Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Carol Hirabara Hironaka Interview
Narrator: Carol Hirabara Hironaka
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Sacramento, California
Date: October 18, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-hcarol-01

<Begin Segment 1>

RP: This is an oral history interview for the Manzanar National Historic Site. And today we're talking with Carol Hironaka, and our interview's taking place at the Japanese United Methodist Church on, at 6929 Franklin Boulevard in Sacramento. The date of our interview is October 18, 2008. The interviewer is Richard Potashin, our camera guy is Kirk Peterson. We'll be talking with Carol today about her experiences at the Manzanar War Relocation Center during World War II, and also her life experiences before and after camp. Our interview will be archived in the park's library at Manzanar National Historic Site. And Carol, do I have permission to go ahead and conduct our interview?

CH: Yes.

RP: Thank you very much for sharing your afternoon with us. I'd like to start by getting a little more of a, sort of a little more of a, sort of a picture of you in your family and growing up in the Florin area. Well, let's start with the first obvious question, which is your birth date.

CH: It's January 25, 1925.

RP: And your place of birth?

CH: Florin, California.

RP: And you had a Japanese name.

CH: My Japanese name is Michiko.

RP: And can you tell us, if you do know, the meaning behind your first and last name?

CH: I think it's probably meant to be "Christian road," a path, more or less.

RP: And your maiden name was?

CH: Hirabara. If you want to say it correctly, it's "Hirabara."

RP: Hirabara.

CH: Yes.

RP: Does that have a special meaning as well?

CH: Well, it's kind of a valley, vast valley, yes.

RP: Oh, that's what Sacramento is.

CH: Yeah. [Laughs] We came to the right place, I guess, my grandfather and my father.


RP: Carol, if you can recall, were you delivered at home?

CH: Yes. My father had to drive to Elk Grove to get this doctor, and I keep forgetting the name, and he came and delivered me at home.

RP: I heard there was also some, several midwives around here?

CH: Yeah, there were a couple of midwives. I know maybe they were there later, but I don't know if there were any.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

RP: I'd like to get a little better understanding of your father and his experiences in America. Maybe you can give for us, we can start by getting to know his name.

CH: My father's name was Frank Kinichi Hirabara. And he came to this country, he was fourteen years old. He was left in Japan with his aunt all this time while my grandfather and grandmother, they were here in this country. Originally, they kind of stepped into Hawaii first, and then they came to Florin.

RP: Your grandparents?

CH: Yes.

RP: Do you have a general idea of when they would have come to Florin?

CH: I had it, let's see. My uncle was born in 1904, so prior to that time, I suppose.

RP: So they left your, your father there.

CH: Yes. So my father often thought about his aunt more than his mother. [Laughs] Because she wasn't, she was never around.

RP: So he may have been left with his aunt at a very young age?

CH: Yes.

RP: So he didn't really know his parents.

CH: No.

RP: Where in Japan was your father from?

CH: Well, my grandfather was from the island off of Yamaguchi-ken, it's called Oshima-gun. Gun might be... I don't know, what is it? County or something. And I have a whole lot of names, but I don't know if it's on the mainland or on this little island, so that's about as far as I can get.

RP: Do you know much about his family life in Japan, farmers, merchants?

CH: Oh, well, my grandfather, he told us that he was, what do you call those, people that harvest salt from the ocean. What do they call that? I don't know. [Laughs] And he didn't have any, anybody with him except his sister, that was it. They had some kind of epidemic, I think. I don't know what it was, but everybody passed on.

RP: So your father came over to America to join his parents eventually?

CH: Yes, uh-huh, yeah. And he went to a grammar school in Florin, the segregated school. And that's where he decided that we should not go to a segregated school. And so we were, we asked our neighbor, Mr. Davies, who was a trustee of the Elder Creek school district, and he said it was okay for us to go there. This was mainly a Caucasian...

RP: Grammar school.

CH: ...attendance.

RP: And how far away was the school relative to the segregated school?

CH: Oh, it was a little further than Florin school. I'm sure it was about a mile down the road, and we walked every day.

RP: So your father attended the segregated school for all his grammar school time?

