Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: George Fugami Interview
Narrator: George Fugami
Interviewer: Dee Goto
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 15, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-fgeorge-01

<Begin Segment 1>

DG: So today is June the 15th. It's Monday, okay, and we're here with George Fugami and I'm Dee Goto and we're doing this interview for the Densho Project. So we want to hear a little bit about the background from which you, your parents came. Go ahead and tell me about your father.

GF: Yeah. My father, he came from Yamaguchi-ken, Oshima-gun. It's a little island and he was born there and his father was a merchant. They had a store, and also they had... you could not sell tobacco or salt unless the government okays it, and which happened that they were selling. So they must be in a pretty good position to be able to get government's approval to sell salt, and also rice. And he had a business, he had a store, plus he was taking care of a lot of these fishermen's... they bring in fish -- and I don't know if you know what iriko means, small dried fish -- he was the sole distributor of these fishes. He hired lot of the people outside and we had a place out by the water there, and there's a street and then the store's back there. He would get all this iriko and he would take it to Hiroshima, and that's where he would sell it. I don't know anything besides that. Oh, one more thing -- also we were able to sell tobacco, which was very strictly, at that time only certain people could sell tobacco. So my grandfather must have had quite a bit of influence. He was, his mind, as far as I know of, my mother told me that he -- they have soroban. You know what soroban is?

DG: It's a calculator.

GF: Yeah, calculator. He had that in his mind. So they would say any figure, in his mind he would make it, he would come up with the answer. That's where I got little bit of that, I think, but I can't do it that good. But I know when I was in grammar school, the teacher would put up a lot of figures and I would add it as I go along and subtraction, I'd subtract it. At the end, he says, "Now children, I want you to get the answer." I says, "Well, I got the answer." So I think that's one of my grandfather's -- [laughs] -- ability that I obtained.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

DG: Now, tell me some more about what you said about your family and the battle. Was it samurai battle?

GF: Oh yes, they had samurai -- long time ago there was a Genji and the Heike. I have that in here, and I, I don't have it but I'll -- Genji and Heike. There was two warlords and, unfortunately, we were in the (Heike) side. And Genji was all -- (the Heike) were all beheaded, most of them were, or they were isolated someplace else and what happened to my father's --

DG: And this was closer to Kyoto.

GF: Yeah, this was Kyoto.

DG: At that time.

GF: That's where the capital was, in Japan was Kyoto. That's when you hear about Nara and Kyoto. And under this Fujiwara family, they took control and they were the Genji side, and we were the Heike side. So my father, my father's whatever, grandparents or whatever, they went to Oshima-gun. The reason why they ran to Oshima-gun Agenosho is that the emperor used to obtain salt. See he, they used to have a lot of salt. They take the ocean water and they make it into salt. And that's the reason why my grandfather's father, or grandfather whatever it is, they went to Oshima-gun, and to avoid getting prosecuted. So they went there. And that's when one of the brothers turned to be a bonsan, minister, to hide himself. And this is what happened to ourselves. And the name --

DG: At that time, the ministers, or the bonsans, were kind of higher than --

GF: Higher, yeah.

DG: -- right, than the emperor.

GF: They were much more respected, yeah. So that's... and what they said is usually the people would go for. However, this is what happened and then my --

DG: So we're talking about 1700?

GF: Oh, wait a minute now.

DG: 1600?

GF: [Laughs] Long time ago.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

GF: Let me get this out here and I can tell you better, 'cause I brought these things. [Retrieves documents] I can't remember all that so see, this is the Asahi Shinbun. I went back to Japan, but one of my closest relatives, he's a bonsan. And he's the one that studied all this, and... oh my God, I got all kinds of papers here. I didn't get these... where was that now? You got time? [Laughs]

DG: Sure.

GF: It's kind of... I should have put this together. 686. That goes way, well, that's when the emperor was there, and we came down here to... about 200 years ago. We're talking way back there.

DG: Okay, so 1600?

GF: 16 -- yeah.

DG: 1700?

GF: I had that, but I guess I didn't bring that with me. Anyway, oh, here we are. 600, 686, 729, 748. Oh, that's way back.

DG: Okay, that's, that was in the real...

GF: Way back. Real samurai when they used to --

DG: Feudal days.

GF: See, we came back. This is from Prince Nagaya and wife Princess Yoshihiba, committed suicide.

DG: And that was what year?

GF: That was in the... let's see. Nagaya, 729.

DG: Oh, Heian period.

GF: So long time ago, yeah. And the remainder of the Nagaya clan had supposed to exile to Oshima Island. That's where --

DG: Oh. That's how far back you went, to Oshima.

GF: Yeah, that's Oshima Island. Name was changed to --

DG: Well then that, that's almost before the real samurai days.

GF: Oh, way back. When they wore those funny kinda things on their head?

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

<Begin Segment 4>

GF: And then -- went to Oshima -- the name was changed to Nonoya. See, our name was Nonoya. That's what it was, then we came to Hogami. Our real name in Japan is Hogami, but when we came here it was changed to Fugami. The reason why is because the midwife -- you know, the Japanese words can be read both ways and she read it as Fugami. So when, coming from Japan, when I came from Japan they said, "Well, why is your father's name Hogami and your name is Fugami?" So I had explain to the immigration that this is the reason why. So they took it that way. And so that made sense to them probably. [Laughs] Anyway, this goes way back.

DG: It does. It does.

GF: Way back, generation of a thousand years ago. So this fella, this reverend that's there -- I don't know if he's still alive or not, he went and studied all this and then he sent it to me. I said, "I'd like to know my background."

DG: So then it's kind of a tribute to how Japanese kept records, also.

GF: Yeah, that's right. So it came in the paper, this Asahi Shinbun, came in Asahi Shinbun about this wooden plaque they found, and this is where the history came out. Kinda interesting.

DG: Can you briefly tell me about the wooden plaque?

GF: [Laughs] Well, I'll tell you, he said, "I came, I sent you a copy of Asahi Shinbun newspaper finding of our family language. It was sent to me -- "

DG: Well, can you just kind of explain it to me a little bit, because it's better not read.

GF: Gee, that part I -- hard to say. 'Cause it goes all the way back in history with different names.

DG: Okay, well, that's fine. That's fine.

GF: I'll leave you a copy so you can look at it if you want to, but I'd like to have it returned to me. [Laughs]

DG: Of course.

GF: But it goes way back, and... when this fellow sent it to me, it was really interesting to me because I use --

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

<Begin Segment 5>

DG: Let's talk specifically then about your father and the situation that he was in that induced him to come to the United States.

GF: Well I tell you, my father was a, he was, as far as I know of, he's a person that loved to sing and dance. That was his... and my grandfather did not like that too much. And my mother didn't like it either; and that's... so he says, "I'm gonna get, go to America." And I heard that they had a certain, they have to have a certain amount of background money, that he can come to America. 'Cause they don't want you go to America and go there broke. They had to send 'em back, I guess. But, anyway, he came to America; and then my father, my grandfather --

DG: And so you think he came about, when?

GF: 1915, 1916.

DG: Something occurs to me. New immigrants could not come after 1907, so he had to have come once before that.

GF: Oh, before that, yeah, that's right. But I just took the age.

DG: That's right.

GF: See, so that's the reason why. No, he must have came a long time ago.

DG: I think he did.

GF: Yeah, he did. And after he came here, my grandfather wanted him to come back to Japan to take over his business, but my dad had no desire of that. So some way other, I don't know how he met my mother, or what happened. So long time ago -- just marriage by picture or something like that, shashin kekkon they used to call it. And so Grandfather says, "Well, you're coming into our family." And so my mother went to the family. And when after, she waited for many years for him to call her, because he has to call her to come and --

DG: Not literally call, telephone, but write.

GF: Write, right. And so he couldn't, he wouldn't do anything. He had no desire getting married, probably. And finally my mother says, "Oh, I'm gonna go back to my" -- 'cause she was never touched by her husband. So she says, "I'm going to go back to home," because other people want to get married to her. And he says, "No, I don't want you to do that. Unless... if you don't go to America, go to America and meet my son, he will never come back to Japan." Because my mother was pretty strict and she had desire to come back to Japan, which maybe my father had no desire. He was pretty talented. He used to play the shamisen and all these things and he used to teach -- I know when I was there, he used to teach these girls around our neighborhood. Japanese girls around the neighborhood come to the home and he'd teach 'em how to do Japanese dance, and I thought, "My dad is crazy," I said, "doing all this stuff," but that's what Mother said, "That's how he is." He must have learned quite a bit of this in Japan before he came here to the United States.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

DG: What did he do when he was here?

GF: Oh, he had a -- as far as I know of what my mother told me -- he had a store, cigar store. And so my mother says, "Well, when I come to United States, I'm gonna help him out at the cigar store." So when she came over, he sold the cigar store. [Laughs]

DG: Now this is in Portland?

GF: This was in Portland. And he worked for some hotel, I think, at that time. And so my mother says, "Well, I can't be doing this," so she started housekeeping. Those days, housekeeping was something that they were doing quite a bit. These people that, instead of an apartment, they had housekeeping room, they rented the rooms. I know that's what she had when we were in Astoria. And she had a few Japanese people and some hakujin people in this... they cooked their own, they had a little kitchen probably, and everything. I don't know too much about it, but I was still in the second grade.

DG: So then was this a house or was this more like...

GF: This is a big house, a big house. And I can still picture the big house, great big house, and my dad was working at the cannery up the hill called CPR, Canadian... CPR... Columbia River Packing Company, and he was working there. And then at that time, the big fire in Astoria probably -- I don't know if you ever heard about it, the big fire in Astoria -- and it came pretty close to our place. But we evacuated to the cannery because they thought well, it'll never come up the hill, but it stopped, the fire stopped before it got there. 'Cause if it got there, there was a great big gas station, and that would have probably blown up, see. But fortunately we were all right. [Laughs]

DG: So this was after you were born then, so you remember it.

GF: That was after I was born. See, I was in the first grade. And I flunked the first grade because I couldn't speak English, because Mother always spoke Japanese so we couldn't speak English. So when I was in first grade they said, "Well, George, you better stay one more year in the first grade." So I stayed in first grade, I think, a year and a half. And then they says... well, when graduation come, all my friends were going into the third grade. He says, "No, you go to third grade now." I says, "Why do I skip second grade?" I had a funny incidence. [Laughs]

DG: Okay. Go ahead.

