Densho Digital Archive
Topaz Museum Collection
Title: Bob Utsumi Interview
Narrator: Bob Utsumi
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: July 31, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-ubob-01

<Begin Segment 1>

MA: Okay, so today is July 31, 2008, and I'm here with Bob Utsumi. I'm Megan Asaka, the interviewer, and the cameraperson is Dana Hoshide. And we are in Emeryville, California, interviewing people for the Topaz Museum. So Bob, thanks so much for doing this interview with us.

BU: You're welcome.

MA: So I wanted to start with just some basic questions. So when were you born?

BU: November 12, 1928.

MA: And where were you born?

BU: Oakland, California.

MA: And what was the name given to you at, at birth?

BU: Robert Sakaye, S-A-K-A-Y-E, Utsumi.

MA: And a little bit about your, your father. What was his name?

BU: Kinji, K-I-N-J-I.

MA: And he had an interesting story because he actually came over to the U.S. as an infant.

BU: Yes, when he was an infant, just, I'm not sure how many months old, but he was less than a year old. He and his older sister and mother and father came from Himeji, Japan, and I think directly to Oakland in 1901.

MA: Okay, so he came with his parents and his sister.

BU: Older sister, uh-huh.

MA: And so does your father, did he identify as being an Issei or a Nisei, or how did he identify?

BU: You know, I would say he was more like a Kibei-Nisei in that he lived until, in Oakland until he became school aged, he and his older sister were sent back to Japan to go to school. And he went all the way through high school in Japan. And when he returned, there were four other children that were born here in the United States who were all Nisei. And so, and he never really bonded, I don't think, with the other four. But he and his older sister were fairly close. We used to see a lot of them together growing up. There was just never a close bonding with the other four.

MA: So he really considered himself kind of a, he had a Kibei experience, I guess, yeah.

BU: Yeah, and I just get the feeling, although he was the oldest son, he really never had that role of being the elder of the... what do you call it? Chonan, you know, being the oldest son. He never had that role.

MA: And when did he come back to the U.S.?

BU: He came back in 1919, right... I think 1919, right after World War II -- World War I, when he was eighteen.

MA: And what were his parents doing in Oakland? What type of work?

BU: Okay, my grandfather, his father was a dentist, and although officially he was a dental technician with his son-in-law who was a dentist, a licensed dentist, but they both had an office in the same building. And my grandfather saw patients and performed dentistry. And it was mostly, again, Japanese clientele.

MA: And how did your father and your mother meet?

BU: I'm not real sure. My mother was a Nisei, and she, her father was Tsunezo Minami, and he had a nursery, growing roses, I think, at that time.

MA: And what area was this?

BU: In Oakland, east Oakland. He had a small, two-acre nursery, they were living in a house that he built himself, and I was born in that house in east Oakland, on Ninety-Sixth Avenue.

MA: So your mother's father built the house that you ended up living in.

BU: Right, and my mother was the oldest of that family, and there were six children in that family, and she was the oldest. And I'm not real sure how they met. I do know that my mother went to my grandfather as a patient, and she had... so perhaps that was the way they knew of each other and had a, you know, had the nakaodo get together, got 'em together somehow.

MA: And what was your mother's name?

BU: Actually, everybody called her Margaret, but she was born Matsue Minami, M-A-T-S-U-E, Minami. There were four girls and two boys in the Minami family, and on the Utsumi side there was four boys and two girls, just the opposite.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

MA: So a little bit about your parents and what they were like, what their personalities were.

BU: Okay, my dad really didn't have, was not an ambitious person. And Mom, my mother pretty much raised us. And my dad, I believe he was raised to be a Japanese gentleman, okay? He never did anything around the house, do dishes, cook, gardening, he never did any of that. And my mother just catered to him and waited on him hand and foot. He never really had a, a good job, and of course, during the Depression, although he was employed, but we, during that period my grandmother, my dad's mother, died in 1933. And at that time, my mother, our family at that time was, my brother -- I only had brother at the time, and we all moved into my grandfather's house, and he had a big house. It was (three)-story Victorian.

MA: And this was the one on, in east Oakland?

BU: No, no.

MA: Oh, this was before that?

BU: No, this is the Utsumi house. Utsumi, my grandfather that was a doctor. And he, he had a huge house, and the story a little later I can tell you, but eventually, during the war, they converted it to a six-apartment unit after they sold it. But my mom went to live, well, we went to live with them and at that time my grandmother died, my dad had three brothers that were still in school, and my grandfather and my dad and two sons and just Mom. She had no help, she did all the cooking for them, and... do you mind if I just wander here a little bit?

MA: Yes.

BU: Because she did all the laundry for not only them, but also for the dental practice. She used to buy soap in those wooden tubs, those fifty-five, fifty gallon wood tubs that soap, for commercial (businesses) used to buy. She used to buy soap in that quantity, and she did all the laundry for the... let me see, six, seven boys and the two dental practices. And my uncle, one of my uncles and my grandfather had to have a clean white shirt every day, as well as all the towels. And she used to iron everything, t-shirts, the whole nine yards. She worked her butt off.

MA: Yeah, so it sounds like, not only was she raising a family, but also sustaining the dental practice as well.

BU: Yeah, and oh yeah, and then, well... I think my mother was the only one I know of that had one of these iron mangles, do you know what that is, mangle?

MA: Can you explain, what is that?

BU: It's a electric, almost like a commercial ironing thing, it had a round tube about this wide and this diameter and about this long. And it's got a heating element with a pad and a thing that comes over it, and you just feed in clothes or, in this case, she used to iron the sheets and pillow cases as well, as well as the dental towels and gowns.

MA: So how many, how many children were in your family, I guess, how many siblings did you have?

BU: I had two brothers.

MA: So there were three boys.

BU: Three boys. And my next brother Don is fifteen months younger, and then Ed was born nine years later during that Depression.

MA: So you were the oldest then?

BU: I was the oldest. And I was the oldest grandchild in the Minami side, and I was, my brother and I were quite old before the next grandchildren on the Minami side came along.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

MA: So what are some of your early memories growing up in Oakland?

BU: Well, the house that I grew up in, living in my grandfather's house. There were no other Japanese around, and we lived right across from our elementary school, and two blocks from a junior high, and three blocks from a high school I would have attended had it not been for the war. But anyway, growing up there, I was not required to go to Japanese school, which pleased me and Don, my brother Don and I. All my other associates that I knew from church all had to go -- or anybody else -- all had to go to Japanese school. I was happy to avoid it. Well, as it turns out, it wasn't all that good of a deal, maybe I should have learned more Japanese. But anyway, I grew up, and during that period when I was growing up in my elementary school days, they always, the elementary school right across the street had a playground director and always had some kind of organized activities, sports activities, and I always participated in that. I was, I was always pretty good in everything that they played.

MA: So you said that your, the neighborhood around here was mostly a white neighborhood?

BU: Yes, and it was actually, it was what they call the Temescal district, T-E-M-E-S-C-A-L, and it was predominant, well, not... it was known as an Italian neighborhood. There was two Italian fraternal organizations in Oakland, big huge ones, and they were in that neighborhood. And so I guess you might say it was a predominately Italian neighborhood.

MA: And what did most of the Italians do in terms of industry or work in that --

BU: At that time?

BU: -- in that district?

BU: Lot of 'em were in the produce business, in the wholesale produce downtown, I had a couple of friends that, family that had a business in downtown Oakland. There were grocery business... I don't remember. Then we, I guess it wasn't, there was a lot of others, too. There were some Greeks, a couple doors down was a Greek family, and I remember them mostly because they used to make their own wine in the basement during, I guess it was during the Prohibition. All I can remember is just a good time, didn't realize that I was poor, or so was everybody else at that time. None of the kids I played with down there was extremely wealthy. And my grandfather had the biggest house around at that time, in that whole neighborhood. But I know asking my folks after, learning that my dad's wages were very, very minimal, but he was living with my grandfather so there was never any shortage of food. Mother had plenty to cook, it wasn't that they were lacking food.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

MA: So why did your grandfather move to this area that was...

BU: From Japan?

MA: Or that was, had practically no Japanese Americans living in it?

BU: Oh, I'm not sure why, how he came to buy that house in north Oakland, I don't know. I know why they came to America, the Utsumis, my grandfather was born, his name was Yoshida when he was born, and he married my grandmother who was Utsumi. And my grandmother's father was a Shinto priest. My grandfather, Yoshida's father, was a samurai. And my, in Japan, my grandfather married into the Utsumi family to become the Shinto priest to take over the temple or... what was the name? I forgot the name of the jinja, oh, my gosh. Anyway, he was supposed to become the Shinto priest. In fact, I think he studied for it. Well, somewhere along that time, my grandmother ran into a Methodist missionary, and she and my grandfather converted to Christianity, and you might say fled Japan and came to the United States. That's the reason they came, was because, you know, they couldn't live there because he didn't become the priest there.

MA: Interesting.

BU: Yeah.

MA: So then they settled in, in Oakland, in this area that happened to have very few Japanese Americans living there.

BU: Well, no. Originally they did settle in downtown Oakland, originally, and in fact, whether he owned the house or renting the house I'm not sure. But during the 1906 earthquake, they took in a lot of people from San Francisco temporarily (...) people that lost their houses in San Francisco. I don't know much more than that, I do know that my dad was saying he remembers that, and I think because it happened right before he went back to Japan to go to school.

MA: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

MA: So how involved, then, was your family in the Japanese American community?

BU: Okay, the, again, my grandfather, the Utsumi side -- oh, my father and mother were not at all. Oh, excuse me, my mother was very active in the JACL, and the JASEB, Japanese American Society for East Bay... Services. Japanese American Services of East Bay. She was very active in volunteering for that, that was a lot later. That happened while I was away in the Air Force. But...

MA: But your father wasn't at all.

BU: But my father was not, he was not a joiner. The only thing -- well, he was always a camera, candid camera buff when he was growing up, and he helped organize a, the East Bay Japanese Camera Club, I think is what it was called. So he was active in that respect, but he was not, politically he was apolitical. He didn't want to join anything to, he just wanted to stay away from it. That's the Utsumi side. My grandfather was not, but his son-in-law, my, the husband of my dad's older sister, (was).

