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_3-01-0021

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MA: And so you moved to Minneapolis, and what type of work did you get into in the city?

BH: Well, being that I went to school for body and fender, and during the time that I was with Mr. Byfield, after I got to be a body man, I worked part-time for Bob Landwer, who was a, he had a private body shop. So I used to work for him from about seven or seven-thirty 'til midnight for different times when he was busy. So I got to the knack where I could qualify to get a job. But when I came up here, that's... I wouldn't call it discrimination, 'cause I didn't realize. I thought it was discrimination the first few hours. Because I went to the big dealerships, and I said, "Are you a union member?" I said, "No." "We can't hire you." I went to another place, the guy says, well, first it was at Midway Chev, and they said, so then I went to Slawik Chrysler Plymouth and they said, "Do you have a union card?" I said, "No, I don't." "We can't hire you." So I went to Stevens Buick in Minneapolis, and then I got the same question. So I said to the fellow, I said, "What's this thing about a union card and a union member and all that?" I said, "I came from Illinois," and I said, "I'm not familiar with it. Can you tell me what's happening?" And he said, "Oh," he said, "maybe you didn't know," but he said, "there's a guy named Kid Cann that's a mafia deal here in Minneapolis, and they have all this. And you don't get a job unless you have a union card and you're a union member." So then I realized what happened.

So then I thought, "Well, I got to get a job someplace," and so I'm driving up Fourth Avenue and here there was a sign that said Jim's Autobody. But there's just a house, and there's nothing there. So I thought, "It must be in the alley." So I drove around to the back, and sure enough, there was an alley and a garage back there. And the guy was, the guy came out. And when I started getting out of the car, he says, "I hope you're not looking for an estimate," I said, "No, I'm not." He said, "Well, good," 'cause he says, "I've got, I'm booked up for two weeks and I can't take on any more jobs. So no sense in me making the estimates." I said, "I'm just the opposite. I'm looking for a job." And he said, "Well, I don't need anybody." I said, "Well, you just told me how busy you are." He says, "I told you, I don't need anybody, I'm not hiring." And I'm getting desperate, and he's getting fed up with me, getting kind of irked with me. And so he asked me what part I didn't understand that he wasn't hiring. I said, "I'll tell you what I'll do." I said, "I need a job," and I said, "I'll give you an offer that you can't refuse." And his other body men were standing around kind of listening. They act like they're not, but they're all listening. Well, then, Jim says, "Okay, what is it?" I said, "I'll work for you for one whole week. When the end of the week comes," I said, "You pay me what you think I'm worth. And if you're happy with me, I stay, and if you're not happy with me, or I'm not happy," I said, "we could depart as friends." And so then he didn't say anything, he was just kind of looking at me, then one of his guys says, "Hey, Jim, you can't miss on a deal like that." So then he said, "Well, okay." So then I backed the car up against the door and I started opening my trunk, and the guys, "Oh, you got all your tools with you?" I said, "Well, yeah, 'cause I'm looking for a job." So the first thing I said, "I need a hand to take this port-a-power cabinet out of here." And one guy helped me, he says, "Man alive, you got one of those push-pull hydraulic port-a-power?" I said, "Well, yeah, and this is it." And the guy says, "We don't even have one of those." Says, "Can I borrow it when I need one?" I said, "I guess so." And then I took out several other tools, and the guys started oohing and ahhing that I had tools that Jim's Autobody didn't have.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.