Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Richard M. Murakami Interview
Narrator: Richard M. Murakami
Interviewer: Larisa Proulx
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: November 19, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-mrichard_2-01-0016

<Begin Segment 16>

LP: How did those kinds of experiences, if at all, sort of impact your parents' philosophy of how to treat other people and one another? It sounds like that situation to begin with, and you already saw that was wrong, but do you think those kinds of situations tended to translate into philosophy and ideas about how to treat other people?

RM: Well, he moved into Los Angeles from Lakewood. My mother and father came in to Los Angeles to buy a house. So when they bought the house, they met the neighbor, Reinharts. And so they talked to the Reinharts and my mother came back and said, "We're going to move in and the next door neighbors are Negroes." And I was fifteen, and I had met and saw Negroes before, so I didn't think anything of it. But my mother's lesson was very simple. She says, "I met the Reinharts, they're really nice people. And when you first talk to them, they were also afraid of hearing the Japanese are moving in," because they read the comic books and that kind of stuff. So they didn't know what to expect from us. So my mother told us, to me and my brothers and sisters, said, "Remember, we're moving in. They have a head just like you, two arms and two legs and a body. They're just like you, so treat 'em just like that," and that's the way we thought, and that's what we did. And did you know that we lived there, we moved in in 1947 and we moved out in '77, it's thirty years. And we had kind of a... maybe we were prejudiced, but we had kind of a triangle. We lived here and the Reinharts lived here and across the street from us, the Smiths moved in about a month after we did. The Smiths had, Fischella and Willie Smith, and Mom Sims, I call her Mom. Anyway, we became like a triangle, forget about everybody else. We became so close, we could just walk into each others' house without knocking. And to show how close we are -- my mother's still alive, she's 104 -- when my mother and father bought a grave site, you know what the Smiths did? Next door. That's how close we were. So they're neighbors forever, that's how close we are. How else can I explain? And that's how, I've dealt with people all my life. So people go up and they says, "Oh, that's person's this or that," and I says, "Yeah, so?" And that's, all my life, and people talk about gays and all that and you know what? I've been retired almost twenty years, and I've known... I used to go to lunch with a gay guy for ten years before I retired. I used to work with people that, so-called gay people. They're people. That's how it's been all my life, and that's how my brother and sisters all felt. So our family anyway, we never really thought about anybody being different. And maybe that's kind of a lesson that maybe that's what my mother learned way back when, but that's the lesson she taught us. So I never really think about anything else. People would say, "Oh, that person is this or that." And so you know, to this day, people tell me by name, that's person's Jewish, I said, "Yeah?" I don't know. I don't know, and I tried not to know. To me, that doesn't make a difference. That's the way I was taught, and that's the way I grew up. But the one thing I do try to do is what you just did. I want to say thank you for that, is how to pronounce names. That's a real bug of mine, I want people to pronounce my name correctly.

LP: In terms of these other groups of people, eventually, like, we're talking about POWs and stuff like that, something that just came up, looking at people differently or whatever, was there at one point, did you or your family become aware of, like, POWs or anything like that? Where they weren't at all overlapping with when your family was in these different sites, am I correct in understanding it that way? Like were there ever, there was a camp you mentioned that had either German or Italian POWs?

RM: Oh, yeah.

LP: Was that Jerome or was that a different camp?

RM: No, no, that was in Texas, Crystal City.

LP: Okay.

KL: Jerome was used for POWs, it was after they left.

LP: Oh, I see.

RM: Yeah, I never heard about Crystal City until I came here.

LP: Okay, got it.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.