shut down, and that really hit our grocery business because we were not getting any more of the supplies from these companies. And the second thing that happened was when they shut down the banks, the working capital that my dad had was frozen in those banks, and they shut them down. You couldn't draw enough money out or deposit money or nothing. So that hit our grocery business very heavily. And consequently he asked what we should do in case, for the sake of the family. Of course all the kids, we wanted to stay here. And he said he doesn't know what's going to happen to us if we do stay, in case there's war. My mother was very, very apprehensive about what was to come. She would say well, "I think you guys are going to be all right," meaning the children, "but there might be things done to us that might be kinda different." And so she was trying to warn us that there was going to be some kind of cataclysmic type of event that's going to be on the horizon.

TI: What's interesting to me is here you have a Japanese reporter who is knowledgeable about what's going on between the countries, feeling war is inevitable. The Isseis pretty much also feeling, something's going to happen and yet the general American public was caught totally by surprise that something would happen between Japan and the United States.

HM: Well, the Hearst newspapers weren't. They were, like the Seattle P-I was a Hearst newspaper, and they were vehemently anti-Japanese. And so everything Japan did in China and the Asian sector, was a point of criticism for Randolph Hearst and his empire. In fact, this is kind of an afterthought, but the Randolph Hearst newspapers, I think about nine years ago on February 19th, published an apology to Japanese Americans.

TI: I wasn't aware of that.

HM: They had a very interesting article in that editorial page saying that they were guilty of mass racial discrimination. And they really laid it on the line which was kind of interesting. But that was when the editorial staff kind of changed in the Hearst system.

TI: What publications did that come out in? I'm curious, I want to follow up on it. Was that the Seattle P-I?

HM: No, it was in the San Francisco newspaper, their main flagship newspaper. Hearst had a kind of favoritism towards China and Chiang Kai-shek and he felt that everything that Japan was doing was totally against the best interests of the United States. So consequently the yellow peril type news coverage was totally against Nikkei, and Nikkei America for all that goes, because it reflected on us. But in terms of what was transpiring between July of '41 it became more clear as time went on that there was gonna be war and in fact, in October of '41, the Hikawa Maru, which was the steamship that NYK line, Nippon Yussen Kaisha line used to go between Yokohama and Seattle and they would inbound into Honolulu. In that time that, that ship came to the United States, this was October of '41 now, the Hokubei Shinbun which is the Japanese newspaper, had on the top line, "Last Boat to Japan before the War." My dad looked at that and says, you know, he thought that was kind of premature but nonetheless, he thought they were right. He said to us, well if we wanted to pack up and leave we could go. [Chuckles] My sister was the most vehement saying that she wanted to stay here.

TI: Are you aware of very many families who upon reading this and realizing that war was inevitable, decided to go on...

HM: Several families did that. At that time, Ira Nagaoka used to do the radio (operator) for the Hokubei newspaper, and as he relates it to me when we were doing the redress process -- Ira happened to be the secretary of the JACL chapter, by the way, at that time -- he was telling me that he was the radio receiver operator for the Hokubei that would get the transmissions from their news service on, I think it was something like 18 megahertz. He would transcribe this thing in roumanji and then he'd have to convert the roumanji into Nihongo. [Laughs] During this process, because roumanji is English written and the final characterization is in Nihongo, sometimes they used to get the translation kind of screwed up. [Laughs] He used to say, what was the consequence of some of these screw-ups. And I think in that sense, that the report about war being imminent, I think was kind of a premature translation or slightly incorrect translation, that's what he told me.

TI: That's interesting.

HM: So the guy that wrote the Japanese part of it in the newspaper, took a little bit of extra liberty in terms of how that material was presented. Because he received it in roumanji and he wrote the thing down and he didn't think it was really that accurate.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: Let's go back to the Japanese reporter. You were -- I'm trying to think -- you must have been about ten years old or so when he was staying with you. Describe the relationship you had with the reporter.

