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

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

DG: We're gonna start by asking you to say your name.

GH: My name?

DG: Full name.

GH: George Masao Hiromoto. You got that.

DG: And where and when were you born?

GH: I was born here in Courtland in 1921.

DG: I'm curious how births happened then. Was there a midwife in the area?

GH: Yeah, there were midwives, but not in our family. There were a few here and there that took care, like what you're saying, like doctor takes care of you. But midwife was doing that.

DG: So did a midwife come when you were born?

GH: Oh, no. With mine, I was born under a doctor. It used to be Dr. Primasing, the old-time doctor at Courtland. And he's the one that handled most of my family deal.

DG: Can you say his name again?

GH: Primasing, P-R-I-M-A-S-I-N-G. Primasing.

DG: And so he treated Nikkei in the area.

GH: Yeah, whoever contacted him. If you go Courtland, it's his name on the street there, Primasing.

DG: When did your parents come to this area?

GH: My father came, well, in 1880, 1890, and he and his father, my grandfather. My mother came in 1900. Let's see, I was born in '21, so I think he came around 1920 I think.

DG: So your father and your grandfather came together?

GH: Yeah, my grandfather was here before, before my father. And my father, they were in Japan, and then they came from Japan. Of course, my grandfather was farming already. So my father helped my grandfather and they started farming together.

DG: Where in Japan were they from?

GH: Yamaguchi. You ever heard of Yamaguchi? [Laughs]

DG: And what were their names?

GH: Hiromoto.

DG: Your father's first name and your grandfather's first name?

GH: My father's first name is Kiichi, K-I-I-C-H-I, and my grandfather's name was Genichiro.

DG: And where was your mother from?

GH: Yamaguchi. They're all from the same area.

DG: Did she come to marry your father? What brought her here?

GH: I think they got married... let's see. Yeah, she came and got married here when my father...

DG: And what was her name?

GH: Kichiko, K-I-C-H-I-K-O. Kichiko Fujita is the maiden name.

DG: And how many, besides you, how many children did they have and what were their names?

GH: My family? Oh, my family had four in the family: me, my sister, two sisters... three sisters, excuse me, and one brother. Five of us.

DG: Can you say --

GH: A name?

DG: -- when they were born and their names? Or just the lineup. Like who was the oldest?

GH: Well, yeah, I'm the oldest, and my sister, Toshiko, she's right below me, and then we have a brother, Haruo, Harold. And then a sister below that, Rose Hiromoto, but she got married. I don't know if you want to know the married name, Watanabe. And then my last one in the family was Susan. Somebody must have told you that, Susan. Susan Goto, yeah. Somebody told you that? She did? No, Sakata.

JS: Oh, Janet.

DG: She was on the list.

JS: Right.

DG: So what's the age difference between you and the youngest child?

GH: Susie is... she must be the same age as you?

Off camera: No, she just turned eighty. Remember we had her party?

GH: Oh, yeah, she just turned eighty.

DG: So eleven years.

GH: Yeah, eleven years.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2012 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

DG: And what year were you born?

GH: 1921.

DG: And what were your parents growing when you were a child?

GH: Farming?

DG: Yeah.

GH: Oh, when they came here, my dad, my grandfather was farming already. He was growing mostly beans, dry beans. You know how the dry beans are, pink beans. They used to grow a lot of that. And then when my father got in with them, they started growing asparagus and beans.

DG: And where was their property?

GH: Here in Clarksburg.

DG: In Clarksburg?

GH: Yeah.

DG: Did they lease the property?

GH: Yeah, most of them were leased ground.

DG: Do you know who they leased from?

GH: Yeah, Hollenbeck.

DG: Hollen...

GH: Beck, B-E-C-K.

DG: That was a person's name or a company?

GH: Yeah, that's a person's family name.

DG: How many acres were they farming?

GH: Oh, gee, they were farming, they were farming close to a thousand acres anyway. But they leased the other grounds, too, but my dad was farming more.

DG: Before the war?

GH: Yeah, this was before the war.

DG: That's big.

GH: Well... he increased it little by little. Well, they started off about twenty-five, fifty acres, and then they grew up to, increased to a thousand acres.

DG: And it was mostly dry beans and asparagus?

GH: Dry beans and asparagus. You know how asparagus is?

DG: Do you want to describe it? Did you help in the fields?

GH: Yeah. After asparagus, we started cutting asparagus, then we had what you call green asparagus, we pack it, see. So we used to have a packing shed where we hired 'em in to pack the asparagus. He'd bunch it and then he'd put it in crates, and that's how we used to grow asparagus. And then later on, out of same asparagus, later on we got into white asparagus. We'd lift the row, lifted up the ground, dirt, and then you start, before it comes up to be green, it'd grow white. Just about as it's coming out of the ground, we used to have a Hindu, oh, yeah, we used to hire Hindu and Arabian. [Laughs] During those times, can you believe that, there weren't that many Mexican families. So it was Filipino, but mostly Hindu and Filipino.

