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

<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.

<Begin Segment 2>

MA: And so I wanted to ask you a little more about the White River Valley Corporation, and a little bit about why they formed it and how they were able to buy land at that time.

BH: Well, originally, as I understand it, see, it was a dairy farm that they bought. And they cleared these stumps and everything, but they built three new houses on it, the Katsunos, and then Gordon's parents and my parents. And they did everything that a typical American person would do with a lawn in the front and things like that. And they tried to, as I could see, they tried to live the American standard as much as they could. This is why, and naturally, as you know, all the Isseis wanted education for their kids and they continued through that way. So my memory is naturally the fact that when I was a kid, I followed my brother Martin's footsteps and was in the Boy Scouts, things like that. Went to the Auburn Christian Fellowship, it's a youth fellowship that the Reverend Murphy used to take care of. And from there, it was the war, and in the meantime went to high school and that sort of thing like everybody else. And to me, I thought that the beginning of my [inaudible] was going to come after I graduated high school, but that's when the war stopped all that.

MA: So you told me earlier that there was some sort of lawsuit against your father's corporation?

BH: Yeah. What happened, there was different articles on that that I read, but there was a... I forgot what political thing, some kind of a politician anyway, he wanted to make a name for himself. And so he picked on the White River Gardens to say that they bought the property by fraud. But, see, Mr. Katsuno, their plan was that Mr. Katsuno was going to have Aiko, that's the oldest daughter, use her name so that they could transfer it out to her. And that's what many people like the Kosais and many people did that, and they got away without any problem. They went to court and they won. But in our White River Gardens situation, they lost, they even went as far as the Supreme Court and still lost. And way back in the '60s sometime, that's when Mr. Katsuno followed through some more, and they kind of finally settled saying, yeah, they were wrong. But it took all that time. So naturally, back in the '20s when they said that the property was all bought by fraud and so on, everything was all paid for and all that, and so they were paying taxes. So the government made an agreement, that the way I understand it, that as long as somebody, a member of the family stayed on the property, that they could lease it for ninety-nine years. And beyond that, like my mother said, "I'm not raising my kids to be a farmer," and that kind of a deal. So naturally when evacuation came, there was no one to stay there, no one to pay the taxes, and so we didn't go back 'cause we lost all that. Mr. Katsuno and the White River Garden just kind of disbanded that way.

MA: So the Court said, so you no longer owned the land after the court case?

BH: I guess, I don't think we even bothered to ask any question. We just didn't go back because of what the situation was before the war. But see, because of the fact that they said you could have a lease as long as someone lives there, this is why my dad built another house. 'Cause the family kept growing, so he built another house behind the main house that he built, and then we had a skyway on that so we could go between the two houses. Because in between the two houses, he had to have space there to drive the truck in between to go to the hotbeds to take care of the plants that he was raising for the farm there.

MA: So how close were the three families, the Katsunos, Hirabayashis and your family?

BH: Well, they each had 10 acres, so as far as the distance between us, it wasn't very far. I would say we were within, as I remember, probably about 120 feet between each other where the houses were.

MA: And like how, did the families interact a lot, were you very close in terms of relationships?

BH: Yeah, because of the meetings that they used to have with Mr. Murphy, Reverend Murphy and all that, and the other things that, whatever came along in the Japanese community, they were very close. In fact, our telephones were all hooked on the same party line as you probably know from those days. So they were on the phone and different things. And I remember going back and forth to the different, the other two families by a case where I was a messenger, I guess. "Can you take this over to them and come pick up something?" or that type of a deal. I was a gopher, and I'm in a gopher state. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 3>

MA: So tell me a little bit about your mother. And where was she from in Japan?

BH: Okay, she's from a town called Fujimoto, I guess it was. Yeah, I really can't remember. I went over there when I went to Japan, but her family owned a department store. And my dad's family had a silk farm. And that's about as much as I know about my mother other than the fact that she, because in her younger days she went to this school that was for girls and all that. So she used to play tennis and all sorts of things like that. This is why when we were kids, my brother Martin and my mother used to go over to the Thomas school and play tennis a lot. And my brother introduced us into badminton, so we all had, we used to play badminton at home. We used to tie one end onto the tree, and then the other end, there was nothing to tie it to, so we tied the net onto the truck mirror, and we had a lot of fun and whatever. So when our friends used to go by and they'd see it, they'd stop and it was sort of a gathering place that way.

MA: And so it sounds like your mother was a very active woman.

BH: Yeah, she was a... anybody that could raise eight kids has got to be pretty tough. [Laughs] I have to give her a lot of credit.

MA: So tell me about your siblings. There's eight of you, you said. Can you name them all?

BH: Okay, there's Martin, the oldest, Helen, my sister, Grant, and then myself, my sister Ruth, Sam, Dan, and Ted.

MA: And did you all help out on the farm?

BH: Yes, we did. In fact, when you're, no matter how old you are, when you're on the farm, there's always some kind of work that they can do. And everybody pitched in. It was a regular farm family operation.

MA: What types of crops did you grow on the farm?

BH: Mostly things like cauliflower, tomato, lettuce, celery, those were the big crops. And then they still raised other things like green pepper and carrots and whatever, the standard, something to fill the line. My dad used to take pride in getting more than one crop out of the field. Because when our tomatoes were growing, he'd plant the spinach and the, in between the rows so that he'd be using double, getting a double duty out of the farm that way.

MA: And where would he sell the, your produce? Where would he sell it? Who bought it?

BH: Oh, things like lettuce, cauliflower, celery, that was all crated and brought to the shipping companies right in Kent or Auburn, and then they'd ship it out to wherever. But the other stuff was pretty much the local market into Seattle. And beyond that, there were people that used to come over and buy vegetables from my dad in the bulk, but they'd take it to Eastern Washington to sell it. There'd be truckers that would buy it, and they had their regular customers that they took care of it.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

MA: So tell me a little bit about the town of Thomas.

BH: It really wasn't a town. If you sneezed, you'd go through the town. That's about how... there really wasn't any, no city hall or anything like that. They had a self-appointed mayor, Mayor Weatherby, that used to, he was more or less called the mayor in a sense. But I think you're probably familiar with the Iseri family? Well, it was, on the East Highway, see, we were on the West Highway and they lived on the East Highway. And Mr. Iseri was a very prominent person with the Japanese group. So actually, he had the general, what do you call it, a general store. And Mr. Mizuno on the West Highway had the Mizuno Garage, but beyond that, on the West Highway, there wasn't anything else. The East Highway was, Mat Iseri was, his kids were in the insurance business and gas station, things like that, and then there was, the oldest son, Tom, was in the shipping business for the vegetables and all that, the Western Produce Exchange. And then there was, I can't remember his first name, but Mr. Ito had a grocery store there, and Tommy Hikida's dad closer to Auburn had the Sunrise service station and a grocery store, but they sold that to his brother-in-law, I forgot which Maeda, one of the Maeda brothers. And then they opened up a Sunrise florist, and that was on the East Highway. And in between, naturally, there was the other few business that there were, there was a Honda grocery store and the Natsuharas were very prominent people over there, store over there. But beyond that, there wasn't a whole lot of Japanese. I think there was somebody that had a beauty shop in town, but I can't, I guess I wasn't that interested -- or not interested, I wasn't aware of different people that way.

MA: Was the closest bigger town, then, Auburn?

BH: Well, we were actually in the middle of, between Auburn and Kent. There was about three and a half or four miles either way. So that's how close we were, I mean, how much space there was between the two towns.

MA: So would you go to Auburn or Kent for, like on the weekends?

BH: Well, weekends, pretty much more like Japanese Niseis, they call it the Seinenkai group, and they used to play baseball. Wintertime they'd have basketball, we used to go watch them and things like that, where it'd be mostly roller skating at the different, Redondo Beach or in Tacoma or Seattle, and there usually was a benefit roller skating party to raise money for the people that played baseball or whatever for the Seinenkai or basketball team and things like that. And that was a good excuse for the Niseis to get out and meet people that way.

MA: And in Thomas, so it sounds like there was quite a few Japanese families?

BH: Yes, there were quite a few. And in fact, the grade school was, I would say, pretty much, I'd say probably fifty percent were Japanese Nisei kids.

MA: In your elementary school?

BH: In Auburn High School?

MA: Oh, I'm sorry --

BH: Oh, in grade school, yeah. In Thomas, uh-huh.

MA: And so tell me when you were in grade school, what was a typical day like for you?

BH: I guess myself, I didn't really... it didn't make any kind of impact, because to me, it was just school and like our neighbor across the street was the Schuller brothers, and Martin Schuller was the same age as I was, and his brother Joe was a year younger. And so during the days that we were home and nothing to do, we'd ride our bikes together, play whatever, and we'd skate on the highway of all places. But things like that. So, and then, being in the Boy Scouts, I had a lot of friends that were in grade school with us. And there weren't too many Japanese that were in that Boy Scouts. But because my brother Martin and Gordon and Peter Katsuno, they were active with the Tsuchiyas. That's right, the Tsuchiyas had a florist on the East Highway. And anyway, they were about the only Boy Scouts that went to what they called Camp Carson in the summertime, there was a camp they went to. Following that, I was active because I just kind of followed in my brother's footsteps. And so when we had the, a Boy Scout circus in Seattle, then our troop would have different patrols go and I was one of the bunch that went. And then at that age, there was, the JACL had started, and they used to have the... what would you call it? When they had the new president or whatever and had an election. They used to have dance and things at a place called Spanish Castle on Tacoma, Seattle-Tacoma Highway. And Ray Hattori and myself were the ones that held the flag. So that was kind of an honor at that age.

But then the other part about the Boy Scouts was that a fellow that owned a drugstore in Seattle, his name was Mr. Imae. And he took care of the Japanese troop in Seattle where they had the drum and bugle corps and all the Boy Scout things. And so when the scoutmaster from Japan came in, then Ray Hattori and myself were the ones that came from the country, and we had to meet the boat with all the Seattle bunch there. And there was a big crowd of Japanese groups then. But I just remember having a lot of fun because I was just, it wasn't my duties, I was just invited, I suppose, because of my dad knowing the people and all that. And well, I think it was... I tell you, I've got good memories and pictures and all that that way.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

MA: And you said you were also involved with the Auburn Christian Fellowship?

BH: Yes.

MA: Can you talk a little bit about that?

BH: Well, that was just a group of Niseis, and their parents were Christians, and they had to get a gathering place there. There was a little hall that looked just like the evacuation barrack, but it was called the Salvation Army Hall. And Mr. Murakami was, I guess, a captain or something of that bunch along with another fellow by the name of, I think they called him Captain Hirahara. And he had something to do with the Salvation Army. And so it was just a group that we had our meetings every Sunday, summertime we'd go to the Five Mile Lake and we'd have an outdoor service. And then in the fall of the year, around Thanksgiving, they had the YPCC, which was the Young People's Christian Conference. And so we'd go to the conference, it'd be in Tacoma one year, over in Seattle the next year. And then they had it in Portland and beyond, but I never went out of the state, it's just Seattle and Tacoma that I went to. So it was a good group of people that kept us together, and we used to have our little parties for Halloween and whatever. It kept everybody together and passed time that way.

