Densho Digital Archive
Preserving California's Japantowns Collection
Title: George Hiromoto Interview
Narrator: George Hiromoto
Interviewers: Donna Graves (primary); Jill Shiraki (secondary)
Location: Clarksburg, California
Date: October 2, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-hgeorge_3-01-0008

<Begin Segment 8>

DG: So can you describe when your family had to leave, what happened?

GH: Well, we told our friends to take us to evacuation -- we were informed to go to certain places. Well, our family went to Courtland, and then the bus came over there. And bus picked us up and then from Courtland we had to go all the way around Riverside and to Vacaville. You know where Vacaville is, Fairfield, Vacaville? Then we got on a train there, and from there, after we get on the train, they took us, bring us back to Sacramento way. They only took us several miles to Sacramento, all the way from Vacaville, had to come back to past Sacramento and then went to Turlock Assembly Center.

DG: And do you remember what day that was?

GH: That was May 3rd, I think.

DG: And how long were you at Turlock?

GH: About three months.

DG: Can you describe what it was like there?

GH: Well, it's... all the Japanese from other places came, so naturally, we didn't know them, but we got acquainted with them. Anyway, we stayed there about three months, and then from there we got on a train and they said they're going to ship us out. Well, I didn't know where we were going. Then on the train, they took us to... that's when we moved to Gila, Arizona, by... I don't know if you know Arizona well or not. Phoenix, and a place called Sacaton, it's an Indian residence, you know, and the government built the barracks, all the facility over there at the camp. That's why they call it Gila River Relocation Center. And every places, you know, there were about ten relocation center? You got all the names.

DG: So were your parents and your brothers and sisters all together?

GH: Yeah, we were all together.

DG: You were a twenty, twenty-one year old man. What did you think?

GH: What did I think? Well, as long as we were going with family, it was okay. We weren't separated, so it was okay. And then, at that time, they didn't take us to service anymore. They didn't want Japanese in the service. I got in the service after I get out of the camp. Yeah, after I got out of camp I was farming with my dad, and then the government sent me a notice saying, "Oh, now you're out of the camp, so you're a citizen, so you'd better come to the service." That's why they took me to service.

DG: Do you have any memories of camp and how it was for your parents?

GH: You mean in the Gila camp, Japanese camp? Yeah, I have a good memory. Stayed there four years, yeah, I played baseball. [Laughs] Well, that's the way to entertain the people, you know. That was entertainment and singing and things like that. And then there was churches. I got involved in church, too.

DG: What was the name of the baseball team?

GH: Where, in camp? Our players were mostly from Delta, Walnut Grove, so we used to call it Delta ball club. Delta is, you know, the Delta area. And most of my players were from Walnut Grove area, so call it Delta ball club.

DG: Can you tell the story about playing the semi-pro team?

GH: Against the semi? Well, we played against the semi, you know, they're all Caucasians, naturally. And here we're Japanese. Well, one thing that was hard for us is because the Caucasian boys are, you know, throwing, pitching, they threw hardball, fastball, and it was kind of hard for us to hit. But I made a hit, but rest of 'em couldn't. Anyway, it was very interesting because we play against semi-pro, you know. They say all-star, we were all-stars. They told me to play in the all-stars, so I said, "Okay." We play against them, and it was very interesting. There was no hard feelings or anything, we just play against the Caucasian team.

DG: And they came to the camp?

GH: They came to the camp, right. And so it was first time for them to see all the Japanese, I guess. [Laughs]

DG: Did the two teams talk to each other?

GH: Oh, yeah, we talked to them. Because we all speak English.

DG: Yeah, but I wonder whether they said anything about...

GH: No, not against us.

DG: Or about the camp, like, "This is weird."

GH: No, we didn't talk. No time for those when you're playing baseball.

JS: Did you have a job in camp?

GH: Oh, yeah.

DG: Where did you work?

GH: In camp, at first I was with the bakery department as a, taking care of the books, and I was taking care of the books in the bakery department. And then after that... see, we used to have a block, and I was in Block 10. They wanted me to be a block manager taking care of people coming in and out, who was coming in. So I was taking care of the block manager for a while, and then I got into post office as the fourth class baggages, and they promote me to first class, which was very interesting. You know we were getting paid, how much we were getting paid? The regulars were getting paid only sixteen dollars a month, and then the skilled labor was nineteen. And when I got into first class in the post office, they raised me up to nineteen dollars. [Laughs] But I enjoyed being in the post office, taking care of all the mails and things like that.

DG: Did your father have a job in camp?

GH: Yeah, I think he helped on the farm. They had a farm group. They had all kind of group, farming and firemen, association, things like that.

DG: What were they growing there?

GH: Every camp had a different growing. In our camp, gee, one thing I really enjoyed was watermelon. Oh, you know, Arizona is good in watermelon. But they grew, you know what daikon is? Yeah, daikon, and... let's see, what else was it? Some vegetable they were growing. These were all farmers. Here I am, a farmer, I didn't go into farm. Other people other area, they're farmers and they got into farm. And when I was a block manager I used to go visit them. Oh, one time they had a lot of watermelons out in the field, they say, "Oh, just go over there and crack it and eat it." I ate so many watermelons. And they were good; Arizona grew nice watermelons.

DG: I thought of a question I've been meaning to ask that goes back to before the war, which is did your family attend the church?

GH: Before the war? Oh, yeah. We were a member of the Sacramento Buddhist Church. And then in camp, we had a religious group, too. So I was kind of helping out the Buddhist church, and do you know, I took active part that they put me a chairman? Naturally I had to talk in front of those groups, but they put me to chairman so I took care of YBA, Young Buddhists Association, I took care of four years.

DG: So your public speaking experience probably really helped you?

GH: Yeah, I took public speaking at the high school. Yeah, you know, in high school, book report, I used to write and I didn't get a... I'd get C or something, and the teacher said, "You could do public speaking, oral." I went oral and I get As.

DG: So did most of the Japanese Americans around Clarksburg and Courtland go to the Sacramento Buddhist Church?

GH: No. Walnut Grove had a church, Isleton had a church, and Sacramento. Well, residents in Sacramento area, outskirts, they have a church, like Florin, Placer, Marysville, they had their own church. But my father was involved in Sacramento church, so we were involved in Sacramento Buddhist Church.

DG: So you would travel farther?

GH: Yeah. Well, it's not too far. I used to go to church over there, but I didn't take active part in Buddhist church... well, I got active in camp, so when I came -- excuse me -- came back, I took a real active part in Walnut Grove Buddhist Church.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2012 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.