CH: He only had to go to... he went about two years, because he had math and all that, but the English part, you know, he had to try to get, get hold of that.

RP: So he did have a semblance of an educational background.

CH: Pardon?

RP: He did have some educational background in Japan and then completed it when he came here?

CH: Oh, yes.

RP: And was he able to kind of get a good grasp of English?

CH: I think so, yes.

RP: And he had a value about kids should, of all groups, should be together.

CH: That's right, yes.

RP: And so you didn't have to go through that experience.

CH: Yes.

RP: Very powerful. And did your grandparents on your father's side, did they stay in America the rest of their lives? They never went back to the camp?

CH: No. My uncles were born here, so there's roots here. And they don't have anyone in Japan, actually, to go to.

RP: So your family is, is here in America.

CH: Yeah. There's no doubt about it. They just don't leave.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

RP: So you got to know -- fortunately, you got to know your grandparents a little bit, too.

CH: Oh, yeah. They were strict people, I'll tell you. [Laughs] They didn't like people that gambled. They figured if you have many religions, that would be very beneficial to a person. You know, if you believed in different... that's what he did.

RP: Your grandfather?

CH: Yeah.

RP: What was his name?

CH: Heikichi.

RP: Can you spell that for us?

CH: H-E-I-K-I-C-H-I. "Hei" means peaceful, I don't know what the "kichi" means.

RP: And your grandmother?

CH: Her name was Kimi, K-I-M-I.

RP: So they, they began farming in the Florin area pretty early on?

CH: Yes, south Florin, they called it.

RP: South Florin?

CH: Yeah. I think, I think it's probably a place called Gorber Road, around there.

RP: Like everyone else, it was a strawberry and grape area?

CH: Yes. I think they... I don't know when it was, but they sharecropped. Because they couldn't own land. And my uncles were too young to be, what do you... classified as...

RP: Citizens?

CH: Citizens, yeah.

RP: And how many uncles did you have?

CH: Two.

RP: Two?

CH: Yes.

RP: What were their names?

CH: Pardon?

RP: What were their names?

CH: Oh, my uncles, let's see, George and Harry. Of course, they had Japanese name, too.

RP: What were those?

CH: George Teruo, and Uncle Harry was Harry Satoshi Hirabara. And Harry's the one that went to UC Berkeley at that time. Yeah, way back. Right from high school to Berkeley.

RP: What did he take there at Berkeley? What was his course of study?

CH: I don't really know. I know he took astronomy for one subject. I have no idea.

RP: He must have been one of the earliest Niseis to attend...

CH: Yeah. There was another fellow who became a dentist, a Dr. Tsuda. And they were the only two that went to college in those days. I don't know about the other students, but the Japanese Americans, yeah.

KP: Can I ask a question? When were your uncles born?

CH: Uncle George was born in 1904, and then I guess Uncle Harry was a couple years later.

RP: So they would have probably attended college in the early '20s and mid-'20s. Was your, you mentioned that your grandparents were very strict, very, very much Issei, especially your grandfather. Did your father acquire those traits as well, or was he a little more lenient?

CH: Well, yeah, he was lenient. But my grandfather and my father had so many disagreements, different generations, you know. It just... but we stuck, I mean, they stuck it out because the culture was that you have the firstborn male take care of the older ones, older generation, are the parents.

RP: And that's what your father had to do.

CH: Yeah.

RP: And did he eventually take over the farming operation over time?

CH: You know, my grandfather was so strong, and he was able to do as much work as anybody that's of his age. So he just, he was still the patriarch, I guess.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

RP: Your mother, her name?

CH: Her name is Yoshiko, Yoshii Hirabara.

RP: And she came from another area of Japan.

CH: Yeah. She's a city woman. [Laughs] Yanai.

RP: Tell us what you can about her background in Japan. You say she was from the city.

CH: Well, she had how many brothers? Two or three brothers, and she was the only daughter. She told me that she was a very good student, and she was a salutatorian, is that what you say? The second person, you know...

RP: Oh, right.

CH: Not a valedictorian. I don't know much about her at that time. I think, I think her mother died rather early. So the father married again, and I guess at that time, she probably didn't want to stay home. I mean, that's when my father went back to Japan and married her.