GF: You know, when I was, I think I was in third grade, I didn't know how to raise my finger one or two because you gotta to go to the bathroom, and I did it in my pants. [Laughs] And the teacher was pretty good. She says -- I can still remember -- she says, "I don't know who smells so bad," but she knew it was me, but she just said it that way, "but be sure to get cleaned up tomorrow." I still remember that. But I stayed in the third grade, and then I don't remember.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

GF: Then we moved back to Portland. After that big fire or something, we moved back to Portland.

DG: Were there other Japanese around?

GF: Around the place? Yes, there was. I don't know. I can't tell you, I know in our housekeeping room there was two families of Japanese people, and I don't know their names. I just can't recall.

DG: They were a couple?

GF: They were couples and they were married and one had one child, a daughter, and that I remember.

DG: Did you go to, like, social events with other families?

GF: Oh, no. I don't think so. As far as I know, only thing I know is I went to church. This lady close by, this hakujin lady, used to pick me up and go to church. And I know Mother was a Buddhist, but she had to get baptized. So she was baptized. And Dad wasn't, but she was. I remember I went to the church and she was, they dunked her in the water, and I said, well, "What? They want to drown my mother?" [Laughs] I think I hollered out, but that's how it was.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

DG: So do you think their intention was constantly to go back to Japan?

GF: Always go back to Japan. As soon as the children grew older.

DG: How many brothers and sisters?

GF: I have three brothers, see... yeah, myself included. Three boys, and one girl. And she says, I remember that she said, "Now, we're all going back to Japan." My grandfather died, but she went back to Japan. We, took us all there and says, "Now, you three, four kids, you have to have Japanese education because you're Japanese." And I said, "I don't want to go to Japan. Why should I go to Japan? I have to speak English, it's better off than speaking -- nobody speaks Japanese out here." But she says, "No, you have to go back." So we went back, and Mother and Father left us there.

DG: What years?

GF: That was 1925.

DG: 1925 and you were born in 1915, so you were ten years old.

GF: I was ten years old. I just, I was in grammar school, I just finished grammar school, I think, about that age. So then we went back there and I remember my mother going to the graveyard, says, "Father, I came back, as I promised you I'd come back, and I brought my husband with me." And I thought, "Gee, that's kind of nice." But I was small and I didn't know too much about these things. But I remember we got to the graveyard site and she says, "Sit down there. This is where grandfather is buried."

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

<Begin Segment 9>

DG: So what was your impression of Japan in general?

GF: In general? Well, I thought, "What a dinky place, small place." I wanted to go back. I wanted to go back, but my father says, "No." He says, "You stay and go through school here. It's very important."

DG: So how many of you stayed?

GF: All of us stayed, all four of us. My youngest brother Paul, he was the youngest, he was in the... first grade. And then Roy, he was... my sister and myself. I went into the sixth grade, but I stayed in the sixth grade a year and a half because I don't know Japanese language that well. My sister knew a little bit because --

DG: So you were in Astoria where they didn't have a language school?

GF: Nothing like that. We just learned our language through our parents. And so at home we just spoke Japanese and that's what happened. That's the reason why when I went into the first grade, I was lost. I didn't know anything.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

DG: So then now in Japan when you went to school, were you ridiculed at all?

GF: Well, they thought I was a foreigner, and they would tell me bad words. "You go tell that girl that," and I'd say -- I don't know what it meant -- I'd go say, "Hey," this and that, and she'd come in there and slap me in the face. [Laughs] I still remember that girl. That was... but I don't know how my sisters or brothers felt because they were so small, and I don't think they felt too much that way. But I know I did because I was quite a bit older and these kids used to make -- and then one incident at school, too. They used to have -- our teacher, I remember our teacher, he says, "If you don't know this, you all go in the back there and hold the chair on your head like this." We have a small chair so I was back there with him. I didn't know.

DG: That was your discipline?

GF: That was my discipline, yes. And then they made me clean the floor, and I said, "My God, this is a hell of a place to stay." Excuse my language. [Laughs] And it was kind of interesting, but they were, the teachers were strict, boy, I tell you. You do anything, you put your hand out and bang-o. Here goes a ruler, stick -- not a ruler -- stick hit you. And nowadays it would be child abuse, but those days it's nothing like that. But I think that's good in a way. It wakes you up. You know? It wakes you up. I don't think we have enough of that. [Laughs] But anyway...

DG: Do you remember anything about what you learned?

GF: Learned? Yes, I remember. I didn't know Japanese at all, all right? We had a schoolteacher that lived close to our place, and I think my mother hired him before she left. And he would write Irohanihoheto on a great big paper.

DG: The alphabet.

GF: Alphabets, right on the wall there. He said, "Every morning you read that." And so before breakfast I would read what I knew. I used to read that, and he used to come over every other day to teach me Japanese. I remember that. I don't know about my brother and sister, I don't remember, but I know I was disciplined that way. And I guess they were small enough, I think they caught on faster than I did. I had that resentment. I don't want to go stay here in Japan.

DG: So you were sort of tutored.

GF: Yeah, I was tutored. And I remember my uncle, he was staying with us, every evening he drinks. The mother gives him drinks. That's a custom that they had. So, anyway, I thought maybe I should try that. Oh, Grandma said, "No, no. You don't do that until you get to be like Uncle there, then you can do it." But...

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

<Begin Segment 11>

DG: So what did you... how should I say, what did you think America was versus Japan at that time?

GF: At that time I was kind of young yet. Let's see, I gotta think back what I thought.

DG: Weren't they invading China at that time?

GF: No, that was way after. See, when they had --

DG: Well, there was some skirmishes around early '20s.

GF: Oh, yes. There's always See, Japan had to expand someplace and that is the only place they can... they treated the Koreans rough. That goes way back. They took... that's in a lot of Koreans, the older Koreans, they don't like Japanese and I don't blame them because they were mistreated. And then we went into Manchuria. You remember we had a Japanese Russian war. That was way back, too, but that was before my time. And they went to --

DG: But there was some more of that, wasn't there, during --

GF: There was a lot of skirmishes here and there. Japan wanted to take over Manchuria so we were --

DG: So in the schools were you trained?

GF: We were trained.

DG: How?

GF: As soon as you get in high school from the first year, even in the junior high school, you're trained to be a militant. You have to, they give you wooden guns and then we go to war.

DG: This is during school time?

GF: School time, one of your classes -- like, in high school they had military training.

DG: But what about before that?

GF: Before that, in grammar school, not too much of that.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

DG: But did they... was there any kind of feeling of Japan being a superior country or anything like that, or Tennoheika?

GF: Well, Tennoheika was the being.

DG: The emperor, right.

GF: Yeah, the emperor, and he is a man that we all admire. Well, we say he's our boss, actually, but they all -- you couldn't do anything against emperor.

DG: So did the school start with an allegiance to the...

GF: Oh, yes.

DG: And what did they say?

GF: We have this... they had a -- I forgot how to say that. Some scripture we used to have and they used to read that every morning. Be loyal to the emperor so that's the reason why all the kids like our age all are grown up that way.

DG: So did you ever feel that way or you were already trained enough?


GF: Well, gradually it grows into you. You can't help it because your whole surrounding is that way. So you say, "Emperor is number one."

DG: That's what I was wondering. Since you had some schooling in America already, I was wondering how you took that.

GF: Oh. No, I didn't think too much about that. I thought -- as I got older I thought that's a good way to do it. The man is the boss. The woman is a slave to you and they do everything for you, but man is a boss. That's how, I thought it was a good idea because I'm a person, male, and I certainly would like to, but that's how it was. They say and they used to tell me, "When you're a man, don't talk too much. Don't talk too much. It gives you away if you talk too much." But me, I'm the type that talked, and my mother used to tell me gee -- my name is Sadamitsu -- says, "George, don't talk too much. It ruins you." But I'm that type of a person. I like to talk, see, but then afterwards Mother said, "I think you're all right." [Laughs] Because you have to express yourself some way or the other, and I think that's how men are brought up over there.

DG: Of course, that's why they want you to go to Japan so you'll get some of that.

GF: Yeah, that's right.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

GF: And that part there I thought... even in school it's strict. It's strict. You got to go according -- so your schoolteacher is your top man. You have to obey him. There is no other way and if he says, "Go right," you have to go right. You can't go left, you have to go right. And that's how the people there are brought up.

DG: Well, in the history books it says the population, the people, were overly submissive. Of course, Americans are describing it to the emperor and so that's why they were able to control...

GF: Yeah, that's true, though. Whatever the emperor says, goes for it -- like old-fashioned ways going way back, when the emperor passes by and if you lift your head up, your head's gone. You're supposed to keep your head down and --

DG: And what does that do? Why?

GF: That's because you don't respect the emperor, they say.

DG: You shouldn't look at the emperor.

GF: You shouldn't look at the emperor. You should keep your head down.

DG: How does that respect the emperor to not look at him?

GF: Oh, I don't know how that respects, but that's how people are brought up over there.

DG: Or maybe so you don't figure out that he's human, huh? [Laughs]

GF: [Laughs] Anyhow, that's how much they respect the emperor.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

DG: Before we go on, what about like math and some of those science and things like that, was it different than in America?

GF: Well, math in the United States was much more improved. I mean, much better than the one in Japan because when I went back there -- that is one subject I was terrific because I was ahead of the other kids.

DG: No kidding?

GF: Yeah, they weren't that far ahead.

DG: I thought it was the opposite.

GF: No, no. Math was number one in Japan, but when I came from United States to Japan, when I went to school, I was ahead. See, I was way ahead in math.

DG: What about science?

GF: Gee, I don't know about science too much. I didn't, I don't remember that part of it. But when you get into school and you're into high school then you learn a lot of things like science. I think we take a subject of everything, not you want to specialize in this and this, they don't do that. You take the whole thing what you want to do and in the fifth or fourth grade -- see, there's five years of high school in Japan, the fourth year you divide yourself up. You want to go to a higher school, you go to one class. And you want to go into to be a merchant or you wanna be in agriculture, you go into another class. That's how it is, but up to then you take the same subjects and that part there, I think, Japan was very good.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

DG: Now, I've heard that like their art and music were more incorporated than here in the United States. What about that?

GF: Art and music... yes, at that time, yes. At that time, yeah. Let's see, yeah, I guess so. I don't recall too well. I'm just thinking about myself. When I went to school, I didn't think too much about music or art. We concentrated on sports.

DG: What kind of sports?

GF: We played basketball, track, swimming. Swimming was one of the biggest things in Japan and anything like that. Anything in sports, but they didn't have soccer or volleyball. Oh, they had volleyball, but most of the things was on track.

DG: But everybody did this.

GF: Everybody did that.

DG: Not just a few.

GF: No. They have what they call a undokai, that's girls and everybody.