MA: Who was the dentist?

BU: Dentist, he was very active in the Japanese community. I think he was the president of the local society and things, and he was very, very active.

MA: So when you were growing up, how many of your friends were Niseis, or was it sort of a mixed-race group?

BU: Well, again, I really didn't get into the Japanese community regularly until my folks bought a photo studio in downtown Oakland in 1940, okay, which was right before, I guess I was eleven going on twelve. And at that time, when I moved downtown, then I moved in little of what there was of Japantown in Oakland, and I joined the Boy Scouts, Japanese troop, and made many friends there. Had several, but looking back on it now, I'm one of the survivors, I think most of 'em are gone now. But that's when I really got into the Japanese society. Because when I went, transferred to -- not transferred, moved to Oakland, downtown, I attended, transferred, went to Westlake junior high school. And there, there were several Japanese. And in my class, there was about half a dozen of us. We all ended up in Topaz together and (were) all in the same class, and we had lasting friendships there.

MA: Okay.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

MA: So going back a little bit to that house you were talking about that you grew up in, that big Victorian, you said there was something you wanted to talk about, about the house, that house?

BU: Well, yeah, because when my grandmother was alive, before she had died, she used to (perform) in the basement of the three-level house, they had a small room that they converted into a, I wouldn't say... but they had a little stage, and they used to perform. And my grandmother was pretty active in that -- I don't remember because it was before my time, and, but I do know that they had, going into the basement, I saw that little raised stage, and she and all her, some of friends used to perform for friends and relatives. And put on these shibais, I don't know if you've heard that term.

MA: Well, explain the shibai.

BU: Shibai is... what is it? It's a show, performing, a stage performance, play, you know. And they used to have a lot of parties. And even after, well, when my mother moved into that house, when we moved in, every Thanksgiving and Christmas, (...) my mother had to cook two twenty-pound turkeys. And in the dining room, they had this huge table, and the first serving was for all the kids, grandkids. And, yeah, grandkids, and maybe even the boys that were not married yet. And then (...) my grandfather would sit at the end of the table and he would do all the carving. You'd pass your plate up, and he would carve and put it on your plate. Then we'd pass the rest of the food around. (My) grandfather was quite an artist at that. He was so, such an artist carving that turkey. And then the second sitting, they brought the other turkey out, and that's not only the aunts and uncles, but a whole bunch of other friends that he had. And those, there were a huge party, I don't know how many they used to sit, twenty at the table at one time. It was huge. And my grandfather was a party person, and he, there'd be other times that they'd have parties, and all these people would show up, and I remember them going on picnics and excursions to Russian River, with a whole group of people, and just camp out for a while. And somehow my -- no, my grandfather was the host, we used to go to Yosemite, and did a lot of that. Lot of fun growing up. Although my grandfather didn't have, didn't spend too much time with us young ones, I was just too young. Not like the Minami grandpa, (...) I spent a lot of time with. My paternal grandpa, he was Dr. Utsumi, (...) just never sat down and talked with us. He just seemed like he didn't have time for us young ones. He liked the adults. Well, like I had, my Aunt Rennie, who was a Yawata. They had three older children, and they were three, six, and nine years older than I was. And I guess I remember him spending more time with them. Of course, his practice was in their house, too, so maybe that's why. But he just didn't have a lot of patience with the young ones.

MA: Great, well, that's a great story.

BU: But the Minami grandpa is different, though. That one, I spent a lot of time with them, with the Minamis. Every vacation, whatever, or I would spend weeks at a time with them in the summertime, and weekends with them during the school year. And I'd pester my grandpa, I was always inquisitive, and he wouldn't give his sons the time, or daughters, 'cause all he wanted them to do was work. And I can remember one of his sayings, is, "If you're gonna talk, keep your hands moving," you know. But he would give me time as a young, youngster, and I found out that how he came to land in Seattle, and to get to (...) Oakland, well, Alameda, and somebody in Seattle met him and made a sign, "Oakland," and hung it over his neck and they put him on the train. He didn't speak English, and porters, I guess, got him off in Oakland. Some of the things that, well, one of things that I found out that he had difficulty with when he first got here, was turning on and off water faucets. And he says he could turn it on, but he had trouble trying to figure out how to turn it off. And oh, I forgot some of the others. But an amazing man. He, I can remember him saying, one of the things I can remember him saying was at the nursery, it'd be a cloudy day, and they had a, what do you call it, wind... it's not an, not an anemometer, but the one that, weather vane, it was in the corner of his house. He says when that vane points to the north, which means a southerly wind -- it was normally pointed to the east or south -- he says, "When that weather vane turns, it's gonna start raining." And I didn't think much of it until later in my years when I was in pilot training and taking weather, and found out that, why. It's because when the low pressure area comes through, and it comes through and a weather front comes through and changes direction, and then the low comes, comes across, that changes the direction of the wind, and that's what brings the (rain). And here he was, un-, well, I wouldn't say uneducated, but it's something that he picked up on his own, and it just amazed me. But he told me a lot of things that even my mother, being the oldest girl, didn't know. Because he just didn't give them the time, they were all too busy working to make a living.

MA: Sounds like you had a great relationship with him.

BU: Oh, yeah. I had a better relationship, closer relationship with the Minami side than the Utsumi side. A couple reasons. Well, on the Minami side, Minami side, I was the oldest, the chonan of the next, the Sansei generation. Whereas on the... well, actually, on the, on my Yawata side, well, they weren't, they never considered themselves Sansei, because both their mother and father were born in Japan. But I, I'd consider, even on the Utsumi side, I was a Sansei.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

MA: So let's talk a little bit about your move to downtown Oakland. You said your father --

BU: Bought a photo studio.

MA: -- opened a photography studio.

BU: Uh-huh.

MA: Can you talk a little bit about that and living in downtown Oakland?

BU: Yeah. He, he bought this photo studio from Tsuji, Mr. Tsuji, T-S-U-J-I, and they were going back to Japan. And my dad was a amateur photographer, and he was working as a, actually, a janitor at a big apartment complex. And so I think he got help from my grandfather, got a loan, and bought, was able to buy the nursery -- photo studio from Tsuji. And this was in February of 1940.

MA: And what was the name of the studio?

BU: Oh, he changed it to Utsumi Photo Studio.

MA: Utsumi?

BU: From Tsuji Photo Studio to Utsumi Photo Studio. Right around the corner, there was another photo studio, Shigetomi, but my dad took over, and on that street, on Franklin Street there, there was several Japanese businesses. There was a beauty parlor, barber shop, little gas station, pharmacy, and within about three block area there was other, other stores.

MA: So was Franklin Street sort of the center of the Oakland Japantown?

BU: Oakland Chinatown, yeah, yeah. It was actually Chinatown where we were, and with these few Japanese stores, businesses interspersed within it.

MA: Was there a separate Oakland Japantown, or was most of the Japanese business, they were in Chinatown?

BU: Well, you know, that, in Oakland, there was no, that was it, no one ever referred to it as Japantown. They always referred to it, you know, if you had a business in Chinatown. But they, in Oakland, there was no big concentration of stores and people. There was several people that lived near the Buddhist church, but around the Methodist church, there wasn't a concentration. But most of the business in Oakland by Japanese were cleaners, small cleaners -- well, I take that back. There was one cleaners that was large, one of the larger ones in Oakland. And then there was other cleaners, laundries, lot of mom and pop stores. Lot of shoemakers. But there wasn't a big concentration of Japanese.

MA: And the Chinese, what did, what sort of businesses did they do? Like grocery stores...

BU: All kinds. At that time, there was only about four restaurants, but they had the small mom and pop grocery stores, couple of herb shops, barber shops. Yeah, you know, I forgot specifically what they were.

MA: And what were the relationships like between the Chinese and Japanese prewar?

BU: Prewar? Although there were, you know, we got along, but there was that Japan-China war going on, so they never really got close to each other. They each kind of observed each other's privacy, they never comingled. They never jointly did anything; they always did it separately, but they competed, but in a friendly way. I shouldn't say friendly way, but...

MA: But there was no overt, like, animosity or anything like that?

BU: I don't think so. The kids, I know, had I gone to elementary school when my folks went to, bought the studio, I would have gone to a school that was predominately Chinese -- elementary school that was predominately Chinese. The ones of my friends that went to that school, they, they didn't have any problem with 'em. They had Chinese friends, but there was never that real close relationships between Chinese and Japanese.

MA: And you think that's partly to do because of the war?

BU: It was a cultural thing, yeah. And because of the war.

MA: Japanese invasion, uh-huh.

BU: Yeah, and I think they were always, been competitive, too. And a lot of it, I really believe the older Japanese, yeah, always kind of looked down on the Chinese, I really believe that. I think Japanese people themselves are, have a tendency to do that with all people. My wife felt that when we got stationed in Japan.

MA: As a Japanese American?

BU: They looked down on the, they looked down on the Japanese Americans. They, all the Japanese wives, the officers' wives, the haole, the Caucasian ones, all had a great time in Japan, they were, felt like they were treated well. But all the Nisei, Sansei wives that were there, all felt this, that they were not equals to the local Japanese. And, well, of course, we were stationed up in Misawa, in northern Japan, we were not in the Tokyo area, the cosmopolitan area.

MA: That's interesting.

BU: I think that had something to do with it.

MA: So going back a little bit to your father's photography studio, was it like a portrait studio?

BU: Yeah, mostly...

MA: So people would come in for weddings or...

BU: His main business was weddings, funerals, family pictures, portraits, passport photos.

MA: And was it mostly Japanese customers?

BU: Mostly Japanese, yeah, Every once in a while, a Chinese person or Filipino would come in and get a passport photo, but it was not a booming business. They made it, but barely, I guess. And the ironic thing was, I say he bought the place in February of '40. In February of '42, he had to turn in his cameras.

MA: So he had two years.

BU: Because he was an Issei, he was an "enemy alien," he had to turn in his cameras (which) essentially put him out of business.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

MA: So let's talk then about December 7, 1941, the day Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, and your memories of that day and how you heard about the, the news.