MA: And this was founded by Reverend Murphy, this fellowship?

BH: Well, I don't know. It might have been, but it's before my days because my brother Martin and Gordon and Peter and Henry and Tank Tsuchiya, they used to all be going to that because they were much older than I was. And then I just, it was at a point where my brother says, Martin says, "Well, it's time that you could, you probably should come to the ACF also," and he took me. And beyond that, from '39, he went to Japan, so then I just, with my sister and my younger sister later joined, too, and that kind of a deal. It was just a, I would say it's something just taken for granted that that's what we were supposed to do to take care of our time for Sunday. It was fun because all of our, like I said, the friends from Auburn and Thomas would all go over there and we'd get together.

MA: It seems like your brother Martin and Gordon, and the older brothers from the families really --

BH: They were an instigator of a lot of things, yeah.

MA: Yeah, it seems like they were instigators and they created a lot of paths for you.

BH: Sure. Because I didn't even know, in my days, when I was a young kid, I didn't know there was such a thing as an auto show, but I always loved automobiles. So I was so surprised when my brother Martin took me to the auto show at the Civic Auditorium in Seattle when I was about eight or nine years old. So that was very fortunate. My brother, now I say to myself, gosh, how come I complained so much? I should appreciate all the things that he's done for me, you know. But that's, everybody has hindsight, you know, and that's one of mine.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

MA: And did you attend Japanese language school?

BH: Did I what?

MA: Did you attend Japanese language school?

BH: Yes, for just a couple of years. I'm ashamed to say that that was about it.

MA: And how did you, how did you enjoy it?

BH: I... gee, I don't dare say that, but is there something off the record I could tell you? [Laughs] But anyway, I stopped after we learned hiragana... no, katakana was the easiest one. They were just going to learn the hiragana when I quit. Let's put it that way, I quit. [Laughs]

MA: And what language did you speak at home with your parents?

BH: It was mostly English with the siblings. And then with the parents, they got a mixture of English and Japanese that way. This is why, like my dad was fairly fluent in English because he did his business and everything. And so this is why, when I told you he spelled the word U-S-E-F-U-L, that kind of a thing. He was well-versed 'cause he did a lot of reading. He was more of a scholar than he was a farmer in a lot of ways.

MA: And your mother also spoke some English?

BH: Yeah, uh-huh. She did the same. In fact, she even went to, I think Mat Iseri had a, he was the president of the PTA, Japanese PTA there, and they had little classes for the Japanese Isseis to learn English. And my mother went to school with Gordon's mother and different people. And just how much they learned, I don't know, because... but they took their classes so that they could better themselves. It's credit to the Isseis, 'cause they all wanted to naturally -- to them, it was an adopted country. It wasn't a case where they wanted to go back to Japan or anything like that. 'Cause they had all their kids here and everything, and this was their country. That's why it hurt so much that they couldn't become a citizen until after the war. And like when the evacuation came, I thought that, being a citizen and of age, that I could finish harvesting the farm. But there was no such thing, because everybody had to leave, as you know.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

MA: So let's talk a little bit about your high school. Which high school did you attend?

BH: I went to Auburn High School.

MA: And tell me a little bit about Auburn High School. Were there many Nisei students there?

BH: Yes, I would say -- I might be exaggerating -- but I would say close to (twenty-five) percent were Japanese kids. And I wasn't very active in high school other than simple things like my German class or... I mean, German club, and then the annual club. I went out soliciting money from the businesses for the annuals and all that, advertising. But beyond that, I wasn't very active. Whereas Gordon's younger brother, Ed, who was the same age as I was, he was in the Hi-Y, he played baseball, basketball, things like that. But I wasn't very good at sports.

MA: And how did the Nisei students sort of fit in with the rest of the school? Was it sort of...

BH: Generally speaking, I think everybody did pretty well. There might have been a few that had problems, but in my experience, I never had any problems. Because like from the Boy Scouts, Harold Crispy and Tony Bechard and the Stewart brothers, Peterson brothers, we all went to grade school and high school together, and we were in Boy Scouts together, things like that. So I had no, I had no problem at all. The people that I met in Auburn High School, I had no problems there, either. Maybe it's because I was a... well, all I can say is I loved people. I was a people person. I just got along with people.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

MA: So we were just talking about high school, and I was wondering about the, so you said there was about a third Japanese and what were the other racial groups there?

BH: There weren't any that I know of. In fact, I think there was only one black student, and he was from Thomas. And Henry Oliver was the only one that I can remember. I don't know whatever happened to him, but he was a real nice young fellow. They had an orphanage at Thomas, and that's where Henry Oliver came from. There was a lot of kids in there, but they came to school like everybody else and we got along. There was no discrimination because I don't think we knew what an orphanage was in a sense. You know what I'm saying? 'Cause I can't remember any kind of discrimination that way.

MA: So then it was mainly, sort of, Caucasian and Japanese students at Auburn?

BH: I think they mingled pretty well, in my opinion. That's only me talking, but I used to ride my bike and go into town when I was still twelve, thirteen years old. And I even got friendly with what they called Hooverville. It was a hobo camp, and I chimed right in with them. And one time when I was there they had a great big pot with a fire underneath it, and I said, "What's that big kettle doing there?" They said, "Well, that's," he said, "if you want to eat with us," he said, "we make stew every night. And in order to eat with us, you have to bring some kind of meat, vegetable or whatever." And I said, "Oh, golly," I said, "Can you guys use this, that, so and so?" And they said, oh, they'd love to have some. I rode my bike home again, and then I gathered things like tomato, green pepper, whatever, cauliflower or whatever, and I took it back. And they wanted me to stay for the thing. But, see, I don't think my parents ever knew where I was, because I never said where I was going. Just hopped on my bike and I was gone. [Laughs] Maybe it was a benefit for them because they didn't have to worry about me. But that's the way it was. I just had a ball with everybody.

MA: That's interesting, you mentioned there was a Hooverville in Thomas.

BH: Yeah, they called it Hooverville because President Hoover, that's when the thing came. And this Hooverville was a shed that was actually part of the railroad, belonged to the Great Northern Railway. And it was kind of abandoned for the simple reason that they didn't use it anymore, but the railroad track is right alongside of it. And all the hoboes used to go to that. There were a lot of, as I remember, the people I talked to, they were all intelligent people, and they weren't like saying a hobo is a down-to-earth scum or anything like that. They were all, I was amazed at the group of people that were supposedly at the... it was a case where their wife left them or they lost their job, or things didn't go right and they lost their business or something. And it was a lot of fun for me.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

BH: And, in fact, talking about getting along with Caucasians, remember I just mentioned Ray Hattori? That he and I used to hold the flag for the JACL thing? Well, the janitor, when I was in grade school, Mr. Robson, his wife used to cook the hot, lunch, hot meals for the kids. But Mr. Robson took a liking to me. And I used to, during my recess, I used to go into the boiler room where he was, it was nice and warm, and we'd talk until he'd look at his watch, his dollar watch like that or whatever you call it, and he'd say, "You better get going, 'cause the bell's going to ring pretty soon." But he was such an inspiration. He said to me, "The only way you're going to, a person is ever going to make any big money is you have to invent something." And I said, "Well, how do you invent something?" He said, "You have to figure out something," and he says, "I'll give you an example," he said. "Invent something that isn't, that can't be used over. Something that has to be disposable." And I didn't know what disposable was at the time and I had to ask him. And he explained to me, "Things like toothpick," and a few other things he mentioned. Well, then, about, I think it was a couple years later, I was in the boiler room one time, and, "Dou know what's out now? We talked about it," he said, "we missed the boat." I said, "What kind of thing are you talking about?" He says, "There's a place in Wisconsin that makes Kleenex, so you don't have to have a handkerchief. You can blow your nose and throw it away." And that was disposable. But in between that time, he talked about other things. He said, "Another thing," he says, "there's a thing called perpetual motion." And at that age, I didn't know what a perpetual motion was, so he explained it to me. And he said, "For example," he says, "you've seen these little birds with the water in a cup, and it'll go back and forth as long as there's water in there, it moves by itself." He says, "Well, in that fashion, you have to take advantage of the sun." He said, "There's things that you can do, and if somebody could harness this and that" -- and this is way back in the '30s -- and now when I think of it, you have all these calculators that are held by hand. I know the first calculator I had, my wife bought it for me back in, around 1961 or '2, and we just paid a fortune so that I could take care of things when I was on the road to make estimates for people and all that. But Mr. Robson was that intelligent. And when I think of it now, if only he could be alive, and if he could see the things like at Microsoft and all these different things, it would really blow his mind. Because he had all these dreams, and he was like an intelligent man, like I say, "You have to do this and that." And then we had a project in school that we had to do something, so then he helped me with a crystal set so that I could use a little crystal and put it by an earphone and you could hear the radio station from Tacoma or Seattle, things like that. But he was always, I would say, I didn't know what the word "mentor" meant at that time, but that's what he was. He was a mentor without me realizing. He's just a likable guy.

Well, Ray Hattori's younger brother Mickey and I were always invited to Mr. Robson and his family's Thanksgiving. We always got to eat at one o'clock and come home, and we got another Thanksgiving dinner about three-thirty, four o'clock again. And so both Mickey and myself, we were very fortunate that Mr. Robson liked us and we did things like that. But that's the way it was in my memory. All the Caucasians, we got along well that way.

MA: I wanted to ask you about, when you were in high school, if you had hopes of attending college?

BH: Yes. This is why I took a German class and took my, you had to have a science in your different things. So I was all qualified to go to the University of Washington. But because of the war, that's why I stopped.

MA: Well, and you said your father wanted you to work for a year, right?

BH: Well, he just said, more or less what he was saying is, "I can't send you to university this fall because Helen is going. And so maybe if you wait a year, Martin will be back from Japan and maybe he'll have a job." Everything was always a potluck deal, we all pitched in on everything. And so I was working for George Kawachi at Floralcrest in Renton, and things were going well, and that's when the war broke out. But...

MA: I'm sorry, where were you working?

BH: In Renton. And there was a friend of my parents, a fellow by the name of George Kawachi. His place was called Floralcrest and I worked for him. And when the war broke out, then we had to evacuate that way.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

MA: And can you tell me about when you met your wife for the first time?

BH: Oh, that was the best thing in my life. [Laughs] Reverend Murphy went to Enumclaw, which was a sawmill that a lot of the Isseis worked at. And he met Mr. Uyeda, and he said, "I understand you have a daughter that's old enough to go to the ACF. How come she doesn't go to ACF?" And he said, well, Fred, that's Mr. Uyeda's son, was at the driving age, and he usually had the preference to get the car. And so Sunday nights, she had no way of getting to the ACF. So Reverend Murphy said, "I know just the fellow that can take care of that." He says, "I'll ask Bill Hirabayashi to pick up Anice and she can go, so tell her to be ready." And so that worked out fine. So I went to her place in Auburn there and I knocked on the door and Anice came out. And as fast as she came out and opened the door, the dog came out, her dog. They had two dogs, and this particular dog, they called it Poochy, was her dog. And he came out and he bit me. And that just devastated Anice, 'cause she was so embarrassed. Her mother came out there, it was just, the whole family was up in arms thinking, "Oh, my gosh," you see. But anyway, we went to the ACF, and that broke the ice for me. 'Cause Monday morning in high school, she had to come and kind of apologize. [Laughs] And before that, I had heard, but she had no... what would I say? She didn't feel the same way I felt, I guess, so there was nothing. But that broke the ice.

