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-01-0004

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MA: So how did your parents meet, then?

HC: My parents met in high school. They were both at Berkeley High School, my grandfather Katayama, my mother's father, had contracted tuberculosis. And when he died from that, when he was sick with that, then his friend said, "Come move over to Berkeley." And so he moved the family to Berkeley and they actually lived across the street from where my, my father's family lived, I'm told. And it's an interesting thing, the Katayama family had lived in a place that is not far from... is in Oakland, and not far from the bay, and it's now where their house was, my uncle pointed out, is now part of the parking lot of the Oakland Raiders. So, so they could, so my uncle kind of laughs and says, "Well, that's where we used to live," when we drive, when we drove by there.

MA: And what type of work was your father doing, I guess when you were, around the time when you were born, what was he doing?

HC: Around the time I was born, I don't know. But at the time that we were evacuated, he was an independent gardener. That meant that he had his own pickup truck, that was his business, and we, I especially liked it when Dad took Sunday afternoons off -- or Sunday afternoons and had to work, because he would take us to the Oakland airport. He let us sit in the back of his truck, not allowed nowadays, but that was alright in those days. And we'd sit on the, the handle of the rakes and the hoes and the, cuddle around the bundles of trees that he was using in his landscaping, and he would stop at the airport and we'd watch airplanes come out of the airport to get ready to fly, and sometimes we saw 'em come in and sometimes we saw 'em going off, flying off. Then the place that I especially liked him to work on Sundays was at the place where we had -- we had the opportunity to play in the sand along a canal. And the canal was right by the place where the bridge opened up so that the cars could go by -- no, so that the boats could go through, and the cars had to stop and the train had to stop. So it was always fun to go on Sunday to that job.

MA: Was your dad in general pretty busy with work during the week?

HC: I don't know, I assume so. I was at school, so I, and I don't know in the summer, I assume so. We, my mother -- when I say that we were poor just like everybody else, my mom said, "We weren't either." [Laughs] Because evidently, he had enough income that he, well, we had a, he eventually, we moved from an ice box to a refrigerator, and we moved from a wood burning stove to a gas stove. And we had, we got a telephone, I remember when the telephone was installed and I remember that telephone number, even. [Laughs] And we, you know, so things were improving. And I was assuming everybody else was like that, too, which I don't know if it was true or not. But it just seemed like it was the normal, natural thing, and that we were moving out of being poor. But I can understand why we didn't have a whole lot of stuff, because my parents had six children right in a row, just about, within, what, thirteen years. And I'm number three, so I'm in the middle. So my father, my father kept busy enough that my mother didn't feel like they were impoverished.

MA: Right, he was, it sounds like he was doing pretty well.

HC: Yeah, must have been.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.