DG: Right.

GF: They used to have that and that was, that's to train your body more than anything else, I think. That's what they focused on to train to be strong.

DG: Well, so did you do exercises every day?

GF: Oh, yes, every morning. Every morning at school. Now, this is in high school, every morning everybody assembles. First thing you do is exercise. They used to have what was called a radio exercise, the radio goes full blast and says, "Lift your hand..." I think that is good because at my age now, I think all that exercise did me good. I don't know in anybody else, but to me I think that was very good. We all get up there and we do exercise.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

DG: So what did you learn in Japan about the United States?

GF: They were telling me that United States is trying control Japan too much, push 'em down, and they says, "We don't stand for that. We got to get back to them. They cut that immigration thing -- that was one mistake." They said, "They should let us go to America if they wanted to, but why do they limit us to going to United States?" That's the reason why during that time when I came to United States, my principal says, "You're American citizen, go to the United States. Japan is overcrowded anyway." And some went and some did not, but I know one of my friends from L.A, he stayed and he went to law school in Tokyo, and I wrote to him, but I never got an answer from him. He was just like myself, he spoke -- well, he went to high school in L.A. and he came to Japan and he came to our school. He couldn't speak Japanese too well, we used to make fun of him. "You're a Japanese and you can't speak Japanese? That's awful." [Laughs] But I understand because I was, I couldn't speak either, but now since all those years it was okay.

DG: Was there any thought on Japan's part, do you think, to colonize America?

GF: Pardon?

DG: Was there any part on Japan's part to colonize America, to take over?

GF: Take over? No. I don't think anything like that ever happened. Japan was Japan and...

DG: What did they want their citizens to be able to do in America?

GF: In America? I don't know what my -- now, I told you this before, what my principal told me, he says, "George, go back to United States. You're American citizen." And I says, "Well, Japan is better with all the discipline and everything. I think Japan is better." He says, "No. You go back to United States and if you're a good U.S. citizen, you're a good Japanese. So show 'em that you're just as good." That is what he told me, "So I want you to go back to United States and be a good United States citizen, that way they say, 'Oh, Japanese is all right.'"

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

<Begin Segment 17>

DG: What was your future if you stayed where you were? What were you thinking that you would do for your future?

GF: For my future? I was going to go to -- I had a job at Sumitomo Bank. Because I could speak English, they wanted me to go there. Also they wanted me to go into military school because of the English because I think at that time they must had a thought that they're going to fight the United States. This could be embedded upon the kids.

DG: Now, we're talking about what years now?

GF: That was 19... see, I came here 1935 so it must be around 1933.

DG: Okay.

GF: So when I went to school, I figured, well, I should go to higher school I thought. So I took the higher school class. And then afterwards the principal says, "I think you better go back to United States." So I changed subject over to commercial things and soroban, all that bookkeeping and things like this. If you were going to higher school they train you. Because those days, to get into school, higher university, was hard. Certain class, like you want to go to military school, just one out of ten or one out of one hundred, terrific. Lot of schools were easy to get in, like you want to go into immigration school, or go into -- you know where they went to? They went to Brazil. A lot of my friends went to Brazil because Brazil was open, and they said that they give you a hundred acres of land. You know what it was? Swamp land. And Japanese went there and they made coffee plantations out of it. So now you go to Brazil, a lot of Japanese kids, Niseis or Sanseis. They're, they're right up there. They're all lawyers and things like that, I understand. I never been to Brazil, but that's what I heard.

DG: Now, overpopulation was a problem in Japan, so do you think your teacher kind of understood that?

GF: He must have understood that and so anybody that can get out, to go. It's a funny thing, after I left, my brother was still going to high school there, and he wasn't drafted to the army because I think he was younger than I was. He came to the United States. My youngest brother Paul, he went to junior high school and the time when I came here in 1935, he came with me. And then he went to high school here and he went to the University of Illinois, but I don't know what his thought would be.

DG: So what was your response when the teacher told you that, besides you said you thought you should stay there.

GF: Yeah, my thought. So I said well, the teacher's right. We're overpopulated in this country and they wanted to go to Manchuria. A lot of them were sent to Manchuria because it was open and a lot of people went to Manchuria, and I had no desire to go to Manchuria.

DG: But Manchuria was made to look really good at that time because I've heard stories.

GF: Yeah. Manchuria was good, Brazil was good. A lot of my friends went to... what they call takushoku daigaku. You know, that's immigration school, college, and they go there for two years and then they get to go to Brazil and a lot of my friends went to Brazil.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

DG: Okay, then let's continue with what led you to come back.

GF: What led me to come back? My folks were here, see. And I know our thought is that we should be good to our parents. That's main thing because they brought you up and your parents is number -- you should obey your parents.

DG: Was your grandmother still alive?

GF: Yes, grandmother was still alive at that time.

DG: Okay. Now, she wanted them to come back to Japan still.

GF: No, I don't think so. She was thinking about money. The old people in Japan, they says well, at that time I think it was two to one, I think, and she always used to, "Hey, write to mother and father and tell them to send money." Well, I don't blame her because she was taking us, taking care of us.

DG: Sure.

GF: So I used to write to Mother, and say, "Your mother and father, you owe them a lot, and you should obey what they tell you."

DG: So you wrote in Japanese.

GF: I wrote in Japanese, yes. And so I did write to them that way, and my mother, I don't think she ever answered me on that. But then you get that feeling, too, your mother and father, you should obey them because that's how we were taught.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

DG: Okay. Now, right up to the time you were going to leave, there was something to do with military service or something.

GF: Oh, yes. See, at my age, I was a little older than the other kids, and I would be called into the army because I had dual citizenship. You got to have dual citizenship to go to Japanese school so I had to... they had to take me -- see, my uncle, he was, he was helping out on military, people that go into the army. He used to take them to the places where they supposed to be sent to. So he told me too, "George, I think you better go, otherwise, you have to go into the army." I didn't mind that in a way, but well, how can I be loyal to the United States? I have United States citizenship and I have to stay in Japan? I didn't know if the war is going to start or not, but I didn't want to go into the army. I didn't have no desire to go into the army so that's the reason why I came back this way. It's not because I didn't like United States, I didn't like Japan.

DG: What did... weren't there a lot of citizens who didn't want their sons to go into the army and to that's why they sent them like to Brazil and things?

GF: No, I don't think so. I never had that feeling. A lot of my friends --

DG: So the common people were really for whatever the government wanted to do.

GF: Wanted to do. Yes, that's right. But that was one of our duties, to go into army. Everybody that's of age, there's no restriction. You have to, unless you're blind or something else or are completely crippled.

DG: But it sounds like in your family, or your teacher, or your uncle, sort of understood that the service was not such a great idea. Is that where you got that?

GF: Well, no, I don't think so. I don't think so. Since my father and mother was here, they said, "You should go back."

DG: Oh, that was the main reason?

GF: That was the main reason for me and my other brothers are coming back to the United States is because of parents are here. That's the same thing when I was in Hawaii. I came back here. Gee, I didn't know what to do in (mainland), but my parents are here.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

DG: So in 1935 you came back.

GF: I came back.

DG: And what was it like here coming back?

GF: Coming back? In those days, no airplanes, all in the boats. So coming here... my youngest brother, he couldn't speak English and I couldn't speak the language, too, and I was military trained. I was, people in Japan all military trained when they are a certain... going to high school or going to school, they're all military trained. So you have just, you stand up and so I can still remember, they called my name and I stood up like a soldier and said, "Hai." Oh, what the heck is this going on? But we're trained that way. As soon as they call our name, we just stand up. And so they asked me a bunch of questions. "How did you get to" -- my folks are in Gresham -- "how do you get in Gresham?" I said, "One way you can do, is walk down there... and next way you can take a train, or you can take a car, or you can take the other train from..." There was a little train that goes through to Gresham so they knew that I know something about United States. And then my brother, he couldn't speak English so he had to go into that --

DG: So where was the immigration?

GF: Immigration was here in Seattle.

DG: So you got off here in Seattle.

GF: Yeah, I got off here. My brother was put into immigration. There for a couple days because they had to see if he was American citizen, but to me, I, they let me out right away. I just walked right out and so when I came to the United States, it was all right.

DG: Then your folks...

GF: My father came to pick me up and we stayed at the N-P Hotel, I remember that. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 21>

DG: And then so when you got back, your parents were in Gresham by then.

GF: Yeah, we went to, at that time... were we in Gresham or were we in Portland? No, we were in Gresham. That's right, we were in Gresham. I think my folks were working for a farmer there and so as soon as I came back -- oh, no. Yeah, we lived in Gresham, I remember. My father was working for the mayor as a gardener and housekeeper and so forth. He was helping him out and we had, he had a house built for us, brand-new house, two-bedroom small house that my father lived there and that I remember.

DG: So there were no children here.

GF: No.

DG: The two of you came and then your brother went to school and then what did you do?

GF: Me? I was going to go to high school here because I figured I better. I went to high school and he says, "No, you don't have to come to high school, you finished high school in Japan. Why don't you go someplace else?" So I went to Portland and I went to Oregon Institute of Technology, and I took accounting there. And they said well, "I want to have proof that you did graduate from high school." So I took my Japanese diploma, and I think he had somebody translate it. And he says, "Yeah, you're okay." [Laughs] So I was going to day school, but pretty soon -- those days I had to make my own way because my folks, my folks were not that flush so I had to go work and then go to night school and so forth.

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

<Begin Segment 22>

DG: So the store that your grandfather had started in Japan was taken over by who?

GF: Grandmother took it over.

DG: Your grandmother, so times weren't that good anymore.

GF: At that time, I really don't know how time was. Anyway, my mother, my folks used to send her money because since we were there. I remember that's the amazing thing is that I think I told you before that Grandmother could not read or write and she ran that store. And when I come back from school she says, "Sadamitsu-san, sit down. I want to give you what to write." So she had a little book and I used to write all the who got this, who got that. I don't know how she remembered those things. It was amazing.

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

<Begin Segment 23>

DG: Okay. Now, we're in the United States. You went to the Technolo-, you went into accounting and then how long was that?

GF: That was a year and a half or something like that, I think. See, I went in there later, see, so at first I had nothing to do. So I helped my mother and father out. They bought a little farm and I was helping them out on the farm.

DG: So then could you get a job? What was the climate like here, back here?

GF: Oh, "You can't get a job. You're Japanese, you can't get a job." So you figure a lot of Japanese kids went to work for, work for themselves or they take menial jobs, whatever they can get a hold of. You couldn't get a job. I know I was a... the teacher said, "Well, now George, you can go get a job as a bookkeeper." So I went to some places that had bookkeeper, they wouldn't hire. They says, "No, we don't hire Japanese." They said right offhand -- "We don't hire Japanese."

