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-1003-10-22

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MN: So when did you leave Japan?

GH: So I left Japan in April of, what did I say, '49?

MN: '47?

GH: '47. '47, yeah. 1947. And I, before doing that I wrote to the cook, Shinsan, to give me the money for my boat fare. And he said he didn't know how, he wrote back and said he didn't know how to send me the money, so come back the best way I can and he'll reimburse me. I showed the letter to the chaplain's assistant, Tony Texiera, and I told him that I wanted to borrow some money from him and I'll pay him back as soon as I can. And I told him that the cook sent me this letter, he's still running the business, but I'm sure he's gonna tell me, "Oh, business is slow," and all this. But I said, "If it takes me a lifetime, I'm gonna pay you back," so I said, "Would you give me your, your parents' address and yours, and you, as soon as I write to you, if you answer, please answer me right away and then I'll send you the money." "Oh no, Grace, that's okay. I'm glad to help." "No, no, no. I want to do that." "Okay." So I got both addresses, came back. Sure enough, I get the story. I raised the dickens, I told him, "I came on third class 'cause I figured you'd tell me something like that." So I said, "I don't care how you do it," I said, "You give me this money and I've got to pay this guy back. He doesn't know me from Adam and he loaned me this money. (...) Give it to me. I don't care how you do it. Give it (to) me." So within a month I did repay my money, so that was good. And then to get into school, to get here to... I landed, I came back at sixteen by myself. I got back on General Gordon, which was no longer a troop ship by then. (...) I landed in San Francisco. I made friends with some girls on the ship, and the only one I still am close to is Masaye, 'cause she told her sister about me, who was coming to pick her up, and her sister said, "What? It's dangerous for young girls to be traveling alone. And our car is a little kyukutsu, but," she says, "you come with us. We're gonna take you back to L.A. and on our day off we'll take you to Gardena, so you're coming with us." And so luckily, "Well, okay. Thank you." And that's how I got to L.A., and I went down to Gardena and got my money to pay back my debt. But from there, I couldn't get into school.

MN: You were living on a chicken farm.

GH: So Mrs. Kejima, Mr. and Mrs. Kejima came to see me. (Shin-san) had a little dinner party for us, for Masae and the sister, and Kejima-san came over and said, "You can't stay here with him." As if I was going to, you know? And so (Kejima-san) said, "You can come with us." They had a chicken farm, I think it's on Main Street. I don't know where it was. I forgot now. And so they took me with them, and he says, "Go with them." I just got shoved right into it, so I went with him. [Laughs] And they cleaned out a chicken coop for me, so I stayed in the chicken coop and I helped her with cleaning the eggs and, 'cause she had her business. That's who we bought eggs from when we had the restaurant, so we, they knew my family and everything from way back, so that's how I got over there. But the thing is, I couldn't make arrangements to get into school from there because there's no bus or anything that I could get away, and so I told 'em I'm looking for a schoolgirl job. And I found one finally, and they said they were gonna take me there, but instead I got in touch with Miss Lindsey, who was our principal at Chapman Avenue School that remembered my parents -- and at the same time, I wrote to Shinsan for the fare to come back I also wrote to Miss Mitchell, who was Ray's teacher and was kind of in close touch with us, so I wrote to her that I wanted to get, find a schoolgirl job and get my schooling. So she told me that she thought Miss Lindsey could be more of help to me than she could, and so I got in touch with Miss Lindsey, and she said okay. I told her, "I'm out on a chicken farm and I can't find a job or a school or anything I wanted to do." And so she said I could come stay with her, so I went to stay with her and I finally got into Hollywood High. I went to summer school there and they let me in, I think mainly because of my age. I was sixteen, so I got into the B-10.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.