BU: Okay. I was, on December 7th, at that time, I was in a local theater. And it was Sunday, and a couple of us, I forgot who I was with, we were in a local theater in Oakland, and we... I don't recall them interrupting the movie, but others say they did, but I don't recall that. But what I do recall was walking home from the theater back to the studio. I remember these newspaper boys, at that time they had boys selling newspapers on the street corners yelling, "Extra, extra, read all about it," type of things, and "Japs bomb Pearl Harbor." Couple things about that, "Japs," I never liked that term, I always took offense to it, bombed Pearl Harbor, but where was Pearl Harbor? I had no idea where Pearl Harbor was until I got home and, of course, no TV then. We, my folks had the radio on, and then found out that... well, soon as we found that out, that "Japs bombed Pearl Harbor," I knew things weren't good, and I just kind of had a sinking feeling, I remember. And then later on, got home, and I don't know, all kinds of reaction. Even though I'm Sansei, it just felt that my (ancestors) betrayed me by bombing Pearl Harbor, you know, bombing the United States. And I remember having that kind of a feeling, mixed feeling. And then fear because right after that (when) the war as it progressed went to the Philippines. And of course, we had a lot of Filipino -- not a lot, but we had Filipinos in that Chinatown area. And we had these blackouts, and at one of the blackouts, while we're in the studio, we heard the front plate glass window break, and went out there, and there was this pool ball that somebody had thrown through the plate glass window.

MA: Did you feel from the Filipino community that there was some ill feelings?

BU: We assumed that it was. Never proved that, but we just assumed it was because the Filipinos were, they were taking a beating in the South Pacific at that time. And this was not December 7th but sometime after that. And sometime, during one of the blackouts, there were a couple of incidents out in the Stockton area somewhere where somebody got shot and killed. But there wasn't an awful lot of it, but just enough to scare the heck out of you. So we were always, you know... oh, then I had one incident that scared the heck out of me, was again, downtown Oakland, and I ran into one of my elementary school buddies, Bill Smith. And I'm... was he in uniform? I forgot now. I think he was in uniform. Anyway, Bill and I were just talking there on the street, and some drunk comes up to me, sailor I believe now, he grabs my arm. And he says, "You a Jap?" And I said, "No," and ran, broke away and ran like heck. Scared the heck out of me. But that, that's the only overt incident that I experienced while in Oakland.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

MA: What about at school, like the day after Pearl Harbor? Did you feel like students treated you differently?

BU: No, the kids didn't. No one said anything, we had an assembly, and the principal got up and spoke. And, you know, gave a talk, don't take it out on us type of things. I don't, specifically, I don't remember, I do remember the assembly, but I don't know exactly what he said. There was, a kind of interesting story here, in our class at Westlake, my homeroom class was divided with, by alphabetical order, I think we had three homerooms with our class. And in our group was a kid, black kid I grew up with, Milt Ritchie, and also in the classroom was Virginia Warren. And one day in the homeroom class, our homeroom teacher said, picks on Virginia and she says, "Virginia, unless you straighten up in algebra, I'm going to have to tell your dad on you." I thought, "Why did she say that?" And that afternoon when we, Milt and I were pedaling our bikes to go home, I asked Milt, I said, "Hey, why did Miss O'Neil pick on Virginia in homeroom?" He said, "Well, don't you know who (her dad) is?" I said, "No." "Well, he's Earl Warren." He was the, at that time he was Attorney General and running for governor. This was in '42. And, 'course, Earl Warren was not our best friend. But then later on, after the war, I ran into Virginia at Cal, Berkeley, and she was in the library. So I just went up and talked to her and she remembered who I was, and we just chit-chatted for a little bit. But that was kind of ironic that I was in the same homeroom class as she was.

There was an incident going back to when I was at Emerson, playing at a playground after school. And one day, our playground director loads us, whole bunch of us, he had a Chevy coupe that had a rumble seat in it, he loaded about twelve of us in there and told us to bring our swimming trunks. And we all piled in and went to the Forest Pool in the hills of Oakland. And this is, now, this is in the '30s, mid-'30s, 1930s. And we get there, Don comes out and says, "Hey, Bobby," he says, "sorry, you're too young to go in the pool. Bobby Hoffman also can't go in." So Bobby Hoffman and I played around outside the pool, they did their swimming and came back and went home. And thought nothing more about it other than the fact that anytime they went, if the activity was at Forest Pool, Hoffman and I couldn't go. And then it didn't dawn on me until I was, I think, in camp, that incident came up. And I asked my mom, I said, "Hey, Mom, you remember when I couldn't go to Forest Pool?" She said, "Yeah." "Is that because I was Japanese?" She says, "Yeah." And you know, being a young kid, had no reason to think that I couldn't go in because I was Japanese. I was the only Japanese in that whole group, grew up in that Caucasian community.

MA: Right, so there was discrimination back then.

BU: Oh, yeah. Well, yeah, then... well, then as I grew older, found out there was a couple other places we couldn't go either. And just everybody, everybody knew. The blacks knew where they couldn't go, the Asians knew where they couldn't go, it just didn't apply to Japanese, it was Chinese, too, or blacks at that time.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

MA: So let's... so you mentioned that your father in February had to turn in his cameras and everything.

BU: I think all but the studio camera, I think. I don't think he had to take, turn in the studio camera because that was a fixture, you couldn't take any pictures, you couldn't take that whole big thing. I think, so I think the only thing he could take were portraits and passport photos. But, I mean, it wiped him out.

MA: Did the FBI target him? Did they come to his shop or anything?

BU: No, none of my family, my family on either side, was brought in, well, or incarcerated, I should say. None of them were. If Dr. Yawata had been here, he would have been one of the first, because he was the leader of the community, and they took in all the leaders.

MA: So then in February, your father basically went out of business.

BU: Yeah, we were, we were out of business.

MA: 'Cause he had no cameras.

BU: Living pretty much on our savings and whatever until, I think, April is when we went to Tanforan.

MA: And so what did you do with your possessions and where did you store your valuables?

BU: We were lucky, our family was a member of the Oakland Japanese Methodist Church. And they opened up, they had this... what do they call this? Well, it was a building, oh, what do they call it? But they had their classrooms on the first floor, and a gym on the second floor, and they used that whole facility for members to store their, store whatever. But I think everybody had to take it there, I think. I don't think the government picked it up and took it. Anyway, we stored it there, but we were lucky in that there was one member of the (church), Caucasian member of that church, Lee Mullis and his father. And they watched over the property while we were gone, and no one lost anything.

MA: So Lee Mullis and his father watched over the church and the belongings in the church?

BU: Uh-huh, so our church, our place was not vandalized. Not like several places the government storage provided, (where) the security was terrible. I think my wife's family, they lost everything. The only thing they got was when they left a few things with friends. But yeah, we were lucky.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

MA: So how, I mean, you were a teenager at that point, thirteen or so?

BU: I was thirteen, Boy Scout.

MA: And how were you feeling about this?

BU: The evacuation process?

MA: Right.

BU: You know, being the oldest and going, getting everything together, getting organized to go, I don't say I enjoyed it, I definitely was helpful (to) the family (for) getting everything organized to where, to determine what we can carry. And I just, remember just trying to be as helpful as I could. I always liked to do that, trying to help in our family, and again, my dad wasn't that much of a help. It was just me and my mom, really, that did everything, organized everything. I don't think my dad really had the foggiest idea, at least I didn't get the impression that he did. And he just, maybe just left it up to my mom and me. And my youngest brother was only, what, I was thirteen, so he was four, so he was no help. And Don and I, of course, were very helpful. And I guess we cabbed it to the assembly point in Oakland and got on the bus.

MA: And where was the assembly point?

BU: Twelfth and Oak. It as a state building on Twelfth and Oak. I think it was a state building on Twelfth and Oak. And we got on the bus, and I don't remember the bus ride at all. What I vividly recall is after getting to Tanforan and walking into the horse stable, and Mom laying down her, putting down her suitcase and just crying. [Becomes emotional] And it tears me up. But then I can remember we had to, there were the, we had, I think we had the metal cots. Anyway, there was these ticks, these bags that you had to use for a mattress, and they were empty, and we were told to go down a ways and pack a stack of hay, straw, not hay, straw, and we had to go fill 'em all. Don and I took this as a, not a fun thing, but we just went out there and saw all the other kids out there, we start seeing some of the old, local friends, and kind of happy that we're together. And that, yeah, and that was the first impression. And then just the stench, just awful.

MA: And it was you and your siblings and your mother and father.

BU: Uh-huh, five of us.

MA: Five of you.

BU: One stable. And what they did was, the stable where the horse was, you know, the double door, and then they had overhang and a dirt walkway. What they did was brought the walls out to the overhang and then put a floor. So actually, it was two rooms. And I don't know how wide the stables were or anything, but there were five of us in there for five months. But I didn't have that reaction that I'm having now, then. I thought it was an adventure, and at thirteen years old, I know the first, that whole event, all us guys that, our age, they did a good thing. They organized us into age groups, eleven to thirteen, fourteen to sixteen, and immediately they had a rec. hall. And at first, they didn't have anything in there except the kids, and they appointed a couple leaders, and immediately organized different kinds of activities. And all we did was play. From that time, moment on, we started eating with our friends, and the big thing was, as soon as breakfast was over, we'd all go to the rec. hall and start playing until the other, lunch and dinner.

MA: How about your parents? Did they have jobs in Tanforan, or how did they occupy their time?

BU: Tanforan, no, I don't think they had, my mother and father did not have jobs, I don't think, in Tanforan. I don't think they had jobs for people, paid jobs, anyway, I don't think. I don't think... the rec. directors were the senior guys that were college kids, and helped organize. But when we (got to) Topaz, then they, they got jobs.

MA: And how long were you in Tanforan?

BU: Five months.

MA: Five months, so about from April...

BU: Yeah, April, May, June, July, August, September. I think it was September sometime that we left. I think, I'm pretty sure we went in April, not in May. I think we were April.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

MA: Okay, so you then went to Topaz in September of '42.

BU: Right.

MA: And can you describe, you know, the conditions when you arrived there, the landscape?

