Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: Bill Hirabayashi Interview
Narrator: Bill Hirabayashi
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Bloomington, Minnesota
Date: June 16, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-hbill_3-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

MA: Okay. Today is June 17, 2009, and I'm interviewing Bill Hirabayashi. We're here in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I'm Megan Asaka, the interviewer, and the cameraperson is Dana Hoshide. So, Bill, thank you for doing this interview.

BH: You're welcome.

MA: I'm looking forward to it. So I wanted to start by asking when you were born.

BH: September 12, 1923.

MA: And where were you born?

BH: Thomas, Washington.

MA: And what was your name at birth, that your parents gave you?

BH: William Yoshitada Hirabayashi.

MA: And tell me a little bit about your father. He has a sort of unusual immigration story to the United States. Can you talk about his background a little bit?

BH: He never did talk a whole lot, but from what I've seen on the different articles that my daughter-in-law has checked on from the boat that he came on and his passports and all that sort of thing. And I think I learned more from my daughter-in-law than I did from my dad because he never talked much about that before. But he farmed in a town called Pontiac in Seattle, that I never found that town, so I don't know how big a place it was. But that's where he and Mr. Katsuno and Gordon's dad, Shungo Hirabayashi and a fellow by the name of Mr. Yokoyama, and they started this White River Gardens. And the spokesperson or the president of the cooperative was Mr. Katsuno. And he farmed, and that's where I was born, in that house that my dad had built. And well, it's just, my dad just was a hard worker, and he was a real strong Christian person. Reverend U.G. Murphy is the one that convinced him to come over and do whatever. And I think that's why my brother Grant was named after Reverend Grant Murphy. But my dad was so religious, even on Sundays, he didn't want us to work on Sundays. That was, as he put it, the Sabbath day.

MA: And what religion was he involved with?

BH: It's actually... I can't say whether it's Methodist or... it's just a Christian organization that Reverend Murphy used to have the meetings at our house or at Katsuno's house. And there were other people in the valley that used to come to that meeting, and they did that once a month.

MA: And this was, so the Hirabayashi, so Gordon Hirabayashi's father, the Katsunos, your family, were all part of this religion as well?

BH: Yes.

MA: And did they -- where was your father from in Japan?

BH: [Pauses] Got a mental block. Nagano-ken.

MA: Nagano?

BH: Yes.

MA: And were these Isseis all from...

BH: Yeah, they were all from Nagano, yes. In fact, they had a Nagano group of some sort that my dad used to write, he wrote some articles into this little magazine that they had. And the reason I know that, 'cause when they were getting rid of things, my brother Martin said, "These are all the magazines that Dad had written," and he had a collection of them at that time.

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