So then when we went to ACF and so on, then the evacuation started. My sister helped the JACL get the people onto the different trains and put family numbers for everyone. Well, one day my sister asked me kind of an unusual question. I don't know why, but she said, "Who are the family friends of the Uyedas?" And I said, "Gee, as far as I know, there's the Oyamas and Asayamas," and I started mentioning a few because she talked about them. Well, what it turned out to be is my sister did me a favor. She made sure that that family, their family friends and our family was all on the same train. [Laughs] So we went to Pinedale on the same train, and needless to say, it just got that little pilot light burning a little more and more.

So when we were in Pinedale, that's when I said to Anice, I said, "I'm going to volunteer." And I talked to George Yamada, and we said we'd both volunteer. Because Grant's in the army already, so why not get the thing over with? And so when we volunteered, they sent me, both George and myself, received a card that, 4-C. And we talked it over and we said, "Wonder what a 4-C is?" So then we wrote a letter to Kent. Kent was our draft board, and they sent us another card, no letter or nothing, just a card. And on that card, the second card said, "For the duration of the war, you are classified as an 'enemy alien.'" So I carried that with me all the time, thought, "Well, I guess the reason I'm not going to be in the army is because I'm classified as an 'enemy alien.'" But then somewhere along the line I lost that, my wallet, and I lost that. But when they transferred us from Pinedale to Tule Lake, that's when I wanted to go out of camp and earn a buck or two like everybody else was doing. But Anice said, "No, you're not going out there." I said, "Why not?" I said, "If we're going to get married, we need the money." And she said, "No," she said, "if you go out to the farms now, you're going to be labeled as an immigrant..." I mean, as a... what are they called?

MA: A migrant laborer?

BH: Yeah, a migrant help. She said, "We want to go and prove ourselves." And so we would go as far away as we could, and that's how we ended up in the Chicago area.

MA: Well, I wanted to ask you more about the 4-C, "enemy alien." And how did you feel when you received this, with your brother Grant in the military?

BH: Well, I just thought, "What are they going to do to Grant?" by that time. Because naturally, he's in the service. And then we heard from him, he was in Camp Shelby or someplace, and different camps, and it sounded like he wasn't doing anything that was of any value. Sort of a -- pardon the expression -- but a peon work is what he was doing. But then all of a sudden, things changed, and he went to, he was in the Merrill's Marauders and things had changed. By that time, Anice and I had been in Barrington, and then I got a new classification saying 1-A. And so right away, we decided, "Well, we got to do something different. And then I told my boss that I received a 1-A, and he says, "Give me the card." And he said, "We'll talk about it." So I gave him the card and I thought that was going to be taken care of, that I'd have to go in the army and Anice had to figure out what to do. Well, at that time, she was pregnant, and she decided, well, maybe she'll have to go into the camp because she can't do anything by herself in an unknown place like that. So she wrote to her sister in Hunt, Idaho, because her aunt was ill and so her family moved from Tule straight over to Minidoka so that they could help take care of her aunt's two kids and their cousins. And so as time went by and I kept doing my work, and then one day I said to my boss, I said, "I haven't heard anything more from my draft board," and he says, "You won't." I said, "Why not?" He says, "Because we need pork and beef just as much as we need bullets." And he said, "I got you a deferment." I thought, actually, my heart sank because I thought, gee, I'm not... I thought I'd be a true American and I'll do my share like everybody else. And then I was someone that didn't go into the service. My brothers all were in the service, and here I am, the only one that was deferred. But, well, that's the way things worked out.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

MA: So I wanted to go back a little bit and ask you about December 7, 1941, the day that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and what you recall of that day and hearing the news.

BH: We had made plans to go to see my brother that Sunday.

MA: Which brother?

BH: Grant, 'cause he was at Camp, the one in Tacoma, I mean, in Olympia.

MA: Fort Lewis?

BH: Fort Lewis. So my sister, myself, and Ike Tsurui, a friend of mine, and Fumi Kitahara, another friend, the four of us got in a -- we left real early in the morning because it was dark, naturally, December. So we left probably about, I think I rounded everybody up about seven o'clock or seven-thirty, and then we headed out to Fort Lewis. And while we were driving, we didn't turn the radio on and we were just talking and whatever. And so we didn't know that the war was on. And while we were driving, we said, "Gee, look at all the..." we called it the CCC trucks. Because there was a Civilian Conservation camp that they had, different things. But they used the army camouflage trucks and stuff. So we thought that's what it was, and then it didn't dawn on us that they were pulling these cannons and everything. But thought nothing of it except that there was a whole mess of them coming down, going the opposite direction that we were going. So when we got to the sentry, the guy came up and he says, "What are you dumb Japs doing here?" And I said, "We're here to see my brother." He said, "Don't you know there's a war going on?" I said, "What war?" And he went on about -- and we didn't know where Pearl Harbor was. By that time, we turned the radio on, but those days, the radio didn't come on like it does now. It took about thirty, forty seconds for it to warm up. And then we heard President Roosevelt talking about the war and we thought, "Oh, my gosh," and our hearts just sank. And it was, just gotten daylight by that time, and we couldn't see beyond the sentry 'cause they wouldn't let us go any farther. And later I found out that Grant did see us pull up on the car there, but we couldn't get out of the car or anything, that's all. He just recognized our family car, 'cause we had a light green Oldsmobile, and I guess that's what he must have seen. But anyway, we got sent back. And then while we were driving back, we were kind of scared because they started saying things like, "There's going to be a curfew," and different things. And that's about all I remember, we were just all upset, and we just dashed home as quick as we could.

MA: Did, were there a lot of rumors at that time about what would happen?

BH: No, there was nothing. All I know is that my brother Martin came home from Japan, and later I found out that he came back on the next to the last ship that they allowed from Japan.

MA: He came back after Pearl Harbor?

BH: No, before Pearl Harbor, yeah, and things like that. So I knew there was tension between Japan and the U.S., but I didn't know anything was that close to attack or anything.

MA: And what about your parents? How did they respond to the news?

BH: The same way. They just, they were very fortunate that Grant was already back from Japan, 'cause he was in Japan going to school. And Martin had just come home from Japan, so the family was intact that way. But from that point, I was, like I say, I was at George Kawachi's working, so I just came home on the weekends. So what went on during that time, 'cause we evacuated in May, and I was with George Kawachi, so he had to evacuate, which was, I think he had to go in either March or April with the Seattle bunch to "Camp Harmony" in Puyallup.

MA: Puyallup, uh-huh.

BH: Yeah, the fairgrounds.

MA: Did the curfew that they imposed affect your work, your ability to work?

BH: Well, I stopped working for George Kawachi, 'cause he, naturally, he had to close the place, rent out stuff and things like that.

MA: So you moved home after?

BH: Yeah, so I came home. And then what I did, because of the fact that Martin and Grant aren't home, and I'm the next oldest one, my sister and I, then I sold the truck and sold the car and whatever we could sell. And even things like my portable typewriter that my parents gave me for my graduation, I never used it. But I thought, "Well, we got to bring in all the cash we can if we're going to go into a camp." And so I even sold that. But there were a lot of things that should have been sold that never got sold because we didn't have enough time. But like I mentioned, we had this skyway between the two houses, and the upstairs of the other house, I always called it a dormitory but it was just a big room. And we had bedrooms up there, and we used to play handball in there and ping pong and so on.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

BH: Well, I'm going to backtrack a little bit. Way back when I was home, a guy stopped in front of the highway and he came in and he says, "Do you have any gas?" I said, "Well, sure, we have to have gas on the farm." I said, "We've got gas." He said, "Well, I want to buy it." No, he didn't say, "I want to buy it," he said, "I need some gas for my car." And so I thought he wanted to buy gas, so I took the five gallon, we used to put in the truck and stuff like that. And I filled it up and walked out to the highway with a funnel, and I put it in his car, and then I said, "Well, Mrs. Purcell at the gas station," half a mile from our place, I said, "she sells gas for twenty-one cents a gallon or five gallons for a dollar." So I said, "Since I put five gallons in your car," I said, "you owe my dad a dollar." The guy said, "I don't have a dollar." I said, "Well, why did you ask for gas?" "It's because my car is out of gas." I said, "Look, I never stole from my dad, and I'm not going to steal from my dad now. Because," I said, "you owe him a dollar." And I said, "Either that, or I stole five gallons of gas from my dad." Anyway, so then I just went over and opened up the guy's hood on his car, I took his -- there's two clips on the car -- I took the two clips off, took the distributor cap off and I took the rotor, which is a part of the, to make the car run, I took that off and stuck it in my pocket. And he says, "What are you going to do that for?" And I didn't say anything, and he says, "You do that and my car won't run." I said, "Well, that's the general idea," I said. "You owe my dad a dollar." And so then I started going back towards the house, he said, "Wait a minute, come here, kid." He says, "See that thing on the back of my car?" I says, "Well, I see a couple of boxes," looked like a couple of coffins. But I said, "So what's that got to do with you owe me a dollar?" He says, "That's a pinball machine." He says, "I repair pinball machines for people at the bars and so on and so forth." And I said, "Yeah, so what's that got to do with me?" He says, "I'll put that into one of your rooms and you guys could play with it." And all of a sudden a light bulb went off in my head and I thought, gee, at the dormitory we could, we'd go up our skyway and go into the dormitory. So then, anyway, I helped him -- to make a long story short -- we brought it up there and he set it up, and he said, "See this little ring?" There was a wire hanging in the middle. And he said, "When you tilt the machine, it's going to say 'tilt' on it." And we plugged it in and I said to him, "Well, what good is this machine? We don't have a, us kids don't have a nickel to operate the thing." Said, "Well, you don't need it." He says, "This lever here, when you put the nickel in here and push this lever, it pushes this lever here." And so he pushed it, he had the front box open, and he said, "See, now?" It all lit up and everything came on, and then he pulled the lever and the silver ball went out and it started playing. He says, "You can play with this until I come back through here the next time, and then I'll give you the dollar and I'll take the pinball machine." This is about 1935 or '36. When the war started, he still didn't come back to pay us the dollar for the gas. [Laughs] So we had all kinds of fun things at our house, 'cause when my dad bought my sister a new piano 'cause she was taking piano lessons, then we took the, we had a pump organ, we brought that upstairs to the dormitory. So we had a pump organ and we had this pinball machine and different things like that. So my life, when I was a kid, I had fun all my life.

MA: And what happened to all this stuff?

BH: We just had to leave everything just the way that... we couldn't sell furniture, beds and stuff, we just had to leave it. My brother, I guess, tried renting it out, and went to the bank. I guess they did rent it out and they deposited it in our account and stuff. But then naturally after you can't pay taxes the following year and stuff, the government, that was the end of that.