HM: He had a son about the same age I was. And so he kind of took a delight in, to conversing with me. One of the things that was interesting was the fact that he knew he couldn't pronounce some of the English words properly so he would ask me how I would pronounce it. So we had kind of an interesting relationship. He was treating me like I was his son, really. So he took kind of an interest in what I was doing in my schoolwork. I used to like to make maps. And this was during the time period when the Germans were having extraordinary military success, especially in France and other areas, the low lands. So as part of our schoolwork, we used to make maps and show where the Germans were and all this kind of stuff. He used to look at it and say, gee, "Nihon no chizu aru no?" Asking, do we have maps of Japan? I said, "Well, there's no coverage of the Japanese occupation of China and all this kind of stuff, so we don't have any interest in that area. My school class doesn't cover that in current history." So he thought it was strange that we would just be using European data relative to our current history events and not covering China or what's happening in Asia. I guess this kind of was disconcerting to him because we lived on the West Coast and we should have primary interest in what's happening in Asia rather than what's happening in Europe.

TI: As he recognized that you weren't getting much information about what was happening in China and Japan, did he try to give you information about what was really happening there?

HM: Yeah, because he had been in China, he had been a reporter for that one group that went into Nanking. And he said there were all kinds of things that went on that shouldn't have happened. That's the way he described it. I didn't really get the gist of it until I learned later on that this Nanking incident had taken place. But nonetheless, he felt that we were completely preoccupied with European information rather than what was happening in Asia.

TI: What, through the reporter were you able to get, again you're a young boy, but were able to get a better understanding of what was happening in Japan?

HM: He would tell me about what was happening in China and the problems that... from his perspective he felt that Japan would go into China and try to get China as a member of the Co-prosperity Sphere, they used to call it that. This was the Asian coalition to help organize Asians against the Anglo-Saxons, and to drive the colonial system out of Asia. He felt that that was initially their intent, but as the military got more and more involved in the occupation and the military part of it, they ran the show rather than the foreign department of Japan. And so consequently, everything went into the hands of the military and this caused some perturbations that he was not very happy with. He was very realistic about what was happening. But he was not in a position to tell me that the rape of Nanking had occurred. He was very courteous and discreet about it.

TI: Just to finish up with this reporter, earlier you talked about him and he sounds like an extraordinary man. He was very bright, very knowledgeable about lots of things. I guess the follow-up question is, because of your experience in counter intelligence, do you think possibly that this gentleman was here for intelligence purposes?

HM: Indirectly, probably he was feeding information about what was happening in the U.S. To me, a reporter is not usually that well versed in military equipment, like being able to identify a fighter airplane, for instance. Reporters aren't that detailed in knowledge unless they had their minor or an interest in college and followed up on it, but usually they're very general interest areas. For him to be able to identify airplanes was kind of unique and I'm sure that when he went back to Japan, someone in the military probably would have debriefed him or tried to get a briefing from him.

TI: Did your family's relationship with this gentleman ever cause you or cause your family any problems later on with the FBI or anyone else?

HM: Not that I know of. And from my ability to search the counter intelligence files, I don't think there was any connection made at that point.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: I'm going to sort of switch gears and now talk about going back to school, and your time in junior high school and in particular, your relationship with a Polish immigrant. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about that and how you met this boy.

HM: Okay. Now we're getting into the time period when the war in Europe had already started and I guess most of the people know that the Jewish people were being rounded up and given treatment even more severe than what we went through. But when the Germans occupied Poland, they screened out the Jewish people, people with Jewish ancestry and Jewish religion, followers. And consequently they made the life pretty miserable for those people. They put them into ghettos and things of this nature. Some of the people were able to get out of Poland. And during that time period, the Seattle school system was trying to integrate some of these refugees from Europe into the school. And Washington Junior High School was designated as one of these recipient schools for these Jewish students.

In our class we had one Jewish Polish student come into our class. At that time all the students were seated according to alphabetical order and that was the standard procedure that was used in Washington junior high school at that time for our class. And we were broken down into four levels of class performance for each class. As it turned out this student, this Jewish student, had a name very similar to mine, so I was in between this new student, and the other party was Bertha Miyatvich. She was a kid that had gone through the same school routine that I did, Bailey Gatzert, and then Junior High School. Bertha was kind of an independent. She was a Yugoslav ancestry person and she was kind of independent character.