DG: And this is in Portland?

GF: Yeah, Portland. And this is a heck of a country.

DG: Well, did you know already that they were going to say that?

GF: No, I didn't know. That's who I went to see, and a lot of places they don't hire Japanese.

DG: So then what did you think?

GF: Huh?

DG: Then what did you think?

GF: I thought the United States was a hell of place. [Laughs] But what I was thinking about at that time, I thought maybe, maybe I should go back to Japan, and my friend Roy Ono, he was an auto mechanic. He went to school, in the same school where the, they had an auto repair department. He was there and then as soon as he graduated, he says, "George, I'm going back to Japan. There's no future here. Hakujin don't want us here."

DG: Well, especially since your family was a little bit higher level in Japan, right? And here you're treated like...

GF: Dirt. [Laughs] Yeah. So, well, I remember like my family in Japan, we had a little store. People would pass by and say, "Ohayo gozaimasu." I said, "Why they do that?" But that's how much our family was probably respected, maybe they owed us money. I don't know because we used to put everything on the books for them.

DG: So then did you finally get a job?

GF: Over here? No, I worked for a Japanese grocery store and I stayed there for a while, and then I said, "I'm going to open my own business." And my father and mother, they opened a little stand right by, right near the high school, Gresham High School, close by. I said, oh, that's not for me. So I said, "I'm going to go into the grocery business." So I worked for this grocery store, and I thought I learned everything and then the war broke out. So those days for Japanese, it's pretty tough. You're lucky to get a job in a garage maybe sweeping the floors or something like that. That's the reason why my friend, as I mentioned to you, he went back to Japan and that's when the war broke out, I think.

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

<Begin Segment 24>

DG: Now, before we talk about the war, were you treated okay by the Nisei when you came back?

GF: Niseis? Gee, I don't think I had any -- I didn't associate with Japanese too much. Over here, well, I had few friends. I went to -- this is one thing. I don't know now if this is true or not. I hate to say this kind of thing, but this fellow in JACL, he put a finger on me, I think, because he asked me -- we worked in the cannery together 'cause I had to make money so we worked in the cannery. He says he was going to the University of Oregon or University of... one of the schools, anyway. He says, "What do you think of Japan?" I says, "Well, I tell you. Japan will never declare war on anybody unless they're going to win." They would be a damn fools. Who is going to start a war saying I'm going to lose and start a war? So I said, "Japan is strong, a strong nation." I says, "You can't beat it," because I was educated in Japan. And I think he must have told that to the FBI, that Mr. Fugami says this... and that's the reason why they came to talk to me as I mentioned to you before. I think that, but that was JACL not -- well, since I was JACL president, too, I can't say that kind of thing. [Laughs] But, anyway, at that time there were certain people that probably...

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

DG: Well, so was there a feeling of war coming at all?

GF: Oh, yes. In Japan I knew there was going to be a war so that's the reason we were trained. Because in high school you're trained to... so when your last year in high school or year before graduation, you're sent to a military camp. And those kind of things I told this guy and maybe that's the reason why he thought I was --

DG: But when you came here, did you think there was... was there a feeling here?

GF: I don't think so. I don't think so. I didn't feel that, but in Japan -- over here I'm quite sure the people above knew what's going to come, and they were just, they were prepared, but they didn't know what to do, I guess. But Japan was geared up. He says that we get so much from United States, we just can't take all this.

DG: Well, they have close to documentation now, not for sure, but that America knew that Japan was going to attack.

GF: Yeah, that's what I heard. So they were going to attack and they should be aware of it, but they weren't.

DG: But they let it go or something.

GF: And that's the reason why Pearl Harbor was bombed that way. We didn't know Pearl Harbor would be hit like that or anything. We never thought of that, but we knew that Japan --

DG: Well, I think the average citizen didn't know, they say.

GF: No. We used to, we lived on the island and he says, "You see that mountain over there?" He says, "Underneath there is a battleship already prepared," things like that, but they don't show that they have this many, this many battleships and so forth. It's all hidden. Even airplanes, they have them all hidden. You know, the paper -- the airplanes in Japan are made out of bamboo and paper. They're fast, but boy, you hit 'em once, that's it. [Laughs] So I don't know if that's true or not, but that's what I heard. Yeah, these... boy, I tell you, that's the reason why you have so many suicide planes. He says, "I'm going to get United States," and that's the reason why the Manchuria war, they had the Bakudan Sanyuushi you know. They go through, someplace they can't get through, three guys carry the... go there and they blow up the whole place so they can get through. That's kind of spirits they have in Japan. It's called "yamato damashii." [Laughs] But I think that's upon a lot of Nisei, Sanseis people. That's the reason probably something like this would probably be something that the Sansei would say gee, "You know, we're Japanese. We should be proud of being Japanese," right? [Laughs] So I think a lot of Niseis still have that spirit. I don't know Sansei, Yonsei. I don't know what's going to happen to them, but I think yamato damashii stays with the Japanese. [Laughs]

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

DG: What were you doing when you heard about Pearl Harbor?

GF: Pearl Harbor? I was skiing. I went skiing and went into a theater and got out and they said, "Japan attacked Pearl Harbor." Oh, don't tell me that stuff. We never, never dreamed of it. Myself and two other fellows -- Nisei boys -- went to the theater, and we couldn't believe it. But it's a funny thing, I was working at this grocery store. Gee, business just stopped. Nobody came in, but as time went by a lot of hakujin people came back again. They says, "It's none of your fault." So I thought gee, these hakujin people are pretty understanding. But it's not our fault, we didn't start the thing. It's our country that did it, not us. And these people said, "No, we sympathize you." In fact, one of the hakujin ladies came to me and says, "I want you to marry my daughter." I said, "I'm not going to get married. Why should I get married for?" [Laughs] But gee, the thing just quiet down. But when we went skiing and came home -- we went to the theater. As soon as we went in the theater, it wasn't started then, but as time comes I don't know. We came out of the theater and we heard about Pearl Harbor and we couldn't believe it.

DG: So in the six years from when you were in Japan, you became pretty Americanized --

GF: I was Americanized, yeah.

DG: -- by then.

GF: Because I came back to the same thing, but still in my heart --

DG: So did you think Japan was another country, or did you worry about Japan?

GF: No, I don't think I was, let me see now, how would I feel about that? I really can't tell you. I knew probably Japan was going declare war on United States, but I never thought -- when it comes right down to it, you can't believe it. You can't believe because I had been Americanized so much. With all the resources we have, how can they be -- Japan has nothing. And even they accumulated things within the ten, twenty, thirty years, it wouldn't last within the short while, see. And they may have the manpower, but you've got to have the resource for it, and I thought gee, Japan, they say that, but I don't think they're going to attack United States. Attack is -- America's too huge.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

DG: Then in Portland -- you were in Portland?

GF: I was in Portland, yes.

DG: And so you were working at that grocery store.

GF: Yes, uh-huh.

DG: And was there a curfew or anything?

GF: Yes, there was a -- we couldn't go out. We had a... at first there wasn't so I went back. As soon as the war started, I thought about my parents, so I went back to Gresham. I told Mr. Ogura, I says, "I'm going to go back to Gresham." He says, "No, that's okay, George, because business is slow down, but come down on Saturdays and help us out in case we need you." So I went home. I stayed home and I helped my folks out. We knew we couldn't do too much now. They were talking about evacuation and all that stuff so I thought well, I'll stay with my parents. And so we had to get rid of everything that we have. We had a good German friend that took over our farm for us and he says, "Well, whatever you make we'll give you fifty." Never got the money though, but that's all right. I left my car there and everything so... then I used to go -- there was a curfew, but I don't know how it affected -- because I went to work for Mr. Ogura on Saturdays. Nobody stopped me. There must have been a curfew, but I knew there was a curfew.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

GF: When I, when I asked my wife to come to the United States, she had to get an approval from marshal, or whatever it is over there, for her to come on the train to Gresham -- I mean, to Portland. So when you go to Portland, we had to get approval. Now, I don't know we got -- who we talked to, I don't know, but we went to Portland and got married because that's, that was a hundred miles.

DG: So you were dating your wife already?

GF: Oh, I was dating before the war.

DG: Okay. And she was going Oregon State in (Corvallis)?

GF: Yeah, she went to Oregon State. And as soon as the war started, she went back to Sacramento because she had a reverend friend that wanted her to come to Sacramento so she went to Sacramento. And that's when I called her. She says, "You want to come up here?" I didn't say I'm going to get married to her or anything. She said, "You want to come up here?" Well, she knew I was going to get married. [Laughs] I says, "Yeah," so she got the approval from the marshal over there, whatever it is, and she came down. I don't remember how I picked her up. I don't remember. I must have picked her up because nobody else could pick her up.

DG: Did quite a few people get married at that time?

GF: At that time? In the camp there was quite a few marriages, but at that time, marriage?

DG: Like before camp so that you could go to camp together or anything like?

GF: Gosh, I don't recall. I know we got married on May the 1st.

DG: Oh, just before you went.

GF: Before we went, because May 1st we went down and got married at the Nichiren Church, because my folks were Nichiren so we went down Nichiren Church. I don't know how we got there. I think we must have got a permit to get down there and we got married and went to get our picture taken, and the photographer said, "Well, we can't get the picture ready for you right away." So at the time when we were leaving for Portland, we were put in that horse stable. Anyway, he came and give us -- we were at the campground, everybody was there -- and he came and he gave us a picture at that time. So last minute picture. Yeah, goodness sakes. I don't know how we went. I know we hop on the bus and we went down to Portland. That's where we were, at Portland stables, that's where we were at. In Gresham, Multnomah Fairgrounds, that's where we all got together. They came with nothing, my goodness sakes, just a suitcase. And if you have a camera, you better hide it they tell me so I took my camera and buried it in the ground. Crazy, huh? It's gone. [Laughs]

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

DG: Well, you said something about the FBI. Now, did they come and question you?

