Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: George Murakami Interview
Narrator: George Murakami
Interviewer: Steve Ozone
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Date: October 13, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-mgeorge_4-01

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

<Begin Segment 1>

SO: Today is October 13, 2009. We're here with George Murakami. My name is Steve Ozone from the Twin Cities JACL Oral History group and videographer is Bill Kubota. So let's start with, what was your birth name and the day you were born?

GM: George -- not George, but Kiyoshi Murakami. And I was born in 1934 in Guadalupe, California, in San Luis Obispo County, Southern California.

SO: And George was not your birth name. How did you get that?

GM: Well, after I came out of camp in Sacramento, the first time I met some of the local Japanese kids there, and this one guy kept calling me George. He said he knew a guy in camp named George, and I looked just like him and he kept calling me George, and all the other kids started calling me George, and then it almost became official after that.

SO: Let's start with your father. What was his name?

GM: His name was Yoshiaki Murakami and he was born in Kumamoto-ken in Japan. And his father was visiting one of my father's older brothers in Guadalupe. And he thought the life here was pretty good, I guess, and he called my father over to visit Guadalupe, that was when he was about eighteen years old. And he took out a passport for visiting for five years and so he came to Guadalupe then.

SO: What was the port of entry?

GM: Port of entry was San Francisco. And he started, I guess, farming, but he eventually went to auto mechanic school in Los Angeles. And after he graduated from that he became a truck driver. He had his own truck and he was transporting commodities and things. He mentioned one time that he was contracted to go down to Mexico to bring up some fish.

And he took out a visa to go down there and bring up some fish, and he complained that he never really got paid for that and it was quite a long journey. The truck must have been a 1920 Model A truck or something like that.

SO: He continued that, truck driving?

GM: Yes, he did. I'm not sure how long he did it, but I think after he got married he went into farming himself because I guess he thought the truck driving business was kind of dangerous, I guess, he said.

SO: What was he like as a person?

GM: I would call him strict. [Laughs] But stern. He was pretty ambitious, though. And of course, he had difficulty because he really didn't speak very good English and things like that, but, and I think basically farming was where he didn't have to have contact with people and stuff.

SO: And back then when he was farming, he didn't own land, was he working for someone, or did he rent?

GM: Well, I think he rented and also a kind of a sharecrop type of thing where he supplied the labor, and the owner supplied the equipment and the land, and then they would share percentage-wise. I'm not sure what that was.

SO: Tell me about your mother, what was her name?

GM: My mother's name was Kiyoko Tsuyuki and she was born in San Francisco in 1911. And her father originally came from Japan to go to school, but then he fell on hard times, I guess, and he was running a boarding house for bachelors, Japanese bachelors. When she was, I don't know, early teens maybe, you know, in San Francisco they couldn't go to American schools, but anyway, she and her sister were sent back to Japan to get some training, not official education but training, sewing, cooking, and that sort of thing. And when she came back from Japan, of course, she was strictly Japanese. And think they called these people that went to Japan and came back as Kibeis. I think she was working in a packinghouse where my father was hauling vegetables, and that's where my father met my mother, and this is, I think, in Lompoc, California.

SO: Where's that?

GM: It's in Southern California also. I think it's in the northern part of San Luis Obispo


SO: What was your mother like when you were growing up?

GM: Well, I think she was strict. [Laughs] But she was very ambitious and hard working. You know, she worked out on the farm quite a bit too. And, of course, she was pretty young when she got, she was only seventeen when she got married. They had a pretty rough life, I think, basically out on the farm.

SO: How many kids were in your family?

GM: There was five of us. I had an older brother and sister, myself and then two younger brothers. And, let's see, we were about three years apart all the way through.

SO: We talked about your grandfather and that Murakami was not his original name.

GM: Right. We were just recently going through some old papers and stuff, and we came across this term that my father's father was titled, "adopted father," and we really didn't know what that meant. Well, we found out that my grandfather's name was Miyamoto, and when he married Murakami he took the Murakami name because this Murakami family didn't have any boys, and there were a lot of other boys in the Miyamoto family. And so we just found out that quite recently that our grandfather was a Miyamoto and took the Murakami name when he got married.

SO: Did you find out from relatives in Japan?

GM: I have a cousin that was more the family historian type of thing, and he told us what this adopted father thing meant.

SO: Where was your grandfather from in Japan?