DG: When it was harvest season.

GH: Yeah, harvest season. Well, between times, too, we used to hire some of them to help on the ground, preparing the ground and things like that.

DG: Not other Japanese Americans?

GH: No, not at that time.

DG: So this is in the 1930s.

GH: Twenties and '30s, yes.

DG: And were those Hindu and Arab people, where would they live in?

GH: Oh, we had a camp for them in the range. And, you know, we had a camp so they could stay in a camp so they could stay with us all the time.

DG: Was it just men?

GH: Men, all men.

JS: So would your mother cook for them?

GH: No. They used to have men cooking for them. My mother just took care of our family.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2012 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

JS: Were there a lot of Japanese farmers farming in this area?

GH: Here in Clarksburg? Yeah, there were about forty, fifty families. That's why at Japanese school, at first, we had about 120 students.

DG: So when did you start going to the Japanese school?

GH: Oh, what year?

DG: How old were you?

GH: Oh, I was about ten. Ten years old, and I started... see, we used to live down here in this area, the farm, so we used to drive to school. Were you there, too, Japanese school? Yeah.

DG: Someone would drive the kids to the school?

GH: Well, at first my uncle or somebody used to drive. Then later on I used to drive. Now, I don't drive at all.

DG: And that was on Saturdays during the school year?

GH: Yeah, school year we were Saturday, and then summertime we used to attend during the weekday, and then Saturday and Sunday we have to take off, and Japanese school. We could go during the weekday because we were vacationing from grammar school, high school.

DG: And someone would drive you then, too?

GH: Yeah.

DG: Did other kids walk or ride their bikes?

GH: Some of them walked.

DG: It was pretty far out there.

GH: Oh, yeah, it's about, farthest was about, what, ten miles maybe? Well, most of them were close by, five, six, seven miles.

DG: And what do you remember about the classes? Did you have Mr. and Mrs. Osaki as teachers?

GH: Yeah. And we had another teacher, her name was... let's see. The lady teacher.

Off camera: Katsuyama-sensei?

GH: Yeah, Katsuyama-sensei. Oh, you got some of this information already, it looks like.

DG: Just, well, I remember hearing there was a third teacher and the name started with a K, so I was just going to look it up. But can you describe what class was like?

GH: What class was like?

DG: Yeah, were you sitting at desks?

GH: Yeah, we sat at the desk. We had the first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade, sixth, seventh. Well, sixth and seventh, they were older people than I am. And this Mr. and Mrs. Osaki, they were teacher before. Mrs. Osaki was a real sharp teacher, she was real nice. She used to teach at San Francisco Kinmon Gakuen, you ever hear of that? And you know the grandson's over there. He's active in, you probably know him. Oh, you know him well? Well, he's the one to ask about the teacher.

DG: But he didn't take classes out here, though.

GH: No, he didn't take a class, but the mother was a teacher. Of course, in there, they were born in, after the war.

DG: So all these kids of different ages would be in that one room?

GH: We had three rooms. At the school, the biggest one was where Mrs. Osaki used to take care of first grade through fourth or fifth grade, and then Mr. was taking care of the older group. And then I had this other lady, Mrs. Katsuyama, she used to teach a younger grade. So she used to help Mrs. Osaki.

DG: That's interesting, 'cause we've seen the school and how there's the big room, and then the smaller room behind the stage.

GH: Yeah, main, and then we had a door.

DG: There used to be a folding door.

GH: Have you been in that school there? Yeah.

DG: So you'd be learning how to read and write in Japanese?

GH: Right. That's where I learned. [Laughs]

DG: Did you hate it?

GH: Pardon me?

DG: I hear some people, some people have bad memories of language school.

GH: Well, I went to Japanese school twelve years. And so I knew quite a bit, because we don't use Japanese anymore. But when I got in the service, they took me into Military Intelligence, I went to school in Tokyo, interrogation in Japanese and English. And after I graduated in Tokyo, then they sent me to Nagasaki, a place called... you ever hear of a place called Sasebo? Oh, you don't know Japan.

DG: A little bit, but not...

GH: Well, that's Nagasaki, anyway, in Kyushu.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2012 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

DG: So we'll talk about MIS more in a bit, but I wanted to ask, so there were the classes for children to learn how to read and write...

GH: Here, here, Japanese school, yeah. That's where Mrs. Osaki was teaching.

DG: But there were other events at the school. Can you describe other ways that people would use the building or the outside area? Like picnics or New Year's?