MA: And your property, did you arrange to have someone stay there?

BH: We couldn't do it because they said that Mr. Katsuno and my dad, I think they had a neighbor that... 'cause Gordon's parents stopped farming and they went to the East Highway and they started a, they bought the Economy Market which was a grocery store and market that they bought from a Mr. Mizuno, in-laws. So then there was a Filipino next door, an Albert, I think my parents and the Katsunos had Albert harvest it or whatever. But I don't know if they got any money out of it or not. That's something I don't know about.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

MA: So I was wondering about how you felt about Gordon's stance against the curfew and the removal orders?

BH: At first, I thought, "Oh, golly, why stir the muddy waters?" But then as time went by, I started realizing that here we're interned and were supposed to be citizens, and I thought, well, at least he had more guts than the rest of us. So I didn't have any animosity at all. It was just a matter that at first, I thought, "Why muddy the waters?" the way it was at that time. Being that Grant was in the service and so on, and then later Martin was naturally with, he was teaching in Boulder, Colorado, to the Navy, Japanese in the Navy, and then from then on, he went on to different things out in Washington, D.C., with the diplomatic service.

MA: So you were afraid that maybe that would jeopardize...

BH: Well, not that it would jeopardize, it was just the idea that I figured that Gordon had the right idea, and he had the nerve to do it that way. It was just that I thought that with all the political things, that they would squash him no matter what, and he wouldn't stand a chance. That was the way I felt on that. So anytime that anything came up and I thought, "Well, gee, that poor guy is going to just take a heck of a lot of beating." But things turned out, naturally, at the very end, but he went through a lot. He even hitchhiked to the prison, you know. Can you imagine, hitchhiking to a prison? For me, being the hardhead that I am, I would have said, "If you want me to go to the prison, you supply the transportation." I wouldn't have taken it on myself to hitchhike, but that was Gordon. He was going to prove a point that he wasn't going to depend on others, and he was going to follow his own convictions, and that's what he did. And I admire him for all that.

MA: What about people in Thomas, the Japanese community in Thomas? How did they, do you know how they felt about Gordon? Did people talk about it?

BH: Nobody said much. We were all in the camp, and had other -- I say excitement -- other things going to meet different people, and it was camp life. And camp life actually turned out to be more of a picnic for the teenagers. Because they got to meet different people, and every Saturday night they had an outdoor stage with different entertainment. And then on Saturday nights there'd be a dance at the mess hall, the different mess halls, we'd move all the chairs and tables and things like that. So I don't think we really gave it that much thought. Maybe the older people did, but I was nineteen and I wasn't, I was more for fun, you know. [Laughs] But I actually probably should have been more concerned about things, but at that point, I didn't give it too much thought.

MA: It seemed like there was a generational, like the younger people, a lot of the Niseis had a different experience than the Isseis did.

BH: Well, sure. See, I was out on the, after the mess hall and all that stuff, then in Tule Lake, I settled out at the farm as the maintenance for the tractors and stuff out there, and Anice went to work at the administration building and stuff. So we had our everyday stuff that we didn't have too much time to talk about, 'cause no one really got up on the stage or anything, and they didn't, they had little newspapers in the camp, but they never wrote anything pertaining to that kind of a thing. So I guess we didn't, all we did was watch the newspapers, radio, and kept up with what was going on that way.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

MA: So your family was sent to, you said, Pinedale Assembly Center.

BH: Yes.

MA: And can you talk about that journey to Pinedale and your first few days there and the living conditions?

BH: Oh, it was a case where you had to fill your own mattress with straw and things like that. And then we were told that we had to get jobs. If you're able-bodied, you'd better get a job. Well, right away, Anice took a job as a waitress, I took a job as a cook's help, that kind of a deal.

MA: Was it your whole family in one barrack?

BH: Yeah, one barrack.

MA: So all of your siblings except for, I guess, Grant, who was in the military.

BH: Yeah, and then my sister was married, and she and Chuck, my brother-in-law, they had a place of their own. But after that, he got... see, Chuck was in the service when the war started, and then they let him, let him out, and then they called him back in. So then my sister was in Denver and all that, and she came to Chicago and my boss helped me get her a job and stuff like that. But I don't know, I guess we were just worried about what might happen to Grant, make sure that he was okay. And beyond that, it was like everybody else was wondering, "What are we going to do if we go out of the camp?" And that's when my wife had the backbone to think ahead, and she said, "We're going to go where we can prove ourselves and establish something," and that's what we did.

MA: And how long were you in Pinedale?

BH: Just only for about a couple, three months. Let's see, May, June... by July or August we were in Tule Lake, they transferred us.

MA: And when you were moving from Pinedale to Tule, did they tell you what was happening, did they tell you where you were going?

BH: Just that we're going to go to a permanent place, and that was Tule Lake. And as usual, the shades got pulled down when the train was going and all that sort of thing.

MA: And what, I mean, what were you thinking when you arrived at Tule and you saw the barbed wire and the guards?

BH: Like I say, so many years ago, now I'm, I've got a fairly good memory, but I really... I don't think I give it a whole lot of thought. Except when I got to Tule Lake and I thought, gee, I'm not going to be working in the mess hall, I got to think of something that's constructive. And that's when I applied for the job at the farm to work on the tractor and stuff for maintenance. 'Cause I had the experience from going to Broadway vocational school when I was in high school. I went to evening classes in Seattle, and that's when I took up some mechanic and also body work at that time.

MA: And so you continued that in camp?

BH: Well, it was just, it was just, what I would call an introduction is all it amounted to. And then, naturally, with a, different things with the war and stuff, I had to quit. But I did that when I was a senior in high school. So that's why when I went to Illinois, then I went to what they called the Greer College, but it was nothing like... what do you call it? A vocational school. And they taught body and fender and welding, that's what I took over there when I went two nights a week until I got my certificate on that.

MA: And you were actually married in camp? You and Anice were married?

BH: Yeah, we were married in camp, yeah.

MA: And what year was that?

BH: 1943 in Tule Lake.

MA: And then how soon after your marriage did you end up...

BH: Yeah, we left for, we took that job to get out of camp.

MA: What did you have to do to leave camp?

BH: They had different applications and things just like anything else. And the person that was doing that, we said, "We want to get," well, she took care of it, "get as far out as possible," I guess. Someplace where we could start out on our own. And it turned out that Barrington, there was no other Japanese at that time, and my boss was a very -- well, he was a caring person, but he was Jewish. And like he said to me, that I was in the same situation that he was, so he knew what we had gone through as far as discrimination. But I really didn't go through that kind of discrimination that he had gone through. Because I was, I was very lucky that my friends were both Caucasian and Japanese.

MA: So in total, you spent only about a year, then, in Tule, in Tule Lake?

BH: I wasn't even in Tule... less than a year, 'cause by May, we were out of there, or June. In June we were out of there.

MA: And your parents and younger siblings?

BH: They stayed there, yeah. And the next thing we heard from them was that this "no-no" thing started in camp, and they got transferred to Heart Mountain.

MA: What did they say about that situation, about the...

BH: All I know is we heard from them saying that they were getting transferred to Heart Mountain, so we heard from them from Heart Mountain.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

BH: And then in 1944, that's when my boss said to me, "You're going to need some help," and I said, "Well, yes." 'Cause, see, when I went to work, I worked under another fellow, Lee Mitchell was the manager, and there was two other people besides me, so there was four people on the estate, it was an estate farm. We had regular livestock, and we had, we raised grain and everything. But at the same time, the main division, the main part of the thing was a farm and the other was, it was an estate with a swimming pool and all that. And it used to be owned by... I forgot the name now. She's a well-known movie actress in the silent movie days. I'm sorry, I can't remember now. It'll come to me later. But my boss bought that place, and that's where it had a swimming pool, well, he built the swimming pool and all that stuff. And all of his guests were the movie actresses that were going through to New York, but Chicago was a stopover. And he invited them to his Hotel Ambassador, and they were their weekend guests at the estate at Grassmere Farm.

MA: And your position when you, so you applied from camp to this estate farm?

BH: Yeah. Well, my resume was that I had experience as a farm because of my dad, raised on the farm, and I worked at Floralcrest, so I had experience with flowers. And being on the farm, we had to do our own repair work, whether it be plumbing, electrical, or whatever, and words to that effect, and so I got chosen. But that's another story, because I said to my boss one time, I said, "How come," I mean, "how was I able to get a job with you when there were so many different Niseis out there that probably were more qualified than I was?" And he said, well, Miss Weinger, his secretary, chose three out of the bunch. And then he said, "I chose you out of the bunch." And I said, "Well, what made you choose me out of the bunch?" He said, "Because of your P.S." I said, "I don't remember any P.S." And he said, "Well, I'm sure you do," and I said I really didn't. And I still don't remember, but being the way that I am and the way that I am and the way I used to be and whatever. Anyway, so he finally told me the P.S. said, I wrote a P.S. on it and said, "You might consider me a Jap of all trades." And I used the word, the three-letter word. But those days, they were calling you that anyway. No matter where you went, you were a J-A-P. And so that's when Mr. Byfield said he knew what we had to go through with the discrimination and stuff, which, like I said, I didn't really feel it, but I know my parents and them did, and Martin did, because he was older. But I was just a carefree kid, is what I was. But anyway, that's how I got it.

And then shortly after I was working for him, then the manager was doing something he shouldn't be doing, so my boss fired all three of them and I was by myself. This was in the fall of the year, and naturally, by that time, we didn't have to harvest any grain or anything, it was just taking care of the livestock. And the swimming pool was closed and all that, so I could take care of it. Well, then it was about March or so, February, March, when I was having my regular meeting with my boss, he said, I said to him, "Should I start planting the oats and the corn and different stuff like that?" And he says, "Yeah, if you could do that." And he said, "Well, you're going to need some help." I said, "Well, I could do most of it," because had, took the liberty of putting lights on the tractor so I could work day and night type of a deal. But in the meantime, my boss realized there was a lot of things I can do, so he gave me the permission to charge, sign my name, anything I wanted in town. Whether it be the hardware store, the blacksmith, the feed store, you name it. And so I did a lot of different things on my own that benefitted the farm. So at that point, he said, "How old are your brothers?" I told him, "Well, they're fourteen and fifteen, I think." He said, "Well, did they work on the farm?" I said, "Oh, sure," I said, "they had to work. That was all part of the family thing." He says, "Okay." He said, "And you said they were at Camp, at Heart Mountain?" I said, "Yes," and he wanted to know their names. And I didn't hear anything more about that. Then my wife heard from my brothers, they said, "We're coming to Grassmere Farms to help Bill because Bill's boss sent us a ticket and a release to go to the farm to work, work on the farm." So then he brought the two boys out to me one day, and they worked all summer up until September. And then he took care of sending them back to camp, and everything went real good that first year on my own that way. So then that was 1944. And then 1945, the kids wrote to my wife and said, "We're coming back again now," and so they came out, and they were with us, and then the war ended in August, I guess it was, in '45. And then they went back into camp and everybody was released, and that's when the parents moved out here to Minneapolis.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

MA: So I had a question about, so you said it was an estate farm? So what does that mean, exactly?