The Jewish kid was very good in science and mathematics. Unfortunately his manual capabilities weren't something to be desired. But he was a good soccer player, but he didn't have any capabilities with his hands, so if you're talking about baseball or basketball, I would rather have him on the other side than playing for me. [Laughs]

Consequently, because we were seated next to each other and at that time there was this team concept that was being played at Washington Junior High School, and you were supposed to help your buddy. So if you were able to help him you're supposed to give him a little bit of assist. Because of this situation, this homeroom teacher asked me to help this Jewish student and I accepted the challenge. And I thought, Gee, this guy must be able to show me things about math that I don't know. And sure enough, he was very good in math. He was probably advanced about one or two years beyond my math because he was talking about things that I really didn't have any conception of. But as it turned out, his manual capabilities like in the wood shop, was very... deficient, shall we say. In one project we had, we had a cutting board that we were to make out of a pine wood. It was a one inch piece of pine, and we were supposed to make it into a nine by twelve dimension. Before the teacher allowed you to make the next cut on the next side, you would have to have it very straight, very square and meet your perpendicular requirements. If you did not have that, he would ask you to plane away on that surface until you achieved that kind of capability. So his cutting board ended up about like this, [Gestures with hands] (approximately 4" x 5") this is a nine by twelve. And it wasn't really a cutting board at that point. But this was the level of achievement he had. I used to look at him and say, Man, this guy is smarter than all get out in math but boy he sure can't do anything in the shop.

And as things progressed, he was really trying to get into the American school system. And it was very difficult for him because the coverage of material was different and the subjects were kind of different. His English capabilities were good in vocabulary, but somewhat deficient in grammar and somewhat deficient in articulation. At the beginning of the new school year, we were asked to provide to the teacher a personal history that we would write ourselves in our own narrative, and he would ask each of us on a random basis to make a vocal delivery of this. My own recollection was in all the Nikkei students, all you had to do was change the name and the story would be just about the same. [Laughs] Maybe the individual's parents' names would be different and where they came from and what prefecture, was different but nonetheless it was almost the same. The Chinese guys were... it wasn't too much different. But this guy, he had a long preparation and his was the most interesting story of the whole class.

TI: And did he read it in front of the class?

HM: Yes, he was asked to read it. And he was telling about the persecution of the Jewish people by the Germans. It was kind of unbelievable at that time because in the newspapers they would cover the stuff in a general form and they weren't talking about the uncivil behavior of the Germans towards the Jews at that time, not in the sense that we know it today. But he stated it very candidly and he told about his own family and how they were able to escape from the system and get to the United States.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: Was he able to describe the ghettos and the concentrations camps?

HM: Yes, he had a very good perspective of this, and this is the reason why they got out of there in that fashion. They were quite wealthy, the family was quite wealthy, that was the key to the... the wealth and the ability to sacrifice their wealth to get out of the country, was their means of escape. He has this very interesting presentation and I was taken aback at the whole process. I read about the war in Europe and all this kind of stuff and making maps about how the Germans were progressing through Poland before that time period. And I thought Gee, this is a guy who really got involved in this thing. I guess most of the other students didn't think too much about it. It hit me because first of all, he was sitting next to me, he was a guy I knew, I didn't know he was going through all this difficulty. It put a little bit of empathy into my processes so he and I became a little bit better friends and I understood him a little bit better. As a result of that, there were certain things that were going on that, when he made this paper presentation, it was, I think, October of 1941, and this was before the war started. But you know, the war clouds were getting darker. And this thing about the last boat to Japan, it was in the newspaper, it was about that same point of time. And he was kind of concerned about whether or not there was going to be war with the United States with Europe and also in Asia. But he felt very comfortable being in the United States. But come the Pearl Harbor Day and the day after when we went to school, I guess he, he told me that there's going to be all kinds of things gonna happen.

TI: And that was based on his experiences in Europe...

HM: Yeah but I think he had a feeling that there's going to be something that happens to other people that happened to us, this kind of thinking. He was very serious that day. Well, of course that was a bad day for all of us but to have him think that way, I thought Gee, this is kind of a strange situation. Well. Because the war did start and I didn't go to Nihon gakkou and I had some other project I had to finish up, he had hinted that he wanted some of the things that I was doing in the woodshop.

