Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Floyd Schmoe Interview II
Narrator: Floyd Schmoe
Interviewer: Elmer Good
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 22, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-sfloyd-02-0005

<Begin Segment 5>

EG: How many houses did you build in Hiroshima in all, do you know?

FS: We went to the mayor and told him, Mayor Hamai, why we had come and what we want to do. And he suggested that we build a library for the children of Hiroshima using books that had been, had belonged to an army camp, occupation people, which were totally inappropriate for a children's library. And anyway, we came to build a house. And so they put us under the direction of a local daiku-san carpenter and we built two duplexes. So we housed four families that first year. We went back, with different groups of people, and built a total of only about twenty houses, I think.

EG: That sounds pretty impressive.

FS: What?

EG: That sounds pretty impressive to have done that. It sounds like you were the founders of the notion of Habitat for Humanity. You beat Jimmy Carter to the building of houses for people desperate in need of them. Did he ever thank you? [Laughs]

FS: We found a local architect, Harry-somebody, who had been trained in the University of California who designed what we called a 'model house'. We didn't want to do what most of the missionaries have done, when they tried to put American clothes and American houses on primitive peoples. We didn't -- we wanted to build a Japanese house, but we did decide to build a house of three rooms and make one room hard floor instead of tatami mats. And also to build a, design a stand up kitchen, while all the kitchen work, cooking, so forth, of a typical Japanese family was done on the floor, squatting on the floor, over a hibachi charcoal fire. [Laughs] Interesting thing. The second or third trip we made with American volunteers, including Japanese young people also, we found that the Japanese had beautiful apples. Apple pie is my favorite dessert, so I decided to teach the Japanese girls how to bake apple pie. Well, apple pie... First place, we found some flour, but the only cooking oil was rancid whale oil and the only fire we had was a charcoal fire. And we built a sort of an oven out of an empty gasoline can and what we got was a sort of a apple pizza, [Laughs] dried apple pizza.

EG: How did it taste?

FS: But then a year or two later, my wife and I were working in Korea, and we stopped in Hiroshima on our way. No, we stopped in Tokyo on our way home. And one of the girls from Hiroshima came 300 miles on a crowded train with an apple pie in her lap for us to take on the boat; and she proved to us that now they can bake regulation apple pie.

EG: I'd still like to know how that first apple pie tasted.

FS: What?

EG: How did that first apple pie taste? Did you really eat it?

FS: Oh, it was good.

EG: Oh, it was good?

FS: It was good, but it wasn't....

EG: Your description kind of turned me off. [Laughs] Especially the rancid whale oil.

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