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-01-0006

<Begin Segment 6>

MA: So, I wanted to talk a little bit about December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor. You were around eight years old at that time?

HC: Uh-huh.

MA: What are your memories of that day, or what can you tell me about when you heard about Pearl Harbor and what that was like?

HC: Okay. My memories of Pearl Harbor -- and my sister tells me that I'm wrong, but she's, she's my oldest sister, and she's always been the boss, so of course, she's always right. And so, but my memory is that we first heard about the bombs falling on Pearl Harbor as we were driving, my Uncle Hiro was driving us in his coupe from Berkeley to Oakland to the Sycamore Street Congregational Church where we attended for worship and Sunday School. He took us every Sunday to Sunday school, and my recollection is that the news came over the radio that, that the bombs, or that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. And we usually sang or Uncle Hiro told us jokes or pointed out things along the way, things that had been happening in Berkeley that we heard about on the news maybe, or maybe not. He was a college student at the time, at the University of California in Berkeley. And so he had fun kind of keeping us informed. And we, but when he was quiet and listening to the radio, that was something quite unusual. And so when we asked where Pearl Harbor was, then he had to explain that it was in Hawaii, and "Where is Hawaii?" and, "Of what importance is that to us in America?" And then when, when he said that they were Japanese people bombing Pearl Harbor, I thought, "Japanese people are bombing us?" And it was kind of nervous, made me nervous, and made me think, "Now, what's going to happen?" My sister says that she, she says that, that we heard about, first heard about Pearl Harbor in Sunday school, after we got to church. That would be about ten o'clock, and that we, and that somebody came rushing into the Sunday School classroom and said Pearl Harbor had been bombed. And I remember that happening as well. She was in a different class from me, but then it happened in our class as well, as the younger children. And we were quite stunned, of course, but not to the point where we were incapacitated. And then when we got home from church, my mother was crying. She doesn't usually show her emotions, but she was crying. And so we had lunch later than usual because the adults had to talk, and we were shooed outside to play while they discussed things, I guess.

MA: What about your father? What was his, did you notice his reaction?

HC: Well, I didn't notice my father's reactions right away, but I did understand that the Japanese people were restricted not long after that to stay within a certain area. And in California, that meant that they couldn't go across the bridges, and they couldn't go out -- I remember it being five miles away, but I don't know if that's true. And so my father, since he worked as an independent gardener, had to get to his jobs, and I'm sure that restricted his getting to his jobs. But he, he managed somehow, but the thing that I enjoyed was that the, my uncles would tell stories about how as teenagers, they would get in, go with their Caucasian friends to places, and if it was past curfew time, then they'd lay down on the bottom of the car so that, on the floor of the car, and their friends would tell them when the coast was clear and they could get up and sit in the car. And when they got home, they hurried into the house without making too much noise so that they could still enjoy being teenagers even though they were supposed to be restricted. So it was, it was difficult in many ways.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.