I was working at that time on a meat tenderizer. I was making it out of one of these curly maple heads, and they're really hard to work with and it's a very hard wood. You make these striations in the darn thing and make a honeycomb texture of it and you pound meat on it. I realized after I started making this dumb thing, I was making that, and a mallet and then I had this sailboat that Mr. Oates wanted me to get into a project with, it was a veneer sailboat. And then I was still working on my cocktail table and this was one I designed myself. [Chuckles] I had been working on that thing for quite a lot time.

But he knew I was working on all these things and he asked me one day, "What are you going to do with that mallet and meat tenderizer?" I said, "I don't know." I says, "Oh, my dad doesn't want the mallet and my mother doesn't want the meat tenderizer," so I says, "I don't know." He kind of hinted around that he'd like to have them, so I said okay. Once the war started we didn't go to Nihon gakkou I decided I would get some time in the woodshop because they had after hours woodshop activity for the hobby clubs and different people like that. I said if you will help me and if you want 'em, it's yours if you pay for the materials, so we agreed to that. It was pretty well formed out anyway, it had to be hand sanded and all this hand stuff to be done, so I gave him the job of doing this. Sanding stuff is pretty easy to do so he did a fairly decent job on those things. Anyway he provided those things to his parents for their Christmas presents, they were enthralled. They were happy as a lark, I guess, 'cause here was this kid that had very poor manual capabilities present them with two nice, curly maple meat tenderizer and mallet. I mean, they were pretty presentable, to say the least. To make them out of curly maple is kind of a hard task, you don't see those too often. Anyway, that even made our friendship even stronger.

TI: And while you were doing this, and your friendship was getting stronger and stronger, did he continue to talk about his experiences in Europe, and his impending fear of what was going on?

HM: Some of these escapes and what it took to get the escape system set up and all this kind of stuff and they had a network of people. They had these different family friends that got 'em into England and from England they went to New York, and from New York they were involved with this group and they thought they should be sent to Seattle, and consequently ending up in Seattle. He was telling me about how these arrangements were made and all this kind of stuff.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: As he was talking about this, did you share his sort of impending fear that something might happen to the Japanese?

HM: Well, I was kind of naive at that point. I didn't think they were going to do anything to us. The only thing that caused me concern was the fact that my brother was a radio amateur. And on December 7th, when we got the news about 3:30 in the afternoon, December 7th, that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor, my brother thought, "Well, you know, I guess this is the end to our ham radio functions because we can't operate any transmissions." They came with a new message from the FCC to all the ham radio operators, that they should cease transmission. First of all because it's a radio beacon function, they can follow the radio propagation. And the other thing is that they don't want any transmissions to foreign destinations. First thing that happened that afternoon was the fact that Nobi Shigehara comes running over to our place and says, "They took my Dad." We says, "What are you talking about they took your dad?" He says, "These guys came and they took him into custody and drove off with him." Then, well...

TI: How did that make you feel when you...

HM: Well... that provoked my dad into action, he went to pack his suitcase. [Laughs] And he took some pictures off the wall, I remember. And then he was scrimmaging around with some of the family records and stuff. And I thought, "Gee, well, Nobi's dad was a veteran of the Russo-Japanese war, and he was member of the army. And because of that, they took him into custody." All former military of Japan, they had it on the FBI records of course, and they took all those guys the evening of December 7th. The next thing that happened was George Sekiya was a radio amateur like my brother. He called up and said, "They took all my equipment! These guys came and took the whole... all my equipment, everything I had."

TI: How did the FBI know who had equipment, radio equipment?