GM: He was from Kumamoto-ken, which is on the island of Kyushu, I think it's near the city of Fukuoka.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

SO: Tell me about your siblings. I know that you were the middle child of five.

GM: Well, my oldest brother's name was Yoshikazu and then he went by the name of Bob. I'm not sure how that came about but he's been known as Bob for a long time. Of course, in camp he was a young teenager, and he kind of had a job, too, moving furniture and stuff. But when the war was over and my father came out to California, he followed almost right after, and they worked as farmers for a while. I don't think he finished high school but he left on his own, went down to Los Angeles and worked in, I guess, pretty tough, but he joined the army, became a paratrooper, and fought in the Korean War. Then he came back and helped my father on the farm, and he went into the beauty school business. He was doing quite well. He had, I think, had four shops going at one time. And then, just slowly dwindled down, and I think presently he still has one that his wife Sally manages and operates that in San Jose, California. My sister, she was a hard worker too. During high school she worked for Caucasian families as kind of a maid, childcare provider, and went to high school. She got married to a landscape architect, and she was working in the legal business as a secretary but she contracted cancer quite early. It was in her lungs, I think, but they couldn't operate. They thought maybe it was caused by the pesticides on the farm but she died pretty early. I think she was fifty-seven when she passed away. My brother, younger brother, he, of course, went to San Jose State to become an art designer, and he was in business for himself. And he still is doing it, and he's a graduate of San Jose State also.

SO: That's Ray?

GM: That's Ray, yes. And then Denny, that's my youngest brother. His name was Takeshi and he was six years younger than I am. I don't remember him too much in high school because I was gone and he was in school then. But he also had cancer, and he passed away a couple years ago at sixty-three or something like that.

SO: So you were under the age of ten before camp. What do you remember about school?

GM: I don't remember too much about Guadalupe. I think I was maybe a second grader, something like that. You know, being at home, out on the farm, we didn't have too much contact with other kids. But I kind of I mainly spoke Japanese so when I went to school, my mother started me about a year later than I was supposed to, I guess, kindergarten. I got along okay, English came okay, but they thought I was too big for the first grade, they skipped me to second, so I had a tough time with English. I think it might have been almost third grade before I really started to learn how to read, and that was in camp. Because I remember in camp, when you had to stand up and read, I had a tough time.

SO: That's tough for everybody. What about your friends when you were that age? This was still before camp. Were there a lot of Japanese kids?

GM: Well, Guadalupe was pretty heavily populated with Japanese. I don't remember any Caucasian friends. They were only in school. And after English school, of course, right after English school we went to Japanese school and then we came home. We lived a mile, a couple miles away from the school, and we always walked to and from school to the farm and stuff, but there weren't any neighbors we went by because it was all open fields.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

SO: So you went to Japanese school five days a week?

GM: Yeah. I think it was five days a week and it was held at the Buddhist temple there.

SO: So your day was, go to school, go to American school, go to Japanese school, and then did you have chores after?

GM: Yeah, we went home.

SO: And what were those?

GM: Mainly around the house type of thing. We didn't go out in the field because I was too young then. The house was kind of out in the field. It was next to a dairy farm. There weren't that many chores to do but I remember, maybe this was a little bit later on, that as kids we used to have to wash the rice for dinner, and of course, let it soak for a half an hour before my mother came home and cooked it.

SO: What was the process for doing that?

GM: Well, you measured whatever it was, usually two cups rice I think, washed it, rinsed , then you let it sit. Let it soak. One of the other chores was we had a Japanese bath and we had to build a fire underneath this tub to heat the water, and that's when my brother and I more or less did all this together.

SO: So the Japanese bath meaning, you wash yourself off first, and then...

GM: Get in the hot tub...

SO: And everybody uses it.

GM: Yes. Regular Japanese furo, I guess my father couldn't get away from that. I think that's built when you move some places.

SO: What was the summer like? Did you still go to Japanese school?

GM: No. I don't remember us in the summers. Summers were basically out in the fields, I think. I remember I used to run though the fields with an empty tin bucket, hitting it with a stick, to make noise to chase the birds away and that kind of stuff.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

SO: So then when Pearl Harbor happened you were still young, but what do you remember about that?