GF: Yes, the FBI came and questioned me. They called me... my wife was there already and she was there. We weren't married yet, but she came over to our place, and the FBI boys really scared her. She thought I was going to be taken out, taken away. So he came to me, and this fellow -- I forgot what his name was -- but he says, "Well, gee, I remember you. You were in the same, in grammar school days," you know. "Yeah, you were in the same school. We played baseball together. Yeah." I don't remember him, but he says, "I work for the FBI," and he says, "Your name came up to be questioned so I want to ask you a few questions." So he asked me a bunch of questions. I don't remember what, but I know he says, "Did you know that Japan was going to attack United States?" "Yes, I knew that they were going to attack. I don't know when, but they were going to attack United States." And he says, "You think Japan is strong?" "If Japan was weak, they would never attack the United States. They had the intention to beat you, beat United States. Who is going to start a fight thinking that they're going to lose? Nobody is going to think that." That's what I told the guy, and he says, "You're right." "You're right," he says. And that's the only subject that I remembered. The rest of it I don't remember too well.

DG: Well, did other people get taken away from Portland?

GF: Yeah. There were some people that ran a newspaper, Koyama or however his name was, and I know he was taken away. And I think they had furoya shop. I think he was taken away. And I knew these people were put into --

DG: Now, where were they taken in Portland?

GF: Gosh, I don't know. They were, they told me, I don't remember. Where all the Japanese from Hawaii were sent to. It wasn't Colorado, it was...

DG: There were several of them went to Missoula.

GF: Missoula. That's where a lot of them went to Missoula, Montana. That's where they were sent to, I think.

DG: Well, like in Seattle they went to the immigration center to start. Was there someplace in Portland?

GF: Gosh, I don't remember. I really don't know those parts that well.


DG: Well, so you weren't taken away.

GF: No, I wasn't taken away, no.

DG: Because you're an American citizen, probably.

GF: You think that stopped them? You think so?

DG: I think possibly because I think the Isseis, if they were aliens, were taken for sure if they were questioned, but also it could be because your friend...

GF: Yeah. So I know I was classified under military, was 4-F or something -- undesirable citizen -- something like that. I don't know who else was classified that way. I really don't know, but I know I was classified. So that's the reason why when I was in camp, I says, "I think I'll go look for a mission plant or someplace where I can get bigger money" -- but they wouldn't take me. I also applied as a translator and they wouldn't take me. I think there was a black... something on me. I don't know what it is, but I think I'm just as good as the other guy. [Laughs]

DG: Well, you mean some Niseis could go to some of these jobs?

GF: Well, like myself I applied for one in Salt Lake. They wouldn't take me. They says, "No. And then another job, too, I applied for and Mr. Beason was the administrator at the camp, Minidoka. He says, "George, I don't understand it." I says, "Well, that's all right." So I went out and --

DG: Now this was in Minidoka by then.

GF: This was in Minidoka, yes. I worked out in the farm in Spokane.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

DG: So what did you think of Minidoka when you got there?

GF: Oh, I thought, "My God, where are we?" [Laughs] But after you stayed awhile -- we had all the military guards. I think we're prisoners of war, but I said to myself, "Gee, why take everybody in?" But there's a thought behind that, though. If we were outside, who would prevent from shooting us thinking that we're alien -- I mean, we're Japanese from Japan spying on United States? They couldn't tell the difference and I think if you get shot, it would be just our... just a mistake.

DG: You don't think that's just an excuse?

GF: It could be an excuse. It could be an excuse because they said, "Well, we don't like Japs." That's what they said, a lot of these places says. Like we used to go to the bowling alley, "Japs not allowed," and haircut place, "Japs, we don't take Japs."

DG: This was even before the war.

GF: That was right after the war started. Before the war you had -- well, we went to, went to a restaurant, three of us fellows, four of us went to the restaurant, and they said, "Well, I'm sorry. We don't serve Japanese, Japs." I says, "Hell with you." We just took the salt and sugar and spread it all over the floor and then walked out.

DG: When was this?

GF: That was before, way before the war.

DG: Really?

GF: Yeah, we had those kind of things.

DG: Where was this?

GF: This was in Portland. I don't remember the restaurant, but we walked in to get something to eat and they, maybe they didn't like our looks. I don't know, but they, "No, we don't serve Japs" -- they don't say Japanese -- "We don't serve Japs." Oh, is that right? So we just took the salt and said, "Okay let's do this," took the napkins and the salt and pepper and we threw it all over the floor and walked out. "Goodbye," we said. We were young yet so we didn't care. [Laughs]

DG: Japanese didn't do too much of that.

GF: No, they didn't. There is only a certain groups like ourselves probably. [Laughs] Well, they were pretty quiet. Japanese are pretty quiet. They're well-behaved.

DG: What gave you the impetus to show your feelings a little bit?

GF: Yeah. This fellow, he went in the army, too, but a friend of ours -- one is in California and another in Portland -- four us went out. I can still remember that. I said, "Oh, these goddamn ketos." We called them ketos. [Laughs]

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

DG: So let's see. So what months are we talking about that you went into the assembly center at Portland?

GF: Portland? That was in... let's see, we got married, must have been sometime in May, middle part of May or something. We went to Portland because we got married on May 1st, and we had the picture taken. They took us out. It must have been May.

DG: Now, quite a few people had the opportunity to go out and work like in Ontario from Portland.

GF: Uh-huh.

DG: Did you think of doing that at all?

GF: Yeah, we went to Spokane.

DG: So, and not go to Minidoka?

GF: No, no. A lot of people did that.

DG: Because right in Oregon, in eastern Oregon, there was a camp of Japanese.

GF: Yeah, that's right. Well, no. We never thought of going to Ontario or... there was another place.

DG: Now, they weren't free. They had to stay in that camp.

GF: That's right.

DG: They went to work there.

GF: Yeah, I see. I know there are... certain part of country, like in Spokane, you could go there. They give the choice that you can go inland yourself, but we didn't do that.

DG: Why didn't you do that?

GF: I don't know. We just thought well, go out there and you might get shot. You might get shot. You can't tell. You know, these guys are crazy when the war starts like that. They can't tell. Just like my wife when she was on the train coming over this way, or bus, whatever she rode on, one hakujin says, "What are you, Japanese or Chinese?" She says, "I'm Chinese." "Oh, God bless you," she says. I mean, I don't know how she thought that way, but I think she was smart to think that way because if you did, they might have hit her in the face or something or said something, but she says, "Oh, God bless you," she says. [Laughs] My wife told me that.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

DG: So then you went on the train to Minidoka?

GF: Went on the train to Minidoka, yes. Right, right. From Portland, Oregon.

DG: Probably August, September?

GF: Yeah, something like that. It was kind of getting kinda cold. It must have been August or September. I'm not sure.

DG: So what did you do in the assembly center that summer?

GF: Oh, that summertime? It was just like a camp, everybody... some people were cooks and some people were this and that. I was a baker then. This fellow that I knew, he says, "Come in the bakery." I says, "Yeah." I like to go in the bakery or kitchen because I can get food and take it home, see. And that's funny, my wife says, "Gee, I want a tomato sandwich." Okay. I made it. She says, "No, I don't want to eat." She was pregnant at that time. I didn't know. [Laughs] Anyway, yeah, we... just like in the camp, everybody worked in the kitchen or they took --

DG: What did you do during your leisure time?

GF: Leisure time? I think... what did I do? I think I played softball or something outside, but I don't remember too well what I did, but I know I played softball.

DG: Did you worry about getting sent back to Japan?

GF: No. Unless they write the questionnaire. "No-no boys," you know.

DG: Now this was on into Minidoka.

GF: Minidoka, yes.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

DG: Okay, so you went to Minidoka and what did you do there?

GF: Minidoka? I didn't want to work. I might as well get unemployment and my wife worked for the -- no, she didn't work either. No, she was working for the clothing department, and I said, "I'm not going to work. Why should I work? Let the government feed me." But then I went into the unemployment office and this guy, Kusumi -- he just came here recently and he's a good friend of ours now. And he says, "George, I got a job for you." I said, "I don't want a job. I came to get unemployment." And then he went to see... oh, his wife was Akagi girl, says, "Well, I met a nice little couple," he says, "I think I'll use him in my office," so they said to me, he says, "You come and work for me in the unemployment office." "I told you I came to get unemployment, not to work." At sixteen dollars or twelve dollars... [laughs] So anyway.

DG: You were pretty, feeling sort angry at that time then.

GF: Well, I didn't want to work. I might as well have the government feed me. They brought me in here, let them feed me. Why should I work? That's my feeling and maybe I was angry, I don't know. I didn't know. But, anyway, I went and worked for him. And that's when Frank -- I don't remember if Frank Hattori took over afterwards as the head administrator there in the employment office. And this fellow, Kusumi, that I worked for, he was the unemployment head. He put me to work and then after -- there was a lot of Portland girls. I can't remember their names now; but, anyway, I worked for him and I didn't do too much, I don't think. But, anyway, I gave everybody unemployment, come in, and give it to them. [Laughs] But, anyhow, that was interesting. Anyway, then Kusumi was -- Frank Hattori left for Denver, Colorado, for some school, so Kusumi was going to take over. "Sats," I says, "you're a damn fool," I told him. "You're a damn fool. Why don't you go out?" And so I says, "Well, I'm going to leave." He says, "George, you're going to be the top unemployment." Nope, not me. I don't want that, not for another two, three dollars. Why should I? That's, was my advice. Anyway, I left for... where did I go for that time? I think I went to -- oh, I went to Spokane to work on the farm.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 34>

DG: Okay. So then you were there, though, during the loyalty question?

GF: Yeah, I was there. Yeah, I said I'm loyal, what the heck. A lot of my friends said, "No." They were sent to Tule Lake. I know there was one fellow from the same school in Japan, he went to Tule Lake, and he caused a lot of trouble down there. I think it's... I don't know what he did, but he was sent back to Japan.

DG: Do you think that was good that some of them --

GF: I don't think that's right. I think since they're in the United States, if they wanted to be loyal to Japan they should have never came here. They should have stayed in the Japan. But essentially in the United States, the feeling because you had been educated in the Japan so you have a feeling against Japan -- I mean, for Japan, you can't help that. But I said boy, I sure hate to go in the army and face my friends. [Laughs]

DG: That's for sure.

GF: Yeah, that could happen because, you see, another Japanese fellow, but probably like our case, they were sent to Germany so it wasn't too bad, but if you're sent to the Philippine Islands or Japanese army was concentrated, it'd be tough. It would be tough. I see the reason why they send most of Japanese to Germany. Translators, you can't help it. My brother was in Philippine Islands as a translator. He was a second lieu-y. What the heck. But you have to be loyal to United States.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 35>

DG: So when you got evacuated to camp, it was your brother and your parents and then you and your wife?

GF: Yeah. My brother, the small one. Right now he's sixty-three. Mark. Mark stayed with the parents. Roy and Paul... Paul left. Paul left for back east. He went to Illinois. He was going to school.

DG: So they had come back from Japan later?