HM: Oh, if you're a radio amateur, you're registered. Name, address all this kind of stuff. They give you a call number. Well, like my call number was W7MFE. Which is, if it's W7 that means you're a old timer. But my brother had call letters and he was registered with the FCC. So gee, it was about fifteen minutes after we received the call from George Sekiya that here are guys pounding on our door. They identified themselves and I wasn't close to the door so I couldn't see what they showed 'em. Anyway, they came into our place and my brother showed them his equipment and all that kind of stuff. They started writing down a bunch of notations. And they, my brother, at that time, was a rifle marksman and he had a single shot target rifle up there, his pride and joy. They asked him if he had any other weapons, and he had a couple others. [Laughs] Then they asked if there's any other weapons in the house. My dad had a .32 and .38, and couple other weapons so they asked him to bring them out. So they brought them all out. They asked him about any short wave radios. I had one myself, so we brought that one out and they inventoried the whole thing and says, "Do you have any other transmitters besides the one you have on the table?" Yeah, we have another one. So they asked him for that one and he brought that one out. He was still working on it and it was in stages of assembly but they wanted it anyway. They gave him a hand written receipt of all the things represented and never saw any of it since then. [Laughs] But, they took it all. But my father was all ready to go. He had his suitcase packed. He thought they were coming after him. But luckily he didn't go. But they took the equipment and that's it.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: Let's go back to the Polish Jew. And now after the war was over and these things were happening and your conversations with him, what, do you recall anything that he said during this period or what his thoughts were?

HM: Well, I guess that he was more concerned that something was going to happen to us than I was. [Laughs]

TI: To the American citizens, the Japanese Americans?

HM: Yeah, because Mr. Sears, the principal of Washington Junior High School, had been in Japan in 1939, I believe. In fact, there was a ruckus about him being, going over to Japan because some of his expenses were paid by some organization that was supposed to be... not held in the best esteem by some people in the United States. Nonetheless, he was familiar with Japan. Akira Koda was responsible for raising (the school) flag in the morning and taking it down before he went home from school. And Akira got tired of doing it on an exclusive basis and he talked me into sharing the responsibility with him.

So anyway, first time I had a chance to talk to Sears at length was the fact that Akira's trying to convince the principal that I should be partly responsible for taking the flag down because Akira had all kinds of funny after school activities and sometimes his social requirements were more a priority than taking the flag down. So anyway, that's the first time I had a chance to talk to Sears. We talked about his trip to Japan and things of this nature and I was interested because the reporter had talked about different things, and I was trying to communicate with him. So I got to know Mr. Sears quite well.

He had a big assembly for all Japanese Americans and this was about in February. And he said one of his concerns was the fact that he didn't want any harm to come to us, and to report any physical activities against us. And to, if we were... encountered anyone going to and from school that we were supposed to report to him. He was going to take an active interest in making sure that we were physically not getting any problem. They had invoked a curfew by that time and he was aware that we had to be home by such-and-such time and so forth and we couldn't be out during certain hours. So he says, "All you people that have early class activities" -- some of them started real early and that meant that the kids would be out before the curfew function in the morning -- so he says, "Because you're involved and the curfew is now a requirement, if you have any of these activities tell your instructors and so forth, in order to get the whole thing rectified on a timetable basis." He said, "No matter what happens we'll have all your records and you'll be able to continue your education." So he was kind of foretelling the future but we weren't recognizing it. It was bouncing off all our ears.

TI: This was February so this was before any official announcement of any...

HM: Yeah, right after that then Roosevelt had this EO 9066.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: Except for by then, Bainbridge Island had been evacuated.

HM: No, no, didn't occur until, they didn't go until end of March. This was February when they had the assembly. And I thought, "Gee, Mr. Sears is kind of, he's telling us things but it doesn't concern us." I felt completely indifferent to him, except for the curfew. The way I beat curfew was that I had a Chinese kid in our class and we were pretty good friends and Albert and I were the same size physically. We liked to play basketball on the same team and I used to pick him and he used to pick me. Anyway, he said to me, "If you want to go out at night, I could give you one of these buttons." They used to have these China buttons that the Chinese kids used to wear, and he gave me one. He says, "Well you could change your name to same name as mine if you're in trouble." So I he gave me... I was kind of... I couldn't care less I guess. And my parents were concerned that I would go to, places like the library and come back late.

TI: Can you describe the China button, what it said on there?

HM: All it said was, they had the nationalist symbol around it, you know, like a bunch of pyramids around there, and it just said "China" on it, in the middle.