GM: The only thing I really remember is I think we were supposed to go to Japanese school. I think that was the following Monday right after Pearl Harbor, and they said there's no Japanese school. We came home, and that's only the basic thing I remember about that. Then, the aftermath is the packing and stuff when we found out we're going to go to camp. I remember my mother putting things together and setting aside this and that. The other thing is, it wasn't right after Pearl Harbor but in February I think, I'm not sure about that time frame, but my father mentioned the FBI coming in to pick him up, and they went through the house, ransacked it, took a few things: radios, guns and whatever, but we didn't know where my father went. They just picked him up...

SO: And it was because he was a member of an organization?

GM: Yes it was some kind of a men's organization.

SO: Heimushakai?

GM: Heimushakai. Some military men or something. I don't know why he would be in something like that.

SO: I did read that that group of men would meet and they would send money back to Japan. It was for the...

GM: The military?

SO: Yes.

GM: Okay.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

SO: So your father is gone and you were sent to an assembly center. Where was that?

GM: We were sent to Tulare Assembly Center, which was on, I think, on the Tulare County Fairgrounds. It's... near Fresno.

SO: And how long were you there?

GM: We were there about six months I think. Then we were sent to Gila in Arizona.

SO: And transportation was by bus, right?

GM: To Tulare it was.

SO: Did the family own a car?

GM: They did. I'm not sure, I think my mother sold it or something. But I guess there were some people that drove there. I don't think we took too much. Things that my mother tried to sell and then couldn't sell was put into a hall that the Japanese owned. I think most of the families stored their articles and stuff, furniture and whatever in this one hall. And I don't think we ever -- it was ransacked -- and so we didn't get any of that back.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

SO: So after Tulare you were sent to Gila River.

GM: Right.

SO: Can you talk about what the transition period was? I mean, you're in the assembly center. Did you get a notice that said that you're moving to another place?

GM: I don't know the process or anything like that. I just remember we were put on trains. There were guards on the train, the shades were all pulled as we went through cities and towns. And I don't think the train went directly to the camp but from there, wherever it stopped, we took buses into Gila.

SO: What was the reaction of the family? If the shades were pulled, they had no idea where you were going so I'm sure your mother was terrified.

GM: Yeah, I think it was pretty scary. As a kid I don't remember feelings and all that. I just kind of remember just running up and down the train or something, probably getting my mother all shook up or something.

SO: Having fun.

GM: Yeah.

SO: What do you remember about Gila River? Your earliest memories.

GM: Well, we did have schools, and I remember the teachers were other Japanese, older Japanese, and I remember we played a lot of sports, and we did hikes and stuff. We visited another camp that was a little far away. We went through their vegetable farms and go and visit, we'd always be in a group. And I think the camp was surrounded almost by canals, and we used to go to the canal and do a little fishing and kind of swimming, but we knew we could not go beyond the canal.

SO: Were there armed guards there?

GM: I don't recall seeing any armed guards. I think the only place we... there were no fences. I guess there might have been postings or something out in the desert but postings were mainly for people not to come in. We couldn't go out, but it was kind of understood that that was more or less the border of the camp. And there were people that you could sign up or something to leave the camp to go visit the nearby city, and I think that was the only time I remember seeing a guard or something, and he was checking the passes or whatever.

SO: And the guard went with people when they left?

GM: That I don't know.

SO: Was school, well, you said the teachers were Japanese?

GM: Yeah. I had a couple of Caucasians, local people, I think that were teachers. And I also had other Japanese who were there. I don't know if they were college students or what, but there were other Japanese and that was the third or fourth grade, something like that.

SO: Was the school day like what you remember before camp?

GM: I think it was a regular school day. I think the only difference was that when you broke for lunch, you had to go back to your own block to go to lunch in the mess hall in the block that you lived in.

SO: Did you still have Japanese school?

GM: No, no Japanese school. [Laughs]

SO: So more play time.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

SO: How old were you when you got out of camp?

GM: I think I was ten; let's see, '45. I guess, eleven. I think I was in sixth grade.

SO: And then what happened after camp... oh, your father came back.

GM: My father came back when we were in camp, but he was also, he was sent to Bismarck, North Dakota, and I'm not sure what that camp was about but he mentioned being questioned quite a bit by the FBI or whoever ran that camp, and he came back to the family in Gila. He was working as a cook, but I remember him leaving to work the crops, I don't know, Montana. They would go, I think he worked the wheat fields in Nebraska or something like that, and then towards the end of the war, then he went out to Sacramento to kind of look for a place and a job, and then he found a place, a home. I think it was another Japanese farmer's home, and from there he was working more or less like a migrant farmer in the farming field. Then Japanese families, they were all coming back from camp too, so they were coming into their home we were renting, and so from there we moved to Elk Grove. He was still farming but he was more like a farm hand. He was the tractor driver and handyman type of person for the ranchers, and then they supplied a home for his family.