GH: Oh, you mean other --

DG: Community events.

GH: Community? Yeah, we had a community picnic, and we had a talent, public speaking, and we also had... Mrs. Osaki was real good, she's a teacher from before. Shuji is writing in, calligraphy, in brush. She used to teach us, so we were taking all that. But I enjoyed public speaking most.

JS: Speech contest.

GH: Speech contest, right. Engeikai. Are you familiar with a lot of Japanese?

JS: I had to go to Japanese school, too. [Laughs] Sawtelle.

GH: Where? Oh, Sawtelle? Oh, you went to school in Sawtelle.

DG: So describe the speech contest. What would your speech be?

GH: Oh, any story, we read the book and you get a story or make some story up. I used to drive a story here and there and then tell the story in Japanese in the public speaking. So she used to gather all the parents and friends to attend this public speaking, so it was like a contest.

DG: So were you one of the prize winners?

GH: Well, prize winner... well, it doesn't exactly go like a prize, but first place, second place, third place, yeah.

JS: Do you remember what story, any of your favorite speeches?

GH: Some of the American story, I used to say it in Japanese.

JS: Baseball stories?

GH: Baseball story, football story. Story from Notre Dame.

DG: Football story?

GH: Football story.

DG: Like you'd tell the story of the game? What would the story be?

GH: Well, the players, you know, how they were playing and what they did. They became professional players, you know. Well, a lot of these players, San Francisco 49ers, I watched the 49ers. So like them, they were going to school, but they'd go to college and then they'd get to be professional football players.

DG: So you'd describe their lives.

GH: Yeah, describe their lives.

DG: So there'd be a New Year's event.

GH: Yeah, New Year's, we used to have New Year's, like we used to have entertainment, singing, and things like that. And Mrs. Osaki used to teach us, get us a play, a talent show. She used to make us give a talent show. I wasn't too good at talent show. I can make a public speaking, but not talent show. [Laughs]

DG: So would that be music? What would the talent show be?

GH: Yeah, it was music and telling the story, making a story, story of some of the old country stories. You know what samurai is? Yeah, lot of the samurai stories.

DG: And that would be on New Year's, or that would be a separate thing?

GH: During those talent shows.

DG: But I feel like I've read that New Year's was a big thing at the language school.

GH: Yeah.

DG: Everyone would come. And what would you do on New Year's there?

GH: Well, New Year's, well, this talent show, we had talent show, and story, like Mrs. Osaki tells a story about Japanese history, well, that was very interesting. She used to tell us all the history of Japan, the olden days. It was very interesting.

DG: She was very educated.

GH: She was very educated. She went to a women's college in Japan, but she was very educated.

DG: So there's a big, now in front of the language school, this big grassy area. Did you guys use that for games or sports?

GH: Oh, you mean at the school here?

DG: Yeah.

GH: Oh, yeah. Whatever is there, we used it. So... now which one are you referring to?

DG: The Clarksburg language school.

GH: Yeah, the language school here? Yeah, you went in there, and you saw some of the picture there?

DG: Well, we were there at that event in May, and it's just got a pretty large grassy area in the front. And so I'm wondering if you guys were out there playing games a lot.

GH: Well, of course, we play a lot of game, but not against other school or anything, just among the students, you know.

Off camera: That lawn, wasn't it Harry that put it in?

GH: Lawn?

Off camera: Put the lawn in and the yard. That was Harry. I don't think there was lawn while you were going to school.

JS: What was it? Just dirt?

GH: Yeah, that ground there is sandy. Well, we used to play basketball or baseball and football in there. And then we didn't play against other school or anything.

DG: So you would play basketball and baseball and football near the language school?

GH: Yeah, in the front yard there. Well, it wasn't as big, but still, we used to... of course, I played quite a bit of baseball in grammar school.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2012 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

JS: Where did you go to school?

GH: Rio Vista High School. You know where Rio Vista is?

DG: Riverside?

GH: No, Rio Vista.

JS: Where the bridge is.

GH: Yeah.

DG: So a lot of the Clarksburg kids, is that where they went to elementary school?

JS: No, not from that area. See, while Walnut Grove, Alton, Courtland, they all have a school of theirselves. They had a Japanese school there.

Off camera: Kind of south of Clarksburg.

DG: Yeah. But we're asking, where did you go to elementary school? Rio Vista?

GH: No, Ryer. It used to be an island near... it's there, the school building's there, but the school is just a small school there. Ryer grammar school.

DG: Did a lot of the Clarksburg kids go there?

GH: No, no, that's only the Ryer people. Clarksburg people living in Clarksburg, and some came as far as West Sacramento.

DG: And was the Ryer elementary school integrated?

