Densho Digital Archive
Frank Abe Collection
Title: Gloria Kubota Interview
Narrator: Gloria Kubota
Interviewer: Frank Abe (primary); Frank Chin (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: August 28, 1993
Densho ID: denshovh-kgloria-01

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

<Begin Segment 1>

FC: Before the war, Guntaro and you were pregnant. What were you going to name the baby and why?

GK: Oh, I wasn't pregnant before... well, Gracie was already born. Then after the war started, it was in camp that we got, we had Gordon. But when the war started and Mr. Gordon Hirabayashi defied the law and he stayed at the college library or something, and his Caucasian friends said, "Listen, you better go home now because it's curfew time," he says, "What makes you think I'm any different from you?" He says, "I have citizenship and stuff," so he stayed there, so he got picked up. And then at that time my husband read about it and heard about it, and he says, "Gee, isn't he a spunky kid?" He said, "If we ever have a son, we're gonna name him Gordon." [Laughs] And we just laughed about it because we didn't know when that day would come. Well, when we were evacuated in Heart Mountain, we had our son, so naturally we named him Gordon and we gave him a Japanese samurai name. [Laughs] And it's so funny, we hardly use it. That's how we named him Gordon, after Gordon Hirabayashi.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1993, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

FC: You first see Heart Mountain with your family.

GK: It was terrible because my daughter in the train, you know, they pulled all shades down and everything and she was only three and they gave her egg to eat. And she just got so sick that they came after her in an ambulance, they took her in the ambulance, so it was just scary because my husband stayed behind in Santa Anita, because he was a judo expert and he had to help keep the place going smoothly because there were a lot of kids that acted up. And so I went with my mother and the rest of family.


FA: Okay, the first time you see camp, this is where you're going to live.

GK: Well, it was awful because we're used to California scenery and there was just nothing. And it was towards evening I think when we went, but mostly, I didn't realize what it was that time because all I was concerned about was my daughter, you know, going on an ambulance and I had to go with her to the emergency. And so it's more like next day, and we get this, we got a bigger unit than most people for just the three of us. So we fixed up a shower curtain to divide the, where the beds were and our table, then the stove was in front. We had a pretty good-sized unit for just the three of us, but, of course it was different from being home. And we all were crabbing about something. [Laughs] But anyway, when we went to Heart Mountain, we didn't have to stand in line like we had to in the heat in Santa Anita, so that was a plus. But still, I used to go for the food rather than take my daughter to eat there. I'd go and then bring it home and eat it with her.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1993, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

FC: What did you call your husband?

GK: Oh, I used to call him his nickname, Gunt. [Laughs] Because "Guntaro" was, you know, us Niseis, how we don't like to call them full names. He didn't like it at first; he wouldn't answer. But he got so used to it because my family's big, they all started calling him Gunt. Then later on, when we came out of camp, well, when he started working, they don't like to call him his Japanese name 'cause it's too hard for them, so they starting naming him Harry, Dick, you name it, so he says, "Write my check 'G. Kubota', and then," he said, "You could call me George." So that's how George stuck with him. So we all had initials that started with "G," you know. That's how it started, really, but his name was Guntaro.

FA: Was he a good farmer?

GK: [Laughs] Well, you know, he never touched dirt before, 'cause he used to teach before we went in camp, and he worked for the churches and stuff, see, because he just came to this country to visit his brother and look around a little bit. But he liked being free, because in Japan, he said they lived on a big estate with fence around it and he couldn't get out and do whatever he wanted to, so he decided, well, heck with going back, so he stayed. He came on the last boat that came to this country. And he stayed, and he got even disinherited from his family because he won't go home to carry on the name. He said, "Who cares, huh?" So we had nothing at the time, but he just... and he learned, he was very smart so he passed the contractors license and he was artistic, and he did Oriental landscaping. And in fact, some of his work got on the Sunset magazine book. So people, I guess, really liked his work. And in fact, he designed about three acres right near us, so that really put my two children through school, 'cause Gracie went eight years to college and my son went seven. So really they, he did beautiful work, and for a thank-you they took pictures of their place, the photographer came and took pictures and they gave us an album with his pictures in it.

FA: Before the war when you settled down on the farm, was he a good farmer?