RP: How did they, was it an arranged marriage?

CH: Well, yes it was. Because the correspondence with my grandfather and I don't know who else, so...

RP: And so your father went back and married her...

CH: Before that...

RP: Before the immigration restriction was passed?

CH: Yes, 1923. Yeah, came back.

RP: Quite a few Isseis went back in sort of, just, eleventh hour.

CH: My mother was not a "picture bride" as they say in history.

RP: And they returned and settled on this, on the farm in Florin?

CH: Yeah. At that time, they lived separately. I don't know where my grandfather lived, must have been close by, but they had a...

RP: They had separate properties?

CH: Yes. I can remember the name Landsborough. Maybe he's the one that owned the land. No, there was the name Thomas. My brother's name is Thomas. Could be that that person owned the property.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

RP: Yeah, tell us, you had two siblings, and can you give us the order of age? Was your sister older?

CH: Yes, she was fourteen months older.

RP: And what was her name?

CH: Grace.

RP: Did she have a Japanese name?

CH: Takako. That means "obedient child."

RP: Was she?

CH: Yeah, she was, very much.

RP: And then who was next, you or your brother?

CH: I was next. I'm sure they expected a little boy. [Laughs] And then fourteen months after me was my brother Thomas.

RP: And he had a Japanese name, too?

CH: Kaneo, "money child."

RP: Money child.

CH: You know, making money.

RP: So they really projected some desires and aspirations through the names that they gave the kids. You really had something to live up to, didn't you?

CH: Oh, sure. We don't want to disappoint them, do we?

RP: How did you get "Carol"?

CH: How did I get my name Carol?

RP: Your American name.

CH: Oh, this doctor picked the name. I was born January 25, 1925, so figured even though it's one month after Christmas, Carol would be an appropriate name.

RP: And who did you gravitate more to, your brother or your sister?

CH: Well, we had a lot of differences. My sister always kind of belittled me. But we just loved each other. And I miss her too much. She's gone.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

RP: What do you recall about the farm that you grew up on in Florin?

CH: Oh, I thought it was... well, it was huge. Forty acres sounds pretty huge for a youngster, I think. And whenever we didn't feel right, we'd go into the vineyard and just stay there for a while.

RP: You have both grapes and strawberries or primarily...

CH: Yes. Yeah, we had approximately ten acres of strawberries, and then we had grapes. Then we had a vegetable garden, and my mother loved flowers and plants and things. So she did that after spending the whole day out in the field. I don't see how she did it.

RP: So how early would the family get going in the morning? Would she be the first one up, or your father?

CH: Yeah, she would be the first one, 'cause she would have to make breakfast. And breakfast isn't just... they had rice gruel they loved, but it was made with tea, you know. They called it... what do they call it? They roast the tea, the green tea, they roast it and then they brew it, they put it in a pot with the rice in it, and they cooked it to really soft...

RP: Like oatmeal. Like the consistency of oatmeal?

CH: Yeah. They had that every morning. It came from Japan, I'm sure.

RP: And were your forced to eat it every morning, too?

CH: Yeah. But they always had coffee, I remember. We didn't drink coffee at the time. We ate all the things that supposedly is not very good for you, like butter...

RP: Bacon?

CH: Bacon and eggs, every day practically.

RP: So would you have chores to do before you left for school in the morning?

CH: Well, yeah, we had to sweep the house. We had a two-story house, so we had to do that. And then when I was about eleven years old, we had to go out in the field and do things.

RP: Like what?

CH: Like it's strawberry picking time when we had to go out and pick strawberries.

RP: When would strawberries be picked? Early in the morning?

CH: It was an all day thing.

RP: Anytime.

CH: Yeah. And they have strawberry association trucks that would come and picked up strawberries, crates of strawberries, yeah.

RP: I'm just curious, did any of the farmers in the Florin area also have the little small roadside fruit stands, or was that something that came along later on?

CH: I don't know. We didn't have... well, not too many people came, came by.

RP: It was like "U pick 'em," people come in and pick strawberries and buy a certain amount.

CH: Not at that time, no.