BH: It was a... the only way I could describe it, it's on the corner of the farm, but it's a big house with a swimming pool, with a bar, badminton court, it's all, it's entertainment. It's an estate, is what it is.

MA: And the farm was just sort of part of that?

BH: The farm was just, it was called the Grassmere Farm, but the farm was more or less a front for the estate. But then I made the farm pay off by cultivating it, whether it be plowing and disking it, planting corn and harvesting oats, wheat, all that stuff. And then I still had a lot of livestock to take care of, whether it was, it'd be cows, or chicken, just about anything. You mention any kind of animal, we had it. Because my boss more or less entertained the movie actors and actresses, kind of looked around the place and they'd go back, so we had to keep the place up that way.

MA: And it was only you?

BH: Yeah, during the wintertime. But then when I first went to work for him, there was, including me, there was four of us to run the place. And so naturally I had to improvise to do the same job, that there were that many people. And I was fortunate enough with my wife's help. She didn't work for him, but she helped me when she was going to the beauty school and all that kind of stuff, she helped me with different things. And so I improvised so many things that my boss was proud of me, and my head swelled up, naturally. But like the swimming pool, when all the dandelion fuzz starts to blow around, it's just full of that stuff on the swimming pool. Well, this fellow Charlie, the first year I went there, that was his job, to take a little net with a circle like a butterfly net, only it had regular net. And he's be scooping that thing up almost all day, and that was his job, so to speak. Plus, when there's dandelions on the orchard and on the lawn and stuff, they had to spray... I forgot what they called it now.

MA: A pesticide?

BH: Yeah, but there was a name for it. But anyway, they had to make a mixture of it and spray it to kill it. Well, that was another job where Ray Hefter would have this, like a wheelbarrow, size of a garbage can, with water in there, and he'd have to pump it while Charlie had a hose on it, and he'd be spraying it. And every so often, Ray would have to follow him and pump it some more. And so it used to take a day and a half for the two to do that job. Well, I improvised, I got the job done in less than a half a day. 'Cause what I did, being that Mr. Byfield gave me permission to do whatever I wanted to benefit the farm, I went over to Miller Hardware and got a pump, and I fabricated it onto the tractor so that I could run that with a belt that we used to use for grinding feed. And then I got a piece of pipe and put it in front of the tractor with a little, I put threads in it, and I put little spray nozzles on it, eight feet of it. So that now I had this fifty-five gallon tank in the back of the tractor, on the drawbar, and I chained it on so it won't fall. And I put the mixture on there and I put the suction hose in there. And so then I'd go right up to the trees in the orchard, and then I'd step on the clutch and that would stop the pump from going. And I'd turn the valve off, I'd back up and go along the tree and start the same way. And the same with the lawn, the estate had a big round deal and I just drove the tractor with that, and sprayed all that stuff. So I was able to do it in half a day with one person instead of two people. So those are the kind of things that I did, and many other things.

This is why Mr. Byfield, well, he was real good to me. He gave me all kinds of raises, and even gave Anice checks because, like, Tilly was the housekeeper, and she kept an eye on the place, sort of, on that end of it. And whenever my wife helped me on anything, she told Mr. Byfield about it. Because I never said anything, but he wanted to, one day he says, "I want to see how you clean the swimming pool. Because Tilly says that you and Anice clean it in five minutes' time." And I said, well, I went out to the, we had a warehouse, and I went over to the warehouse and all that. And what I did was I had two pieces of pipe, and made an "H" out of it, so it had a big "H." Well, the "H" end was the width of the swimming pool. And I put a net in between there, and put a rope on the bottom, and I made this cloth net on that. So then Anice would help me, we'd take it into the swimming pool, start from the edge, and I'd walk all the way around to the edge of it, and we'd go all the way to the end of the pool, and we'd lift it up and all the leaves and everything would come on to that. And then we'd take it outside of the warehouse, and the sun would dry it out, and it would all come off. What little I didn't get, I'd take that little thing that Charlie used to use, and I'd scoop it up and I'm all done. So all we had to do was walk through the length of the swimming pool and it was all done. So those are the kind of things that I had to do because I didn't have all that help at the time. Although my brothers were there helping on the farm. But certain things, I just did it so that we wouldn't have to use labor, to save the labor on that.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

MA: Okay, so I wanted to ask you a little bit about Mr. Byfield, and how did he make his money?

BH: He was, oh, there's a long story on that one. I'll try to cut it short. But his father used to be a hotel man, and they owned the Hotel Ambassador East and Hotel Ambassador West in Chicago. And also the Sherman Hotel, which, it's been torn down since now. And then he owned different businesses, and one of them was... it's another hotel at Guaymas, Mexico. But he was, during the Depression, his father lost everything and the bank took over the hotels and all that stuff. And Mr. Byfield had just graduated college, and he went to the bank and he said, "Look. I've got this education," this and that, "and I'm raised on the hotel business. I can get it out of the red." So they gave him the chance to take it out of the red. But he had so many ideas, and he did take it out of the red and then became a millionaire again himself. Well, one of the things that he did, and everybody knows what a Bloody Mary is, and I don't drink, so I don't know what all... all I know is it's got tomato juice in it. Well, Mr. Byfield introduced the tomato juice in his hotels. And you know, you always see your beverages, and nobody ever saw tomato juice on the beverage. But because of his doing that, the Campbell's company, their tomato juice, I guess it doubled or tripled it in a real short time. But he was the instigator of a lot of things like that. And he's the one that started the, they put all these food on the swords and they light, they put liquor on there and light it, and they march through with it. But he had that, doing it, and that started with him at the Hotel Ambassador East.

MA: And did he live at the Grassmere Farms estate?

BH: No, that was just his weekend place to retreat.

MA: So he lived in Chicago?

BH: Yeah, he lived at the Hotel Ambassador.

MA: And did you and Anice live on the farm?

BH: Yeah, on the farm, but it was a separate house especially for the caretaker. And so we had our separate home. We had our own car garage and our own... well, everything was just our own, and we had our own lawn and stuff. It was just all, like I say, there was a walnut grove between the main farm and our house.

MA: And how often did you go into Chicago? How close was Barrington to Chicago and how often would you go?

BH: About thirty-five, forty miles. But I never went to Chicago except when we went grocery -- not grocery, but shopping for, my wife went shopping or I had to pick up something at the hotel for Mr. Byfield. A lot of times, I'd take the truck to go into hotel to carry, bring back more booze for the bar room, that kind of at thing. But otherwise, I went to Chicago when my friends from the Seattle area, high school friends that came into Chicago to go to school, then we invited them out to visit us. We used to have visitors almost, I would say, almost every weekend.

MA: But Anice spent time in Chicago, right? She took classes?

BH: Just to go to school, but she took the train every day. She caught the train every morning and came back on the train, and her mother took care of my son at the time, 'cause he was just a kid then.

MA: How often would Mr. Byfield come to the estate?

BH: Oh, he'd come out every weekend. And so that was... and if he didn't come up for any reason, if he was out of town or something, then the estate was still open, 'cause Mrs. Byfield and all that, their friends would come out and they'd all use the swimming pool and all that sort of thing.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

MA: And so in 1945, when the camps closed, what happened to your parents and your younger brothers? Where did they end up?

BH: That's when they came to Minneapolis. And then they got settled into Minneapolis, and that's when they bought a home, house in Thirty-second and Park over there.

MA: Was there a reason why they came to Minneapolis?

BH: Yes, 'cause Grant was in Camp Savage at one time. And another thing was Reverend Kitagawa, I think he was also Father Kitagawa. Anyway, Reverend Kitagawa came over here ahead of time to kind of look over things. Because Minneapolis was a town where they accepted the Japanese real well. And my parents were very good friends of Reverend Kitagawa and Reverend Murphy and all that. And that, I think, had the biggest reason to bring them up here. But we came up here because they were, being that they were living here, we used to come and visit them a couple times a year. And Anice said, "I don't want to raise Ron in Chicago. We need to go, like, out in Minneapolis where people are so nice and things are a lot different. This is why we came up, and she came ahead of me and stayed with my parents 'til she could find a house to buy. And we bought our first house in Richfield.

MA: What were some of the differences between Chicago and Minnesota, or Minneapolis people?

BH: Well, Minneapolis people are so laid back, and you didn't even have to know 'em. If they lived on your block, it's high like that. But in Chicago, everybody's in such a rush. In fact, this one fellow was a friend of my sister, I mean... what am I trying to say? Sally Nakashige roomed with my sister and Fumi Kitahara in Chicago. And she was a beauty operator, and she brought her... I mean, her brother came on a furlough. So she brought her brother over to the Sherman Hotel where my sister and Fumi was at, at quitting time. And said -- this is where Fumi and Kay, my sister, Helen, we called her Kay or Helen, they work here. So then her brother says, "Wow, this building," he looks way up, "wow." And all of a sudden, people started looking up to see what's happening, 'cause he's going, "Wow," country boy. [Laughs] I guess there was a whole bunch of people all of a sudden. And so we laugh about that, but, see, that's how much of a country bumpkins we were. And in Seattle, the tallest the building was the Forchet Tower, I mean, the Smith Tower back then.

So my brother Grant and my sister Helen went to Seattle with my dad to do some collecting, and he said, he took them to the Smith Tower. But before they left, my brother Grant says, "Don't you dare touch my bike." So that was it. So they went to Seattle, and then my friend Joe Schuller came up from across the highway and he says, "Let's go for a bike ride." Said, "I can't." And I said, "Grant warned me." He said, "Well, that's no problem." He says, "The stem for the bicycle is right here, it's leaning up against the house here." He went through the whole thing. So the pedal is facing this way, "Let's go for a ride," so we went for a ride. So we went for a ride. Well, I looked at my Mickey Mouse watch, and, "Oh, my gosh, they'll be coming back pretty soon." So we're pedaling away, and I missed the bridge, 'cause there was a ditch there, between the highway, a ditch, and then our house, and then there was a bridge that we had. I missed that and went into the ditch. Fortunately, Grant's bike was clean, so I could wipe it all off and put it back just the way everything was. Well, Grant being more intelligent than I am, he came, got off of the truck with my sister, or car, I don't know which one. And he says, "You rode my bike." I said, "No, I didn't." My mother was there. And he says, "Yes, you did." I said, "No, I didn't." I'm lying like everything, and he says, "'Cause I saw you fall." And being as dumb as I was at that age, I said, "How could you see that?" He said, "Well, I was out in the Smith Tower, and I put a nickel in, and I used one of these telescopes, and I saw you fall." And my mother, on the side, she says, "Baka shoujiki," which is "foolish and honesty." Anyway, so that's how it happened. But that's kind of a deal that -- I'm getting off track, but I just happened to think of that. [Laughs]

<End Segment 18> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

MA: So then how long were you at Grassmere Farms? How long?