TI: And they felt that this was recognized by officials so if they were out that they could show this.

HM: Uh-huh. In fact, (the Chinese community) had communication with the police department saying this is the way they identified themselves as being Chinese. So they couldn't tell us -- just like the incident at Boeing Field -- they couldn't tell us from Nihonjin or Shinajin or anything else, see. So anyway, Al gave me that. So I felt very confident I could get away with any of the stuff. [Laughs] So I'd go out early or stay out late at night and I wouldn't be concerned. But my brother was concerned and my parents were concerned. But I said, "Well, what are they going to do with me? I'm a kid. What are they going to do with me? Throw me in jail?"

TI: So you... you weren't concerned because it wasn't so much that you felt you would get caught, but even if you did get caught you felt that nothing would happen.

HM: Yeah, well I could show them the China button and get away with it. I didn't wear it because I didn't want the other kids to know that I had it, to begin with. This was given to me in confidence, too so I didn't want to abuse it.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

HM: But anyway, as time progressed, my brother was kind of getting concerned too, because they had taken all of his equipment, but he did have his test equipment. He had a vacuum tube volt meter that he purchased the summer before. That was his pride and joy. He had a whole bunch of gear that he was using... like, a capacitor measurement system which was the first in his group to have anything like that. And then he had an inductance measurement device and this was all in his... piece of equipment. He thought something was gonna go haywire because his equipment's now all gone. They (the Feds) were asking things, like turning in your cameras and turning in your radios that had short wave on it and turning in all your weapons, and stuff like that, for the community. So he figured there's gonna be something going on. He told me he wanted me to make this case for him to put this equipment in so that he could haul it around in case he wanted to use it at somebody else's place this would be a handy way to travel with it. I think he had some inclination that something was going to happen, I don't know, he never said anything at that time.

I wanted to make this box for him, so I told this Jewish kid this is what I'm going to do. So I made a deal with him. He really liked the sailboat that I had been making. I had been making this thing for a long time. I put a lot of hours in it. And at that time this guy Oates, who was one of the many training instructors, was a sailboat enthusiast, model sailboat enthusiast, and it's one of these sailboats that sails by itself and will turn by itself because of its rigging. It was made up of veneer mahogany. And you know, if you did it right, it's a work of art. I had the thing almost finished except I didn't have the rigging done and I didn't have the top panel and the top surfacing done. This Jewish kid kept eyeing this thing, and I kept thinking to myself gee, I'm not into sailboats and stuff like that, and maybe my brother's box is more important. And so I said well, "If you help me with this box, if you want to pay for the material I got into the sailboat, we'll make a deal." So we agreed to that. When we started making the box he says, "You know, you should have a place in there that they can keep things that you don't want other people to have." I says... it surprised the hell out of me! [Laughs]

TI: Sort of like a secret trap door or...

HM: Yeah, he was talking about a false bottom and that's what we incorporated into the design. I thought to myself, "What the hell am I doing this thing for, we don't need a false bottom." But in case we might need it, well it might be interesting to have. So we incorporated it into the design. False bottom and the other side had kind of a funny area where we could locate things. And I thought, "Gee, that's kind of strange." The other thing my brother wanted was, he wanted a case, another, it was like a suitcase size stuff. So we made that one, except I selected the veneer, the wood for the thing to make it really look good and the pattern and all this kind of stuff. And then they started the Bainbridge people being moved and things really started coming in line. This Jewish kid was much more perceptive than I was. And when we finished the second project, I had it with the natural finish on the thing and the instructor said, "Oh my, this is what I'd like myself." [Laughs]

TI: Does this second one, this larger suitcase, did that also have a false bottom?

HM: Yeah inside, as we were building this thing, we could make it without having any other problems by adding additional compartments. So it came time to put the final finish on, he says to me, "Paint it black." I says, "We selected the material, we selected the grain, the very fact that we have this thing we have to do it with a clear coat on the thing." He insisted, "If you guys are going to go someplace, you don't want that thing to stick out. Paint it black." I told Mr. Escher, the shop teacher, I wanted to paint it black. [Laughs] He says, "You must be kidding!" I remember this instance. He says, "You must be kidding. You don't paint that thing black." So anyway, we went around for a couple days and I told my brother I was going to paint it black and he says, "Well, maybe that's better way to go. Do it."

