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-1003-10-20

<Begin Segment 20>

GH: So I went to Japanese typing school then. Somebody told me about it and I went there for a little while. And of course, there was this Hare Bernard sergeant who used to come there all the time because (...) the teacher spoke a little bit of English, so he used to get out of camp to go over there, and then when I went there he was so glad I was speaking English that he came to our house. Okay, every night my uncle would drink that dobu, and he would start off, "America, what's good about it? We had this and that." He would just lambast us. He just, just go on for hours. He'd just hated us. And then later I find that, I found out that they never had children, so they adopted his nephew to take over their family name, I guess, and then he was killed in the army over there. (Aunt) says to my mother, "You're my sister, but your kids..." She hated us. What did we do? We were just born Americans, but we didn't kill him. We don't even know him. We've never even seen (this) country (Japan). This is the first time we've even seen her, you know? But every night (Uncle would) go on and give us all this stuff. Meanwhile, all these GIs are coming to see us. [Laughs] And we were renting the room upstairs, but we could hardly stay there anymore so we were downstairs in this yojouhan, which is just a little space, and she said to my mother, "Since you have more in the family, you pay more." So my mother was paying all this. We didn't know. And so finally (...) I said, "Mama, this (typing) school is not helping me at all because the typewriters are all broken and I'm not getting anywhere really, so I'm gonna (quit)," she said, "Well then, okay, you can quit." (Then) I went to look for a job.

I went to, my brother Ray said -- he was already working at the Yaesu Hotel, it's a billet for civilians -- so he said he'd talk to the manager and I could come there. So I went over there and talked to the manager, but he said, "Okay, Grace, just bring your birth certificate tomorrow and we'll get you all fixed up so you'll have PX privileges and everything." I said okay, and I left. And I thought about it, and I thought, "I can't do that. He'll find out how old I am. I'm not, I'm..." I was barely sixteen. You have to be eighteen to work. I said, "Ray, I didn't lie," but I said, "If I take my birth certificate they're gonna know." I said, "What am I gonna do?" He said, "Well, just go to the employment office, then." He says, "I'll take care of it over here, so you go." So I went to the employment office, and the only job was general headquarters supply. I thought, "Wow, I don't know whether I could handle that." I saw a Japanese guy there, so I said, "Do you have an interpreter's job?" He said, "No, I don't know. That's the only job that's listed." And then the guy came and said, "Go take a test there." It's a typing test. So I was slow as molasses in Alaska in January, so when the guy came and (looked), he says, "Hmm, mou sukoshi benkyou shiteki nasai." He said, "By the way, do you speak English?" I said, "Yes, I speak English." And he said, "I've never (it spoken like) that." He says, "What part of California are you from?" So I say, "I was born in Gardena." He said, "Oh, do you know where Hollywood is?" "Of course. Yes, I know where Hollywood is." And he says, "Okay, tell you what. I'll give you a job." He said, "Go down to general headquarters supply, see Captain Barrell. Don't go to quartermaster, now. Go to general headquarters supply, and there'll be plenty of jobs there for you. "Okay." "You go down Shinagawa, get off at Takeshiba Pier, go to the checkpoint there and tell 'em you want to go to general headquarters. Don't go across there to quartermaster." "Okay." I went and the boy there in the, the guard, was so happy I spoke English he said, "You wait right here. My jeep is coming for exchange right now, so I'll take you there." So I waited in the checkpoint there, and he took me. I find out that the girls that I went to typing school with were standing around waiting for a job. [Laughs] So after I got in there, it was warmer around the potbelly stove in there, so I told the girls to come on in, and they were all nice to me when I went to school there, so they were all happy to follow me in (...). And they said, "We all got a job." 'Cause they can type a hundred words a minute. I couldn't. [Laughs]

But I got a job. I was the first to get the job in Japanese procurement section. Pierre told me what to do, and you make four copies of everything, and then the telephone calls will come in from the contractors and they will ask about koi. General, General MacArthur's kid got into the pond and killed the kois in there, so then they had to order it special from up north somewhere, and the contractor was calling about that. Things (of) that sort. Or the electrician will come and, "Where do you want to put the outlets?" and things like that. So I became kind of helpful in that way. By this time there were about three exchanges of the, rotation of the employees (in) the military, so by this time it was a new group coming, that came in, and this Major Floyd was the supply officer. And he said, "How do you like it here?" I said, "This is not my country." I said, "We have nothing." He says, he made a joke. (...) I went to help him interpret with a contractor about the electrician, the electric outlets in this guardhouse, and he says, "How would you like to be shacked up here?" I said, "Oh yeah, I'll just shoo them all out and bring my family here 'cause we have no place to live." And I explained to him, I told him our situation, so then he felt very understanding and he didn't make that kind of joke. I worked, he put me in the captain's office and I just did mostly telephone, and I learned how to run the PBX 'cause Mitsue was running a PBX in the back warehouse, and I just kind of generally was everywhere. So by the next rotation the colonel came, he said, "Grace, what do you do around here?" I said, "A little of everything." And he said, "I have a daughter about your age." So he kind of knew and just kind of let it go. Nobody asked me my age, so I didn't get kicked out. (...) I think Major Floyd told my friend that I still go see in Orlando, Betty, was a secretary, to, "Keep an eye on this kid 'cause she's not stupid." [Laughs] And so they put me in the captain's office and told me type up all these changes in the requisitions to be put in this guide. So since I'm slow, I go the big carriage and then I would type everything out and then I could go to the next thing, and I just got that thing done in no time. And so they thought, okay... Major Floyd said, "You better learn how to use this stenotype machine." He says, "These stenotype people make a lot of money," so he says, "You can take this. I give you authority to take this home to practice on it." So he gave me a stenotype machine to work on. And I got these special things, and then he had a, his girlfriend was Virginia, who was a consulate's secretary, he said he'll ask her to give me the first cancelled appointment. Although Ray told me about it and he had an appointment (with the American consulate) and I was after him, I got in before him and that's it, to be able to come back.

MN: But you had some problem because your father changed the koseki when he was there.

GH: Yeah, that was the biggest problem. What had happened was, okay, then the American consulate finally opened and so Ray had his appointment, but I got mine before him. And I thought I'd get my younger brother Hugo cleared with me because my parents wouldn't know what, how to go about getting him cleared when it got to that time, so I took him with me. But I had saved that leaflet that I got in Tule Lake before I left the country 'cause I never trusted the government. So I saved that and I took it with me to the consulate to clarify myself, and they said they didn't know anything about it. They never heard about it. I said, "Well, there's gonna be plenty of us because there were three thousand of us that were on General Gordon. So this is what we were told." I said, "I hope you will go look through, check through this and make sure because I had my mug shot taken and everything." So I said, "That was the procedure, I hope that you will follow through on that." And very shortly I got my citizenship cleared, nationality USA. While I was working at the general headquarters supply, of course, all of Tokyo, all of general headquarters had to come get supplies through us, so there was this chaplain's assistant who always asked me when he sees me, "How is your appointment coming along?" 'Cause I told him how I hated being in that country and that I wanted to go back to America, he said, "When you need money to go back or whatever," he said, "You let me know. I'll be happy to help you 'cause I know how you would like to go back." [Laughs] And sure enough, he was the one I asked when the time came. But anyway, I think the most important thing about that is that as soon as that consulate was open and I hope that they had looked through to make, determine that that was what we were told, that it would make it easier for others like me to come back -- because that was a horrible time in Japan, right after the war when there was nothing and all of us had nothing, nothing, nothing to begin with -- to get back on their feet again.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.