BH: From 1943 'til 1951. See, Mr. Byfield passed away in 1950, and that's another thing. Before he... that, 1945... wait a minute, I got to come back. 1949, he said to me, "Bill," he said, "you haven't taken a vacation, so you and Anice should take a vacation." And I said, "Well, I don't really need a vacation, 'cause I have Sundays off, and Wednesday I get half a day off." He said, "But that's still not a vacation because the livestock still has to be fed, and you take care of them. So Wednesday and Sunday you're still working." He says, "If I give you a vacation, what would you do?" And I said, "Well, probably, I'll talk to Anice," but I said, "I'd like to probably go back to Seattle area and see some of our friends that have gone back there." Well, then he said, "Would you fly out there?" I said, "Heavens no." I said, "I'm trying to save money to buy a house for my family," so I said no. He said, "Well, are you going to take the train?" I said, "No." And then he, you know, he's a comedian, too, in a sense, and he says, "What are you going to do?" And I said, "No," I said, "I'm going to drive my Chevy." He says, "That rattle trap?" I said, "It's not a rattle trap." I'm defending my car. I said, "Mr. B," I said, "I just put new tires on it, and I just put a new '48 engine in it," so I said, "That would take me to Seattle with no way, no problem." He says, "I would never trust that car to go out to the West Coast." He says, "I wouldn't go to Seattle unless I went in a new car." I said, "I told you, I'm saving my money to buy a house for my family." He said, "Who said anything about you buying it?" Said, "I'm going to give you one." I said, "Oh, sure." And that's all there was. And then he says, "Ask Anice what she wants. And between you and Anice, tell me what you want. You could have anything you want." 'Cause those days, there weren't that many cars manufactured. He says, "Anything you want in a Chrysler product, a General Motors product, or a Ford product."

So a couple weeks went by and then I had to go to the, his office at the "big house" to talk about business, what we're doing, what I did, and what I have to do. Anyway, he said, "Okay, what did you decide?" I said, "Well, you know," I said, "we got a problem." Because I said, Anice likes the '49 Ford, the new Ford that came out. I like the '49 Chevy Fleet line." And I said, "She likes the two-door because Ron is still a little guy, he might fall out in a four-door or a station wagon or whatever." And I said, "She likes the sea mist green, but I like the dark green." And I just left it at that, just kind of like a joke. And that was all. So I thought that was forgotten. And then I had to go back to his office at the "big house" to get things straightened out for the end of the month, and then he said, after finishing everything, he said, "Oh, by the way," he says, "if you take the vacation," he said, "how long would you want to take it for?" I said, "Oh, golly, I'm thinking maybe ten days?" He says, "Ten days?" I thought, "Oh, gee, I blew it." He said, "You come back quicker than a month and you're fired." I said, "A month?" I said, "Who's going to take care of the livestock?" He said, "Don't you worry about it, because I've already hired Mr. Berghorn and his son to take care of it." So then he says, "Well, the other question I have to ask you is when would you like to take it? Because there's a steak dinner involved in that." And I said, "A steak dinner?" He says, "Well, anyway, I want to know." I said, "Well" -- this is in April or May -- I said, "Mr. Byfield," I said, "I won't take any vacation until I close the swimming pool, so probably September or October." He said, "I just won a steak dinner." He said, "Mrs. Byfield thought that us giving you the new car and everything, you'll want to take off right away." But he said, "I know you better." I said, "Oh, thank you." [Laughs] And so naturally I didn't take the vacation 'til the middle of September, and so it was the middle of October that we came back. Can you imagine that? You take a vacation less than a month and you're fired?

MA: And so went out to Seattle?

BH: Went to Seattle, yeah, to the West Coast. We did everything out in, went from Seattle to Ontario, Oregon, and out to Idaho where our friends were.

MA: Had people returned?

BH: Pardon?

MA: Had people returned from camp?

BH: The people that -- a few went to Seattle area, but the rest of 'em went to farms because they went out on these, harvest time, out to Ontario, Oregon, and out to Idaho, and they stayed on the farms like that. And then they started, bought their own farms and so on.

MA: What about Thomas? What happened to the town?

BH: Only, I think only about two or three families when back there that I know of.

MA: And what about the Katsunos and the Hirabayahis?

BH: We didn't go back at all. In fact, people rented a farm from Joe Schuller, you know my friend Joe Schuller, he bought the place from the government thing. And so he rented it out to one of my friends, I can't think of his name now. Different people rented it for a while, but then they quit farming because the place just didn't, it didn't work out. And one of the reasons it didn't work out, like Joe Schuller told me, is the fact that now it's a wetland. Because my parents had drainage boxes in the field, but naturally, since we didn't go back, we didn't dig up the drainage boxes and clean them out. So naturally the place just became a wetland, so it's a wetland now.

MA: And what about, so Thomas sort of, the farming just kind of stopped?

BH: Yeah, there's hardly any farmers. Only one is Harry Kawasaki has a big farm out there, but his son is running it out there, or son-in-law. But beyond that, there isn't any farm that I know of. I think it might be Italians, or Filipinos might be farming, but other than that, you don't see it. It's just, not like what it used to be.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

MA: So you said Mr. Byfield passed away in 1950, and you stayed on for another year 'til '51?

BH: Yeah, well, the way that happened, I came home from my vacation, and I was up on the roof of the warehouse putting a new roof on it. And when he pulled into the driveway, I started coming down to get down on the ladder. And Mr. Byfield said, "No, you stay up there," because he says, "I don't feel well." This was in December. He said, "I don't feel well," so he said, "I'm going to go to Guaymas, Mexico," to his other hotel, and kind of recuperate. Well, he went to -- and then he said to me, well, I told him how I enjoyed the vacation, he said, "Well, we'll talk about it when I come back from Mexico." Well, then it turned out, he went over there and he had a heart attack. They had to fly him over, back to Chicago, and he only lasted a few, I think about a week, or I can't remember now. But anyway, it was a short time, and he passed away. But before he passed away, Dave Garaway is a good friend of his, and he had bought a Jaguar in the summertime, and he, Mr. Byfield drove it and liked it, so he ordered one also. But it took four or five months for it to come, 'cause he had to order it out and everything. And so just before he passed away, couple days before he passed away, they had said to him, "Your car has just arrived." And he, that's when he smiled, and within a day or so, he was gone.

But then for me, it was sad because here he did all that for me. And it got to be that he wasn't just a boss to me, he was a friend. You know, I could kid with him and all that sort of thing. And like I said before, that anytime he introduced me to any movie actor or actress, it was, "Bill works with us." It was never, "Bill works for me." That's the kind of gentleman that he was. Well, after he passed away, I went over to the house, 'cause Ernie Byfield, Jr. and Hugh, and the family was there, and Mr. Byfield, I said, "Here's the title to the car." I said, "I can't accept it because Mr. Byfield's gone now. I can't continue to do things for him." And they got mad. They said, "What are you talking about? Mr. Byfield" -- they called him Poppy -- they says, "Poppy gave it to you because he must have had an intuition." And they said, "You earned it, and it's for you to keep, and you have a job as long as we have the farm here," says, "you have a job." And I said, "Well, thank you."

But then a fellow by the name of MacArthur bought the place, and he is a, his name is John MacArthur, and he's a billionaire. And he had another farm out in Libertyville or something. But anyway, after he bought the place, I ran both places for a little while, and I got along good with him. But the way he treated his help, I didn't like it. It wasn't the style that I was used to with Mr. Byfield and all that. And so then I told him that I wanted to move Minneapolis, and he wanted to know why. I said, "Well, to get into a business of my own." And so then it worked out, he hired another person, I stayed with him to teach him whatever I could. And then in the meantime, Anice came up here to buy a house, and then we came up here. So that's what happened. But then that's the only reason I left Grassmere Farms. But Mr. MacArthur sent a lawyer up to where I was working. And I said, "What's up?" He says, "Mr. MacArthur would like to have you come back, and he will give you a nice raise, and can you come back and operate the place?" And I said, "Gee," I said, "You know" -- his name was John also -- I said, "Well, John, I love the place and have good memories and everything," but I said, "I'm happy where I am now, and I'd rather not go." I said to him, and I laughed, I said, "Even if you double the wages," I said, "I'm happy where I am." He said, "Bill," he says to me, "You're a damn fool." I said, "Well, whatever, I'm a happy fool, then." And so then a week later he came back again where I was working, he said, "Bill, if you turn this down," he says, "you are a damn fool." I said, "Why? What's in the offering now?" He said, "He's going to double your wages." I said, "John, I told you, even if you double that, I'm happy where I am," I said, "my brothers are here, my parents live here." And I said, "I'm happy the way it is." And that's what it was, and that's all there was. So that's the closed book from the Byfields at that time.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

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.

<Begin Segment 22>

BH: So then anyway, I worked for 'em and the first week that I worked, the first job, he gave me car and he didn't give me an estimate on it. So I asked for the estimate. He says, "You don't need an estimate." He says, "Just fix that fender." I said, "Yes, but it's got a molding on it, and I don't want to take the molding off and find out that when I put it back on, that I was supposed to put a new one on or something." And so I says, "Time is money." And so he says, well, so he brought me the estimate, so I looked at the estimate and so every job that he brought me, I looked at the estimate so I knew what to do. But in the meantime, I kind of privately wrote down the labor so I knew what I was doing. Well, then, when Friday came, he came up with a fifty dollar check, and I knew I had already done $220 worth of work for him. So then I just looked at it -- so then one week that I worked that way, and if I was only worth fifty dollars, I thought, "Well, it's time to quit." So then I just said, "Thank you," and I stuck it in my wallet. Then I went outside and backed the car up. And one of the guys said, "What are you doing?" I said, "I'm picking up my tools." Said, "How come?" I said, "Well, you heard him. He just gave me a check." He said, "Yeah," they said, "so what?" I said, "For fifty bucks." And they said, "Fifty bucks?" And I said, "Yeah, that's why I'm leaving. And then before I knew it, by the time I got part of the tools in my trunk, Jim came back out and he said, "Here. Will this keep you here then?" And he gave me another check for another fifty dollars. So then I thought I was worth more, but I just thought, "Well, I don't have a job and no place to go, I better accept it, be humble about it." So then I stayed on working for him.

And after two or three weeks to a month, different people started coming by and they started handing me cards saying, "Hey, if you ever need a job, look me up. I'm Bob Hagen from Hagen Autobody," you know, started doing that. "I'm Skogmo from ABC Motors." So that was fine. But I worked for him for a whole year, and I was all ready to kind of quit, I thought, "I deserve a vacation, but I'm going to quit." And then it happened at the most inopportune time, because this one customer had a real nice car, it was a black car. It was so nice and shiny, and he wanted a part fixed, the body work on it. So I did the body work, but Jim's policy was when the car's all done, take the air hose and blow out the upholstery stuff on the inside, it gets pretty, dust in it, and blow the dust off of the car. But we were not allowed to wash the car. So anyway, I washed that fellow's car, 'cause I ate my lunch, I brown bagged and ate my lunch, and he was at the restaurant. And when he came back, he says, "Who washed that car?" I said, "I did." He said, "What do you want to do that for?" I said, "Because he's my customer just as much as he is your customer. Because if there's anything on that car that wasn't done right," I said, "he knows that it's me, and I'm the guy that has to make it right." And I said, "When that car came here, it was spotless, and I want him to pick it up spotless." And Jim says, "If you start doing something like that," he says, "everybody's going to want their car washed." I said, "Well, I guess you and I have a different idea about the thing." I said, "Can you get me my check?" I said, "I quit." And so he made my check out and I quit, and it was just that simple. And I loaded my tools, and one of the guys said, "God," he says, "now Jim's going to have to buy a port-a-power, and he's going to have to buy a DA sander," because that's what I had that they didn't have.