BU: Oh, yeah. That... we got off the train at... well, let me just go back a little bit on the train ride. Our group, or our family, was, was the exception. I don't know how we lucked out, but we lucked out 'cause we were, got on the Pullman, and we were able to eat in the dining car. And to this day, nobody believes us if it weren't for my mother writing kind of a diary letter to my aunt who was still back in Tanforan, and she wrote this all down. So, but we were able to break down our little cubicle and sleep in bunkbeds. So I could say we were very, very, we just lucked out. And I remember my mom writing back and she said, gee, she didn't know how much to tip the porters. And later on, years later, one of my classmates ran into a couple porters here in Oakland, and the porter was shocked that the Japanese would tip 'em on their (way to) prison, you know, ride as prisoners. And he was just, just shocked about that.

So anyway, we got to Topaz, and we're met by the advance party, and they gave us a handout and said, "Welcome to Topaz." Says, to the north is a certain, certain mountains, to the west, the Drum Mountains, to the east is the Wasatch Mountains, to the south is the Sevier Mountains. Now, what do you envision? Don't you envision a valley? Okay, so we take this bus ride out there on these dirt, dusty roads, finally get to Topaz, which was built on a dry lake bed, and these mountains are barely visible on the horizon, except the Drum Mountains, they were, to the west, they were pretty close. They were about five miles. But I guess we'd call it prison humor. But anyway, we get there, get off the bus, and step into dust, more like flour, because the dry lake bed, when they broke the crust of the dry lake bed, it didn't turn into broken dirt, it breaks down into, like, flour, so fine. And we were walking in ankle-deep, knee-deep dust all the way to our quarters, and then get there and we had a couple inches of dust on it. And everybody had to sweep their unit out. And at that time, all you saw was the outside wall with the two-by-four studs, because that's all that, that's as far as they got. Later on, they gave us sheet rock to put the inside walls up ourselves. But that was hot and dusty, windy. And all, just dust, lot of dust. But being young kids, we just started playing, you know. Being athletic, we had played football in that dust, tackle football, was thirteen yet, and just played football, six-man football, or seven-man, whatever. (Narr. note: Incidentally, Goro Suzuki, who playedJack Soo of the Barney Miller television show, and was in the Broadway and Las Vegas productions of The Flower Drum Song, was our coach of the Goro Suzuki Midgets football team.) And again, breakfast with the guys, and meals with all the kids. And eventually, somewhere along the line, Mom was, well, Mom had been working as a waitress in the mess hall, and, but she would bring the food home and doctor it up, and the family of five would have our meal right in the quarters. And so she did do that, she kept the family, you know, at least one meal a day.

MA: I see. So your whole family ate together for dinner.

BU: Yeah. So one, one meal a day, and then breakfast and lunch, we're with our buddies and schoolmates and whatever.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

MA: So you were telling me you were part of the first junior high school class in Topaz.

BU: Yes, right.

MA: And what were the facilities like for that one class, junior high school, I mean?

BU: It was just... most of the classrooms were chairs and just tables, like mess hall tables and chairs. I don't think we had those armchairs, I don't think. Maybe later on we did, but I just recall. And they just used one of the blocks, they kept one block empty, Block 32 was the junior and senior high school. And they had all the different classes, classes there. My recollection is that... oh, my feeling is Topaz had a bad set of teachers. We had a few good, few good teachers, but most of them were bad. They were not qualified.

MA: And where did these teachers come from? Were they mostly from town?

BU: I don't know where they got, recruited them from. The... some of the best teachers I had were campmates. And then not necessarily college grads, either. Our geometry teacher, I forgot her name now. Anyway, she was very good, and she kept us all in line, she kept control. Our Spanish teacher was good, campmate Sugihara. Our chemistry teacher was terrible. He was an old man.

MA: Was it a, a Caucasian guy?

BU: He was a Caucasian, and he was just, he was dangerous. We didn't have a lab, and any experiments, the few that they had was demonstrated, and one of the early experiments was involving hydrogen gas. Are you familiar with chemistry?

MA: It's been a while. [Laughs]

BU: Oh, you took chemistry. Anyway, when you put metal sodium into water, the hydrogen gas evolves and hydroxide, the OH, stays in, becomes sodium hydroxide, right? Well, to demonstrate the hydrogen release, there's several different ways. And in our class, he brought this big vat, I don't know, maybe two, three gallon vat of water, and he had it on the stage, podium there, well, stage. And he had this can of metal sodium and a wooden spatula. And to demonstrate it, he'd grab a piece of the sodium and throw it in the water, and it would sizzle. And three of us guys in the back said, "More." So he grabbed a little bit bigger chunk and threw it in there and it sizzled, pop. And we were hollering, "More," so he grabs a great big piece, throws it in there, and it goes, pow. The water goes flying all over the place. Didn't break the beaker or the vat, and of course, we were back there just howling. The kids in the front row were wet, got wet, not real bad, but got wet, but scared the hell out of 'em. And we were just laughing like heck. But this guy's an idiot because what's left in there is sodium hydroxide, which is, you know, lye. And if that thing had broken and spilled or got in somebody's eyes, there'd have been big trouble. One of the other chemistry teachers did it in a test tube, demonstrated it in a test tube. And when he shook it up, put the sodium in there and shook it up, well, the test tube broke. And this time, couple of, one of the guys in the front row got cut. Didn't get hurt bad, but, you know, potentially just could have been disastrous. But those are the kind of things that we had.

We had a teacher that had a hearing aid. Of course, the same group of guys would harass the heck out of him. And when he was up at the blackboard, we'd start singing commercials, you know, horsing around. And kept singing it louder and louder until he heard us, and he'd turn around, then he'd go back on the blackboard. We'd keep, go back to singing, then turn around and he said, "Mickey," and he, he blamed it all on Mickey Suzuki. Poor Mickey got a "D" in that class. But, you know, that, we were just young kids taking advantage, and that's about as bad as we got, though. Oh, one day, back in chemistry, in this chem., our class, we're in the wing of the, chem. was in a wing where normally the laundry room would be, which would have been right opposite the latrine, the boys' latrine. Well, same three guys decided we were thirsty, it was hot, so we want to get a drink of water, so we climbed out the window. Teacher didn't say anything, and then when we were trying to get back in, two of us got in, back in with no problem, but that last guy was heavy, big guy. And we tried to grab his arm and haul him in, but he just couldn't make it. And he started banging the side of the wall, and the teacher could not then disregard us, he had to say something. So then he said something, but meanwhile, the class was in an uproar, and it was just, just harassed the heck out of him after that.

In that class, though, in the early parts, trying to learn the atomic theory from him, we were having, a bunch of us were having trouble grasping the atomic theory. And we were having a heck of a time, and one day, one of our campmates who had graduated high school the year before, he came in, Norman Hirose came in to sub. So we asked Norman, I said, "Could you go over the atomic theory for us?" And whatever he did or whatever happened in that one day that he came in and reviewed it, all of a sudden, for me, anyway, the light went on, or all of a sudden I caught on. And from then on, chemistry was, I was able to grasp chemistry, I had no problems with it. But it was just, whether that particular incident was the teacher's fault, my fault or whatever, but I tend to blame it on the teacher because of the way he was, you know, presenting it. But it was just, never had much confidence in that one.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

MA: What about, like, civics or social studies? Do you remember those classes and...

BU: That one was a, that teacher, as I recall, was okay. Again, that was a haole teacher, she was all right.

MA: Was there ever any discussion about, I mean, about the internment itself?

BU: Oh, no. In camp?

MA: Or even among the students or...

BU: No. You know, we... none of us really -- well, I shouldn't say none of us -- most of my group, the ones I, my friends and all, we really didn't put that much thought about being bitter or doing anything about it. We just accepted it and did what we were told, didn't question it. It wasn't until later, until the next generation came along, and we're in college, and found out, hey, maybe that wasn't right. And then even our generation, later, it wasn't until the late '70s and '80s, until someone, some JACL chapters started getting involved and questioning it, created that, the study. But no, for a long time, I had questions, mixed feelings about the R&R, Redress and Reparations, whether that was a wise thing to do or not. And, 'course, I accepted it gracefully, you know, the reparations, and then through my experiences later on, too, I was, I joined a country club and I was only the second one to join, the second Japanese American to join. And so many of those people, members there, were not sympathetic to what happened to us. And the worst part about it is some of those people were the Italians. And because they were categorized in the same category as we were. They were, the Isseis, Italian Isseis and German Isseis were "enemy aliens." And they had to move out of Alameda just like the Japanese Isseis had to. And, but there were a few of those, they were good friends of mine, but we just differed in our opinion. And there's some of 'em that didn't think we deserved the reparation. In most of our cases, the people that received it probably didn't need it. The ones that did were all gone, they died like my mother and father, and neither of 'em lived long enough to get it, and they're the ones that really deserved it. So...

MA: Right, but at the time, I mean, in Topaz, you were young, a young kid, right? Just kind of going along.

BU: Oh, yeah. And young, and I, the worst part about camp for me and my education was I wasn't challenged. I was not required to do homework, as I recall. I wasn't really challenged enough, I wasn't prepared for the outside when I got back, in college, for college. That's my experience. Most of my contemporaries, my closest friends, all ended up pretty well, that were in the same group. But then again, I was one of the younger ones, I was sixteen when I graduated from Topaz High two years after I graduated junior high. And all I remember was having a lot of fun. And when I went to, got out and went to school, I was still having fun. Apparently I did well enough to transfer to Berkeley, but I just didn't apply myself. I know I was capable, but I just didn't apply myself after. I wasn't prepared, I got a bad three years of non-study. All, I got by because I picked up what I learned in class, but it wasn't because I was really pushed. My dad would help me in math, but I don't remember any kids my age sitting at home with the parents doing homework or anything like that. It was nonexistent. In most cases because of language; most Isseis couldn't help with U.S. history or government or anything like that. My mother could have helped me, but she didn't, for whatever reason, probably because I didn't want her to.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

MA: So I wanted to ask about your father a little bit. You mentioned your mother worked as a waitress in the mess hall. Your father, actually, you were telling me, worked in the co-op?

BU: Yes.

MA: In the Topaz Co-op?

BU: What had happened, my dad, the co-op wanted to open up a photo studio. And Dad was approached by one of the Caucasian administrators, and I think through Lee Mullis.

MA: Who was storing your belongings at that point, or helping in the church?