RP: So your father was part of this association, strawberry association?

CH: Yes.

RP: And they shipped, they shipped it out for him?

CH: Yeah, mainly to the East Coast, not in California.

RP: That's a lot of strawberries, ten acres.

CH: Yeah, we left all that strawberry on the vine. I hope somebody got there and picked them for their use.

RP: You're talking about before you had to leave for the camp?

CH: Yeah.

RP: So you had to leave the crop right there?

CH: Yeah. It was pretty sad.

RP: Was there an effort on your father's part to get an extension to pick his crop, or you don't recall that?

CH: No, that wasn't... I don't think that was available for us. You gotta go, you gotta go.

RP: Did your father hire additional labor during the year?

CH: Yes. He hired Filipino workers to do the hoeing, they called it, hoeing around the strawberry plants. They used a long hoe instead of getting down there. So it was, I think it was okay.

RP: How about during harvest, during the harvest season?

CH: No, we didn't have anyone to help during the harvesting time.

RP: Did you pick grapes, too?

CH: Oh, yes. I loved the way... I loved to pick the grapes and pack 'em right on the field. That is a great art, you know. You don't want to rub it because you don't want to get the bloom off of the grapes. So we had to be very careful we don't make a mess of it. You don't want to see grapes out in the store just shiny. I don't know, people may not understand that, but that bloom makes it very desirable for people to buy them.

RP: Can you describe how you would pack 'em?

CH: Well, you put some on the, sideways instead of standing it up, and then you put them kind of standing up, line 'em up. In other words, you put the crummy ones on the bottom, and put the nice ones on top. [Laughs] Like in most fruits, they plan that way, I guess.

RP: Did you have to make your own lug boxes?

CH: Oh, yes, we did that. We had two slats a side, and then you had to put the bottom like that, and the sides. Yeah, that was... and we had to label it, too. Where you put the glue on there and label it before you'd put it through the little slot that they had.

RP: And what was the label that you put on there?

CH: Well, it would have been, I could remember the grapes, Tokay grapes. We had a grape association.

RP: So it'd be that, the name of the grape association.

CH: Yeah. I don't know what name they had.

RP: Kind of a like a co-op of the farmers.

CH: Yeah.

RP: You could leave the labels on.

CH: Yeah. Those are kind of... what do you call that... not an antique, but you know, collector's item, yes.

RP: People spend a little money for those.

CH: Oh.

RP: They're beautiful art.

CH: Yeah.

RP: Could you describe the label for us, what it looked like?

CH: No, I can't remember. Must have had grapes on it. [Laughs]


RP: Did you have any farm animals on the farm?

CH: Oh, we had a couple of horses, we sold. And we had chickens, that's about it. No other. If you call dogs animals, farm animals, I don't think so, but we had dogs. And each dog that we had was named Rover. I don't know why. I don't know where my parents got the name.

RP: Wilbur.

CH: Just Rover.

RP: How many dogs were, how many Wilburs did you have?

CH: At least three. Once they get loose, they go out in the street and they get killed.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

RP: Do you have any other memories of farm life, vivid memories of farm life?

CH: Well, let's see...

RP: How about the Japanese hot baths? Did you have a bath tub?

CH: Oh, yes. In a Japanese society, the men are up there, so we were the last ones to take a bath, my grandmother, my mother. And then we had to go and scrub the back of my father and my grandfather. That was kind of a...

RP: Tradition?

CH: Duty or tradition. They expected that, I'm afraid. [Laughs]

RP: You did that, did your brother do that, too?

CH: No, I don't think so.

RP: It was just the women.

CH: Yeah. My brother was not a servant or whatever you want to call it. They put him on a pedestal, more or less. He didn't have to go out in the fields and do the picking and stuff like that. That's the old Japanese custom.

RP: How did you feel about that?

CH: We thought it was quite unfair, but hard for us to relate that message to them.

KP: Can I ask a couple questions? It's really interesting that what you have is actually an Issei grandfather and a Nisei father in America, which most people didn't have.

CH: Oh, yeah.

KP: And I'm interested, you said you scrubbed your grandfather's back, did you go over to their house and work for them, or did your grandfather bathe at your house? Did he bathe at his own house, do you know?