SO: Can you talk about this picture here?

GM: Okay, yeah. That's a picture of Gila. And that's kind of the traditional or standard block. There's the fourteen barracks and the men's toilet and the women's toilet and the laundry room. And then the one barrack was designated for administration and the other one was the dining hall. And that was typical of all the blocks in the camp.

SO: So each block had an administration room?

GM: Yes, they had a block manager. And they had, kind of a place where the mail was dropped off. Then it was distributed to the... each barrack was mainly divided into four, and a family had one of the four apartments in there.

SO: Where did you get this photograph?

GM: I really don't know. [Laughs] I know I didn't take it.

SO: It looks like an original. And then this was in camp, too.

GM: I'm not sure how long I took judo there, probably about a year. They always had a group picture of the club. I think that little sign on the door says Gila Judo Dojo.

SO: What can you tell me about the roof?

GM: Well, yeah, that's kind of typical. The end of the barracks had kind of like a double door, but the apartments in the middle sections only had single doors, and that shows a double door there too, and there it was just drywall and the roof. It had a double roof, and it was mainly because the heat in Arizona was so intense.

SO: So this was open?

GM: That was open between the two roofs, yeah.

SO: What about this, 1944?

GM: I don't know if every family had to have their picture taken but that's our family in 1944. My father, mother, my brother. I don't remember this but he must have been in the Boy Scout troop in camp there.

SO: And that's you.

GM: And that's me on the left with a plaid sweater and big collar. [Laughs] And that was Ray next to me, then Denny. And my sister Jean in the middle and then my older brother Bob in the Boy Scout uniform.

SO: Okay. Do you think that, I know you were only nine or ten, but do you think that the photographer was brought in from the outside or was there somebody...

GM: You know, I don't quite remember who took that picture, I really don't. But we were pretty well dressed up there. That's not our typical clothes in camp.

SO: So it seems like your brother had a Boy Scout uniform in camp. It was just like everyday things still went on.

GM: I think pretty much so. The only difference was you didn't live as a family. Maybe you slept as a family, but when you got up, you were on your own. You didn't have to eat together or anything, at the mess hall. And everybody had their own separate friends, and you went their own separate ways. And I don't remember too much about the different organizations they had there. I remember the teenagers had their dances, you know. And high schools had their activities. I don't know if each block had a team but they used to have sports. There were baseball, basketball and football types of things.

SO: And was everything outside?

GM: Yes. Basketball was outside, and the high school did have a gymnasium though.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

SO: All right, so after camp you went to Sacramento and continued with school. What was the feeling in the community about the Japanese?

GM: Well, I think it seems that there might have had more bias after camp. Some of the kids were picked on, families were picked on, and stuff like that. I think being out in the country, you were probably protected from a lot of that. But when you went to school, well, there were older kids to pick on you and stuff. I guess maybe that's when I felt the bias, was after camp rather than before camp. Of course, I was older then.

SO: Did you graduate from high school in Sacramento?

GM: No, in 1950 my father started strawberry farming in San Jose, actually Mountain View, California. And so in my sophomore year we moved to Mountain View. We started a strawberry farm and it was actually on a sharecrop basis too. We put in the field of strawberries and cultivated and picked it, took it to market and stuff.

SO: Did you help out?

GM: Yeah, quite a bit. The whole family pitched in.

SO: What happened to Japanese school?

GM: [Laughs] No more Japanese school.

SO: So you graduated from high school.

GM: In Mountain View.

SO: Then what did you do?

GM: I started at San Jose State. This was right in the middle of the Korean War, and a lot of guys were getting drafted and even some out of school and stuff. We thought... some of our friends were getting drafted so I thought anyway that if I didn't want to be a soldier, I'd volunteer for the Air Force, so that's what I did.

SO: Had you decided on a major or were you just taking general studies?

GM: I was just in general studies.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

SO: So you joined the Air Force. What happened with them?

GM: Well, I went to basic training right near home there at Parks Air Force Base in Oakland. And then I went to Biloxi, Mississippi, for radio training. I thought I was going to go to a radio maintenance type of thing, and I found out it was radio operations, you know, where you learned Morse code and that sort of stuff. And after that I was feeling pretty good. I was being sent to Japan, but actually it was a detachment from Japan on Iwo Jima and that was a one-year duty there.

