Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Henry Miyatake Interview II
Narrator: Henry Miyatake
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 4, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-mhenry-02-0017

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: After the teacher said that she wasn't going to accept it and you had to think about it. What did your friends say, or did you ask your friends what you should do or...?

HM: No, I, I was kind of independent by that point. I had my own activities and I was doing a lot of things by myself by that time period. And I used to make a lot of things like model airplanes. My brother was kind enough to bring in a lot of things from his job. He had a job in Jerome, Idaho.

TI: Well before we get to that, let's finish up with, with this incident and then we'll, we'll move on to that. But, so at that point when she told you to think about this, what did you ultimately do? What was your decision in terms of the paper?

HM: Well my brother happened to come back to camp during that weekend I think. And so I told him, "I wrote this paper and the teacher don't, doesn't want to accept it. What do you think I should do?" And he said, "You do, you do whatever you feel like doing."

TI: And he understood the implications that if you didn't...

HM: Well I told him what the paper was about and that I had a carbon rough draft of the earlier version I wrote. I wrote it three times really. And so I showed him the earlier version of it and he said, "Well, I can't disagree with you but I'm not telling you what to do, because you're on your own. You're old enough to think for yourself." And so, I decided I wasn't going to redo it.

TI: And so what, what was the reaction from the teacher?

HM: So I waited 'til Tuesday. I went back to class Monday, and Tuesday I went back there and told her, "No, I'm not going to rewrite it." I said that, "The Constitution of the United States has one of the precepts of the, freedom of the press. And that's one of the things that's in the four freedoms that Roosevelt is talking about that, that's why we're fighting World War II." All this kind of crap. What a bunch of dialogue that was. And she said, "I'm sorry to hear that. I'm going to have to take steps with the principal."

So Mr. Light, who was the principal, called me into his office. And I had been a guest of Mr. Light's, his generosity and his hospitality, because Thomas Light was in my soph, ah, freshman and sophomore years in my class. Same age I, well he was, same class group but he was maybe two years older than I was. And he was the son of the principal and they had to educate him so they put him into the school system just like we were in, except he was in the administrative area and we were in the... people inside the camp. And I got to know Thomas very well. He's a very intelligent guy. And as I got to know him, we became very good friends. And in the course of events he said after he found out from his father that I'm being brought to the office for this kind of action and they're gonna warn me that they're gonna lay down the, the law on this thing and they're gonna follow through. He begged me to recant the paper and write whatever Miss Amerman wanted. And he pleaded with me. He begged me. He says, "Hey, you're making a terrific error here. Why don't you just do it and just, then forget about it. And you can keep it in the back of your mind and you can keep the paper," and all this kind of stuff. And I said, "I don't want to do that Tom. It's just a matter of principle."

And Mr. Light knew me because I was his, his dinner guest a couple of times. And so when I had the confrontation with the principal (meant to say Miss Amerman) I told him, "This is what was taught in the class and this is what's in the Constitution of the United States, why shouldn't I be able to exercise it?" And he thought... you know, he kind of chuckled at that. And he said, "You know, they got the school rules and I have to follow the school rules. I'm just the implementer of this thing. And if you evade what the teacher's telling you is acceptable then I can't go, go along with you. You might be right in principle, but you're not right in terms of the school rules." So he just warned me. He said, "You better recant that paper. I suggest you do it. Because you're not a dumb person. You're quite intelligent, we think a great deal of you. You've been our, a guest of our family, we like you, we don't want anything to happen that's going to be bad for you." And he was very sympathetic, and I stood my ground. [Laughs] And unfortunately I got all F's and they summarily threw me out of school. [Laughs]

TI: Well what, what was the reaction of others when it happened, in particular your, your brother, your, your parents?

HM: First of all, the other students didn't know about it. They kept it very quiet. Thomas was the only student that knew about it. So I went to school anyway every day because I didn't want my parents... my parents didn't even know about it. They weren't even involved in the thing. They didn't send them any, there was no correspondence between the principal's office and my parents. Nothing, zilch.

TI: But that seems a little unusual. Something as dramatic as this that they didn't try to bring in parents to see if they could influence you through them.

HM: I don't think they would have done anything anyway. My parents were very liberal with me. They spoiled me. I was a spoiled kid really. I did whatever I wanted to do.

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