CH: Well, they, when we moved to this two-story house, they got together.

RP: You lived together there.

CH: Yeah.

RP: So you had a grandfather and a father in the same house.

CH: Yeah.

RP: What was that relationship like between your father and grandfather?

CH: Not good.

RP: What kind of things, you said they were arguing all the time. What did they argue about?

CH: Yeah, I don't know what they were arguing about. And it always happened at dinner time. So that's not good, kids hearing all kind of... of course, we'd call it, in Japanese, detarame, to me, it's "nonsense."

RP: So the languages spoken, all Japanese in the house? But your father knew English pretty well?

CH: Yeah. He would always, we would study in the upstairs room, and he would come and give us spelling tests and things like that. So he was into it. My mother couldn't do that because she didn't know English.

RP: How about, you mentioned the one uncle went to UC Berkeley. How about the other uncle? Was he living with you, too?

CH: Oh, he was the opposite. He quit school, high school, and went to a mechanic school, I think. But I remember he was living in a, in this house. He got married downstairs, I remember.

RP: He was living in the Florin area, too?

CH: Yes. And you come to this point where you'll probably be asking about after the Pearl Harbor. There were a lot of Isseis taken by the FBI. My uncle lived at this place called Mr. French down the road. That was after he got married, I remember. But Mr. French told my father that we didn't have to worry about having grandpa and my father taken because, I don't know why, but he said that we didn't have to worry. [Laughs] He was our friend, of course, you know, but I don't know if he was with the FBI or not.

RP: Who could you trust?

CH: Yeah.

RP: This is kind of the game. But you did believe what he said?

CH: Yeah, 'cause we were probably shaking, you know. 'Cause everybody was...

RP: Getting picked up.

CH: Yeah.

RP: You had concerns that your father could be next.

CH: Yeah. 'Cause they were presence of... well, my father was, my grandfather probably was the Japanese Association.

RP: Oh, boy. That's high on the list of the FBI.

CH: But...

RP: He wasn't touched?

CH: Yeah.

RP: Were they involved in other groups as well in the community?

CH: Well, my father was with the Methodist church. My grandfather was the only one that he'd go to one religion and he goes to the other. Didn't matter. He thought all religion was very good.

RP: Did your father --

KP: I just wanted to ask one more question. I'm really interested about your uncle who was one, probably one of the earlier Niseis to go to college. You said he got his degree in...

CH: I'm not sure.

KP: Was that at Berkeley, you said? What did he do after he got his degree?

CH: Well, he just didn't have a... I don't know what you call that. But he worked for an importing...

RP: Import/export business?

CH: On Grant Avenue. Well, he was actually a salesperson.

RP: Where did he, where did he work?

CH: Pardon?

RP: Where did he work?

CH: He was San Francisco. Yeah, they sold, they called it Oriental goods in those days, or items. Yeah, with his education, I didn't think he went up too far.

RP: Did he work for a Japanese company? Must have.

CH: Could have been. Grant Avenue was Chinese, though, huh? I think. I'm not so sure.

RP: There was such a, such a problem with, you know, college-educated Niseis not being able to find work in their chosen, chosen field. So might have fallen back on that job because he couldn't find a...

CH: Yeah, eventually he worked later with the Oakland, what do you call that place? It's a government job.

RP: Civil service?

CH: I would think so, yeah.

RP: Okay.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

RP: We were just talking about religion. What religious tradition were you grounded in, Methodist, Methodist church?

CH: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: And you were Baptized?

CH: I presume so. I have a membership with that church near my place. I had it transferred from the Florin Methodist church, and then I think they got together with this Methodist church, got my membership sent over there.

RP: We talked a little bit about your grandparents and your parents. Did any of them had a creative side? Did they encourage you to pursue yours as well, either in music or art? Did you see that side of them?

CH: No, I didn't see anything. You know, they felt that women didn't need as much education.

RP: As men?

CH: Yeah, at that time.

RP: It seems like you had a different understanding of that.

CH: Yeah.

RP: You did play the violin, though?

CH: Yes, I did.

RP: When did that begin?

