Densho Digital Repository
Friends of Manzanar Collection
Title: Grace Hata Interview
Narrator: Grace Hata
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: West Los Angeles, California
Date: March 16, 2012
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1003-10-12

<Begin Segment 12>

MN: Now I'm gonna get into the war years. Do you remember what you were doing on Sunday, December 7, 1941?

GH: Well let's see, I'm born on the fifth and so I just had a birthday and I had my new Shirley Temple dress on. And what was I doing? I don't recall exactly, but as the day went on they said that there was a war and this terrible thing happened. That night the FBI came and looked around in our back room and every place in our restaurant, and they told me to tell my mother that my father had to get his toothbrush and a few things together because they were gonna (take my father) away. I asked 'em where they were gonna take him. Of course, I didn't understand, and so I kicked, I kicked the FBI for taking my dad. [Laughs] And that night they took him away, and later I found out that he was taken to Wilmington to the naturalization building over there. And my mother was so upset that she didn't know what to do. We closed down the restaurant for fifteen days, and I saw my mother lose weight and her hair got all white, and she was just a nervous person and she didn't know what to do. The FBI came around, our building was right next to an alley where, the alley went down to Yamatoza in the back and we hear the FBI marching through there, checking all around our neighborhood. You could just hear 'em talking, and it was blackout at night then, all the shades were down, so we could just hear the marching of these foot sounds all the way up and down the alley. And it was really scary around that time.

Later on, when things kind of settled down, Shinsan said, well, Mom decided that they'll open up the restaurant again. So we opened up the restaurant and I kind of helped in the, serving the dishes, setting up the table when the customers came, and I waited, and I got tips also 'cause they thought that it was kind of cute to have a kid come or something. We had a regular waitress that Mother hired, but they gave me tips also. And so I saved up my money and I told my mother that I wanted to buy a watch for my dad, and I suppose she told whoever, and so I did get a watch for him. And I wanted to go see him, and so the Chinese cook said that it would be safe for him to take me, and if they do get stopped he'll say he was Chinese, and so I went to see my dad. And I remember the guard there, he kept telling us the time. I said, "I can tell time. Don't remind us." And my father did say, "Goumon ni kakerareta." And I said, oh my god, I looked at him to see if everything looked okay and... and time was up so I had to leave, I came home. But I did, I really didn't like him being taken away from us. But she was the bookkeeper and everything of the business, so when the IRS came around we didn't have any trouble. And there were others, stores down the street, some had trouble and they were all upset, but we were lucky that my father kept good books, so we didn't have any trouble.

And eventually we opened the restaurant, so the regular customers started coming back. And the German lady told my mom about the First World War, and how the children suffered and they didn't have cookies and they didn't have this and that and how terrible it was. Mother got all kinds of information from different customers, and so she was even more confused what to do. Then pretty soon, one day Mr. Koike came and told my mother that he was going into Manzanar to build the camp, and he was gonna go in as a carpenter with the Maryknoll people at Little Tokyo, and so he said that one good thing about this is that it's in California and that as soon as the war's over we could easily come home. And told my mother that tomorrow was the last day for relatives for the volunteers who would like to be interned there together, so we went to see about it. I said, they're asking us how we're related to Mr. Koike and the way we were taught not to lie and so forth, my mother said, "Oh, komatta ne." She says, "Ma, itoko [inaudible]." So I said, "Oh, we're cousins." [Laughs] And so okay, we got approval, and the next day we were gonna go into camp, Manzanar. And we got all the papers on what to do. We could only take a suitcase. My mother worried about that, hearing the story from the German lady and everything, so she had a can of cookies for my brother, and he had his baseball hat and his bat, and the rest of us had our little suitcase, and that was it. The next morning, very early, Shinsan, took us, I think, to the train station. Of course, all the shades were closed so we couldn't look out, and that's how we went to Manzanar. And I don't recall from the train how we got to the camp, but we got there.

MN: Do you remember what month that was?

GH: I can't remember that. I don't know when it was.

MN: Let me ask you about your father also. You know, he said, "Goumon ni kakerareta." What kind of torture was he, did he undergo?

GH: I don't know what it was. I don't know what it was. He couldn't talk about it, and I looked at his hands, his fingers, but I don't know what it was, and I don't know what that was all about. But I know it wasn't good.

MN: So from Wilmington, do you know where he was shipped to?

GH: He went to many places. I know he went to Santa Fe, he went to Missoula, Montana. He talked about, in Missoula I think it was, he talked about, wrote to me about the gigantic thunderstorms and lightning. He never saw anything so huge. He's been to Missoula, Montana, Santa Fe, where else was he? See, offhand I can't remember right this minute, but he's been around.

MN: Now, you and your mother and Thomas and Hugo had only one day to pack.

GH: Yes.

MN: What did you do with everything else?

GH: We left everything as is 'cause we didn't think this was gonna take so long. So we left everything as is and just went the next day.

MN: Did you have to leave behind anything that you really cherished?

GH: What I really wanted was my mother's jewelry, 'cause as a child I used to get up on her bureau and open that drawer and try all these things on. She said, "When you're older you can have it." So that I really wanted, but I never did get any of it.

MN: Did your mother take that to camp with her?

GH: No. We left everything as is.

MN: You thought camp would be a few days or months?

GH: I don't know that it would be a few days, but it wouldn't be long. We thought we would be coming back soon.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.