TI: Because at this point, you had realized...

HM: Because he had realized, at this point, that we're going to go. It was a matter of time because the Bainbridge Island guys were goin'. And yeah. Within a month we were gone. We did paint it black. It was mortifying for me to paint it black. It was a work of art.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: What impact did this have on this Jewish immigrant as he watched this thing happen before his eyes in the United States?

HM: We wouldn't talk about the fact that Bainbridge Island people were being evacuated. I didn't say anything to him. I don't know how much newspaper stuff he read, but he knew something was going on. But all this thing about the evacuation was kept quiet and Mr. Sears said, "If anything happens, don't talk about it in the school. You could talk about it amongst yourselves but don't talk about it in school." That's when we had the assembly. So none of us talked about any of this. But the day before we were... next to the last day, the teachers all said that, "Tomorrow will be the last day for some of the students here." He didn't identify who they were but you know, everybody knew by that time.

TI: So they were able to keep it that quiet? I would think it would go through the whole school.

HM: In fact the next to the last day was kind of an interesting day, because I think a lot of people already had an understanding, they just didn't want to discuss it openly, my Caucasian friends. But the last day was a very pitiful day, yeah.

TI: Now that your Jewish friend heard about this, sort of the second to the last day or the day before, were you able to talk with him about it or did he say anything to you?

HM: No, he was very quiet. In fact, in the homeroom class, he was emotionally distraught. And he stood up and said, "I didn't come to the United States to see this kind of thing happen. I don't know what's happening here but this is not what I came for." And he made a very, it was an impassioned speech. He was very disturbed. But that's the way things were going at that time. But he was more perceptive than I was. But he was planning ahead of time so in case nothing happened it would still be okay.

TI: Were you ever able to, did you ever see him after that?

HM: No, I never saw him... when we came back after the war, when I came back to Seattle the war was still going on, but I tried to find him in the phone book and other places but I never did find him and I don't know what happened to him. One of Jewish friends I have said that they went back to New York. But that's the last I saw him. But the last day I was there he did have an envelope for me. He put it into my pocket and said, "Well, maybe you could use this one of these days."

TI: What was in the envelope?

HM: Money.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: So you found out that you were being evacuated to Puyallup. Why don't you talk about what happened at this point.

HM: First concern for my dad was, "What are we going to do with the grocery store with all the inventory?" We had all the canned goods and stuff like that. Because there were, what, a hundred grocery stores in Seattle, more than a hundred I guess, that Japanese Americans were running. Mom and Pop stores most of them. The market for grocery stores went down the tube. And so, the previous year my dad has spent about nine thousand dollars to revamp the store. We had new showcases, refrigerated showcases, new freezer cabinets, new cabinetry, new everything, and this was done in 1940, I guess. Since the market had dropped to zilch, we were trying to get any kind of buyer to buy into the place. There was a Filipino guy that was married to a Japanese woman and he wanted to buy the place. He wanted to buy the place, lock, stock and barrel with equipment and all the inventory for four hundred bucks. Four hundred bucks! [Laughs] Anyway, this really perturbed my dad. But when it came down to the bottom line, he says well, "Four hundred bucks is better than nothing. Besides, what are we going to do having all these canned goods rot on the shelves. And the equipment goes to pot, so let's take the four hundred." And that's what my dad sold the grocery store for, four hundred bucks.

My brother was kinda perturbed at this fact that we're allowed only the things we can carry, because that's what the Wartime Civil Control Administration, WCCA, had specified in the process of evacuation. But, you were allowed to bring your own vehicle at the risk of not being able to guarantee what's going to happen to the vehicle. My brother had worked on this Model A and he had reworked the engine and all that kind of stuff, you know, what they were doing, putting bigger tires on, you know what kids were doing in that era. He figured well, "I'm going to take this car in, I'm gonna bring whatever you think is necessary, cooking utensils and whatever we think is needed for survival." So bedding and some of his test equipment, his prized plywood cabinet, one with all the equipment and already assembled in there and his nice case that we painted black and all this kind of stuff. We had it all partitioned with cushioning material and all this kind of stuff. He put all of his test gear, radio gear and all this kind of stuff in there that the Feds didn't take off with. Then we had all of the household stuff that we think we could use, like clothing and things of this nature and we packed it in his car. And he drove it to Puyallup. They had a caravan of these guys and they all drove it to Puyallup. Of course we didn't know that the Feds were going to auction it off.