GK: [Laughs] Well, my father thought that I should have something to do so he gave us an acre of his blackberries, Himalayas, they called it, and we did pretty good with that. So then my husband thought, well, we'll rent our own place, so we rented 5 acres down the street on Doyle Road, and we decided, well, the horse too slow for him, and you have to feed the horse, you have to go take care of the horse, so he says, "I'm going to get myself a tractor." And I said, "Nobody has a tractor." He says, "Well, it's going to be tractor for me. I'm not going to feed the horse twice a day." So we bought this John Deere tractor, and everybody was laughing. Pretty soon, everybody is renting his tractor, so my brother and his friend started working for him and driving the tractor, and all those acres that we had, neighbors, and sometimes he'd get on it himself. And he did more damage by knocking down the poles. [Laughs] He'd turn too fast. You can't turn too fast 'cause we had blackberries on poles and it's got four wires, and you wind the vines around it. Well, if you knock the ends down, well, it's heavy so it has to be put up again. And oh, I used to tell him, "Can't you be more careful and drive?" So in his sleep, he used to say, "My wife always makes fun of me and she picks on me," and he doesn't know he's talking in his sleep. So I'll tell him the next day and he says, "I didn't say that." I said, "You did in your sleep." But anyway, I was the farmer, really, and he, you know, he was my helper. [Laughs]. But he taught school at that time, Japanese language.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1993, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

FC: Were you home when they came to get, to arrest your husband?

GK: Yes, I was.

FC: What happened?

GK: Well, we were expecting it because he's been making speeches for the, so the Isseis would understand so we could raise our money to take it to court. And so when they picked him up, well, I think he was washing dishes at the time so they went to get him, and then, but he was already packed. I had, he knew what clothes he has to have, because we knew it was coming. And they took him away about, oh, ten days after, I guess, my son was born. So, and they came in and just went through everything. Our unit was small, but when they mix up everything it could be nerve-wracking and I was right there. And after they left, I guess because it was soon after I had my son that I just went blind, I just couldn't see a thing. 'Course, I was worried 'cause I didn't know how long I'd be blind, but fortunately I was okay the next day. But that was really an experience. And of course people want to know how I'm taking it, you know, so they're just going back and forth, because I lived on the end of the unit, kind of. But I didn't show any emotion because I believed what my husband and those boys were doing because I just, my brother was in the army, he was drafted and he went, and he said there's no chance because in the army, when the top people came to visit their place there, they were put away so that they couldn't see the -- I think the president or somebody came to their place. I guess it was in Arkansas or somewhere, but anyway, they didn't have the run of the place, they were just put away so that, because they're Isseis and they got menial jobs. My brother says he had to always take care of the garbage, so he takes off his jacket, and he's doing it and officer comes and say for him to put his jacket back on, and he says, "If you want to stick your hand in this dirty garbage pail," he said, "you do it," so he'd get demoted. [Laughs] But he was small, but he was spunky, he didn't take too much. He worked hard and everything, but he said they used to kind of treat him like that, so he didn't want take too much of that.

FC: So the day Guntaro was arrested, people came by to...

GK: Well, they just go back and forth unnecessarily because they want to know what I'm doing, you know. Well, I was in my unit and then later on, 'cause my son was small, my mother, I took my son and daughter and, my mother was in the end unit, the end large one, not the last unit, so I went there and stayed with her, because she was watching my son lot of times and I used to work at the post office and stuff like that. So she used to take care of, but...

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1993, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

GK: I got, I got my friend to lend me their typewriter, and then I'll start typing for them, but I just took a little bit and after years and years, it was kind of foreign, pokey, and so they said, "Oh, you're too slow," and they fired me, which was just as well because I had my family to take care of. But they came, some people brought lumber into the, my unit, 'cause my unit was a big unit. So they made a nice table, so you know, the typewriter will fit and the boys sat around talking. And I wasn't there all the time, but I try to help because husband didn't type. And pretty soon I got fired so I don't know what went on. But they met at different places, too, that's how... but I was really, I thought, "Gee, we have to fight for our rights." That's all we know is this country. So when my husband was asked to interpret what the Fair Play boys were saying, I thought, well, that's the only way they can make the money, raise the money, 'cause the Isseis have the money, the Niseis, they're young yet, they didn't have any money. I never followed, I never went to his speeches or anything, I just stayed home. But I knew he was trying to help them. And they made, I guess they got quite a few people, older ladies to follow him around and donate, and it was really cute how some of these old people followed him around. And that's what they had to have, was the Issei ladies to help raise the money for this trial. But they finally took it to the Supreme Court because they had enough money.

FC: So the Issei respected your husband.