BU: Yeah, but he... but the cameras and things were in government storage somewhere. Anyways, somehow Lee got involved, or no, no, maybe not. Maybe it was just the co-op wrote back to the feds who were in control of his cameras. And he was able to get his camera out because he was going to be the co-op photographer. And a fellow named Emil Sekerak, who was in charge at that time, helped him get his cameras and the opened the photo studio in Topaz. And I (...) think he was the only one that was able to have a camera. Even anybody else, I don't think were able to have cameras.

MA: Well, I know that Dave Tatsuno was also in, in Topaz.

BU: Yes, he was.

MA: Did your father work at all with him?

BU: They worked together, but Dave had the clothing and sales store, my dad had the photo studio, okay. And, yeah, Dave -- oh, I know what. Dave left his, his camera, movie camera with Lee Mullis. He knew Lee, although he was from San Francisco. He left the movie camera with Lee, and Lee gave, sent the camera to Dave, and he took all those movies "illegally." And what a great story. It's too bad that he didn't give that film before it became so used, you know. If it was in original condition, it would have been so much better.

MA: So your father, though, had consent from the camp authorities to sort of take the photos and have the cameras?

BU: Yeah, yeah. Like I say, officially, he was the camp, the co-op photographer. So he was able to have the camera, but I don't know, he never brought... I don't know. He was the camp photographer. He climbed the water tower to take the picture of Topaz. These aerial, well, it looked like an aerial view, but he climbed the water tower, he took it in three sections, and he didn't have his panorama camera, he didn't have that. He took those.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

MA: So how long, then, were you in Topaz? When did you leave?

BU: I left, I think, June 4th is the day I left.

MA: And that was --

BU: Of '45.

MA: -- 1945.

BU: I think 4th, I'm not sure. Maybe June 6th, somewhere in there, just a couple days after I graduated from high school.

MA: And you were part of the last graduating class at Topaz High?

BU: Last class, first class to graduate from junior high, two years later, graduated from high school. And the reason that happened was, the reason I only attended two years of high school was that when I left Oakland, I was in low nine, okay? Yeah, because normally, if you didn't have that winter class, that would have been high nine or high ten, or eight, one of the two. But when I went to, when they started school in Topaz, they didn't start the half semesters, so they, our whole class, which was the January '46 class of high school, we were all put back to the ninth grade. And after the first year, in 1943, when we started school in fall of '43, rather than start the sophomore year, they pushed us up to high sophomore. And then in the fall, the next school year, starting the fall of '44, we were high, low senior, yeah, low senior. But somewhere in that semester, they advised our whole class that we were eligible to graduate in June of '45 rather than January of '46. And under Utah's system of education, we were all qualified to graduate. So then they pushed us all forward and made us a class of our own, with the June of '45 class.

MA: So that's why you were sixteen, younger than normal when you graduated.

BU: I was sixteen when I graduated, sixteen when I started junior college. But I missed a full year of high school, so I didn't get the physics, I finished the chemistry, didn't get the physics, I didn't get trig, or fourth year of English. Anyway, the fourth year of high school, we didn't get.

MA: It seems like that's another example, though, of how your education in camp just got so disrupted.

BU: Yeah, we got, we got kind of messed up. But that, among our class, that small class of ours, my close friend George Kobayashi went to Berkeley, he became, got his PhD in microbiology, taught at Washington University med. school in St. Louis. Shin Tanaka became M.D., a urologist. Dorothy Harada... now, these are Westlake people, junior high. Dorothy Harada got her PhD in nursing, teaching at the San Francisco med. school. And then Marty Oshima, I think she became a schoolteacher. Then in our, oh, in our other class, June of '45, one Rosie Kumakawa was the assistant to the governor of Rhode Island. A hakujin, Caucasian classmate, Paul Bell, became a PhD in teaching at Penn. State.

MA: You had a, a Caucasian classmate in Topaz?

BU: Uh-huh?

MA: How did he get there?

BU: He was, his father was an administrator at Topaz. And the first year, Paul went to school in Delta, Utah. And after the first year, I forgot what reason it was, he wanted to go to school with us at Topaz. So he joined us in Topaz, and he did everything we did except he couldn't eat with us at the mess hall because he was an administrator's kid. So I guess his folks told him not to eat with us, take food away from the inmates, I guess.

MA: That's interesting.

BU: But Paul is one of our active members in our reunions, in the class of '45, and starting in 1970, the day after I retired from the Air Force, we had our first reunion, our twenty-five year, we met every five years until 1990, whatever, I forgot now. And then after that, we had a luncheon every year, every year.

MA: This 1945 Topaz class?

BU: Class of '45. We were unique, 'cause we went all the way through high school together. And even the ones that left camp and then graduated from outside, we were still classmates, and get together.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

MA: So let's go back and talk about leaving camp. So you left June 4, 1945.

BU: Somewhere, somewhere in June.

MA: Somewhere around, so June of '45. So where did you end up going?

BU: Okay, what had happened there was we were notified, the camp was gonna close in October. My folks had not decided where or what they were gonna do. I had been communicating with one of my aunt and uncles who were childless, one of my mother's sisters and her husband. And I, even before the war, I used to go to their place, their farm in Warm Springs, California, and spend time with them. And I had talked with them about going to school in San Jose State and living with them. And they invited me to do that, and so couple days after graduating from high school, I got my train ticket and twenty-five dollars, and they sent me to, took me by bus to Delta, got on a train by myself, one small suitcase, went to Ogden, changed trains. And on the way to Ogden it was fine, got a seat, and then got on the train in Ogden, and it was loaded with GIs with soldiers and sailors that were headed to the West Coast because the victory in Europe was over, and everybody, they were headed to the Pacific, and all these people, and there were no seats. So I sat on my suitcase and entered one of the cars, and tried to stay as invisible as I could. Didn't want any of them to ask me if I was a "Jap," you know, like I had, incident in Oakland. And rode on that suitcase, and I guess, I don't know how long it was, sixteen hours, and got, Oakland, my aunt met me in Oakland and took me out to Warm Springs. And stayed there with them for, I don't know, I guess a little over a month, and my folks came back to Oakland, so then I rejoined the family at the OME, the Japanese Methodist Church in Oakland.

MA: That's where they were staying when they first came back?

BU: The church became a hostel, and they had laid out a bunch of bunks, cots, mattresses, one section women's, one section for men. They did have a shower back there, and a kitchen, pretty nice big kitchen. And eventually my mom became the cook for all the, you know, people that were using the hostel. And we stayed there, oh, for quite a while. I started school, went to San Francisco, at that time, junior college. And eventually, shortly after that, maybe a month or so, again, the elders of the church offered my mom the parsonage, our family, the parsonage, that normally the reverend would occupy. But they hadn't selected a reverend yet, so that was Oakland. So they offered that to our family if she would be the cook, and that's, so we lived there for a while. And then, I was commuting to San Francisco (Junior College), and then Lee Mullis and his dad were gonna move back east, and offered our house, his house to our family, my mom and dad, so we moved into his house. Eventually, they offered to sell it to us, but my mom and dad chose not to (buy it). (We) moved into Lee's house, and that's where I was when I went in the Air Force in '49.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

MA: So I was curious about Oakland and what the Japanese American community, how they were rebuilding and what Oakland was like when you got back? I mean, what did you find, what... when you returned? Was there any resistance?

BU: You know, very, as I recall, there was very few people that really owned their house from Oakland, so there was very few people that returned to Oakland. But the church was reestablished, what we refer to as OME, the Methodist church, the Oakland Methodist Episcopal Church. And when we got there, everybody used the hostel to get squared away, trying to (get settled). You know, in many cases, just the husband would come back out of camp, get squared away, then call the family. The, there was never unemployment (for) anybody that wanted to work, if they couldn't find something they wanted, they could always go to gardening. Even as a kid, when I got out, at sixteen years old, I worked as a gardener, helped couple dentists who were, had come back from elsewhere, stayed, used the hostel, and they're trying to get their office settled, built, their dentist's office (...). Meanwhile, they were gardening, (to) get some income, and they would hire me to go with them. I helped put in one of two lawns. And then all of a sudden, somebody approached me that some Caucasian family of Montclair district of Oakland wanted a lawn put in, would I do it? Heck, you know, so I went to them and gave 'em an estimate and put the lawn in for 'em. [Laughs] After this experience of helping a dentist put in a couple lawns. (...) Everybody was working, they had to, coming from a sixteen dollars a month to whatever they were getting must have felt like a gold mine.

MA: But you think that the community, a lot of people didn't return to Oakland?

BU: Oh, no.

MA: So the war really...

BU: Lot of 'em did not. Yeah, lot of Oakland people ended up in Berkeley. And there was, kind of strange, there were a couple reasons, I think. One of 'em being the restrictive covenants in some of these (areas). My grandfather, the house that I was telling you about, well, while in Topaz, his real estate agent recommended my grandfather sell the house. Of course, it wasn't my grandfather's by title because he was Issei. It was in my, one of my aunt's name, I think. Anyway, they sold it for $4,500 while they were in Topaz. And that's the house they converted to six units. When they left camp, my grandfather and one of my uncles who was taking care of my grandfather, was looking in the same area to buy, and they couldn't buy because of the restrictive covenants.

MA: And in Berkeley were they...

BU: In Oakland, this is Oakland.

MA: But in Berkeley, was there not as many?

BU: Well, in Berkeley, the areas that they wanted to buy, where most of the Japanese settled, didn't have that. But like the better parts of Oakland -- well, yeah, like north Oakland where my uncle and grandfather wanted to buy, they couldn't move back into where they used to own the place. But they did buy a little further away, and they had a, the clause was in there but they were able to buy the house. I guess the way the restrictive covenant read in those days, you could buy, own it, but you couldn't live in it. That happened to Willie Mays, when he bought in San Francisco. But anyway, my uncle was one of the cases they took to the Supreme Court, and they overturned it and said that it was illegal.

MA: Over this racial covenant? Restrictive covenant, I mean?

BU: Over the restrictive covenant, racial covenants, yeah. They determined it was illegal. And so they moved into the house that they bought, about a mile away from the house that he had before.

MA: So did they pass these covenants, like, during the war?

BU: Oh, no, no.

MA: They had existed before?