CH: Oh, I was a sophomore in high school.

RP: And you just took it up on your own, were you encouraged by your parents?

CH: No, I was... well, I took it up on my own, but I had classes in high school. Mr. Nickels, I remember.

RP: And how far did you go with that?

CH: Oh, well, I had three years, that's about it. But then my granddaughter, she fulfilled my ambition quite well.

RP: That's interesting how that works out. You kind of start something, and then the next generation finishes it.

CH: And she, she loves to paint also, and I love that, too.

RP: Did you do that as a teenager as well?

CH: No, I just drew one picture of the mountain at Manzanar, that's about it.

RP: Oh, you did? A painting?

CH: It was a sketch.

RP: A sketch.

CH: Of Mt. Williamson, yeah.

RP: And you don't have it anymore?

CH: I have it someplace, but I don't know where it is. [Laughs]

RP: Oh, I'd like to see that sometime. You also mentioned, Carol, that your father did photography.

CH: Yes, he did.

RP: When did this start?

CH: Probably when he was still single.

RP: What did he like to take pictures of?

CH: People, of course, but he wasn't very good. He had this kind of, you know the bellow kind. But you had to have it on a stand, I believe.

RP: Like a tripod.

CH: Yeah. And he used to develop it in the basement. He had a red bulb, I remember. So that was...

RP: Oh, in the basement of your house?

CH: Yeah. Well, there was a basement, cemented one, and the one underneath the house was a cellar, I guess they would call it. There were two.

RP: So he developed his own film down there?

CH: That's what he did, yeah. But some of the pictures, he cut off the heads. [Laughs] Not very good.

RP: So he was strictly an amateur.

CH: Yeah.

RP: But that was kind of his hobby.

CH: I think so.

RP: So your mother, was it a traditional art of a mother's, knitting and sewing?

CH: Oh, she was excellent. She could knit a sweater in one week.

RP: So she would make a lot of your clothes for you when you were you growing up?

CH: Oh yes, she did.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

RP: I imagine, like most Nisei kids, did you attend Japanese language school?

CH: Yes, I did.

RP: And how early did you start that?

CH: Well, see, I started when I was in the third grade 'til twelfth grade. So a long time.

RP: So you went through how many books?

CH: Pardon?

RP: How many books did you go through?

CH: I have no idea. It was so difficult at the end. See, my teacher, Mrs. Sasaki, spoke only in Japanese. So we got to figure out all the words and what she's telling us, translating in our minds. So it was not easy, very difficult. Of course, we learned to write, too.

RP: And what else... was there additional lessons or... in Japanese culture, history?

CH: Yeah. We had a time where she showed us to do tie dye, that kind of thing. And also...

RP: How about flower arranging?

CH: We had another teacher come in from Elk Grove to do paper-making. And I'm afraid I didn't particularly care for that, that kind of thing. My mother did. Drags me, she drags me into these classes. [Laughs] She had a lot to say about what I'm doing.

RP: And how did you take to Japanese language school? You said it was challenging, but did you, was it an enriching experience for you, or just something you had to go through?

CH: Yes and no. I would say that because to tell you the truth, my mother used to make such beautiful lunches for us for Japanese class, we wouldn't miss it, so we went.

RP: What would she, what would be a typical lunch for Japanese school?

CH: Well, we had these rice balls and probably she would scramble the eggs and make it into little slices, you know, after you cooked it, and what else? Probably had some pickles, Japanese pickles.

RP: Tsukemono?

CH: Tsukemono, yeah. And can't remember, it was very good. Other than that, if we wanted sandwiches, we'd go to the store and they'd make sandwiches for us.

RP: Which store was that?

CH: Well, there was one called Ogata store, and then there was another one, Kato.

RP: Kato?

CH: Kato, yeah. They made sandwiches. There were other stores, but they didn't make sandwiches for us for Saturday.

RP: You just went on Saturdays?

CH: Uh-huh, yeah. Every day, every Saturday for all those years. It was very pleasant, regardless of what we learned.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

RP: Tell us a little bit about your school experiences. You first attended this integrated grammar school, it was Elder Creek?

CH: Yes.

RP: Did you have to walk to that school?