SO: Did you have much contact with people outside the base?

GM: Not in Biloxi, no.

SO: In Iwo Jima.

GM: Well, no, that is strictly military. No civilians on the island. Yeah, it was just strictly military. The Air Force, Army and Coast Guard were there. But I did have contact with some Japanese workers there. They were still salvaging some of the wrecks there, digging up copper, and I had a chance to talk to some of them.

SO: So for a whole year on the island?

GM: Yes. Well, I was sent to Japan for rest and recuperation for a couple times.

SO: And then what about after Iwo Jima?

GM: After Iwo Jima, I applied for Hawaii at Hickam Air Force Base there. And I spent another year there, and that was pretty good duty because off duty I could go visit my cousins and enjoy the sights and stuff there. And then from Hawaii I volunteered for duty in New York someplace. I just wanted to get discharged in New York and then travel back to California, but I got sent to Minneapolis, Camp Snelling.

SO: And so you were still in radio communications?

GM: Yes, I was still in radio communication. At Hickam Air Force Base I worked the communications with aircrafts that were in that area, mostly airplanes that were coming from the United States, flying over, and we would receive operation reports from the plane. They would have to check in every hour as they flew across. They didn't just come over. I don't know how long it takes now in a jet, but then it used to take hours and hours to get there. But at Fort Snelling, I was actually a backup for I think the U.S. had this thing called Dew Line up through Canada to watch for missiles or planes coming from Russia. We were just a backup for regular communication. If that got disrupted somehow, we would communicate by radio, Morse code, and still get positions of aircrafts or whatever, and they would plot aircrafts that went through... you've seen on these movies, the great big boards? Glass boards that write positions on them? That's what they were doing, and we were backup for them.

SO: At Fort Snelling, by the time you were there, MIS was moved.

GM: Yes.

SO: What was the base life like?

GM: Base life was pretty civil. You lived in a barrack and you had a mess hall there, but you had duty time and we usually worked around the clock. We worked six hours on, then twelve hours off. Six hours on, twelve hours off and then you get a day off or something like that. So you came and you went as you pleased. You just had to be there for duty. We didn't have parades. It was a pretty small unit. And actually we were a small group of radio operators compared to whatever they had then. There was also an attachment of Air Force fighter pilots, fighter squadron there also but I wasn't associated with any of that.

SO: Where was the field?

GM: It was where the airport is now. I think they still have National Guard and stuff.

SO: So, I don't know how long Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport has been there, but had that been built?

GM: Yes. It was still there. They basically used the same airstrip, I think, but the Navy was also there and the Air Force. I think they still do.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

SO: And you met your wife when you were here.

GM: Yes, when I was here, I don't know how I found out about the Japanese community here. I guess it was through somebody I met. They said they were having a picnic, Japanese community picnic and so forth, and so I went. And then also from that I met other people. They used to have a young adults group that had social functions every now and then, but that's where I met Judy at one of these picnics. Of course she was pretty young. She was still in high school. [Laughs]

SO: And you were how old?

GM: Twenty, twenty-one, something like that.

SO: Were there other Japanese Americans in the Air Force with you?

GM: There was just one other gal that was in the WAF or something. She was from Hawaii. But I think we were the only two Asians in fact.

SO: So when you would go off the base, you would just take a bus?

GM: I had actually bought a car. I bought a '51 Mercury, kind of an old beater. I met Bill Hirabayashi who had a body shop here, and I would go visit him and work on my car, and he would help me and we kind of customized it a little bit. And I was getting ready to drive it back so he helped me put a new engine in it and get it in shape so I could drive it back to California.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

SO: Can you talk about your relationship with your parents because they couldn't speak fluent English. Your Japanese was a year or two of Japanese school.

GM: Yeah. Although at home we spoke strictly Japanese, and of course, a lot of Japanese words were Americanized words and so forth, but we really didn't get any help from them with our classroom work or things like that or stories read to us like we did with our children and grandchildren. But my Japanese was terrible. My English wasn't that good, but my father's and mother's Japanese was, I mean, their English was not very good either. They could get by, you know, but if you wanted to talk or discuss something a little bit more heavy, it was very difficult to do. Because if you want to talk about life situations and things, you couldn't discuss it and get any directions or help in that way, so all of the children were more or less kind of on our own as far as getting advice from our parents. So that was very difficult, and you didn't really get to know your parents that well because you didn't know what they were feeling, what they were thinking.