GF: Yeah, they came back later. Yeah, Roy went in the army, my second brother went in the army. He was drafted into the army and he went to the military intelligence school and third one --

DG: Here in the United States?

GF: United States, yeah. He was going school at Multnomah College and he transferred over to University of Illinois so they weren't in the camp with us.

<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 36>

DG: Okay. What I'm trying to distinguish is because you had been indoctrinated pretty heavily in Japan and all your brothers, too, but what changed you to be so loyal by the time you had the loyalty question?

GF: Well, this is what, as I say, my principles. That still came to my mind. You have to be a good American citizen to be a good Japanese, so why not be a good American? That's showing that you are a good Japanese. That's what probably hit my mind all the time so I didn't say "no-no."

DG: But then, but you were pretty disappointed that they treated you so...

GF: Yeah. Well, that's something. We were, as a Japanese, as a "Jap," we were treated roughly in the United States. I'm glad everything has changed now.

DG: But maybe some of the resources you could tell... you were saying that United States was stronger, you could tell.

GF: Oh, yes. Uh-huh. United States was. Japan has no resource unless they take Manchuria or some other country where they can get the things. Where can you... Japan has nothing, just island. They don't have any place where they can get gunpowder, or whatever it is, their resource, iron. They don't have no resources, so that's the reason why. You can't figure how they could have won the war, but still in their mind, in Japanese people, I guess, they say Tennoheika, probably. I don't know what it is.

DG: Well, your parents were wanting to stay here and loyal to America, too.

GF: Yeah, that's right. I don't know how they felt, but they never... my father and mother, they were always thinking about going to Japan -- I think every Issei people thought that way -- since their children have grown up here, they have no desire to go back to Japan anymore.

<End Segment 36> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 37>

DG: So there's a segment of the so-called Kibei, which means that you were educated in Japan, but born here, were even more loyal and understood America maybe.

GF: They're more loyal to the Japan?

DG: To the United States.

GF: Well, some of these Kibeis, they felt, "Why in the hell stay in America for?"

DG: Now, you're talking about the other half.

GF: The other people, yeah. And how they were educated over there, I don't know. But a lot of them were educated when they were small when they were in the first grade. Some were taken when they were little babies. Now, they're Japanese. I don't care what you say because they were brought up in Japanese atmosphere all the way through. They're the people probably --

DG: Like your brother, your little brother.

GF: Yeah. They were there, but, I guess...

DG: Because of your influence maybe.

GF: I don't know if my influence or what it is, but they didn't feel like going back.

<End Segment 37> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 38>

DG: Okay. What I'm getting at is that you were very loyal by this time, by the time you answered the loyalty question, but I'm thinking you maybe understood how some of the other Kibeis that created such a problem felt.

GF: [Laughs] Well, I guess they were loyal to Japan. There's no way about it, I think. I don't know. I mean, I know this one fellow named Kawai. He went to school, he went to school with my brother, same time as my brother. And I met him once and he says, "What in the heck's the matter with you, George? You can't say... you got to say no to these questions." I says, "Well, it's up to each individual. If that's how you feel, do it that way. If you feel the other way, do it the other way." But I think he was brought up in Japan when he was a little child so the way he was brought up, I think, he would feel that he... I don't know how the Issei people felt, now. I think a lot of them felt that Japan -- they're loyal to Japan. I'm quite sure. They have to be because they've been treated roughly in the United States, but a lot of the Niseis like myself -- how they felt, I really can't say. It's each individual just like I feel the way I felt and maybe some other people feel the same way. There's a lot of Kibeis in this town, but they're all living here yet. Quite a few, some went back to the old country. But how their feeling was, I really can't say. My biggest thing is that the principal told me this, that hit me all the time, "To be a good American, showing you're a good Japanese," so don't be scared. Just like when I was district governor in Lions Club, there isn't too many -- Japanese, they don't, they like to do those kind of things. What the heck, I says. I'm going to show 'em I'm a good American citizen by being a good Japanese. I mean, a good American by Japanese. That kind of thing is embedded upon me quite a bit.

DG: Well, did you think you had to prove yourself, then?

GF: You have to prove yourself that you're a good... they didn't take me in the army... but they didn't take me. That's all. I'm married, I got a kid, I don't want to go in the army. My family comes first, but still if you had to go, you had to go.

DG: But your brothers went.

GF: My brothers went, yeah. One of them. The other one has bad eyes so he was rejected. He is the one that went to the University of Illinois. And all my kids, every one of them, I says, "Go in the army. I didn't serve so go in the army." So every one of them went except my youngest one. He says, "You know, the two brothers are damn fools serving in the army." I said, "Why?" He says, "No, they're damn fools. They don't know any better." Then he volunteered. [Laughs] That made me laugh, but that's one of best things he did. So I'm proud that at least my three kids served in the United States Army. What good they did, I don't know, but they still served and I think that's a good thing.

<End Segment 38> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 39>

DG: So you left camp?

GF: Uh-huh.

DG: When?

GF: Left camp... gee, now when did I leave camp?

DG: Right after this loyalty question, maybe?

GF: Gosh, could be. I really don't know.

DG: I think a lot of them left in the spring of '43.

GF: I think that's... I think I went to Spokane.

DG: Okay. What was the atmosphere like in Spokane?

GF: Spokane? It wasn't bad. Nobody treated us rough. We didn't go out too much anyway. We stayed with this farmer and we worked. I worked quite a bit and then I came back and I worked for Pacific Fruit and Produce. I had three jobs.

DG: Now, came back. Where did you come back?

GF: I came back to camp and then I took my wife and we went to Twin Falls, Idaho. See, we stayed in Twin Falls, Idaho.

<End Segment 39> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 40>

DG: So you just went out to Spokane to work and then you went back to camp.

GF: Yeah.

DG: Your parents stayed in camp.

GF: Yeah. And my mother went out to Spokane with me one time, too. She worked out there in the farm because she's used to farm work so she went out and worked with me. My dad stayed in camp and so...

DG: Was camp difficult for them at all?

GF: I don't know. I didn't think... they didn't say one way or the other, I guess. Maybe it was a good vacation for them, I don't know. Oh, I felt sorry for them after they worked so hard and being thrown into camp, but it was for their protection, too, I think, otherwise they'll get beat up or something like that.

DG: So now you went back to camp and picked up your wife and you went to Twin Falls, and so you had a son by then.

GF: Yeah, I had a son then and my other, my daughter -- no, my son was born in Twin Falls and I had just one boy. And then the next one was born in Twin Falls, too, was born in Twin Falls.


DG: So that son that was born outside of camp, did he get the $20,000?

GF: I don't know. He's in... he's coming over next week so I'll find out. But he got married to a California girl and he went to the University of Washington, but that's a good question to ask him. [Laughs]

<End Segment 40> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 41>

DG: So after the war ended so, what...

GF: After the war ended the first --

DG: What did you think when you heard about the bomb?

GF: Bomb? I was at, I was at Pacific Fruit working and they says, they told me, "Oh, the war is over. The big bomb. That's wonderful," you know. We thought... and I didn't think too much about the bomb or anything. I knew the war was over, that's... and everyone was clapping their hands celebrating that the war was over and they never called us any names or anything.

DG: You didn't worry about Japan and the devastation?

GF: No, I just don't recall how I felt at that time. My mind was, "Boy, I'm glad the war is over."

<End Segment 41> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 42>

DG: So then you did what?

GF: Then I... I had put a deposit into the first boat leaving for Hawaii so we took the first boat to Hawaii, the Matsonian Line, and we went down to Sacramento or went to San Francisco. And I had a friend that was running a hotel there so I stayed at his hotel and went to Hawaii. I wanted to go to Hawaii because I never met her parents and what the parents would think about me, I don't know. It's too late anyway, but went to Hawaii. And so I told my boss, Homer, I told him, "Homer, if I come back, will you give me a job?" He says, "Oh, yeah. You're welcome back here. You can get your job back again." So I went to Hawaii and I told my wife maybe three months time I'm going to come back to the States again, but in the meantime I was -- I said, well, I better look for something to do. I'm getting tired not doing anything. So I stopped into this (furniture store), I saw an ad in the paper that they're looking for a salesperson. I says well, that might be up my alley, but they had a salesperson and a bookkeeper. I says I don't want to take care of books, staying behind a desk is not my kind of job. But, anyway, I went there and I got the job and this Chinese guy, Chinese firm, and he was very nice to me, oh, a real nice person. I says, "First of all, I have no place to live." He says, "Well, behind my" -- he had a big mansion -- he says, "I got one room that's, one cottage there that's open and you can have it." I says, "Well, don't charge me too much." He says, "$50 a month." "Oh, fine." So I rented this place and that's where my daughter, my daughter was born there. And afterwards he says, "My doctor son-in-law is coming back so you have to move." I says, "Okay." So I found a place, this reverend, this Hawaiian reverend, had a house up in the hills so I rented that one. And then after I says, this is stupid paying rent. I got a little money so I'm going to build a home, so I had a contractor named Bob Kaya. I says, "Hey, Bob, how about" -- we took Dale Carnegie together, you see -- "How about building a home?" He says, "Sure. Go to the bank and see if you can get any money." So I had a little banking with this guy named Kusunoki. I says, "Hey, I want to buy a house." He says, "Well, George, we can't approve that." He says well, okay. Then a hakujin haole man came in the store and I sold furniture to him and I says, "Hey, I want to borrow some money." He says, "What for?" "A house." "Okay. Come down to the office." So I took all of the money out of Kusunoki's bank and put it in his bank. Kusunoki says, "What the heck, George? You do everything opposite." "Well, you didn't give me the loan so I got this loan from this other guy." So he built a home and then I built a home. See, we were building furniture there, too, see, and Bob says, "Well, George, I tell you, we'll give you Philippine mahogany lumber at my cost." I says, "Fine." So I says, "Bob Wo is going to give me lumber at cost." He says, "Okay." I says, "Well, it's $13,000 for a home." Cheap, huh? He says, "Well, we'll knock down $3,000 off and make it 10,000." [Laughs]

DG: Well, I thought Hawaii was on the expensive side.

GF: Oh, it was expensive. At that time it was 19 -- right after the war. It wasn't too bad. I went to decorate a home. They had a called Mikiola Track and they were building homes in there, and I went there to furnish a home. And this guy there says, "Well, you have a piece of property for sale?" He says, "Yeah, we got one of the up the hill there. It's sort of a triangle, angled off property." "But how much do you want for it?" He says $2,500 or something. He says, "Well, I'll give you $2,000 for it. What you say?" He says, "Okay, George, you can have it for $2,000." So I bought the property for $2,000, build a home for 10, that's $12,000. And when I sold that, I sold that for $18,000. Oh, boy, I made some money. [Laughs] But now I go back there they want a hundred thousand dollars for that house. Gosh, almighty. I says that's crazy, I should have kept it, but who knows the future?