BU: They were, they were put in way back. Mainly, I think, originally it was for the, to keep the blacks out. Like I was telling you about Willie Mays, when he, when the Giants moved from New York to San Francisco, he bought in one of the nicest neighborhoods. I think it was the St. Francis Wood in San Francisco, and the covenant said that he couldn't live in it. Well, I think he got, by this time, that he had enough backing or something, and allowed him to live there. Those things, you know, they were existent.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

BU: You want to talk about a few other incidents of mine about discrimination?

MA: Sure.

BU: Well, I was in the Air Force, I got stationed George Air Force Base in Victorville, California, in 1959. And they had two nice golf courses there, outside of Victorville, one in Apple Valley, and one in Hesperia. The one in Apple Valley, I'd heard that blacks couldn't play there. Hesperia, I knew blacks could play. The one in Apple Valley, if the Air Force intramural teams had a black member, they couldn't play their match at Apple Valley, they had to play it at Hesperia. So one day I asked this major who was in charge of the special services, I said, "Hey, Rib, why don't you check and see if I can join Apple Valley?" He says, "Sure, you can." I was a captain then. And I said, "Okay, just check." And he came back to me a couple days later, and he was shocked, 'cause he was from the Midwest. And he says, "No, you can't join Apple Valley." I said, "Okay, how about checking with Hesperia?" So he checked with Hesperia and I was allowed to join there. Okay, and when I retired to Oakland in 1970, there were two country clubs in Oakland, Claremont country club and Sequoia country club. And I had heard that they were both exclusive. And I was working in the Oakland school district around 1982... 1981 I had heard that the first Nisei, Japanese American, was able to join at Sequoia. That was 1981, and the first time a non, well, first time an Asian was able to join. Just a few years before that, the first Jew was allowed to join. And the blacks still could not join in 1981, in Oakland. What was the population at that time, thirty, forty percent black? But they were, maintained their discriminatory thing. So in 1982, I asked one of my coworkers, I just mentioned that I'd like to join Sequoia. And he found somebody whose father was a member there, prominent member, and he said, oh, he'd be happy to sponsor me. So in '82, I joined, but there was still no blacks. But now, the current president is black, and I think a couple years ago, the first black president of the club. So it's fully integrated now.

MA: But it took until the '80s for that to happen, it sounds like.

BU: '80s, yeah. Well, the blacks didn't get in until about '87 or somewhere in there, oh, yeah. But there are still clubs around that are that way, you know. And not only blacks, but for whatever reason. The clubs in San Francisco, in the peninsula there, pretty much that way.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

MA: So let's go back a little bit. You mentioned you started going to school at San Francisco junior college, living with your parents who were in the parsonage at the church.

BU: Uh-huh.

MA: When did you transfer to Berkeley?

BU: One year later, '46. And that was a shock because in '45, when, in June of '45... June of '46 when the semester was over, Cal Berkeley had ten thousand students. September or August, September, when they opened, the student enrollment was twenty thousand. It went from ten to twenty, doubled in one, one semester. What had happened was all the returning GIs were using their GI Bill, and they were all there with the main purpose of getting on with it, and they were all in their twenties by now, you know. And settled down, lot of 'em were married, and they wanted to get through college and become something. And here I was, just turned seventeen now, and amongst all that, and still wanted to play.

MA: So when you were transferred to Berkeley, what were your, at that time, your, sort of, career goals or future plans?

BU: Well, I was thinking engineering, but I took my engineering, what do they call it, screening there, and there didn't do well. And so I was going to go into optometry, pre-optometry. But I really didn't have an objective, I didn't have any clue what I wanted to be until 1949.

MA: And how, so how many years were you in Berkeley? Did you end up graduating from Berkeley?

BU: I didn't graduate from Berkeley.

MA: So you were there for two years?

BU: Well, then I was, I dropped out several times, I'd start, drop out, start, drop out, and they allowed me to do that, I guess. Early, until early, sometime early 1949, I was thinking to myself, "I gotta do something. I can't continue this way." And I went by the post office and saw this Air Force poster, recruiting poster. It says, "Join the Aviation Cadet, United States Aviation Cadet Program. Get your wings and commission." And I thought, ooh, that sounded exciting. And so I signed up and passed all the different tests that they had. And all of a sudden, July 8, 1949, I got sworn in and then started, went to Texas, San Angelo, Texas, and started my basic pilot training.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

MA: Okay, so you were talking about joining the Air Force, and July 8, 1949, when you received, what was it? You enlisted?

BU: Enlisted in the United States Air Force, USAF Aviation Cadet Program.

MA: And that was in Texas?

BU: Pilot training (...).

MA: And that was in Texas?

BU: Well, when I enlisted, it was right here in San Francisco, I got sworn in there, and then I went to Texas to start my basic training at Goodfellow Air Force Base, San Angelo, Texas. And I was there from July 1949 until, yeah, July '49 until March of 1950. And then I went to the jet fighter school, advanced pilot training at Williams Air Force Base, Chandler, Arizona, outside of Phoenix. At that time, Phoenix, greater Phoenix was a hundred thousand people. [Laughs] It's changed.

MA: So what appealed to you about the military, or the Air Force in particular? You mentioned you thought it was kind of adventurous and exciting?

BU: Oh, yeah. It was, the camaraderie with the whole experience and the Air Force family, I had three children, and my wife, we just loved the twenty-one years that I spent in the Air Force. Although my wife had to make nineteen moves, she kind of put that behind her. And we were never strangers, we were always friends and welcomed to each unit we went to, wherever we went. This is after I finished pilot training, and got married soon after I, we became part of the Air Force family. Anytime we moved, the receiving organization knew we were coming, and somebody was assigned (from) the receiving organization to help us get squared away with the housing, whether it was temporary housing until we got squared away. And the daily activities and flying was just a ball. It was just, just so much fun. And a lot of training, one thing you really learn was that all these emergency procedures that we learned, that we had to keep practicing all the time, you keep practicing and practice until you, they become normal procedures. So when the emergency occurs, it's just a normal procedure you go through. You expect, you're expecting it, and so you knew exactly what to do when it happened. Fortunately, I didn't have that many -- [coughs] excuse me -- emergencies where, never lost an engine, so I was lucky in that respect.

MA: What kinds of planes were you training in?

BU: Mostly single engine fighters. Spent most of my experience in the, what they call fighter interceptor, all-weather interceptors, fighters. And they were single place fighters, interceptors where a lot of 'em are two place, where you have a radar observer or weapons officer in the back. I was always in a (...) single place F86D, F-102 and the F-106. And the, I flew (propeller aircraft), early part of my career, I started off as a flight instructor in a reciprocal engine, regular, conventional reciprocal engine. And so, let me see, oh, yeah, and then there was one year, one year in between in there where I flew B-25s for a year as a mission pilot for the radar observer training (program). And I think that's why I have my hearing problems now, it's because of the noise, noise that I experienced during that one year there.

MA: And during the Korean War, you were saying you were a flight instructor.

BU: Okay, during the Korean War, I was, that was when I was a flight instructor. And they call it a directed duty assignment, which means if you're a flight instructor, once you became assigned as a flight instructor, you had to stay as a flight instructor for three years. Well, that covered the whole period of the Korean War, 'cause I graduated in August of '50, and because of the B-25 interruption that one year, my three years of directed duty assignment didn't end 'til '54, and the Korean War had ended. And then, from that point... let me give you the births of my three girls. I was, one of my early assignments was as a flight instructor, was at Waco, Texas, the James Connolly Air Force Base. And my oldest daughter Chris was born there. Then I got transferred to Craig Air Force Base, Selma, Alabama. I was an instructor there, but this time I was instructing in the instructors school, pilot instructors school. And my second daughter, Patty, was born there in Selma, Alabama. And then from there, I went, took some training in the F86D in Perrin Air Force Base, Texas, and then got permanently stationed to England. RAF station, Manston. And while there, our third daughter was born. And actually, she was born at a... let's see, what do they call, RAF Station Burdrop Park Hospital, which was seventy miles west of London, while we were stationed seventy miles east of London.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

MA: And what's your daughter's name?

BU: Her name is Barbara. So she has a dual citizenship, British and American, U.S.

MA: So your kids really grew up moving all over and living in new places.

BU: So they saw, yeah, Barbara doesn't remember England at all. From there, we went one year in France, and the two younger ones don't remember that at all. And Chris, though, the oldest one, started school while in England, so she remembers England. And there, the Air Force sent her to what we call private school. They referred to it as a public school where they wore uniforms and all. And so she started kindergarten there and first grade. And then we went to France. Interesting note here is that while we were in England, most of the wives had nannies to, for the children, and a lot of 'em had hired young girls from Germany. And so when we got there, my wife, Yas, contacted one of the (wives), and their German girl got a nanny from Germany for us. So she came to live with us in England, then we got transferred to France, and she stayed in England, Waltraud is her name. She came over when she was nineteen, and then she couldn't speak a word of English when she came to England. Only thing she knew was "Hello." And then we went to France, she didn't originally join us there, but then later on she came and joined us and lived with us again. And when we left France in 1959, she was fluent in English. She, very bright girl. She had a tough childhood, and, but she was a smart gal, and she spoke very well. We didn't... well, we kind of kept in touch loosely for about a few years, then we didn't hear from her at all. And a few years ago, all of a sudden, we hear from Waltraud. And she called us on the, talked to my wife on the phone, she was back in the area where she came from, but we made contact. And then just couple months ago, my oldest daughter Chris started getting contact with Waltraud through e-mail, and Waltraud wants to come to the United States to see us. So she came a couple weeks ago and stayed with Chris for two weeks. She hadn't spoken any English for fifty years. When we picked her up at the airport, she could still understand, but she couldn't speak very well, she had to think about it and translate. But we knew after talking with her for a while that her English was going to come back because she still understood. And just amazingly, we put her on the airplane here last Thursday, sent her home, and sure enough, her English proficiency was really good. She can get by anywhere in the United States and not have to worry.

MA: That's great.