SO: Did you end up relying on your older brothers?

GM: A little bit, not so much because in the formative years he was already gone from the house. So that was another problem, too, that most of our kids didn't get directions or advice on life situations.

SO: Did you talk to your siblings about this?

GM: No, we never have. But I think like most families the sisters usually became the mothers, you know, and so I think she helped out quite a bit about manners and so forth.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

SO: So you'd already had some, you'd gone to school before you went in the Air Force for a short time. Once you got out of the Air Force, what happened then?

GM: Well, I did a little... basically, the first couple years of San Jose State were basic courses because I was more, in high school I wasn't taking college prep courses, I was mainly shop and that sort of thing. When I was stationed at Fort Snelling, I decided to take physics and those things at night school.

SO: Where was that?

GM: I think it was called West High School at that time. After I was discharged, I returned to San Jose, I went to San Jose State for almost a year, taking college algebra two and English writing, and that sort of stuff. But then in the fall of 1958 I decided to come back to Minnesota to go to school, not only because of Judy, but that's the only other kind of school... at home I was having a tough time because all my buddies were not in school, and we were going bowling and that sort of stuff, you know, running around, and I couldn't get my studying done. So I decided to come to the University of Minnesota. I wasn't admitted or anything yet. I just picked up my things and drove across the country. But I came back in the fall of 1958 and registered, and paid out of state tuition for the first quarter starting in January. Then after a year I got residency. I was going on the GI Bill, so that was one thing that was good about the Air Force, I guess.

SO: And what was your major?

GM: I majored in mechanical engineering. No, originally I was in industrial engineering which was supposed to have been two years of business and two years of engineering, but then after two years, instead of transferring to the business school, I transferred to the mechanical engineering. Although at that time it was a five year curriculum so I had to go an additional year and they gave a funny diploma that they called Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering rather than Bachelor of Science for mechanical engineering.

SO: So you graduated from college and then you applied for jobs?

GM: Actually, Judy graduated a year before I did. And we got married and I still had almost a year of school to go through yet, I think. After I graduated I went through all this interviewing process and stuff to see where the jobs might be, although in the back of my mind I was looking for a job in one of the high tech companies in Minnesota. But I did get an offer from Lockheed right back in my hometown in Sunnyvale, California, so we debated about it, but decided I had brothers and sisters back home in California, and Judy just had a brother. And so, I did go to work for Control Data here locally and worked there for almost three years. Then I went to work for Honeywell, and I spent almost thirty years there, little over, twenty-nine years and eight months or something like that. So I retired from Honeywell producing residential controls, thermostats, air conditioning controls and that sort of stuff.

SO: Did you, in that time that you were living here, did you experience any racism?

GM: No, I did not experience any directly, but for some reason, a carryover from right after the war type of thing, I kind of didn't like to go out into the country or whatever, you know, because I always had in the back of... the feeling that some of them had brothers or fathers that were killed in the Pacific, or something like that, and still held a grudge and stuff. So I kind of tried to be invisible.

SO: What was the Japanese community like in Minneapolis?

GM: Well, they were pretty active, I thought. They had a Japanese community center that was supplied by the Episcopal Church, and they held a lot of functions there. I don't remember being directly related to like the JACL or the Buddhist Association, although I joined the JACL just being a member, not taking a leading part like an official or on the board and that sort of thing.

SO: But you were part of the credit union.

GM: Yes. Judy's father and her uncle were pretty... I don't know if they originated credit union or not, but they asked me if I wanted to be on the board. I guess they had trouble getting members on it but I did join the board, and I was their secretary for almost thirty years or so, I guess.

SO: Do you know how long the credit union had been around before you joined?

GM: I'm not sure the exact date. 1952 or something like that?

SO: And what year did you join the board?

GM: I joined the board I think about 1964 or something like that.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

SO: How many kids do you have?

GM: I have four children. Three girls and a boy, and they all live in Minnesota.

SO: When you were raising them, did you try to influence them as far as their Japanese heritage?

GM: I think we did, yeah, not only the food and the culture, but the other cultural parts too. In fact, they all took Japanese at the U. And they, three of them have been to Japan, a couple of them pretty extensive. My third daughter Lisa went to school there for a year out of St. Thomas, and then the oldest daughter Chris went there during a quarter break or whatever it was that they had, winter break, and with Lisa traveled up and down Japan as students. Chris also went on a church mission to teach English there for a summer. So I think they kind of like their heritage.

