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-1003-10-3

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MN: Well, let me ask you about the family business. What was the name of your family restaurant?

GH: They just called it Hata Chop Suey, and we've been there for over, I know over ten years because that's, in 1940, that's when my parents were going to do something special for our Chinese cook. His name is Jack Kwan, and we just called him Shinsan. And she was going to do something special for him, so they'd been in that same location for way over ten years and our restaurant was fairly well-known all around the neighborhood and county. People had big parties from Torrance, Compton, Inglewood, all over.

MN: Do you remember your restaurant's address?

GH: It's 15469 South Western Avenue, Gardena, California.

MN: And it's close to Redondo Beach.

GH: It's close to Redondo Beach. And it was an area where we had many little Japanese businesses, and so the children from our neighborhood, the parents had a Japanese PTA at Chapman Avenue School where we all went. And we all went together to school, we walked. In those days, way in the back there were other farming areas. There was a dairy, there was a miniature golf course, there was a little lima beans farm, and there was a turkey farm. Mr. Geezer on the end of the block there had a cow in his backyard. It was quite rustic still at that time. But all the Japanese stores there, all in a row, we had a Japanese grocery store and Reiko, the daughter there was my best friend at that time. There was Clara's Beauty Shop, there was Toshima's furniture store, there was a tofu house, there was Shimazaki's photography shop. We had a seed store, we had a dry goods store, we had a barber shop, Clara's Beauty Shop, all in a row there. We had a little community. And later on, across the street we had Mr. Sato's market. And also my best friend, Corinne, Corinne's grandmother owned the Bell's Tavern, which was on the corner also, and Corinne and I were best friends in those days.

MN: Can you share with us what you did with Corinne in the tavern?

GH: Corinne's --

MN: Now, Corinne is, she's German?

GH: Her mother was German and her father was Greek, and her grandmother had this tavern. And when they had rehearsals of the stage thing they had there, they would, she would tell Corinne she could come and watch the show if she wanted to, so she and I would go over there, after the show we'd take the tablecloth, red and white checker tablecloth, off the tables and wear, tie it around our necks and run and slide on the dance floor. We used to have a great time. And Corinne was also into tap dancing and ballet, and I watched her doing all those somersaults and things, and I wanted to do that too, so I told my mother I wanted to take tap dancing. And so I did get to take some lessons, and I have pictures of me in my tap shoes, which are all worn out in the front. [Laughs]

MN: Where did you take tap dancing lessons?

GH: It was in Gardena. My mother said that Shirley Temple's teacher used to come down there to teach, and so I went there for lessons. My father had to drive the car, and my mother had to be with me, so it was a whole family thing. So that didn't last too long, and my mother got me into Japanese dancing. And my father loved all this sort of things, so when they had the Japanese drama at the theater -- we had a Yamatoza Theater, Japanese theater in the back also -- and so when they had programs where they needed children, 'course, I was enlisted to do those parts. And since they had me doing all these things, later on I said I didn't want to do (these things), I don't want to learn dancing anymore because they made me dance at the kenjinkai parties, picnics, and then when they had banquets at the house, at the restaurant, they made me dance there. And I did everything I could to not get involved dancing because one time my father, at the picnic, he hollered from way in the back, "Shichahan, Papa's here." And it was so embarrassing that I forgot my part in my dancing, and I told my mother, "I don't want to do that anymore." And also, again, dancing at the restaurant, they made this stage for me in the restaurant and everything, and they would throw money up on the stage, and I told my mother, "I am not an organ grinder's monkey and I don't like them throwing money at me, so I'm not gonna do that anymore." [Laughs] (But) I was still made to this, though, until the war ended, I mean until the war started and we were put into camp. When we were in Tule Lake, Bando Misa was teaching and I still had to take dancing lessons from her, and after one recital I told my mother I was too old now and I was not going to do that anymore. So that ended that career.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.