TI: They auctioned off the cars?

HM: Yeah, while we were in Puyallup right at the end there. He drove with this amount of stuff, supplies, into Puyallup and we went on the bus. We went from Collins Playfield, in fact, right up the road here, right North end, where the field house used to be. We were assembled there and they put us into the busses and off we went to Puyallup. I had been to Puyallup Fairgrounds before because the school used to bring us down there once every other year or so, and so I was familiar with the place. The dipper was still there. I was kind of familiar with the whole assembly center. They put us into the middle of the, where they used to have the racetrack, where they have the open area presently. They used to have a 6 furlong racetrack around the periphery, right around there. And they had built barracks inside of that racetrack area and we happened to have the longest barrack in all of Puyallup. We had seventeen partitioned units in that barrack and we were in the third one from the middle, that's where they put us. It was sixteen by twenty, ship lap construction, place.

TI: Going back to your brother and his car, so he was able to take everything out of the car and bring it into Puyallup but then the Feds took the car and they auctioned off not only his car, but all the cars that went down in that caravan?

HM: Yeah but the auctioning didn't take place for about two months. They confiscated the cars after we brought the stuff in. They were allowed to drive the cars into Puyallup and they would not allow the cars to be driven to the areas where our units were located but you had to hand transport those things. But they put into a holding area -- where they used to have the horses and mules and animals -- and they put the cars into that area and we had to physically bring all the items using our own physical capabilities to our housing units. So we had more stuff than everybody else did, most everybody else did. There was other families that did the same thing but they were risking the vehicles and two months later we weren't allowed to bid on those vehicles the Feds confiscated the vehicles and they sold them to the open market.

TI: What was the thinking in terms of confiscating the vehicles? Why did the Feds...?

HM: They had a perfect right to, according to them, because we took the vehicles in at our own risk and they had stated that they were not responsible for what happens after we go into the camp. But we weren't allowed to keep the vehicles, they were put into an impound area where we had no access to once we took the materials out of the vehicle. Unfortunate part of it was that my brother had spent his farm work money and all this kind of stuff building up that vehicle and I think he got ten bucks for that vehicle. That broke his heart, it was pathetic, he was really sad. First time I seen him cry. But that's the way things were at that time.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: How were your parents, what was their reaction when they went to Puyallup?

HM: Well, they weren't happy with it, anything that was going on, of course. They were more fearful that the family would be separated but they were thankful that we were all together. They thought they would take the Isseis and separate them from the children, that's what their thought was, so they were thankful that we were all together.

TI: But in a similar way where your brother was sort of crushed that they took away his car, in a similar way your father's livelihood, the store, was taken away and he did it for four hundred dollars. Was he bitter or...?

HM: No, he was pretty realistic. He was more concerned about what was going to happen to us inside the camp. Unfortunately because my father was involved with the Japanese American Grocers Association and all this kind of stuff, they took extra opportunity to put us into an area where we didn't know anybody in that area where we lived or we were given living quarter.

TI: Was that something that you just suspected or was there actually people who told you that...?

HM: No, that was the policy of the WCCA. In the documentation that I used to look at during the process of redress, that was one of the main policies, that was to disturb the ability to organize within the community and disrupt it as much as possible. This is why they took the lawyer like Matsuda and they put him into a different area from where he belonged, and then once he got used to that area and he started getting good communications with the rest of the people, they took him out of that area and put him into a different area and they kept on doing that and finally they ended up taking him out of camps and bringing him to another camp. This was their objective, was to cause complete disruption in the communication system of the Nikkei. It was an intent. And the WCCA isn't the innocent organization that they tried to make themselves look like. They were trying to create dissension and problems and miscommunication. It was done on purpose.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.