Densho Digital Archive
Friends of Manzanar Collection
Title: Mas Okui Interview
Narrator: Mas Okui
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: April 25, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-omas-01-0002

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MN: And so your mother and father got married. In total, how many children did your parents have?

MO: They had six.

MN: And then where are you in the...

MO: I'm second.

MN: And what year were you born?

MO: 1931.

MN: When you and then your oldest brother were born, where was your family living?

MO: When I was born, we were living in Glendale, but I was born at a midwife on the corner of Boyle and First Street. Kato-san, she was a midwife and her father was a barber, so we would come to Little Tokyo to Kato-san simply to get our hair cut. And you've got to remember, San Fernando Valley Japanese people, we didn't really have a community. We were dispersed throughout the area. So if we wanted to deal with things that were Japanese, we came to Little Tokyo, or Nihonmachi as we always referred to it.

MN: So when you came down to the Nihonmachi, was that sort of a treat for you?

MO: Yeah, yeah, it was a treat, because we could eat dinner out. My father liked to go to Lem's restaurant, which was right next to the movie theater, the Linda Lee movie theater, kind of walked down a few steps, went in there. Yeah, that was neat.

MN: And that was all on First Street?

MO: We're all on First Street, yeah.

MN: So you were born in the J-town area, a sambasan, but your family lived in Glendale. What were they doing in Glendale?

MO: They were working with Three Star Produce, the Hasuike family. And they both, I don't know exactly where they were working at the time. Later on, my father worked at the fruit stand on the corner of Sonora and San Fernando Road, at a market called Grand Central Market, which was directly across the street from Grand Central airport.

MN: So going back to your Glendale days, your family didn't stay there very long before they moved to Burbank, is that right?

MO: To my recollection, they might have moved to Burbank when I was maybe two or a big younger. Because my earliest recollection is my paternal grandfather came here with my step-grandmother. She's the one that urged my father to come to the U.S., to get an education. And he was the eldest son, so normally he wouldn't have come. But I remember my grandfather -- this is the earliest recollection I have of my life. I'm getting spanked, and I'm getting spanked because we're down on San Fernando Road, and there's an ice machine there. And I crawl into the, there's a chute that the ice comes down and I crawl in there just like a dog or something. [Laughs] And I remember getting spanked for that. I might have been three years old. All I know is that I think they returned to Japan when I was maybe three, maybe four years old, because up until that time I didn't speak English, I spoke Japanese. And both my mother and father worked for Three Star Produce. Later on I met one of the Hasuike kids, Bob, who did the Manzanar scale model.

MN: So I guess your paternal grandparents didn't stay in the United States, they were just visiting your family.

MO: Yeah, yeah, that's true. As far as I remember, they had no intention of staying here.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.