GK: Oh yes, they loved him. [Laughs] They, the ones that believed in him, they just followed him around. And there were thirty blocks in our Heart Mountain, and it used to be cold but he'd go all over and they'd follow him around. Some people brought all the cash that they had and they'd give it to him. So they, of course, they had people taking charge of that. My husband just believed that the Niseis shouldn't be drafted from the camp 'cause he had studied law and he knows what law was like. But I felt that that was true. We had sentries watching us and everything with no freedom for them to be drafted, I don't know. I guess I didn't know what I was getting into but I just believed that what they were doing was right.

FC: Did you realize the danger that your husband was putting himself in as an Issei?

GK: Well, I said, "Hey, you always wanted to live in this country but you might..." he said, "It's all right, Mom." He says, "I got a place to go to, we'll all go if that day comes." [Laughs] And you know, at one time they tried, they had it that he was going to get deported. So I got a letter he told us that he was going to get deported when he got out, but when Supreme Court handed down their thing, they won, so then they wanted the letter back and he says, "I'm not going to give it back." But I guess he gave it back because he never came home with it. They had given him a paper saying, "When you get out of camp," I mean, "out of Leavenworth, you're going to be deported, first chance." Well, he didn't care, because he knew what home was.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1993, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

FC: Guntaro, who taught him how to write English and where did he learn?

GK: Oh. [Laughs] Frank... he studied a little bit Japanese -- I mean, English in Japan. He knew the alphabets and those things, but to write was a little hard, so Frank Emi taught him how to write. But his writing was not spelled always right, and when you translate Japanese into English it gets backward or something, I don't know, so whenever we felt down and we get a letter, the whole family gets together and read it. So my sister will come and say, "Hey, didn't you get a letter? Let's laugh, laugh together," she said. "Let's read it and laugh together." And she would come all the time like that, so when I showed her the, the tape that I got, she started laughing, she said, "That's me."


FC: Okay, let's... this time, could you tell us that Frank Emi taught him how to write English in jail, or at Leavenworth?

GK: Oh yeah, uh-huh. Yes. Frank Emi taught my husband how to write English, you know, make sentences. He used to talk broken English and could write a few things, but lot of time there so he learned pretty fast. So he, he used to write to Maki and I, and some of spellings were wrong, but I always heard from him. And he started drawing pictures because they have so much time. He used to write and I kept those letters.


FA: Gloria, tell me again, how did your, how did your son come to be named?

GK: Well, we, my husband heard about Gordon Hirabayashi getting picked up when he was going to college because of the curfew. And so he didn't think he'd get picked up because he had his citizenship and everything, he was just as good as the other Caucasian boys, he claimed. And so when my husband read that in the paper he said, "Someday if we ever have a son, we'll name him Gordon." So that's how we named our son Gordon years later in camp, because he was born in Heart Mountain.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1993, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

FA: When you first got to the camp, you told us a little bit about your first impressions, but were you -- tell me again, what was your very first impression of how the conditions were at the physical, the location in camp, Heart Mountain?

GK: Well, it was a windy, desolate place, and sagebrush, and it's nothing like California. It's really, really wind blowing, and they had rattlesnakes on my neighbor's porch. You know, it was just scary all over, 'cause we're not used to that desolate, sagebrush country. And we always worried about our kids playing outside. But well, I don't know... no trees. It's just really, if you're used to California, well, it's really something.

FA: Government and the JACL before you left was telling you that you're going a "resettlement center" where you could start a new life. Were you surprised by the conditions you found instead?

GK: Well, they gave us barracks to live in but it's not, you just give up everything you have at home. We were married for four years, and gosh, we could only take fifty pounds apiece. And what we ended up taking was a few clothes for ourselves, but mostly our daughter's clothes and we took canned milk and things like that to be sure that she has enough food and everything. And by the time we went and got a suitcase to put our clothes in, it was those paper suitcases that you can't hold much in anyway. And we brought tin plates, when we were in Santa Anita, we had to stand in line to go eat at the table and so we brought our own tin plates to get our food. So you know, everything, it was very sad. And standing in that hot, hot sun, it was just terrible. I think I lost about twenty pounds while I was there, in just a short time.

FA: When you got to Heart Mountain, did you have a sense, Gloria, that this is wrong, we shouldn't be here?