GH: Yeah, it's integrated. Yeah, the separate ones were, I guess you've heard where.

Off camera: I went to.

GH: Yeah, she went to. Courtland, Walnut Grove, and Isleton.

DG: So were there very many Japanese American students at Ryer?

GH: Yeah, grammar school? Yeah, we had a lot of families coming to the schools yet, so we were all integrated, which was very nice. But when we heard we're going to go to Oriental school, I says, "How come we have to go to Oriental school?" It's American school, and so it kind of got me questioning. But we used to play against them. Oriental school like Walnut Grove, Cortland and Isleton, but we used to play, they had a separate team, see, white side and Oriental side, so we used to play them. And we were all mixed.

DG: And so that was elementary school, where did you go to high school?

GH: Rio Vista High School.

DG: Rio Vista?

GH: Rio Vista.

DG: And that was integrated, too?

GH: Oh, yeah. Rio Vista, by the time you go to high school, we're all integrated.

JS: So did you play baseball for the school team? You had a baseball team?

GH: No, our high school didn't have a baseball. Some high schools had it, but our high school, I don't know, they had some kind of a problem. So they just had football and basketball. I played quite a bit of basketball.

DG: For the high school.

GH: High school, yeah.

DG: But your baseball team was Japanese American.

GH: Yeah, right here. Here in Clarksburg.

DG: And what were they called?

GH: Nisei Club.

DG: Holland Nisei.

GH: Holland Nisei, right.

DG: What position did you play?

GH: I played center field. I used to pitch and I used to play center field. You know who was my favorite player? Joe DiMaggio.

Off camera: I guess my question is why were you so into sports? I mean, I have a lot of, I've sat in on a lot of interviews with men your age, and everybody talks about how much they were into sports. Can you describe what, why was it important for you, sports?

GH: In sport? Well, we play against other teams, but other team we're playing against is a Japanese team from wherever. But if it's a high school, they play against high school teams. And like I told you, Rio Vista did not have a baseball team. I don't know, somehow they, before I got there, they must have had a little problem or something, so they didn't have baseball. If they did, well, I would be playing for them. Clarksburg High School had a baseball team, Courtland had a baseball team, Courtland High School. Did you go around the school, Courtland?

DG: Yes, we did.

GH: It's all grammar school now. Well, no, there's a high school, too.

Off camera: I guess, George, what I was saying, though, was for like a lot of young Japanese boys, they were, some of the first memories they share with me is about playing baseball. And so why do you think that is?

GH: Well, they're all sports-minded, I think. And, in fact, some of them took the sport more serious than the study. I almost got into that, too. [Laughs]

JS: But it was also a community event, right?

GH: Yeah, a community event. But we used to play, like high school, we used to play, I guess, other high school, you know. Yeah, we used to go play the Vacaville, Fairfield, Winters, Sacramento.

DG: This is the Holland Nisei Club?

GH: No, no, Rio Vista High School.

DG: Who did the Holland Nisei Club play?

GH: Oh, we played against the Japanese in, like Vacaville, like Florin, Placer, you know, Penryn, Marysville, Isleton, they're the Japanese team. That's what we used to play against.

Off camera: What was the difference for you playing on the, playing with the Nisei with the language school club -- sorry -- the all-Japanese club and the high school? What was the difference for you?

GH: Well, this school, Japanese, where I was here in Clarksburg, well, we play against other school, I mean, other towns like Florin and Vacaville, Suisun, Placer, they had their own Japanese club, so we used to play against them.

DG: What David's trying to get at was how was it different to play on an integrated team versus the Japanese team?

GH: Well, like I used to play grammar school. I was grammar school, they were integrated schools, you know. Well, they were same as far as playing in sport, they were about same, no problem.

Off camera: I guess the question is, like for the Rio Vista High School team, did you feel like you had something more to prove when you were playing for that team? Was it a sense of, "You know, I have to show these guys, I've got to play on their level"?

GH: Competition?

Off camera: Yeah.

GH: [Laughs] Well, yeah, because it's in a league, we're in a league. Valley League, Solano League, and so when we play against other high school, it's competition. But we were all integrated there from high school, which was okay.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2012 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

DG: So I have a farming question. So during the Depression...

GH: Depression?

DG: The 1930s, it sounds like your family had a lot of acreage, still leased, right?

GH: Yeah.

DG: Nothing was owned. And were those hard times or did it work out okay?

GH: Because the company where we sold our product, they're in business, so it didn't matter what nationality they're dealing with. So that was okay. Lot of company weren't happy to have business with us, you know. So we used to have business with these produce company and factory company. Yeah, we used to take, like sugar beet, they used to have a train or barge, the boat, yeah, we used to load onto them and take it to the factory. There was a factory in Tracy.

