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-1003-10-26

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MN: Now, you eventually went into nursing. Why did you choose that profession?

GH: Okay, so the, so I was preparing for pharmacy because Mother wanted me to become a pharmacist. She said anything else would not be a family life, and she wanted me to become a pharmacist, then I could have an assistant to do some of the manual work. (Mother) wanted to put a donut making machine in the front there so she could make donuts and sell the donuts in this pharmacy, and that was her dream. [Laughs] And so we were gonna have this place together. But, when I went to City College for three semesters, each semester the counselor told me, "You're female, you're Japanese, you're Oriental, you have all this academic deficit, so why don't you go into secretarial?" And I would say, "Thank you," and I knew I couldn't go to pharmacy college in SC, I couldn't afford it, but the only thing I could do is go to Berkeley. So I sent for the prerequisites up there, and I was working on that for three semesters, so instead of taking English I took speech, that sort of thing. And so then the College of Pharmacy changed to six years, and I thought, "Oh my god, I will be an old lady and I may not be able to get into the college even at that." And so I got so depressed. I was (in Skid Row), Mr. and Mrs. Cho's over there. I was so depressed. And here, I'm back three years and a half, I also got homesick too 'cause I'd been trying so hard and hurrying so much, and I got so depressed. I thought, "Gee, I don't know what to do. I'll maybe join the army." [Laughs]

I sent for an application and I got it, but then I got to thinking, "You know, then it's putting mud on my mother's face," 'cause before I left Japan she took me over to her friend's place. This is the Shirokiya, Mr. Endo's place. Mr. Endo told me, "Why do you want to leave your family and go back three thousand miles away? Just listen to your parents and they'll find you a nice husband and..." You know. And so I told Mr. Endo then, "I thank you very much for your advice," but I said, "Mother always talked about how important education was, and I see in Japan, in that country, how women are." I said, "I don't want to live like that." I said, "I'm going back to America to get my education." So I thought about that, and I thought I'd be putting mud on Mother's face if I quit now. "But I don't want to lose all my science classes that I had to struggle to get." So I looked through everything, what to do, and I decided maybe nursing I will, I could hurry up and be, at least find a job, which I already know was hard without some kind of background. So I wrote to my father and told him, "I'm changing into nursing, and I know I'm disappointing Mom, but I think I could save my work up to now, so I'm gonna do that." My father said, "Okay, whatever you think is good for you, go ahead." So I looked into all the nursing, and I went to General Hospital because they give you a little stipend, and so I took my test and then I got into nursing over at General Hospital, which, I think it was a really a good deal. And I always tell my friends who are interested in nursing that it is a good job. I said, when it comes to famine and you're down to fighting for another bowl of rice, like I've seen, there's always sick people. No matter where in the world, you will be able to find a job. You don't have to look too far; you could find a job. So it's a good profession for a woman at the time. So I went, I still am very happy that I made that choice.

MN: Now, when you were in nursing training you had to go to Japan.

GH: I was in, I was junior, of the three years I was junior, and I had a dream one day that... and I woke up from the dream like it was real. And the dream was my mother died and I was fighting with my oldest brother, telling him that I thought I was one of the closest in the family and why wasn't I told. And I woke up and saw that I was in a little four corner room (and dormitory) in the hospital, and I just couldn't get back to work. I was just so upset. And so I call, I called my brother and said I wanted to (go) back to see (Mom) before she died, and I had this terrible dream and it seemed so real I just had to (go) see her. "And I don't have the money," I said. "Would you send me the fare? I'll pay you back." And I just went ahead and made arrangements with a travel agency, and I had my shot -- you had to have that smallpox shot -- I had to have, I got the shot and I had it read the same day, and I sent this application in and told 'em it was an emergency, I needed to go to Japan. Usually they send, they... a letter saying that it had to be approved in Washington, D.C. but they'll approve it in San Francisco. And so within the week I got everything ready to go. I had to leave, I told the (school). They told me I should leave the class and come back in the next class. I said no, I didn't want to do that. I wanted to stay with this class, but I needed to take a month off. (The school) said, "Well, if you flunk you won't be able to come back." So I thought I'd take my chance on that because I thought if someone else who's sick could keep up I thought maybe I can do that. So I took all my books and I went (to Japan). I went to Japan to see my mom. And sure enough, as a doctor told me that she had a bad stroke and they thought it was going to be the end. So I thought to myself, "Oh, that was mental telepathy, and I needed to see her." And so I got to see her before she died, and we had a little time together. And she couldn't speak anymore, with the stroke, but she had things she wanted to tell me, so we had a good month together there, and I came back. Luckily, I finished my nursing, nurse's training there at General Hospital.

MN: Was your mother able to live as long as, for you to graduate?

GH: No, I wanted her to, I asked her to please stay alive so I could do something for her, but as soon as I graduated from General Hospital I felt that I still needed to get my degree, I went to UCLA before the iron gets cold, you know. So I went to UCLA and I graduated there from two years also, and I got my degree, but by that time she'd passed away. So I had to go to her cemetery to tell her thank you (in 1956).

MN: You know, when you look back at your World War II experience, how do you view what happened to you and what happened to your family?

GH: This whole life, I think I was born lucky, from the time I was born. I ran into people who always helped me in all these different ways, like Tony Texera that I borrowed money from. I saw him again ten years later. He didn't remember me, but I remember him. I saw him and I thanked him, and again, he helped me in another situation again. So I'm convinced that the world goes around, comes around, and I think I'm very, very lucky that the whole life experience, this was a learning experience, all through life. Ups and downs, good and bad, everything in life (teaches). You learn it in the raw, and if you can make, make good of what you learned... that's life.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.