GK: I always felt it was wrong. Because we know nothing but this country, and so I just thought that what the boys were doing, and when they came to ask my husband to translate what they're doing into Japanese so they could get help from the Issei parents that have money, because they knew eventually they're going to court. So that's how my husband really started. And I guess I was kind of for him doing that, even though my brother was drafted from the outside and he was in the army already, and not getting treated like first-class American soldiers because they were being watched very closely. So I just thought it was really wrong. I don't know why I felt that way, because I guess a lot of the other people didn't come out and say what they felt. I was, always tended to give my side of it, my husband was, studied law, and I never was one to believe him wholeheartedly, let's take his word for everything. If I thought it's questionable, I would question him, and he says, "Why are you like that?" I said, "Because sometimes I doubt what you're saying, I don't want to be convinced." [Laughs] But that kept him on his toe and it got me smarter because I knew what kind of things to say. And then he really was educated enough to get me thinking more or less that way, I think.

But I really believed in it. I really believed the Niseis shouldn't be drafted from behind the fences, because we couldn't go out of the fences, there were sentries watching us, if you went under the fence you could get shot at. In fact, I think a few people did.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1993, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

FA: You didn't believe the Nisei should be drafted, but a number of boys did volunteer. Did you ever tell their mothers of those boys that they were doing something wrong?

GK: No, I, I didn't personally talk to anybody about those things, but I believed that, gee, they're in camp and getting drafted -- I mean, not drafted, some did volunteer, but I thought, well, everybody for themselves but I thought that was wrong for them to really... but lot of people kinda had been fearful because if you fight the draft, you could, but...

FA: The people who did, were drafted, did they or their mothers ever come to you and say your husband was doing a bad thing, or you're doing a bad thing?

GK: No, I don't think they have, because I just remember those few old ladies that were always donating and thinking this is right, well, they had children, and they thoroughly believed that drafting them from behind the fence was really wrong.

FA: You mentioned the, bringing the wood in to build the tables in your barracks, so you had the nice table...

GK: Well, I guess those people that brought it were people that were working, they had trucks and they had trucks and they had... you know, that's the only way you could get it, it's government stuff but they didn't get permission to bring it, but they had to deliver these different things. And they brought us some wood and they, somebody just put it together, and gee, they did a pretty good job for putting a table together.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1993, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

FA: You told me that a lot of the meetings of the Fair Play Committee, Steering Committee, were held around the table in your barracks.

GK: Well, at first they, when they're first talking, I don't know who they were, 'cause I really didn't know them at time. It's later on that I knew the different boys. And they came one time and I -- this one time when I was trying to help them type, I was too slow so I got fired, I know that -- but I know they used to get together and write things and try to let the Isseis know what was going on, because they didn't understand the Nisei English so much. And so my husband was like their translator. But he translated because he believed that what they're doing was right.

FA: What were those meetings like, Gloria? Were they really quiet or was there a lot of shouting?

GK: No. Well, this was just few people because when they had at the mess halls, I never went. They had, people used to gather at mess halls, different mess halls. I never went to those things, but the few times that the few people came to our unit to talk, I guess about what they would talk about or something, but I just was helping them that one time. But we had shower curtains to divide the thing so if I was there, I would be in the other part, but most of the time I used to go over to my mother's and stay with her with my children.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1993, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

FA: When -- you did not go to the trial.

GK: No, uh-uh.

FA: So tell me, where were you, what were you doing when you first heard the word of the verdict?

GK: That they were -- well, I was in, we were in Laramie in camp there, Heart Mountain. And I guess Kozie, Kozie Sakai and Art, Frank's brother, they were keeping us in touch, so when they got the verdict, and my husband got two years. Yeah, two years.

FA: Where were you and how did you receive word?

GK: They came to tell us, I mean the people that went to court to hear the verdict and everything. And I think it was Frank -- I mean, not Frank. Frank's brother Arthur and Kozie and those people went, and they came back and told us.

FA: Do you remember were you were, what you were doing?

GK: I think I was just in my unit.

FA: And, Gloria, when they told you, "Mrs. Kubota, they found your husband guilty," what was your reaction?

GK: Well, I accepted it because I didn't think that anybody would get off. I wasn't surprised, in fact, I was surprised than he didn't get longer than the other people because being he doesn't have citizen, but they asked him why he was, he says, "Well, I have two children born in this country. As a father I am interested in their welfare, they have rights," and he stuck by that which he really believed in so he said he was really doing it for his children's sake, too.

FA: Did you admire him?