And I loaded up everything, and I went straight over to Don Skogmo , and I said, "Do you remember me?" He said, "Oh, yeah, you're Benny." Well, Benny Izaki had a gas station on Fiftieth and Washburn, and he got me mixed with him. And I said, "No, I'm Bill." He said, "Oh, yeah," and then he remembered. So right away, he called Jim Baumberg, his manager, he said, "Hey, Jim, this is the guy I was telling you about," whatever. So then Jim got me a stall right away, helped me unload it, and I worked for him. And that ended up that Skogmo got the MG and Jaguar franchise, so we moved to St. Paul. And so then he operated for one year, and then after he operated for one year, he said, "I'm losing so much money," he said, "I'm going to quit. So you guys have to start looking for a new job first of the month." Well, my wife had a car accident, this was in 1953, and her arm was broken and all this sort of thing. So I had to go home, and Skogmo gave me the option to be able to go home and help things and come back again, and my hours were all scattered around, but I had a job. Well, then, when he said he was doing that, I said, "What would it cost for me to buy you?" And he says, "All I care about," he says, "you just have the thing. I don't care, you just buy what parts I have or whatever." But he said, "Make sure the landlord will let you have the building, 'cause he's a tough guy." So I looked up old man Wicker, I mean, Mr. Wicker, and he says, "Okay, you can... he asked a bunch of questions and then he said, "Okay, you pay me the one month's rent in advance, and one for the month, and one month extra so that if you destroy something, so if you give me three months' rent, then you could have it." So I did that. And from that point, then things went well, and I did all kinds of different things, and things went real well. And that's when Jaguar came to ask me if I wanted a dealership.

MA: So you ended up involved with a Jaguar franchise. And you had the --

BH: Yeah, Jaguar and MG. But the thing was, see, I was repairing the MGs and Jaguars because Don's customers still kept coming. The customers were telling the distributors that I was doing all this stuff, and they were not satisfied with the dealer that they had. Well, with that kind of a thing, it was more or less gifted to me. So then when I told the distributor, I said, "Look, I don't have that kind of money." 'Cause Don Skogmo , his parents were, they had this, like Ace Hardware, they had a whole bunch of Gamble-Skogmo stores like that. Anyway, so what happened was that when I told the distributor that I don't have that kind of money, they said, "Yes, you do." I said, "No I don't." They said, "Because we already checked with your bank, and you have good credit. And so we could loan you x-number of dollars so you could buy so many cars," this and this and that. Well, it all goes back to when I first started -- I'm jumping around -- but when I started, I paid for everything that came into my place, whether it be paint or sandpaper or whatever, parts. Well, then I got to a point where I thought to myself, this is hard because I have to wash my hand, go in the office, open up the checkbook and write, and it kills a lot of time. And I'm an advocate of "time is money." So then I went over to M&L Motor Supply, and I said to Tim Lipshultz, I said, "Hey, Tim," I said, "I'm here to talk to you." He says, "Well, how's business?" I says, "It's going good." And he said, "Well, are you here to pick up some more paint?" I said, "No. I brought you a check." And he says, "What for?" I said, "Well, this is in advance. So when this is used up, let me know, and I'll come and give you another check." And he said, "Oh, okay." And so that's all it was. So then, well, I kept on working, and then I decided that I'd probably used that amount up already, so then I went over and Tim says, "How's it going?" I said, "Good." And I said, he said, "Well, what are you picking up today?" I said, "Nothing, I just brought you this check." And he says, "Bill, hold that check." He says, "You're good. Your credit's good." He said, "You don't have to worry." And so I got my first person that gave me credit. And that's how I worked for several months, just as a body shop, then I started taking on mechanical work, too. But then from that point, it was tough to keep having to stop and write stuff. And by that time, I started getting a few employees and stuff.

So then I went to Midway Chev to pick up a fender or something one day, and I got talking to the parts manager, I gave him the same song and dance I gave Tim Lipshultz. So then he says, "Well, you'd have to talk to Ralph Kresel, who's the owner." And just as we were talking like that, then he came in the door, and he was a very wealthy man. And when Joe introduced me to him, then Mr. Kresel says, "Oh, I know who you are," he says, "You're in that Yellow Cab Building, and so on and so forth." Says, "Yeah." So then Joe right away says, "Bill wants to know how he can get credit from you." And so Kresel says, "Oh, that's no problem." He says, "Well, tell me who you have credit with." I said, "Well, right now," I said, "I have credit with M&L." And he says, "Who gave it to at M&L?" I says, Tim Lipshultz did." He says, " Tim Lipshultz gave you credit?" I said, "Well, yes." He said, "How long?" "Oh, I've had it for," whatever it was, two or three months, whatever. He says, "Shucks," he said, "if Tim Lipshultz gives you credit, you're okay. Hey, Joe, Bill's okay. He could have credit here." And so that went on for a few more months, and then I went to Slawik Chrysler Plymouth and I used to buy cars from him, used cars that they had (wholesale). And then I gave him the same shot. And he says, "There's no reason why you can't have credit." He says, "Who do you have credit with?" And I mentioned Tim Lipshultz and Ralph Kresel. He says, "Did you get it from Ralph Kresel himself?" I said, "Well, yeah," you know, not from his bookkeeper. And he said, "Don't worry about Bill, you're okay." So he told the parts manager, "Bill's okay for credit. Twin Cities Autobody is okay for anything."

MA: I see, so that's how you built the credit and established the business?

BH: That's how I built the credit, by making it easy for myself by bringing a check ahead of time and saying, "Use this check for whatever amount of stuff I buy, and then when you're finished with it, let me know, so I can bring you another check." And Tim Lipshultz had a reputation, I guess -- and now I know -- he was very close with the money, and he scrutinized everybody that he had credit with. And so this is why Ralph Kresel knew about it and so did Harold Slawik. And I don't know if you've noticed, but there's a shopping center called Har Mar. And that's because after Harold passed away, his wife's name is Marie, and she opened up this shopping center and called it Har Mar, and it's close to where I live. H-A-R for Harold, M-A-R for Marie. That's where Har Mar came from.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

MA: So I wanted to ask you about the Japanese American community in Minneapolis. How close is it, how tight-knit, and how does it compare with, say, the communities on the West Coast?

BH: At the beginning, they were very close, the Niseis were close. But then now it's the third generation, so it's kind of spread apart, because they live in different suburbs and all that, and they have the old churches out there. But, see, it started out on Blaisdell, where Reverend Kitagawa and Father... let's see now, Reverend Kitagawa and... I can't think of his name now. Anyway, they had this community center that belonged to the diocese that Reverend Kitagawa was with. And they let them have this building so we can have a Japanese community center. So we used to go there and change storm windows, and people would volunteer to cut grass, all this kind of thing. But then it got to the point where there wasn't enough people coming to it because the Niseis were at the point where they're on their own and all that. And so their kids went to the suburbs where their friends were and where their schoolkids were and all that. So then the diocese closed, they got rid of the building.

MA: But this building, what types of activities did they have there for the Niseis?

BH: People went there to do... gee, I came at the tail end just before they sold it. I only helped to clean the, put the storm windows on and stuff like that. 'Cause it was shortly after that that they got rid of it. But they had Japanese dances that they learned in there. They had the JACL meetings there, they had all sorts of things like that. And then they had some, a group of people for the church service. I think the Buddhist group met there, too, and stuff. But it just gradually drifted apart.

MA: And Reverend Kitagawa, was he, where was he from?

BH: Originally? He was from, he was in Kent, Washington, when the war started, let me put it to you that way. And so a few years before that, we used to, our ACF used to go over to O'Brien's because they had a group there. And we used to intermingle with the two groups. We'd be guests of theirs and they'd be a guest of ours and that kind of thing at the ACF, Auburn Christian Fellowship. And then it wasn't long before that when the war started, so it didn't last very long that way.

MA: Okay, so he was from the West Coast and resettled like a lot of other people.

BH: Right, yeah.

MA: Okay.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

MA: So tell me about your children. You have two boys?

BH: I have two boys, they're both in the business with me. But my son that was in the parts, I mean, in the dealership, because of that, he went to school in Michigan, they have a dealers, they call it Dealers University. And he went there to learn the trade beyond what he had been doing. 'Cause he knew the thing pretty well, but then for me to turn it over, he had to know a lot more. So it was one of those deals where you go from one dealership to the other as a, like a class. And yet they were learning by, learning from different places. And then he did that for some time and then he finished school that way, and then he was with me.

MA: And what is your, what is this son's name?

BH: Larry.

MA: Larry.

BH: He's the younger of the two, but my son Ron, after he graduated college, he went to work for Harford Insurance, and he worked for them for a while. And then with political reasons, things were getting to the point where he wasn't happy. And I needed help at my Foreign Auto Parts store, because I had two stores, one in Minneapolis, one in St. Paul. And then so I let Ron work at that, and then it got to a point where he did better that way than I did, so then he ran the parts stores. Then one day, when, this was in 1994, the Bumper To Bumper stores, they had about thirty stores, Bill Laird was a friend of mine, he came by and he said, "What would it take to steal your son from you?" I said, "Well, if you steal Ron," I said, "The store has to go, too, 'cause then I'd quit." 'Cause I says, you know, 'cause I had already retired at the age of sixty-five, supposedly. So then he says, "Well, what do you need to do this?" I said, "Well, you give Ron a good deal," and I said, "you buy my store's inventory from wall to wall. And you don't have to buy the buildings, 'cause I could get rid of it." And so then he said, "Okay, well, we'll talk about it." Well, then in two days, he called me up and he said, "Can we meet over at Ogaras in St. Paul?" So we went there, and they said, "Okay, when can we send a crew of people in there to take inventory?" and all that. And I said, "By December first, you can close the door." And that's what happened. So then Ron's been working with Bumper To Bumper 'til Bill Laird passed away, and then the place was bought by O'Reilly Auto Parts, and so he's still working for them, too. But the way it turned out is that the reason they wanted Ron, because foreign auto parts are a lot different than American parts in the sense that a Toyota or any other car like that. They make parts for it, one outfit, another outfit makes it from, say, from January to June, one outfit makes it. Then from June to December, another outfit would make it, or whatever time in between, they farm it out to different places. So the parts aren't the same as on the car. So on the, every Toyota car, they have to read the plate on the door that says manufacturing time would be six of ninety-two or whatever it happens to be, you see what I mean? And so what was happening at Bumper To Bumper, they'd send out, they'd sell two truckload of parts, and then one truckload would come back. Because people didn't know what part to send. So what they would do if somebody called in, they didn't have the knowledge, they'd say, "Well, there's three kind of different parts that would fit that car." So they'd send three parts out there. Naturally, it cost the company money, so they hired... that's why they wanted Ron, so he was in the office, so if they didn't know which part number to use, then they had to buzz around. And he would look it up and say, "Okay, that car takes such and such. If the time is, the date is such and such, this is what it takes." And that's the way it went. He was the first Japanese Oriental to work there, and now it's, naturally, there's a lot of Hmong boys working there, 'cause they found out that they were hard workers, Orientals are hard workers, see. But that's kind of a deal, so Ron is still with -- and he's actually of age to retire, but he can still work, and they still want him, so they transferred him from one store to the other just within the last week or two. And it's closer to home for him, and that's what's happening.