<End Segment 42> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 43>

DG: Now, when you went to Hawaii, did you sense a difference in...

GF: Oh, it's nice, Hawaii.

DG: I mean, how you were treated and so forth.

GF: Well, a lot of Orientals there. I used to go to show at nighttime. My wife went back to Hilo and I stayed in Honolulu. I went to the movie theater and I said, "My God, look at all the black heads." You don't see that in the United States. All the black heads and here guys come and say [Inaudible]. [Laughs] I had to laugh, but it was all black heads. I said oh, my God. This is the place. I see why my wife went to college to come back to Hawaii to get a job because she could get a job, teaching job, anything she could get, but United States you couldn't get a job as the feeling was before. Yeah, I worked for this firm --

DG: So you got along with the Hawaiians.

GF: Oh, yeah. Oh, they used to treat me rough, though, at first.

DG: Why?

GF: Well, because I speak different. [Laughs] I used to go the bowling alley with a bunch of fellows... "Hey, that guy's different. He doesn't speak like we do." [Laughs] Well, nothing besides that. But when I worked as a salesman -- when I went into this furniture store as a bookkeeper, I said, my God. Getting $350 a month, that's no good for me. Salesmen are making more money. I told Bob, "Hey, how about putting me on the floor? Try me one day." So he tried one and says, "George, you stay on the floor." And those days I was bringing a thousand dollars a month with commission coming in. So those days making that much money, was good money, see. So my wife didn't have to work. I send the kids to school and everything, but it's not always a thousand. Sometimes a little bit less, but I was making pretty good money. That's why coming back to the States I thought two or three times.

DG: So you stayed there...

GF: I stayed there about ten years, nine and a half years or something like that.

DG: And then you came back.

GF: Came back.

DG: Why?

GF: Because my parents are getting old.

<End Segment 43> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 44>

GF: There's always the thought is that the parents are the one that you should obey. Dad and Mom says, "Why don't you come back to the States?" They were running the Globe Hotel and I had no intention of what I'm going to do over here. I thought I would start a little furniture store or something. That was my idea because I had been in the furniture business a long time. So I says well, I'll come back. And then my dad says, "Why don't you go into the hotel business?" Gee, I don't know nothing about hotel business. He says, "Well, there's the Fairmont Hotel there and it's on leased property." And oh, I'll try. If I can't make it, I'll go back to Hawaii, but I stayed and here I am now. [Laughs]

DG: Now, that was what year?

GF: That was 19... I came back here in 1955 so about 1956 or something like that, I think.

<End Segment 44> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 45>

DG: Now, was there a contrast coming from Hawaii again in the Japanese community?

GF: Well, I didn't know Japanese community whatsoever. My dad was in the Yamaguchi-ken. Through the kenjin, you know, we used to get to know a little bit, but I didn't know anybody here actually. The only one I knew was (...) Bill (and his wife, Yae) Irozu. I knew him in a way. In a way I knew him. That's the only person I knew. And then after I was working at the hotel I said gee, there is some way I must get to know the people here. So this hakujin guy, Troy Laundry guy, said, "George, I belong to the Lions Club. You want to join the Lions Club?" I said, "I just got here. I don't want to join any organization." And then a little bit later on Frank Akiyoshi said -- he used to be a salesman for Coast Wide -- "George, I want you to come down to one of the meetings." So I went and I thought gee, this is nice. I get to meet all the Japanese people. There are a lot of people, Bill Mimbu and Toru Sakahara and all those guys were in this so I got to meet them all, and Terry Toda. I got to meet all those people. So I says oh, this is wonderful and then I find out these people are head people in the Japanese community. I said well, that's good. [Laughs] But that's not the reason why I joined, but I got many friends and before long I was in JACL, too, president of JACL. Oh, my God, crazy. And then I was Atlantic Street Center. I was with Atlantic Street Center, that's Ike Ikeda, what's his name. I work for him, he says -- that's a Methodist organization and I'm a Buddhist. He says, "Well, you're going to the president." A Buddhist president in the Methodist organization? [Laughs] I laughed. But I got along with hakujin people down there, very nice. And then my kid was going to Franklin High School and he was in the band and I went there. And he says, "Hey we have to get some money to buy uniform for the kids." I says, "Well, I got a good idea. Why don't we ask the Lions Club -- because I belong to the Lions Club -- Lions Club to maybe have some kind of project that they can help you with the money." So they were talking about pancake breakfast. Hey, that's good idea, pancake breakfast. They wanted to make only $500 so at that time it was probably pretty good money. So I asked the Lions Club and Frank Hattori was president and I was the third VP. And I says, "Frank, they want to raise some money." Frank says, "You got a chairman?" "Yeah. I got Bill Lunder and Tom Iwata. Those two people are going to chair it." So, "Okay. Go ahead."

DG: So that's how the Lions started their pancake breakfast?

GF: Pancake breakfast, yeah. Then the Rainier Lions Club says, "We'd like to get in together with you," because it's in their own area. I said, "Sure, fine." So we got the Rainier Lions Club. They did the cooking and we did the front work and we made the money and fine, that's all right. And after I go back to the PTA, the band PTA, says, "George, I want you to be the president of the (band) PTA." What the heck is this? [Laughs] So I took the thing like a damn fool. It was a lot of fun. Get to know a lot of people.

DG: I have the feeling that you were brought in and made president of quite a few organizations, you must have had a better perspective on the whole thing. Do you think some of it had to do with the different places you lived and...

GF: It could be. It could be.

DG: And your Japanese education.

GF: Yeah. Well, Japanese education at that time I thought boy, that Japanese education is pretty good because I belong to the Hotel Association and lot of Issei people, and I thought my folks must have thought Japanese language would be a help to me, which it could be. It could be.

DG: Or a discipline?

GF: Discipline. And so that discipline is, it's something. I just can't pinpoint it down.

<End Segment 45> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 46>

DG: But you've translated into people, and tell me a little bit about your feelings there and helping people.

GF: Yeah. See, well, the Lions is to help people and there's a lot of people that are much unfortunate than we are. We have to help them out. So I think that's my feeling. I like to help people out. Whatever we can do, I think... I don't know how that feeling came in, though.

DG: Well, let's talk about Lions itself a little bit. Tell me about the history of that organization.

GF: That was formed in (1954)... what was it? Hold on a second. This one here is what I'm going to say tonight. I don't want that. But, anyway, the Lions was formed... let's see now. I think the Lions Club here was formed in 1954, and I didn't join until quite late '54 maybe, '60 or something I joined. And how it was formed was... if you get in touch with Jim Matsuoka he can probably tell you more about the beginning formation. This is what I hear now. I said, "Why First Hill?" We're in International, not First Hill, but I think First Hill was where there were people that need more help. When Capitol Hill sponsored us, I think, Doc Shimbo is the one that they approach first, and I think Doc had quite a bit to do about forming this Lions Club. And they called us First Hill Lions Club because all the help was needed up at First Hill. I think, that's what I heard, but I'm not sure. I was just wondered why First Hill, we're down in the International. Why didn't they call it International Lions Club or something like that? But, anyway, Jim Matsuoka was the president I understand, and Doc Shimbo was the secretary. He was quite a influence in that Lions Club. And all the people like Bill Mimbu and all those people were there, but our motto is, "To serve," and that's what we do. It was before mostly service to the blind, that's where it was, but now as things develop there's a lot of other things, diabetes and hearing and all other kinds of handicap. And now Japanese in this international area, there is a lot of help needed, especially scholarship. We help on scholarship and the International Fair. They're going to have a fair down here pretty soon. We're going to put up a hearing van to help people that need hearing aids or eyes. And so our biggest thing is to help people that are unfortunate.

DG: Now, this is a group that was primarily Nisei?

GF: This was Niseis, but there were... mostly all Niseis actually. All Niseis.

<End Segment 46> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 47>

DG: Why do you think they became Lions instead of Kiwanis or Rotary?

GF: Well, I think the service. Kiwanis and Rotary are -- this was what I hear and I'm not sure because I never did go into that. They tied work into their, to help promote their business. Lions is not... see, we don't talk about business. We're not supposed to talk anything about --

DG: So it's not a networking place.

GF: You are not supposed to talk, that "I'm a lawyer," or, "I'm a doctor." We don't say these things. We're there to help people. And whatever you are, you might be a farmer, you might be a beggar, I don't care. But you're all out there to help people and that is the thing that I think the Nisei people sought. So that's what I thought. I'm not going into promote my business or anything like that. I like to whatever we can do, we can help the people that are in need and I think that's...

DG: There must have been some social reason to get together.

GF: Oh, there is a social reason, too, yes, but we don't say a social group. That's taboo. We're there to help. I know like the Kiwanis is more a social group. They get together and we're not supposed to say that we're social group. We're there to serve, that is our main purpose that we get together. They're a social group, too. Just like myself, I go there and I get to know all these other people, which makes it nice. Otherwise, I'm a stranger in this town. I haven't been here too long.

DG: But see, there aren't that many different organizations with Niseis that are like that.

GF: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 47> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 48>

DG: So why, what makes you Lions unique in terms of, the Nisei must have felt some need to develop this.

GF: Yeah. Well, how they felt when they organized it, I don't know. After I joined, I have this feeling.

DG: But you have a perspective.

GF: Yeah. When Jim and those people got together to start this, now what kind of a feeling they had, I don't know. They must have had some inkling of that to help people, but how much help, I think that's the reason why --

DG: Why do you want to help people through...

GF: A group? Well, individually you can't do too much. When you get a group together, it's strong. Like if you want to raise $10,000. Well, if a group together, we could raise that money, but myself I'm not going to raise no $10,000. If I can, it's wonderful, but who's going to help? Oh, they think George is going to do it for his own self, but you got a group of Lions, they will contribute, yeah. That's why we have a pancake breakfast. That's the reason why like at our church, we have these sukiyaki and things like that. I said, "Why don't you give some of that money back to the public?" but church...

DG: Keeps it within the church.

GF: Within church members.

<End Segment 48> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 49>

DG: Okay. Now, that's what I want to get at, because now this was a service organization to the community.

GF: Yeah, right.

DG: And did you think that was important?

GF: That's important to the community.

DG: Why is that?