BU: But she said, looking back on it, she learned her English from Chris, the oldest daughter, 'cause she was watching her. Patty, not that much, because for one thing, Patty was a late... but her, most of her English was learned from Chris, just talking with Chris and Yas, of course. It was really interesting to get to see, to talk with her, and this was her very first vacation she's ever had. First airplane trip she's ever been on. And for the two weeks she was here, she really, really, between my daughter and us, we really showed her a lot. I saw things that I'd never seen before, like Alcatraz. [Laughs] She's a bright girl, and she's had a tough life, yeah. She married, turned out it wasn't a good marriage, I don't, she kind of implied that it was abusive type of thing. I know her, her father was abusive, and I think it was, part of the abuses was sexual abuse. And then her husband, he passed away about seven years ago. But she just had a rough life. She's got some fingers that are all catawampus, and she broke her, she's been training people to ride horses, and she's feeding horses and things and broke her fingers and never went to a doctor about it, she just guts it out.

MA: That's great you were able to reunite with her.

BU: Yeah, it was really something. Yeah, that was fun.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

MA: So I wanted to ask you, we were talking about your service in Vietnam, and if you could talk a little bit about that.

BU: Yeah. Well, actually, it was, my one year service was broken up into two different times. One, first time I was, in 1956, I went with, during the buildup phase -- no, '66. I went in March, end of March in '66, and I was the Forward Air Controller, Air Liaison Officer to the First Brigade of the (25th) U.S. Infantry Division. And I met them, they were, they came from Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, and I met them at Cuchi, Vietnam. And I was their air liaison officer at Cuchi with them. And at that time, on that tour of three months, I wasn't flying. I was, primarily I wasn't flying, I did fly some, but not very often. I was mostly with the brigade staff on the ground. And then the whole time, well, not the whole time... it was a shock to me to be living with the Army. Because I joined the Air Force to fly airplanes, and especially fighters, here I am living with the Army on the ground, and completely different environment.

MA: And where was your family at this point?

BU: Oh, (they) had just got to Misawa, Japan, I was in Misawa Air Base, northern Japan.

MA: So they stayed in Misawa?

BU: They stayed there. They, in fact, they just got there, and I was only there maybe one or two days, and I had to go to Vietnam. Then they were living in a civilian house off base, waiting for government quarters to open up on base. So my wife was there with the three kids, and she had to (wait), they were living temporarily in Oakland waiting shipment orders for them to come to Japan to join me, 'cause I was there from January until end of March, waiting for them to join me, mainly because there wasn't any housing available. So, by the time that they got their orders to come to join me, I got my orders to go to Vietnam. And I had to talk to my boss about letting me stay there a couple days and let (me) meet 'em in (Tokyo), Japan, and bring 'em to Misawa. And they did that for me, so I got to see 'em before I left for Vietnam.

MA: And then your first tour, you were saying, was three months?

BU: Yeah, that was three months.

MA: And then you ended up going back.

BU: Back to Misawa, Japan.

MA: Or, I'm sorry, when did you go back to Vietnam?

BU: Then when I finished up my tour in Misawa Air Base in Japan, I went back to finish up my nine months, into Vietnam, and this time I was assigned to become the Air Liaison Officer, Forward Air Controller to the 23rd ARVN, Army of the Republic of Vietnam. It was the Vietnamese division staff, I was on their staff as a part of the U.S. advisory team. The Army also had their advisors for the Vietnamese army.

MA: And what year was this that you were back there?

BU: This was, when I went back was 1968, yeah. July, July of '68.

MA: So you were advising, then, the Vietnamese army, the South...

BU: South Vietnam army.

MA: ...Vietnamese army.

BU: I was the advisor to the 23rd ARVN Division. And this time I was flying, and I was controlling fighters on the, targets on the ground, and forward air controlling from a light Cessna 01 aircraft.

MA: How was it for you being in Vietnam, as a person of Japanese ancestry and as an Asian person, I guess, in an Asian country?

BU: Yeah, I was a little, quite apprehensive, you might say, that when I was flying, that I wouldn't get shot down. Because not only did I have to fear the VCs, but my own troops. The thought of being shot down or wounded or whatever by my own troops, that scared me more than anything. Because if I had to bail out or whatever, and then they would have to send in a rescue helicopter or whatever it might be to come get me, I, whether they would see me and think, "Well, that's not U.S.," you know, they might leave me or shoot me. That was, that was always the fear. And that was a greater fear, I guess, well, than the fear of just being captured and being interrogated by the, eventually, if I got shot down in South Vietnam and got captured, I would eventually end up in North Vietnam. And being put in one of those prison camps up there like the Hotel Hilton as they called it, like McCain and them, they're all contemporaries of mine. I always feared that. We all did, but again, when you get trained to do something, you try to put that kind of stuff out of your mind and do well, do your job.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

MA: What were your feelings about the war in general, the Vietnam War?

BU: Well, when I was there, especially the second time there in '68, the war had been going on now for three or four years, and come to the realization that it really wasn't a military war, that it was a political war that the military was fighting. We had so many different activities going on. We had this war in South Vietnam, which was against the VC, Viet Cong. We had the war in North Vietnam that we were, fighters, aircraft were going up into. Then they had this thing going on in Laos and Cambodia, which we were "not" involved in. And then we had people dressed in civilian clothes, our own people, that go out at night to fight, and those were State Department people, which was CIA people. We had special forces that were fighting two different, one's a very covert war and the overt war. And as an Air Force Forward Air Controller, Air Liaison Officer, trying to plan, get involved in the planning of air strikes within the country there, there was all these different things going on. And the intelligence data was coming from so many different sources, and it seemed to me that the four, the Air Liaison Officers was a common point. They were the only ones that knew which, all these different activities were doing. Because if we were doing our job, we would support each of them. And those parties didn't know what was going on, what the other ones were doing. I knew, but they didn't, the other two Army organizations didn't. And that bothered the heck out of me the whole time I was there. And especially after dinner, normally our war would end at sundown, and then we'd go eat at the officers' club -- and then eat at the dining hall, and then go up and meet at the officers' club. The facility I'm referring to here now at Ban Me Thuot, was the king, the last king's hunting lodge complex. Beautiful, all teak wood, just a gorgeous facility. The Army, U.S. had taken over that whole complex for their advisory team, and it was a pretty big team.

MA: And where was this located?

BU: Ban Me Thuot, B-A-N M-E T-H-U-O-T, it's in the Central Highlands. And it was the last of the, what they called the Montagnard, which were the aborigines, they had the last king of the Montagnard, that was his era, area. And we would meet, gather at the club after dinner, and everybody would be there, all the officers are sitting around talking, drinking beer, I didn't drink, everybody else was. And a few guys sitting among us in civilian clothes. And all of a sudden, these guys in civilian clothes would leave, and that's when their work started. And they'd go out somewhere doing their thing.

MA: Were they gathering intelligence? I mean, what were they doing?

BU: Doing a lot of things. I think some of 'em were assassins, you know, going after particular individuals that they knew to be VC. And it was just an ugly war. And you didn't know who your enemy was there because of the Viet Cong. When I was there the first time, I was in a different area, I was in the area Corps south of where Ban Me Thuot is, it was what they called III Corps, Cuchi, and then the airbase that supported me was Bien Hoa. Well, 1968, during the big Tet Offensive, where the VC -- no, the... the regular Vietnamese, North Vietnamese army made an attack, a concentrated attack all throughout the South Vietnam and really hit Saigon hard, and hit this Bien Hoa Air Base, which was the Air Force contingent there. And there was a big battle there, and when it was all over, one of the VCs that they found that was underneath the barbed wire there that they had killed trying to get in to the Bien Hoa, turned out to be the officer's club barber. I probably had a haircut from him. But you didn't know who the enemy was there. And it's just a nasty war.

MA: Did the other officers sort of share that sentiment about it being a political war, a nasty war?

BU: I think a lot of 'em did. Lot of 'em did. I was quite, I was in the end of my career, senior officer, first time I was there I was a major, the second time I was there I was, I had become a lieutenant colonel. So I was a little bit older, and what I also found out living with the Army and all, these young officers just loved, lot of 'em just loved combat. They just couldn't wait to get out there and start shooting at the enemy, you know, finding an enemy and killing. And I also witnessed a lot of stuff that... people change when you give them a license to kill, you know, things they wouldn't normally do, behavior change when you give them the license to kill. And the way they think and behavior, it's just scary.

MA: Do you think it's a power issue, or a...

BU: Yeah. But when you, when you're free to kill, the enemy or whatever, or in this case, like that Mi Lai case where they killed a whole bunch of women and children and things, I could see how that got out of hand. Because there were women and children shooting and killing us, you know. But that, does that give you the right to shoot all, any women and child you see around that you think, you know? That put a stop to a lot of that. I think there was other incidents that had happened, that never made the news, but same thing might have occurred. I think there was a lot of those incidents. But war is just hell. It just, just changes people when you put a gun in their hand and it's okay to shoot and kill somebody. Especially somebody young when you train 'em that way. Take 'em out of high school, not so much college, but take 'em out of high school and give 'em a gun and tell 'em, "Kill," they're gonna do it. And you're trained not to think. If they say, "Kill," kill. That's why they had so much trouble in the, with the kids out of, off the college campuses. Because they were taught not, they were taught to think before they, you know. Whereas if you get younger kids, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen-year-olders and tell 'em, "Don't think, react." But there are cases, though, where you've gotta have that. Among us pilots, we do the same thing. We fly four airplanes together, here's the leader, and if he makes a mistake and gets too close to the ground and hits the ground, the saying goes they want to see three other holes right next to 'em, you know. And, but that's the way it is, you maintain the integrity. You protect your buddy. I had a granddaughter and I had a few words one day because she was telling one of her high school friends who was going into combat, told him, says, "When worse comes to worst, look out for yourself." Well, I said, "Uh-uh, I disagree," and boy, we had, I gave, told her what I thought about that. But since then, after she settled down and everything and told her more about it, and found out how things really work in real life, where you don't abandon your buddy, you take care of 'em. It might take your life, too, you don't bug out.

MA: And so you were in Vietnam, then, for nine months you said?

BU: Well, total twelve months.

MA: So total a year, but the second time you went back it was nine months?

BU: It was for nine months, yeah.

MA: And then you ended up retiring in 1970?

BU: Yeah, uh-huh.

MA: What was your rank?

BU: Lieutenant Colonel when I retired.

MA: Lieutenant Colonel?

BU: Uh-huh.

MA: And you went back to Oakland, is that right?