DG: What were the names of the produce companies that you would sell to?

GH: Well, sugar beet is Holly Sugar, Holly Sugar Company, and they were from Woodland -- I mean, Stockton. And then there was another big company in Imperial Valley, they were all sugar beet company.

DG: What about the beans and the asparagus?

GH: Oh, beans we used to sell to the market, wholesale market.

DG: In Sacramento?

GH: Yeah, Sacramento.

DG: And asparagus, too?

GH: Asparagus to Sacramento. It was a cannery where they produced, they cooked their asparagus into can. Well, you've heard of Campbell's soup now?

DG: What was the name of the cannery?

GH: Campbell's soup.

DG: Oh, it was Campbell's?

GH: Well, I used to send it to Bercut Richards.

DG: In Sacramento?

GH: Sacramento, yeah. And there used to be a company named Libby, Libby & McNeill.

DG: And at the market in Sacramento, did you have a stall or did you sell to a broker?

GH: Well, they had... we just sell to the cannery, and then they process the product, and they sell it on their own. When it comes to selling in the can, we don't have anything to do with that, that's canneries.

DG: What about the beans?

GH: Beans, we had it in a sack, and we used to sell to market and then they delivered to wherever they wanted to.

DG: But did you have a stall at the market?

GH: No, we just set a, they had a warehouse over there, and we just take it over there, and whatever they do is their business.

Off camera: You sell to a wholesaler.

GH: Yeah, it was a wholesale. And they sell all over the United States.

JS: So was your father's English very good?

GH: Not the best.

JS: No?

GH: He was born in Hawaii, but it's not the best. But somehow or other he communicated, and in the meantime I came along, so I'm all in English.

DG: So when you were a teenager, what kind of jobs were you doing for the farm?

GH: Oh, I drove, like driving tractor. Well, we had some, like raking and things like that, hand rake, hand shoveling, oh, yeah, we did a lot of hard work during that time.

DG: After school?

GH: Yeah, or during the summer vacation.

DG: All of your siblings?

GH: Yeah, all my siblings were helping my father, you know.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2012 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

DG: Shall we go to December 1941? So what are your memories of Pearl Harbor? Getting to the war now.

GH: [Laughs] My memory of Pearl Harbor?

DG: Yeah.

GH: Well, I'll tell you, I was out in the field working, and I heard on the radio that Japan has attacked Pearl Harbor. We thought, "Oh, no, there's gonna be a war." Sure enough, December, there was a war started. And after that, right away, the government says all Japanese don't go around, we were... let's see, what do you call that?

DG: Curfew?

GH: Curfew, but we were all informed not to go anywhere, not over five miles. And so, oh, yeah, it was a funny one. This friend of ours, she got married and she had to move her marriage stuff, room stuff, furniture and things like that, she wanted us to move it to San Jose. And I had a truck so I said, well, okay, I'll go San Jose, but at that time, luckily, I went to get the permit to go over 5 miles. We were already permitted to just go five miles. And so I went after the permit. So when I was driving towards San Jose, at the Antioch Bridge, I don't know if you know that, remember the old Antioch Bridge, and the wrong way. When I got there, why, MP stopped us and says, "Hey, where are you going?" Says, "We're going to take these things," but I said, "but I got a permit." "Oh, okay." I'd sure like to see that sergeant when I was in the service. [Laughs]

DG: So you were in the field and you heard the radio?

GH: Yeah.

DG: Where was the radio coming from?

GH: Well, we had a portable radio. During that time, we could carry portable radio. So right away, the news came out and said that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

DG: Were there many Issei who were picked up by the FBI from this area?

GH: I think so. I think there were, anyone who were attached to these, the Japanese Association, yeah, and I think, I don't know if a school got picked up or not, but anyway, Association, Japanese Association people that was in charge, I think they were all picked up.

Off camera: I think [inaudible] was about the only one.

GH: Yeah, in Clarksburg.

DG: How were the students at Rio Vista High to you after December 7th?

GH: Well, I was out of school already. '41 I was out already. But during that time, didn't bother.

DG: Oh, right, you were twenty. Did your siblings talk about how it was at school?

GH: No. How they were treated? Through the school, didn't seem like there was any trouble. You know, locals, they're not gonna have trouble. It's just big places like Sacramento or San Francisco where the politicians get involved in it and they start talking about what's good, what's right. So as far as I'm concerned, with the regular Caucasians, I get along real nice. In fact, here in Clarksburg, the farmers are all Caucasian, and we got along real nice.

DG: I wonder whether in this more rural area, everybody knew each other, whereas in larger Japantown, the people within the Japantown didn't know that many people.