GK: Well, I always thought -- you know, when I first met him, it was funny 'cause he'd tell stories and I just believed him. He was good storyteller, and he used to tell fortunes. I mean, he went to China and learned to tell, read your hands and stuff, or look at your face and tell you what's going on and stuff. And when we'd get together when he wasn't teaching, we'd have parties like in -- and he'd tell us, and I admired him. I thought, "Gee, this man knows a lot," which he did, rather because he was older, quite a bit years older than I am. And the people that I knew, my age, looked like they didn't know as much, 'cause this guy just knew it. [Laughs] But he was a good storyteller, too, I guess. But yeah, I admired him for sticking up and helping the Issei people to understand, 'cause he was, he worked for the churches and stuff, and so he was known quite a bit. So whenever anybody had problems, they used to come to him anyway, think, what do you think of this or that. So I was glad that he was able to help the Niseis.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1993, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

FA: Even after the trial, did any, didn't any of the Niseis or the others come to you and say, "Told you, you see what happens when you get in trouble?"

GK: No. My brother came and said, "I told you you guys are gonna lose," I said, "I know it." I said, "I'm not crying about it," I said, "I knew," because he said he's a soldier and the way they were treated, you know, 'cause they're Japanese. He said, "You know you're not going to win," and I said, "I know it, but we're trying to get a point through, 'cause we're citizens of this country, you were drafted and you're a good solider and I'm proud of that." But I said, "They have a right to defend themselves in camp, because they're stuck behind barbed wire."


FA: After, again, after the trial, didn't anybody come and tell you that, "I told you so," that you were going to lose? You said your brother did.

GK: Well, he was in the army, and when he got on a furlough he came, but actually, I guess they were hesitant to come and directly tell me, but my brother said, "You know, I told you you're gonna lose." And I said, "I knew that." I said, "Don't worry, don't worry about me." I worry more about him, because he was going overseas, so when he didn't write to us or something, my mother would make me write a letter to him, then his officers would give him heck and say, "How come you didn't write to your mother?" So he told me, "Never write a letter like that to my officer again," I said, "Okay." [Laughs]

FA: But your brother being a draftee, did he resent what your husband was doing?

GK: No, no, he didn't resent it but he said I had no chance, we had no chance winning, he said, "Because we in the army are treated like Japanese, not like the other people, they watch very closely." So he said, "You won't win."

FA: After the war, how has it been to know what your husband did, and yet have no one acknowledge it or recognize it?

GK: No one bothered, we went back to where we used to live, Santa Clara County, and I didn't have anybody say anything to me, and if they did, well, I guess I just went and said what I felt like saying, and my husband always gave his view of it. And some people said that they didn't want to do this or they didn't go out and do this, but I was never troubled with it. In fact, some of the people said, "I don't blame you," you know. Then I had, when we were getting loaded up to go to Santa Anita, and there was this lady, and I had my daughter and she was tiny and I'm carrying all these things, so she helped put us on train, and she was so sorry for us. And I think she was a teacher or something, but I lost touch with her. But she used to write to me and she said, "Please always write," but you know, when you're in camp and you have to watch your child and take your washing, and take it to the wash, to another unit and do that, your life gets so mixed up. You have to either go eat when the bell rings or whatever, that you just were always doing something.

FA: So no one said anything bad to you after the war, but at the same time, did it bother you that you were reading all these books by Bill Hosokawa and...

GK: Oh, well that man, just, I thought was disgusting. I didn't like the things he used to say, I thought it was unnecessary. Besides, wasn't he a Canadian?

FA: That's S.I. Hayakawa.

GK: Yeah.

FA: No, we're talking about Bill Hosokawa.

GK: Oh, Bill Hosokawa.

FA: Editor of the Heart Mountain Sentinel and the PC, Pacific Citizen, author.

GK: Well, I guess I didn't pay too much attention to that. [Laughs] I don't know.

FA: But the fact that all these books and the Pacific Citizen of the JACL, always talk about the veterans, but they never talked about the --

GK: Yeah, yeah, I know. I know.

FA: Did that bother you?

GK: No, I thought -- well, I just kind of checked them off my list that they're just on the other side, and I didn't think like them and I didn't believe like them, so I just, I just ignored it. My husband and I always said that, that they don't know where they're coming from. And then later on, Gracie went to Washington, D.C. and Masaoka said something to her like, about the Fair Play thing. Oh, so she thought this is, this is one of those guys, so she never went back to him.

FA: Could you tell me, what did your husband think about the JACL after the war?

GK: He didn't think much of 'em.

FA: Tell me, Gloria, what does your husband think about the JACL before the war and in the war, when they encouraged your cooperation in the evacuation?

GK: Well, see, I really, isn't it awful just to say I don't know, because we didn't pay too much attention to the JACL before the war, and of course, with our getting started farming and doing all this kind of thing and working for the churches, we just didn't pay too much attention to the, what the Niseis were doing. Because my husband was an Issei, huh? That's why.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1993, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.