CH: Oh, yes. The only time we got a ride was if a neighbor down the road would give us a ride, or when it rained.

RP: And what was the ethnic makeup of that school?

CH: Well, I would say it's ninety, ninety percent Caucasian, or white. I think we had one Mexican, one American Indian, and the other percentage was Japanese American, about ten or twelve.

RP: Ten or twelve Japanese Americans?

CH: Yeah. The whole school. [Laughs]

RP: And so how were you, how were the, quote, "minorities" accepted by the majority of the Caucasian student body?

CH: Oh, they were good. They were very nice. We never had any, I never had any problems. There was one, one lady, one young gal, she had a fight with this white gal. [Laughs] And of course, it takes place after school. I remember that. But I don't know what, what they're fighting for, or fighting about. We didn't have any problems.

RP: Did you, in attending grammar school, did you get a sense that you were different than the majority of the kids there? How did you relate to your Japaneseness?

CH: Oh...

RP: Did you embrace it?

CH: I thought we were better, you might say. [Laughs] But then, of course, they would retaliate. Not retaliate, but tell us that they had learned something else. And that's a little farther advanced than what we were learning, so I guess it was kind of a... I don't know. I know they spoke a lot of Japanese during recess and all that, during that. Even in, during the school hour. But that's what they wanted to discourage kids to do, not to do. So I know that a lot of the kids were held back about one year, the beginning of the school, starting from the first grade. Were held back one year.

RP: Oh, as far as the language...

CH: Yeah. Not all of them, but some of them, yeah.

RP: What else do you recall about your grammar school experiences? Any particular teachers that stand out?

CH: Well, every teacher is different, you know. I remember Mrs. Jesperson. She got married, and her name was Jesperson. She was our... we had three, three rooms, and she was our second teacher. And tragic thing happened, her husband passed away, and we thought it was awful, you know. We didn't know what to do, actually. As kids, we didn't know what to say to her or anything like that. I remember that all the teachers were so tall, and we were so little, you know.

RP: And they were all Caucasian?

CH: Yes. Mrs., there were Mrs. Penny, Mrs. Jesperson, and Mrs. Johnson. They all came from Sacramento, someplace.

RP: Can you describe the schoolhouse for us?

CH: Oh, it was a beautiful brick, brick house. One long, long this way, and that's it. They had to tear it down, though, after the war, I guess. There's another school standing there right now in the same place.

RP: Beside the fact that your father went to a segregated, your father and other Japanese Americans from the Florin community went to a segregated school, as you grew up, were you aware of other subtle expressions, or not so subtle expressions of racism or prejudice in the area?

CH: No, actually, I didn't feel any of that.

RP: You didn't feel like you were treated any differently for your ethnicity?

CH: No. We just, bunch of happy kids. [Laughs]

RP: And then you got, you went to Elk Grove, where most Florin folks went to?

CH: Yes. That was the only high school around. Now, there are so many that you can choose one of 'em.

RP: In talking with Tom just earlier, he said that almost, nearly half the student body or the senior class was Japanese American.

CH: Student body?

RP: The senior class of the high school was primarily Japanese American.

CH: Oh, yes. We left a great big void in the class, you know.

RP: When you went. What are your vivid memories of high school?

CH: Well, we liked to dance a lot. And during the noon hour, after we'd had our lunch, they'd have the records playing, like I don't know if you remember Frenesi.

RP: Is that a song?

CH: It's a, you know, record. I don't think there's any music, I mean, voice to it, it's just, I don't know what group would play that. There was a lot of... let's see, what was that guy's name? See, I can't remember some of these old, old people.

RP: You would just have dances after lunch hour.

CH: Yeah. Yeah, keep us out of trouble. [Laughs] I remember that.

RP: You also were involved in the Girls Athletic Association?

CH: Oh, yes. That was more or less after... I think it's sixth period, taking up basketball, field hockey, softball. No, it was baseball. It was a smaller ball, but not softball. So it was overhand. I was a catcher. Tough job.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

RP: What was the focus of your interest during your high school years? Were you starting to gravitate towards a particular area of study or something that you looked at as a potential career?