SO: And you've been to Japan too?

GM: Yes we have.

SO: How many times?

GM: Well, during the service I was there, and then our son Steve was working for a Japanese travel company in Minnesota. The Japanese travel company would send young boys to the Twin Cities here and give them practical training in shopping and simple English and stuff and then they would take a week to go travel to different cities that they wanted to... they didn't know how large it was, I think they wanted to go to like San Francisco, New York and Florida. But then I think the, I can't remember what year it was, but the travel business went down and they called him to Japan to service some the European tourists there. So he went to work there about six months, and that's when Judy and I went to visit him. We stayed with him while we went sightseeing and stuff. Then this November we plan on going again.

SO: That second time you went when you were with your wife, what was that like for you being in a country where everybody's Japanese?

GM: [Laughs] Well, my Japanese wasn't very good and Judy's is nil. When we visited restaurants and stuff, we'd look at the menu outside with all these plastic things and then we'd look at what we wanted and we'd check the price, and we'd go inside and there weren't any pictures but then we saw the price, so we ordered. We'd take train rides, and we noticed kids would swarm around Caucasian tourists there. Maybe they're trying to speak their English or practice their English while we sat there and just kind of watched. But when we asked for advice, they'd just look at us as dummies, you know. We couldn't speak the language. So that was kind of a different experience.

SO: And so this next trip will be the second time you've been there with Judy?

GM: Yes, but we're going with a kind of a tour group, a small group to see some of the more touristy places, I guess.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

SO: Can you talk about the redress? Was that form an interview form for your father?

GM: Yes, I think it was. I don't know if I have it.

SO: Do you know how that came about?

GM: No, I think the Congress had authorized this testimony. It says Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment, and I think they sent people out in all the different communities to interview people for their experience in camp, and I think that he was one of the Isseis picked in the Mountain View area to be interviewed. That's the only thing I know about it. There is, in Mountain View library there's a pretty thick volume of all these testimonies from different people there.

SO: What's the date on the document?

GM: I don't think there is a date on it. It's dated August 1, 1981.

SO: And what kind of things do they ask him?

GM: Oh, the regular... they asked if he was evacuated and where and when. They asked the also, before camp, describe the estimate value of your losses for you and your family at that time.

SO: What was it?

GM: He doesn't really mention... the only thing he really mentions here is when he was picked up by the FBI, he lost all his potential from crops that he had in the fields, and he estimated that at three thousand dollars, and then the furniture and household things at two thousand five hundred. I guess he mentions, "How can I place a value on personal family items that can never be replaced?"

SO: So that was a lawyer interviewing him?

GM: Let's see. No, he says that his name is Bud Nakano. He says, "I'm appointed spokesperson for the Peninsula Redress Committee." I'm not sure how far that goes, Southern California down to San Jose maybe, which they call the peninsula. And I guess he did a lot of the interviews. Then when he had to write a summary to the committee he picked out my father's experience, and then he summarized some of the other people's comments that were quite similar to my father's I guess. So it's kind of abbreviated, as far as the losses.

SO: How did you feel about the redress?

GM: Well, I guess for me, I didn't feel any real loss like my parents did. But then of course,

when we finally got the redress money, we really didn't need it so we put it away although I feel bad for the people that passed away and didn't get it. They could have sent it to their offspring or beneficiaries somehow.

SO: And there were a lot of them too. Is there anything you'd like to add I missed?

GM: I don't know. We covered a lot. I can't.. of course, I'm one of the real younger Niseis and I consider myself two-and-half-sei or something like that, Ni-han-sei, and so I don't... I know the difficulties my family went through and a lot of other families have gone through. I think the United States realized what the mistake they made, and I think they're very careful they don't do that again. You hear stories about how the Arabs were almost rounded up the same way, but I think they realized they can't do that. The other thing is, if we didn't get relocated, I think the Pacific Coast would just be inundated with Japanese all the way up and down the coast but with this relocation, we've got them spread all over the United States now, and I think that's good. And I think it's nice to socialize in the group and keep your history, and so forth, but it's good that we, I think, we're basically assimilated into the community. Our children, I guess, they know of the relocation and stuff, they feel for us too. They know about it, but they don't feel any different. I think they're just Americans.

SO: That was good, I'm glad you added that. It's good to hear about how you feel about that. Well, thank you.

GM: Okay.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.