GH: Yeah, they weren't associating with Caucasian group, like San Francisco. But Sacramento, it wasn't that bad, I don't think. But after they had to evacuate, I know they were kind of mad, they said they got to move, sell that house or give it away. Oh, some of them really was hurt.

DG: As it became clear you were going to have to leave, be forced to leave, how did your family take care of...

GH: Business? Well, like bank, they said to leave it, so we give 'em the address after we go to wherever we go. I did that. But, of course, like school, Japanese school, they all have to quit the school.

DG: What about all your equipment?

GH: Oh, we had it and then a lot of people were taken away. You know, some people come from other places and take the equipment away.

DG: They buy it from you?

GH: I don't know. I haven't seen it bought, I didn't see the money. Car, too.

DG: So you lost all, your family lost all...

GH: My father lost property.

Off camera: At this time, how much property, did your father own much property?

GH: No, at that time we didn't own the property.

Off camera: It was still leased.

GH: We bought all these property now, after the war.

DG: But your family lost all its farm equipment.

GH: Yeah, we lost all the equipment.

JS: Were there, was there any type of like farmers association or kind of business...

GH: Associate.

DG: Of Nikkei?

JS: No, just with the regular farmers, or did you have it with Japanese farmers?

GH: Yeah, there was Japanese American farmer, you know, association you're talking about? Yeah, there used to be association.

DG: Before the war?

GH: Before the war, yeah.

DG: Was your father a leader in that?

GH: No, I don't think he was a leader, but he was involved in it, anyway.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2012 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 9>

DG: So can you describe when your family came back from Gila River?

GH: Yeah, we came back July of 1946, I think it was.

DG: And the land your dad had leased before, were you able to get the lease back?

GH: Yeah, because the ones that owned the grounds were our friends. So we told 'em, "Lease us the ground and we'll farm," and they went along with that.

DG: Who did you lease to? Oh, Hollenbeck.

GH: Yeah.

DG: So who farmed it during the war?

GH: During the war? Oh, they took care and they farmed it themselves. They had some helpers.

DG: Do you think they might have had Mexican workers during the war that...

GH: Very few, very few. The leader of the Mexican is, only one of the leaders were camp, the leader, they had the men, foremen, we called it foremen, they used to have a camp of their own, and they had forty, fifty men, and whoever wants help, they used to send them to the farm, take it easy, men on the bus to the farm, like cutting asparagus or driving tractor.

DG: It's just that during the war they had that program called the Bracero program.

GH: Braceros, after the war.

DG: Well, it actually started during the war. I'm wondering whether some of this probably --

GH: No, after the war, bracero. I had that. The association that took care of the Mexican... so what they do, we had association in Stockton, and so they used to get all the group from Mexico and Stockton, wherever, and we had to be a member of the organization where they handle these Mexican workers. So we used to have a bracero working for us. Whatever we need for tomatoes, you know, like if you need forty, fifty men, we'd request forty, fifty men over there at the Stockton Association, they bring it to us, and we have a camp here in the ranch, and we put them in there.

DG: What was the name of that association?

GH: San Joaquin Labor Association.

DG: San Joaquin Labor Association. Is the camp still there?

GH: I think they tore it down. There were a lot of camps there they tore down.

DG: So the one on your property is gone?

GH: Yeah, it's gone.

DG: So back to July 1946, did your whole family come back at once?

GH: Yeah. Our family, we came back, and they we stayed over. Because landlord was our friend, so we stayed over there and we farmed there, and eventually we bought the land.

DG: Where did you live when you came back?

GH: From here about 4 miles from here, 3, 4 miles from here. Solano County -- this Yolo, see, we're Yolo -- Solano is a mile from here. South is Solano County. Solano County, like Rio Vista... let's see, Rio Vista is Solano County. And Ryer Island, Solano is part of Clarksburg here, Solano County, and then the north side is Yolo County.

DG: But so did you find a house to rent? Where did you live when you returned?

GH: Oh, this farm friend, the landowner's friend, we stayed there.

DG: In the house you lived in before?

GH: Yeah.

DG: So it had been empty?

GH: Well, I think they had Mexican in there, so they took all our property out of there. I don't know who they were, but anyway, we kept it in one room, and came back, that room was empty.

DG: Is that house still standing?

GH: Yeah.

DG: Where is it?

GH: Oh, it's about three miles from here. Another Japanese family is over there.

DG: On which street?

GH: Oh, on this levee, Joaquina, this is Joaquina.

DG: The name of the street --

GH: If you want to drive, you could drive this levee and go around and all the way, and when you see the bridge, that's Jefferson Boulevard. So when you go Jefferson you know where you are. Where you going back tonight, to West Sac?