GF: Because as I said, the word hito -- unless you support each other, you cannot be. I think, how much I felt at that time when I joined, I don't think I had too much of that feeling. I didn't have that feeling. After you get into it and you see we're going to have a pancake breakfast and we're going to have this and that and all this, every penny we make, it doesn't come into our pocket. It's all given out so we cannot touch that money. The only thing to survive as a Lion member, among ourselves we contribute to the -- that's in our dues, is where our money comes from.

DG: Now, we've talked earlier about how the Niseis were not joiners of a lot of these organizations that are around.

GF: Uh-huh.

DG: So this was one place where you felt you could give back, and you felt the need to give back to the community.

GF: Yeah.

DG: Why?

GF: I think... this is how I felt at that time is that we owe ourselves to the community. Without the community, we cannot stand. You got a grocery store, you got a store. Unless the community comes and helps you out, so we should give back something to the community.

DG: Was that part of proving yourself at all?

GF: I don't know as proving myself.

DG: A good American?

GF: Oh, no. I don't think so. I never even, that never even entered my mind, I don't think, that I'm a good American that I want to give this service. I think that's a individual thought -- if you like to give. Some certain things I don't like to give unless it's going to help a lot of people. Well, like that's the reason why like in Lions they have what's called LCIF. That helps everybody in the world so I gave them a thousand dollars to that. I believe in that. I think we should not just think of ourselves, we should think of the whole world. And I can't give too much, but maybe a lot of guys give a thousand dollars apiece, that's a hundred thousand dollars. You can't tell, see, and that's where... that's how I feel. That's just my thought. Other people feel that way or not, I don't know. And there's a lot of -- oh, my God you get so --

<End Segment 49> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 50>

DG: Now, when you joined JACL, what were some of the issues?

GF: Gee, I don't remember the issues. It was that alien land laws in progress. I don't think I did anything, to tell you the truth. I really don't, can't pinpoint.

DG: But you helped overturn that.

GF: Yeah.

DG: Overturn the alien land law.

GF: Yeah. And I worked with at that time Tak Kubota was pretty prominent, and I worked with him together. And I think Jim Matsuoka too, also.

DG: I understand it didn't pass until the third time.

GF: Pardon?

DG: It didn't pass.

GF: Yeah, it didn't. Well, there's a lot of resentment.

DG: Until the third time.

GF: That's right. There was a lot of resentment. Well, I think their mind was like we think now, maybe it wasn't a good thing to pass. We thought of our parents that were Japanese that came from Japan, and they can't own land or they can't do this and that because of the alien land law. Now, we pass the alien land law, see what happens. It's a hell of a mess. I think so.

DG: So that foreigners come in.

GF: Foreigners can buy a piece of land and they can do that, see, which I think should be for the American citizens, but foreigner from Japan or anyplace can come in and buy out. Can Canadians come in and buy out?

DG: Uh-huh.

GF: They do buy and then they sell it for the big profit and they take the money back to Japan. [Laughs] And that's not right, it's the United States. It's for people in the United States. And us American citizens should have just as much right, but the foreigners come in with the foreign money and by God they... Japan is a heck of a mess now, but still. When I was in Hawaii last time, this great big hotel, they come and say this is worth one dollar. Well, I give you five dollars for it and what happens? It drops. They lose out and that's what happening to Japan now. So I don't know. Something to think about. Money's a big issue with... gosh. I think we should have left that alone. [Laughs] I say that and maybe some guys don't like it. But looking back to our parents, it was a good thing to have because like my folks want to buy a piece of land, they can't buy it because they are aliens unless my son like myself went to buy it. And we were so young and so ignorant at that time, we don't think too much about it, but you did feel sorry for the Issei people that they couldn't buy anything. That's the reason some people that don't have children, they have somebody else buy it for them, and then they -- what the kid, this guy that used his name says well, it's my property, not yours. Even if the old man, this person paid for it, it's under his name. So that's sad. I don't think it happened. I don't know, but I think things like that would happen.

<End Segment 50> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 51>

DG: So the Atlantic Street Center, what...

GF: That's a Methodist organization.

DG: What did you do there?

GF: There we helped out the schoolkids in that area. Any kind of problem that they had, it would come through the board, and we take it away or do what we thought was right. Ike was pretty good.

DG: So now helping the schoolkids in what way?

GF: Well, gosh, I can't recall now. I can't think of an incident. So many of them, I can't think of any incident right offhand. What was that?

DG: They took semi-delinquent kids?

GF: Yeah. We did all kinds. Yeah, that's what happens... a lot of times that's the reason we set up a pool table in the back so the kids after school they don't go roaming around the street. They'd come down here and play and things like that we did, yes. I think we were looking after our kids more than anything else.

DG: So it was part of your social consciousness?

GF: Yeah, that's right. Just like right now a lot of kids, they don't know where they're going to be because come home and nobody is home. Nobody is home so what's going to happen? They're going to go out and maybe -- if they get in the right crowd, it's all right, but a lot of times they don't. The wrong crowd is a lot of fun and the good crowd is not -- there's no fun to it so that's the reason why the young people have a tendency of joining organizations where they do more harm than good for yourself. That's one thing I told my daughter. I says, "Good, your kids take karate." At least after school, four o'clock, they have to go to karate or go to Japanese school. We used to go to Japanese school, but I didn't learn anything in Japanese school, but at least we go there instead of roaming the streets.

<End Segment 51> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 52>

DG: Well, what I hear you saying, too, that you want your grandkids to have some of the discipline of the Japanese --

GF: That's right.

DG: -- education.

GF: That's the reason why they go to Japanese school. I don't know how much they learn over there or anything like that, but daughter always come in and, "Hey Grandpa, what does this mean in Japanese," or, "How do you say it in Japanese?"

DG: So do you think it's important for us to preserve some of our Japanese heritage?

GF: I think so. We're Japanese, I don't care what you say. We're going to have black hair and yellow skin, you can't do... unless they mix up together.

<End Segment 52> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 53>

DG: What about assimilating or... well, you know. What is your feeling?

GF: Getting into Japanese like that, you mean.

DG: Right. Intermarrying.

GF: Intermarrying? Well, it's going to happen. I don't care what you say. Look at Hawaii. While I was working in Hawaii, a lady comes in -- I mean, somebody, "My name is Mrs. Inouye." Sure. Fine. I figure a Japanese comes. Here comes a blonde. This kind of thing happens in Hawaii and the Chinese and Hawaiian because even in United States, it's happening. How many Nisei kids or Sansei kids married hakujin? You find this. There's no getting away with it, but myself I, like to see them marry a Japanese myself because we're Japanese. But I wouldn't say that's the best marriage because some Japanese people are not as good as even hakujin people, but I think it's good that you can get along together. That's the main thing.

DG: But that doesn't have to prevent us from maintaining a certain amount --

GF: That's right, Japanese culture because even a lot of these hakujin people that are married to Japanese -- just for instance, they use chopsticks. [Laughs] Besides that, I mean other things that... some of these hakujin people, they like Japanese things. [Interruption] Now, my kid in Washington, D.C., he might get married to hakujin. I don't know, but I would have no resentment against it. If they can get along, what's wrong? [Interruption] But myself, I'm a little bit more open-minded. I tell her, I says, "What the heck. If two people can get together and get along, it's your life." And if you can't get along... that's the reason why I hate to see all these divorces. They go to church and say for better or worse, you get married until you die. That doesn't happen. If they have a little fight, they says, "Well, heck with you." [Laughs] It's awful. I mean, it happens to a lot of people. Just like my son, same way, to a Japanese, but can't get along. Divorce is a dirty, dirty thing. I tell you, it's too much complication in that. I hate to see it happen, but never can tell.

DG: Do you think that maintaining part of our Japanese heritage prevents some of these kinds of things?

GF: I think it would be. They call it giri, something like that. I don't know what it is, but I think it would because you never hear of a Issei person divorced. There is, probably, but I know one and so forth, but you don't hear it. Nowadays, it's just a dime a dozen. I feel sorry for the kids. They got, they have a mother, but no father, and the kid has no mother. It's awful. What's going to happen to these kids?

DG: They're losing their family structure.

GF: Family structure, that's right. That's important, to have family structure. That's what Japan's built herself on -- family structure. It's important. If a family falls apart, the whole nation falls apart.

<End Segment 53> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 54>

DG: So do you have some things that you want to add about your life and what you would like to tell your grandchildren, some advice?

GF: [Laughs] Some advice. Well, I think you should have a religious structure. It's important. Even if you're a Buddhist or a Christian, this is important to have. I think a lot of kids nowadays they don't go to Sunday school. They don't go to church. I know my two grandchildren, they don't go to church. I says, "You should send them to church." And I don't care if you're a Christian or a Buddhist or whatever you are, you going to end all end up to God. And God's path is many paths that go to God. You may take one path, you may take the other, but you end up to God, and this is important. And in Japan, they used to have what they call shuushin. You ever hear the word shuushin? It's a document of how a family should be. And you be loyal to the government -- I mean, Tennoheika. They don't have shuushin anymore, see. So now in Japan, I understand, they want you to go to church, I think. That's where it's built in because shuushin, when I was in school, that's one thing that shuushin. Every morning before that, every class you have shuushin. It tells you what you should be, what you should do, you should be strong to the emperor and all that stuff. But they don't have that because I guess the emperor is involved and that's the reason why you don't see that. Time has change. Just like --

DG: So it provided a structure.

GF: Yeah. So I don't know. I can't say, but I think religion is important. Religion is important. I don't care what you are. Just like my son, he says, "Dad, you're a Buddhist. Now my girlfriend is a Christian, very strong Christian." And he says, "Does that make any difference to you, Dad? I said, "Nope. You marry who you like and do things best to you." Now he's a strong Christian. He won't be a Buddhist -- [laughs] -- but that's all right, you know. That's all right. And I think that preserves the family together because you have that what they call "giri" or whatever it is.

<End Segment 54> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 55>

DG: What is giri?

GF: Giri is what you're supposed... well, it's hard to say. I just know the word giri. It's...

DG: It's my understanding that it's paying back to something that was given to you from outside your family. On is more your family structure.

GF: Yeah, something like that, yes. That you owe something from way back and that's, you have a giri to the family, giri to this and that. I think you're right there.

DG: So Lions is kind of giri responsibility.

GF: Giri to the public. Yeah, responsibility to the public 'cause you can't do anything yourself. It's pretty hard to do something yourself unless you're a multimillionaire, giving money is not the main thing. You got to give something beyond that. So that's something.

DG: Well, thank you very much.

GF: [Laughs] I don't know if I did any good or not.

DG: It was great.

<End Segment 55> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.