Densho Digital Archive
Topaz Museum Collection
Title: Helen Harano Christ Interview
Narrator: Helen Harano Christ
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 18, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-chelen-01-0019

<Begin Segment 19>

MA: What about your neighborhood and where you lived? Were you the only Japanese American family on that block?

HC: Actually, my, we lived in a very quiet neighborhood; we lived across the street from the cemetery. [Laughs] Very quiet. And, and Highway (30) went right by our house, so there was no crossing the street, of course. Actually, on the other side, on the west side of the house was an empty lot, and then on the north side of -- and all around the house was the greenhouse, and then all the area where there were to be, where trees and bushes and things like that were cultivated to grow to sell.


HC: Okay, and so then North Platte, so we lived on the north side, which was the not, not the best side of town, which is okay, because we had, 'cause that's where my dad's business had to be. Had to have space enough to grow all these things. Mrs. Grosh lived on the corner house, and then I don't know the names of the neighbors who lived over, across the street from Curtis Street, so we lived in a very isolated area. Aunt Kim and Uncle Earl lived two blocks away, and then the Fujimotos lived a block away. And Mr. and Mrs. Honda lived maybe three blocks away. I think those were all of the families. Kawaguchi, like that, lived over by the, over by the roundhouse, and I understand that the Isseis worked on the railroad, that's why they lived in town. And of course Uncle Earl and my dad were both businesspeople, and they worked downtown. And the rest of the Japanese people lived on farms, mostly west of North Platte, and then there were a couple of families that, one of them was in the hotel business and I don't know where they lived, guys. And I don't know where the (lady) lived, who was in the hair styling business lived. And I don't know where the people who were in the, where my auntie's brother and sisters lived, but I think they lived over on the, the south side someplace. So North Platte, the Japanese people in North Platte were kind of spread around, it's not like they were all in a big community. And about the only time they really got together that I can remember was when the church had picnics, Episcopal church had picnics, Japanese tradition it must be, 'cause I remember Japanese picnics, church picnics in California before we moved, they were fun. That's the only time I ate Japanese food.

And so we had Japanese picnics in North Platte, and we had, there was basketball games that us kids could go and watch, and we had... my parents were aware of the fact that there was, even though there was a dance hall in North Platte, the Japanese kids didn't feel like they could go there, I think. One, because they didn't dance very much, I suspect, and two, because it was, I don't know if they were not allowed to enter, I just don't know. My guess is they may not have been allowed in, my guess is that, 'cause I suspect even the black people in North Platte would not have been acceptable in the dance hall. So my parents, since we had a big house with a big living room, would push the furniture all back and have pop and chips and sandwich-makings and things like that, and invite all the Japanese people, young people, to come and dance. And this was especially on New Year's Eve, and so on New Year's Eve, then they all came over and danced and had the radio turned up to hear the music, and it was the same music that folks were dancing to in Chicago or wherever that music was coming from, which was fun. And of course, then when it came time, us kids went to bed upstairs, so it was no big problem then, that there was a lot of noise going on downstairs. And sometimes I even stayed up late enough, I was old enough by then to be able to stay up late for some of the goings-on, but I didn't, I don't remember staying up 'til the bitter end, ever.

MA: So it sounds like, although there was some, residentially Japanese American families were sort of scattered, there was still a little bit of that, you know, separation, I guess. Like what you described with the dance hall.

HC: Yeah, right, because, see, there was no, Brown vs. Education hadn't happened yet, so there was still some prejudice, I'm sure, around town. Not, not terribly overt, but still there. And for, and I remember my parents having a time when somebody came through town with Japanese movies, and since again we had the big house, big living room, then I don't know where the benches came from, but there were benches lined up in our living room, and opened up the big window on the front porch, and people sit outside where it was cooler. [Laughs] 'Cause we didn't have any air conditioning, of course, and it was too hot with all those folks. And there were Japanese movies. There were always the samurai with the guns and the things going on, and very, very active kind of movies that the Isseis enjoyed and the Niseis could understand it, I guess, 'cause they came, too, 'cause it was a social occasion.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.