JS: We're actually going to go to the Gakuen and meet some --

GH: Oh, yeah, if you're going Gakuen, you've got to -- oh, you could go this way, too, go up the levee and go a couple of miles and you could see Gakuen. There's the Courtland Highway, and then as you go down, there's, basically go down to the school.

DG: I'm just curious about the house you were in.

GH: Well, I told you you could go that way and you can't miss it. It's a two story house.

DG: What's the address?

GH: We used to have a mail 200, you know, Route 1, Box 200.

Off camera: Not anymore.

GH: No, they changed it. There's a Japanese family there, I think they bought the place.

DG: And it's Joaquin?

GH: Joaquina. Joaquina is this levee road, and this way -- which way did you come, from the bottom? Joaquina or did you come on Morris Road?

DG: Morris Road.

GH: Morris Road, yeah.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2012 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

DG: So you came back, and the Hollenbecks let you move back in...

GH: Stay, and then they told us to farm land there.

DG: And did you start with the same crops or did you change crops?

GH: Well, we had asparagus and beans, so we were changing around.

DG: Did you add any new kinds of crops?

GH: New crop? No, not during that time, only a few years. Then later on we started farming more, and we had safflower, wheat, corn, sugar beets, onion, tomatoes, mostly.

JS: How were you able to set up farming again? Were the other farmers helping --

GH: Well, there were a lot of other farmers all together. And then when you start farming, the company, cannery or market, they all start coming over and said, "Hey, how about selling your crop to us?" Naturally they want the business, so...

DG: So did they give you an advance?

GH: Well, when we were growing, they come and check, they knew what I was growing, so they wanted to do business with me. So it's okay, as long as they buy it.

DG: How did you replace the equipment that was lost?

GH: Oh, we had to buy it or rent the equipment.

DG: That seems like that would be a big hurdle.

GH: You mean the equipment?

DG: Yeah.

GH: Oh, yeah, it's a different price. But as we start farming more, why, we got to buy a better equipment.

DG: Did the returning Japanese American farmers help each other with this, or you didn't need it?

GH: Well, they come and ask you, or we go and tell them to do whichever way, if they ask question we'll tell 'em, there's no secret about it.

DG: I was thinking more like you'd share equipment.

GH: Oh. Well, we loaned them some equipment, we'd loan 'em then, which is okay, friends.

Off camera: I think she's saying like around harvest time or something would all the families pool the money together and rent equipment and move it from one farm to the next?

GH: No, we have our own equipment. And then wherever we sell it, they had an agent coming over, and if they say, "We want to buy your crop," we got to do business.

JS: Who were the other farmers nearby?

GH: Here?

JS: The Japanese farmers.

GH: Oh, Sakata boys, Sakata brothers, Iseri boys, Sakai, I don't know if you talked to Sakais or not.

JS: Oh, he wasn't able to meet with us.

GH: Yeah, Howard is, he's having a problem. The Sakai family, we're good friends.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2012 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

DG: So what happened to the language school during World War II? Was it used to store things?

GH: Oh, it was vacant. Language school was just opened, if they wanted to use, they could ask us, but, of course, Clarksburg has its own church.

DG: So do you remember when the language school started to be used again after the war?

GH: After the war? Yeah.

DG: Was it shortly after or did it take a while?

GH: Well, it took a while, and then soon as we get the teacher, then our son Steven, they came to school here.

Off camera: Yeah, that was Howard's sister, she was a teacher.

JS: That was in the '50s?

GH: Yeah, '50s and '60s.

DG: And were there still community events at the Gakuen?

Off camera: No.

GH: There were what?

DG: Were there still community events at the Gakuen or was it just classes?

GH: Yeah, there were some. We had a Holland Doshi Kai, Holland Doshi Kai is a Holland Association, and we had a club there, so we used to get together sometimes for party, and go places. That's all Clarksburg people, so it was good.

DG: And you'd meet at the language school.

GH: Yeah.

DG: How often?

GH: Oh, whenever we'd decide to have. We didn't have a special time. But we did have a group getting together and go places. We'd rent the bus and then go places. We'd even go to San Francisco, like Alcatraz. [Laughs]

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2012 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

DG: So maybe now would be a good time for you to describe how you entered the MIS.

GH: How I got into MIS? Well, to tell you the truth, I went to Camp Beale, you know, in Marysville, it's a camp. And from there, I didn't know where I was going to be taken, and I went to basic training, Fort Knox, Kentucky. You ever hear of Fort Knox where the mint is? That's where I had a basic training. Then after that, they told me to go to Camp Stoneman over at Pittsburgh, and I didn't know I was going to Japan. And they put me on a bus, they went toward the ship, you know, to that harbor. I said, "Gee, where in the heck am I going?" [Laughs] They said, "You're all going Japan." Oh, okay, I'll go Japan.