BU: Yes. Ended up retiring out of Hamilton Air Force Base which is right up the road here. And so when I did that, well, then I retired to Oakland.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

MA: And I should ask you how you met your wife, and a little bit about her.

BU: Okay, yeah. Oh, yeah. Actually, Yas and I are distant related. But after coming out o of camp, while living at the hostel, this Frank Ogawa, who was married to Grace, maiden name Kitano, knew that we were kind of related. But he mentioned to me one day, he says, "Hey, Bob, I want you to meet my niece." And I was living in the hostel, she was at this time going to college, Yas Honda. And I said, "Oh, okay," but nothing ever came of that until January, or November, December 31, 1945, New Year's Eve. I had a car, I had a date, separate date, and I picked up two of my buddies and their dates, and one of the dates was Yas Honda. So that's when I actually met Yas, and we both knew of each other through Frank, her uncle Frank. So anyway, we went to New Year's Eve and I think, I'm not sure where it was, but it was a big Nisei dance in San Francisco somewhere, at the YMCA thing. Then after the dance, the six of us piled in the car and we out to Ocean Beach, Playland, spent few more hours there and then drove back. And those two couples were from, lived in Berkeley, so dropped them off and then finally ended up at home. And I didn't see Yas again until the following September when I went to Berkeley and ran into Yas. And I started hanging out with that group of kids, the guys and gals, and that's, then we started, we hit it together, and that was in '46. So I guess, what, September of '46, somewhere in there, then we started seeing each other. Then I broke up with my other friend and started dating Yas. And then we were kind of on and off, really, for, until I went in the Air Force. I guess her, her mother wasn't probably too happy with me, you know, because I wasn't doing anything, just fumbling away at Berkeley until I joined the Air Force. Then when I got my wings in August the 4th of 1950, then I was welcome into -- sort of welcome -- into the family. And then we got engaged that August and then got married in December of that year.

MA: Of 1950?

BU: '50, yeah. And then what had happened, I was stationed at Waco, Texas, at this time, and she made all the arrangements at Hamilton Air Force Base, so we got married at Hamilton. And the whole wedding party went there, and right outside Hamilton gate there was a motel then, so I, we took two hotel rooms there for the guys and gals to change and everything, because we're getting married, across the street is the Hamilton. And then we, after the reception, then we headed back to Texas. And at that time, the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge was non, wasn't built yet, so we had to take the ferry. Well, when we got on the ferry to start heading south, who's there but my father and the whole family's all on the same ferry. So he digs his camera out and we go up top deck ad he takes a bunch of pictures of us, her in her fur coat, and looks like we're on a cruise on our honeymoon.

So then they took us, well, then we got as far as Fresno the first night, second night Texas... oh, very interesting here. Third night we're heading for Texas and we stop in El Paso, her birthplace. What had happened was the reason she was born in Texas was her father had just completed his studies for his PhD, and he submitted his paperwork and all to University of Tokyo, but they were at Denver. And this is in January of 1928, and they left Denver, 1928, and headed south to El Paso to see one of his doctor friends that he knew, and told him to go to Texas because he couldn't pass the state board in California because of his English. Well, somehow he was able to get a Texas license, and he told him to go to Texas to El Paso. And this friend, doctor, was Furugochi. And I can't imagine December, January of 1928 going from Denver to El Paso, along the Rocky Mountains. Cold, roads had to be, oh, geez, I can't imagine. Anyway, they got to El Paso, the mother was seven months pregnant, and Yas was born two months premature, preemie then, I guess probably because of the rough roads and the conditions or whatever. And so she was born in Dr. Furugochi's office. Dr. Furugochi was childless, they didn't have any, didn't, couldn't, and Yas had an older brother, and this is the first girl born. And Dr. Furugochi wanted them to give Yas to them, to the Furugochis. They did, I guess they did that a lot in Japan, gave children away to sisters and brothers who were childless. Well, they wanted to do that with Yas, the Furugochis wanted her. Well, Dr. Honda, Yas's father, said no, because he came from a family of four boys and one girl, and they gave the girl away and didn't have any more, no more girls. So he, so it was bachi type of thing, so he wouldn't, he didn't do that.

But he hadn't, she hadn't seen Dr. Furugochi since she was born. So when we came through on our way to Waco, Texas, we stopped in to see Dr. Furugochi. And, of course, they were real happy to see us. And we didn't stay overnight there, but we just stayed a few hours there and got to meet him. And in the next few years, whenever we would go through El Paso, we always stopped and see Dr. Furugochi, Mrs. Furugochi.

MA: That's a great story.

BU: Yeah. That's... and Dr. Furugochi, being the only Japanese around, any GI that was stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, during the Korean War or even World War II, he would hear about it and they would always invite the Japanese to his house and take care of 'em. One of my classmates, a guy named Chuck, the one I was telling you about in my chem. class, he met Dr. Furugochi 'cause he invited him to his house. Real nice people; real nice people.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

MA: You've had quite a life and a lot of experiences. If you have any messages, you know, for future generations or people who will see this, what would you say?

BU: The... to be a pilot in a fighter squadron is, gotta be the greatest. The esprit de corps, and I think this -- well, more so in the Air Force than the Marine Corps or Navy, because the Air Force pilot in a squadron is a pure pilot. That's all he does is train to be a pilot. The Navy and Marine Corps, they have other jobs. It might be a supply officer, adjutant, but they all have other things they must do. But in the Air Force, the pilot is a pilot. And so really for the three years or whatever the assignment is, enjoy it before you become supervisor or administrative and move yourself up. It's just, it's so much fun. And you get in a good organization, and most of 'em are, because they don't allow you to be an outcast. They have a way to bring you into the group, you know. And the wives, Yas will tell you that her greatest experience was with the fighter squadrons. Because like I said, I think earlier, you're never a stranger. When we, when we hear somebody coming in, somebody assigns a pilot to be the host for the incoming, takes care of 'em, make sure they get squared away. If you go overseas where you're not allowed to take furniture with you, and you get into a furnished apartment, more than likely your refrigerator will be stocked, you'll have milk, bread, eggs, the whole nine yards. And everybody does it for each other, and really takes care of each other. And it's just so much fun, and everybody has so much respect for each other, and mix with a great bunch of people. Well, we still attend some flight squadron reunions and have great fun. Of course, everyone talks about goof-ups everybody's made somewhere along the line. There is one incident there that I expressed that was in the, Looking Like the Enemy, but you want me to relate that?

MA: Sure.

BU: When I was a captain at George Air Force Base, and my time came up to be in the, what they call primary zone for promotion to major, I was assistant operations officer. And the promotion, I missed the promotion; I got passed over to major. And oh, I was crushed. I was just devastated. Most all my friends gave me encouragement, "Keep it up." But the biggest help I got was from my immediate commander. Harry Hancock, I think he was a (lieutenant) colonel, anyway, he said... to make a long story short, after a few days, he said, "Don't worry about it, you're gonna make the next promotion." Meanwhile, he said... well, I forgot which way it went. Anyway, he said, "Let's go to headquarters, let's go look at your promotion folder." And what the promotion folder has is your history, picture, and your last ten evaluation reports. So anyway, he said, "Set up an airplane, let's go to Colorado Springs and check on your folder." So we did, and so I flew, (he) rode in the backseat, and we landed at Colorado Springs, went to headquarters, and asked to see my promotion folder. I think we called 'em before we went. Anyway, we went to the personnel office that was in charge, brought out the promotion folder and he says, before he opens it, he says, "Captain," he says, "I may say something you may not want to hear." I said, "Oh, no, that's what we want to hear. If there's something in there that we, you know, that's causing me to miss a promotion, we want to find it." So he opened up the folder, first page is my photograph. He looks at that and he says, "That's fine." He starts flipping through all my paperwork, all my evaluation reports, closes the folder and he says, "Captain, I don't know." He says, "Normally I can spot what's caused the failure for your promotion. But in your case, looks like your numbers are right, you should have made it." "Okay, thank you." So Harry and I jumped back in the airplane, went back to George. I think that's when Harry said, "Don't worry, Bob, you're gonna make the next one."

And I got back and through the days, I hear from this real good friend of mine, we were captains together, he's black, and he has, he was at a school. And Tom calls me and he says, "Bob, you know why you didn't make it, didn't you?" I said, "No." I said, "We went to headquarters, ADC, and they couldn't tell me." He says, "It was your picture." I said, "What do you mean?" He says, "Oh, come on, Bob. You know better than that, it's your picture." Well, what had happened -- then it dawned on me -- what had happened over the years was on our, one of our forms that has all our different information, date of birth and all the personal history, there was a little square in there like your birth certificate, your race. Well, they removed that, they took that out. They took that question out, you could no longer say "Japanese" or "black," "Negro." They put a photograph in there. Well, then you don't need to ask, right? So they're looking for the blacks and the Asians. So anyway, the next promotion I made it, and Harry made sure by my evaluations that he gave me. So I made it on the next one. And somehow or another, little later, that was to major. And then I was only a major about two years, and they had an extra promotion to lieutenant colonel that got me promoted and almost catch up, caught up with my contemporaries. I just ended up a couple months behind them. But that was a covert case of discrimination there.

MA: Right, passing you over all those years because of your...

BU: Well, because I was Asian, you know. And maybe I was pretty close to the line, but it only takes one officer on the promotion board, I think, I don't know, I forgot, there are four or five officers that review the same stack. All it takes is one of 'em to throw yours out. So that, that and the fact that I -- that was the only Air Force one that I recall. Other than that, I was always accepted as an equal, and accepted for what I did rather than where I came from.

MA: It sounds like you had many positive experiences and memories from your --

BU: Oh, yeah. Most of my, most of my Air Force experiences were positive. Just had a great twenty-one years. Like I said, you were asking me what would I leave for young ones. First, work and get a commission. Go into the service as a commissioned officer, that's, as far as I'm concerned, that's the only way to go. You have to work so much harder as an enlisted to get out there where it's economically comfortable. But then, yeah, I guess that, work hard, play hard. [Laughs]

MA: Well, those are, that's a great way to end. So I want to thank you so much for sharing your life stories with us. It was just really wonderful.

BU: Okay.

MA: Yeah, thank you.

BU: Sure.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.