MA: So I wanted to ask you, too, about your father and your parents. What did they do after the war, what type of work did they get into?

BH: Well, when they came here, my mother worked in a clothing factory there doing seamstress work or something. And then my dad went to work at the Nickler Hotel in the kitchen, and that's about it. But my dad went to, when he retired from the Hotel Nickler, and then they asked him to come back because somebody was in the hospital. So my dad went back to work for a while, and then they told him, "Well, you don't have to come back next week." My dad said, "No," he says he had nothing to do, "so I'll come anyway." And he went, and so they put him back on the job and he worked another, I don't know how many years, but three or four years. And then he worked until he was in his seventies. This is why he's, he's a person that can't, he's more or less, he's not as fidgety as I am, but he wants to be doing something all the time. And so that's where he got the word "useful."

<End Segment 24> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

MA: And I wanted to ask you also about the redress movement and the reparations check and the government apology in the 1980s, and how you feel about that?

BH: Well, when they were talking about the government, to try to get some attention from them, and for an apology, they did that first year or two. Being in business, I just, automatically, I said to the people that, just like yourself, asking me, I said, "It'll never go through unless you put a dollar amount on it and hit the person in the, or the government in the pocketbook." Because otherwise, it'll just get sloughed off, and nobody's going to know what happened. But I said, "Anytime there's money, whether it's a dollar or a million dollars, if somebody thinks somebody's getting something for nothing, there's going to be a lot of action and a lot of publicity." And that's exactly what happened.

MA: Oh, that's interesting. So you saw the money as a good publicity...

BH: I remember when somebody came asking me, and they were talking about it, and they said, "Maybe you can give us some input because Gordon being a distant cousin or whatever," I don't know, whatever, from way back, but then we used to be neighbors, you know. And we grew up together and everything. And so I said, "Well, I know all the Sanseis are good about being lawyers and doing all that," but I said, "It's not going to work unless you put a dollar amount on it." And they said, "Oh, you're in business, and you always talk about money." But that wasn't really the case that I had in mind. Because through business, yes, I've had people with different things. And if you say, "Well, I'm sorry, that's all there is to it." But then if you put a dollar amount on it, it's surprising how far that goes. And I would, I used to always say to people, "Hey, if this and that doesn't work, it's going to cost you." And then they paid attention. But if it was nothing, no, nothing attached to it, there was nothing. And I'm not taking credit for it, it's just that that was my feeling. I'm sure a lot of other people felt the same way. This is why they brought that, they put a price tag on it, you see what I mean?

MA: Uh-huh, yeah. Have you gone back to Thomas at all, or the White River Valley?

BH: Yeah, I've gone back quite a few times, yeah. Because I have friends there, and I always go see my neighbor, Joe and Martin Schuller. Martin Schuller just passed away, but I still see Joe and keep in touch with him. And my brothers go over there, too, and keep in touch with them, plus one of the girls, they had one sister, Marie. And like Sam goes, stops in to see her every time they go out to the coast.

MA: And how close are you still with the Hirabayashi family and the Katsunos? Do you ever...

BH: How what?

MA: How, do you keep in touch with the Katsunos and the Hirabayashis?

BH: We did for a while, but then naturally, Gordon's parents went to Seattle, my parents came to Minneapolis, and so they naturally got together when somebody passed away at a funeral or something like that. But they had their things, and my parents had their things, 'cause they had their independent church over here with a group of Japanese and all that. And so Christmas cards and stuff, but it just gradually fizzled out. When I go out there, then I look up Gordon's sister, Esther, and things like that. But other than that, it's just like my regular friends, I keep in touch. There are some that are real good friends that I talk to over the telephone a lot, maybe couple times a month or more, I have three or four friends that I do that with. But I do that with my friends in California and out in Idaho, too, so it's the same thing. But as far as the, my parents' time, I think it just kind of died out because they got older, they couldn't do a lot of things. And they've been gone for many years, 'cause my mother passed away in '69. My dad passed away in 1980, so that's quite a while ago.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

MA: Is there anything else you'd like to share before we end?

BH: I guess, this is just myself, but this is a country of opportunities. They talk about the "opportunity knocks but once," that's not true. It's knocking all the time, you just have to make up your mind yourself that, "I want to do this." That's what it seemed. And I was fortunate that when I came up with ideas that was off the board a lot of times, my wife would say, "I know you could do it, go ahead." Well, how can you resist anything like that, when you've got a hundred percent backing like that? And for me, I could talk that way no matter what I did, 'cause sure, she questioned it, but then at the end, she'd say, "Well, you do what you want," and that's what it was, you see. And so all I can say is different things that I did, people say, "Gee, you had a good idea," and so forth. But it's just that, it wasn't my idea, a lot of it, it came from my customers. They'd say, "If you would do this," or, "If you had this, then I would buy a car from you," or something. That's how Foreign Auto Parts started. They said, "If I could get foreign auto parts for a car without having to wait like a lot of people have to wait for the things," said, "then I'd probably buy a foreign car because I'd like a foreign car. But I don't want to have problems with the parts situation." That's when I started Foreign Auto Parts. And same when people say, "If I could have somebody to finish off the job that I start if I get stuck with it, then I would buy that part from you and try it myself. But otherwise, I don't want to attempt it." Well, then the station across the street from me went up for sale, so I bought it, and I hired the fellow's brother to run the thing. And when they start saying that, then I said, "Okay," just go across the street, and that's one of our place." So I said, "Gil will only charge for the time that he has to spend to show you, or else to do it for you." So that snowballed the same way, you see what I mean? So a lot of things that I did was all, it was brought up by the customers and not -- I have no brains, like I say. [Laughs]

MA: It seems like you and your wife made a lot of connections and networks, and that's how you were so successful.

BH: Yeah, my wife, with all the volunteering she did for the hospitals and the nursing home and Traveler's Aid and Fest of Nation, well, I mean, I could go on and on. When they built the Japanese garden and stuff, she was always in with the people. She herself always stayed in the background, but then she still was active enough that it helped all the way around. So I guess all I can say is that Minneapolis/St. Paul area to me has been just a wonderful place. Because my kids have never got into trouble, any of that kind of thing. And I've been very fortunate, we've had, I don't know, any number of things that I think were advantageous for us. Because when we moved into our house, the first house in Richfield, and we were unloading the freezer and stuff like that, a bunch of people started coming over. And I thought, gee, you hear of people saying that, "You're not welcome around here," and all that. Well, it was just the opposite. They all came over, like the neighbor across the street, Adrian, says, "I'm Adrian Aathey," and then so on and so forth. Well, anyway, everybody, John Hammer, and everybody introduced themselves. And they said, "What can we do to help you unload the stuff?" and all that. And then Adrian says, "You know, there's only one guy here that's got enough money to buy anything good." And so he... I can't think of his name, the fellow on the corner, I'm talking fifty-some years ago. He said, "You're the only guy that's got the money with a power lawnmower, why don't you bring it over here and cut the lawn for Bill?" You see what I mean? So all that kind of stuff. So then when my wife had, got into the coffee club, like how they do in the block? She said something about different foods, you know how women talk about menus and recipes, rather? And she talked about things like shrimp and lobster. And they said, "Oh, we've never tasted it. We've heard about it, but never..." 'cause those days, back in early 1951, they hadn't tried it. 'Cause a lot of the people in town, our neighborhood at that time, they were from the farm, from outer farms and stuff. So then she said, "Okay, this winter when it's cooler and all that, I'll cook a Japanese dinner. And Carol, as long as you're Norwegian, you could have your lutefisk and whatever." And it just went on and on. So for quite a few years, we had, once a month, we had, like at the Hammers' we had German food, and the Danish, the lutefisk, you know, Norwegian. We had a lot of fun with it. And so she started, like I say, she more or less started an international dinner party that way. And then it was shortly after that that she did a lot of entertaining. So then she wanted a bigger house, and then we found this other house in Twelfth Avenue, so we moved out there. And then in 1980, I was, it was at the point where my wife said, "If you're going to manicure the lawn when I have somebody cutting the grass and all that, the kids are gone, we need to get rid of it." And we ended up in, she bought a condominium up in 1980, and that's where I've been for the last twenty-nine years.

So all I can say is Minnesota has, really, the people are so nice. I went to a cemetery to bring flowers to my brother-in-law and my sister, 'cause they're both buried there, and I was carrying the brass vase that they have, and I couldn't find any water. 'Cause normally the water was turned on, but this was very early, and so I couldn't find it. So I thought, "Well, what'll I do?" And all of a sudden, a lady came by with a car, and she slowed down so I thought she was asking, going to ask me what row these headstones were. But instead, she says to me, with a big smile, she says, "Isn't it hard to find water?" And I said, "Well, yes, I'm walking around trying to find it." And right away, she had a bottle of regular drinking water. She says, "Here." And I said, "Oh," I said, "thank you." I said, "How much is that?" She says, "It's not going to cost you anything." She says, "It's my pleasure, you take it." And then she drove off with a big smile. You see what I'm saying? People are so nice like that. I can't say enough nice things about Minnesota, because people have just been so nice that way.

And as far as discrimination, the only discrimination that I can talk about, is like I told you about getting my job. But see, I had to make my own job, ask for my own job like that. But beyond that, 'cause all of customers -- I say "all" -- a big percent of our customers are all friends now. And like I mentioned, Steve Cannon was a radio man for WCCO, he bought a car and we became friends. And Joe Soucheray is in St. Paul, and he still has a radio program now. But he'll call me and different things like that. So it was very, very unusual that you could have a thing like that happen. 'Cause our dance teacher was my wife's friend, Doris Marshall, so we used to have dances in our house at, our other house. And we had about, I think it was about eight of us Japanese couples, and Doris used to teach us. And you know what, ended up with that? She married Earl Bachen, who is the founder of Medtronics. And so we were all, this group of, Japanese dance group, were invited to their wedding reception and everything else like that. So you see what I'm saying? People are so friendly and so nice. I don't have anything to -- maybe if somebody cuts me off on the highway I might be mad, but beyond that, everybody, they're such nice people in this town or this state for that matter.

MA: Well, that's a very positive, upbeat place to end the interview.

BH: Well, thank you, but it's just the way it is. That's me.

MA: Yeah.

BH: And I'm not a Japanese, I'm a "Yapanese." [Laughs]

MA: Well, thank you so much for doing this interview.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.