DG: But you already knew you were in the Military Intelligence.

GH: Oh, yeah. I didn't know I was in intelligence, but I told them I have a Japanese language experience, so that's on my record. So they checked my record. So after Fort Knox I had my basic, I finished there and came back to Pittsburgh, and they put me on the ship, and I went to Tokyo, and in Tokyo they put me in Military Intelligence School. It was in downtown Tokyo, it was NYK Building, Nippon Yusen Gaisha, that's Japan's big ship company. Oh, it was a beautiful building there. They took over, Americans took over that, U.S. took over there, and they taught interrogation and things like that, where I learned. So I didn't have to go. You probably heard there was a school here, like Camp Savage and Monterey, San Francisco. I didn't have to go there because I had a Japanese experience, language, so they put me on this MIS there in Tokyo, and I stayed there three months in Tokyo. And then from there they shipped me to... I didn't know where I was going and they shipped me to... it's 50 miles west of Nagasaki, city of Nagasaki. There's a naval base called Sasebo. But anyway, it was close to that place, they had a naval base where we took over. So that's where I was in, and to there, they were bringing Japanese repatriates from Manchuria, all Japanese repatriates from Manchuria, and they bring 'em into this camp. Then at that camp, they separated all of them. We had a room to ourselves, so we interrogated these Japanese in English -- Japanese and then I have to write in English.

DG: And what would you ask them? What did they want to know?

GH: Very important things about Manchuria, well, army base and anything to do with the service, army. Well, I think it's McArthur's deal.

JS: What was it like... did you go to the city of Nagasaki, because that was right after the bombing, right?

GH: Yeah, I went to Nagasaki. I went two, three years later, so you can't even tell if it was bombed or not. Hiroshima, same thing. It was bombed, you probably saw the picture where it was bombed, you can't even see the site being bombed. It was all cleared up, it's amazing. I went over there and I said, "Gee, I can't believe the atomic bomb hit here," but you can't even tell, it was all clear and the buildings were nice.

DG: You couldn't see people who had injuries?

GH: Oh, I saw some of them that got hurt, yeah, they show it to me and they say, "Look at my burn." Some of the girls showed me the leg where it was burnt, yeah, it was too bad. You know, a lot of them got killed.

DG: How long were you there?

GH: Nagasaki... oh, that place where I stayed was about seven, eight months. See, what happened to me is I could have stayed there longer, but the transfer from this place where I was to another place, joining the other group, but they say I was... you know, in the army, I wasn't a volunteer or drafted -- oh, yeah, draftees, they told me, "You got to go back." And so I told the captain, I said, "How about staying a couple more years, then I can go home?" And he said, "No, you can't stay a couple..." no, a couple years, but he says no. I wanted to stay a year more, but then after that, they said no, so I said, "Well, I got to go home and help my father farm."

DG: So if you'd volunteered you could have stayed?

GH: Pardon me?

DG: Was it because you were drafted you couldn't stay?

GH: Yeah. If it was drafted, they were sending all the draftees back. And so I was draftee, and so, no, I wanted to volunteer for a year, but they said, two year, no. I said, year's enough because I got to go home and farm. So I came back and helped my dad.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2012 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

DG: So as your kids went to the language school, was there like a parent board for the language school?

GH: No.

DG: Who hired the teacher?

GH: Oh, the parents hired, because we had a home over there for teachers, resident home. So luckily we got a hold of... well, before the war, luckily, we got these Osakis, Mr. and Mrs. Osaki. But after the war, like she was saying, the Sakai, one of the family's girl, and then there was another lady teaching. Your cousin, Chizuko-san was teaching.

Off camera: Chizuko-san was in the Osaki-sensei no toki. I had her.

GH: Oh, after the war was just Mitsuko.

DG: And did your kids go... so they went to the Gakuen?

GH: That's right.

DG: Until when?

Off camera: Maybe a couple years.

GH: Yeah. Until she, she said she want to retire.

DG: So in the '50s?

GH: Yeah.

Off camera: Well, let's see, how old was Steve when he went?

GH: Ten, I guess.

Off camera: I guess it would be around maybe '55 or '6.

GH: Steve went there for a while, so he knows some Japanese.

DG: So by the '60s there weren't classes anymore? So it was only used by the Doshi Kai.

GH: Yeah. Well, someone that wants to come to school, they were coming.

Off camera: No, there weren't no teachers.

GH: Yeah, Mitsuko was teaching.

Off camera: Yeah, but Mitsuko got married and then she didn't teach after that.

GH: No, but before she got married she'd teach Steve and... who was the other? Sakais? Nishis, few other family kids were coming.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2012 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.