Densho Digital Archive
Frank Abe Collection
Title: Frank Emi Interview II
Narrator: Frank Emi
Interviewer: Frank Abe (primary); Frank Chin (secondary)
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: January 30, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-efrank-03-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

FA: Tell me about, Frank, tell me about your life before World War II. What were your plans, what were your dreams?

FE: Well, I was going, going to the junior college in L.A. until my father got hurt in a traffic accident. So then I had to -- we had a produce market at the time. So after he got hurt, I had to leave school to take over the business and do the buying and etcetera, whatever had to be done. And this was when we had the store on Beverly and near Vermont.


FA: Tell me again, Frank, what was your occupation at the time, what did you do for a living?

FE: At that, now, this was at the time the war started or just before?

FA: Before.

FE: Just before. As I said, I was going to college, L.A. City College at the time, and my father, who ran a produce market, got hurt in a traffic accident, so I had to drop out of school to take over the business of the produce market and from that, we branched out into a, put in a grocery store and a meat, meat department. So my brother, my younger brother and my older sister and I, and we hired a butcher to run the meat department, and had this sort of a small supermarket, mini supermarket. And on Sunday morning when, on December 7th, I had the radio turned on, we opened up the market at around 8 o'clock. And I heard this newscast, news-bulletin saying that Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese planes. And I listened, I didn't take particular attention to it because I didn't know where the heck Pearl Harbor was. And I thought this was just another dramatization of a novel of the war with Japan just like the dramatization of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, which terrified U.S. nationwide. So I didn't pay much attention to that. But later on as the day wore on and turned to other radio stations and they all started talking about this Pearl Harbor attack, I came to realize that this was for real, that we had a war with Japan. Which really didn't surprise me too much because of the hostile nature of the news that was in the papers in the last few months, weeks and months. So that's how I first reacted when this war story was mentioned on the radio.

FA: What happened next?

FE: Well, we were a little concerned about the business, but you know, surprisingly, our customers said, "We understand that you're not the enemy so don't worry because we won't boycott you or anything." So they treated us just like before. And we were mainly concerned about our parents because they couldn't become citizens because of the racist laws that existed then in this country. As far as ourselves, we didn't worry too much about ourselves because we were American citizens and we were born here. But as future events proved otherwise, it didn't make any difference whether we were American citizens or not. We were all ordered to evacuate and be put into concentration camps in the inner lands.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.