CH: Well, I took up business courses. I had... no, I took shorthand afterwards, typing and bookkeeping.

RP: How about commercial illustration?

CH: Oh, yeah. I loved that, because I can remember that -- [drinks water] -- excuse me. I had this, I drew this chewing gum, and I put a magnifying glass, and put eyes on it, put a, sharp on that. That was my presentation of the commercial art. It was, it was good, I thought. [Laughs] I don't know where it went. Our teacher's name was Miss McKenzie. She taught the English class also, and I was in that class. And that's where Tommy was. Yeah, he was in that -- excuse me for pointing. I got the habit of doing that. [Laughs] Yeah, I remember the, we had to study Ivanhoe and Albatross... what is that one called?

KP: The Rhine of the Ancient Mariner?

CH: That's right, exactly. I remember those.

RP: How about popular culture at the time? Were there certain particular movies or movie stars that you were kind of...

CH: Oh, Shirley Temple was my, my idol, you might say, although she was younger. She was only about five or six, I believe. And I collected all the pictures and things. But I didn't send for her picture like some people did, to collect movie stars.

RP: Did you have a role model or strong influence in your adolescent years? Was it your mom, was it your grandmother, was it somebody else?

CH: Well, I guess it was my mother, yes. She was so good at everything that she did. She beat my father and grandfather out in the field, when picking strawberries. She'd have a crate before they even got halfway done. Yes, she was very fast.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

RP: We're continuing our, continuing our interview with Carol Hironaka. And Carol, we were talking about your high school experiences. And I wanted to move into another area, and that's the time just before Pearl Harbor. I wanted to know whether you were aware of the situation with Japan fighting in China, and just... was there any discussions going on between your grandfather and your father about this escalating situation in the two countries?

CH: Yes. I think they probably were discussing it, but I didn't get hold of it. It didn't sink in to me.


RP: Did you have any indication from your father or grandfather where they stood in the event of a war between Japan and the United States? Did they express any outward loyalties to either country?

CH: Gee, I can't recall that.

RP: Tell us what you remember about December 7, 1941.

CH: I remember that we had to go to school on Monday. I guess that took place on Sunday, wasn't it? And we were so afraid. I don't know, scared, or we thought it was a terrible thing that Japan could have done. It was kind of a... loss for words. I'm sorry.

RP: You mentioned in your write up that you had a teacher by the name of Mr. Seligman?

CH: Oh, Seligman, yes. History teacher. He never talked about the war, I mean, Pearl Harbor and things like that. It was just like any other day, it was nothing. I mean, so nobody had any comments or... so it was, as they say now, pretty cool, you know.

RP: Kind of, just by his demeanor, diffused any potential comments or negative reactions that might have been directed at you or other Japanese American students.

CH: Well, I don't know if you, if Mr. Seligman was being subtle or what, but...

RP: You said you were afraid or scared.

CH: Not in that class we weren't.

RP: Elsewhere you were?

CH: Well, we kind of stuck together, you know.

RP: Closer than you would have?

CH: Yeah. We didn't mingle, you might say.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

RP: How did life change after Pearl Harbor? Did people treat you differently?

CH: Well, we had all these curfews that we had to abide by. And we had to be in by six o'clock or something like that. And then if you have to go to a doctor, you were out of the five mile, or seven mile zone, so I don't know how people did go, or they probably didn't go. We did have one doctor in Florin, so people went to him at his home, I believe. Though his office was in Sacramento.

RP: How about... I think Tom mentioned this, that going to high school was beyond the five mile limit.

CH: Oh, yes.

RP: But if you went by bus, you...

CH: Yeah, we were okay by bus, 'cause you saw about, total route was like fifteen miles. It goes up and down the street.

RP: Your father's business, was it affected at all? You told me that he had his fruit picked up and shipped out. You didn't have to go travel.

CH: No.

RP: You also mentioned about that you recognized after Pearl Harbor, there was a lot less interracial mixing and that people stuck closer within their own groups?

CH: Right, yeah. Like my family, it's totally interracial. [Laughs]

RP: Was there a concern about what was going to happen next to you?

CH: Next what?

RP: Was there a concern on the part of the family about what was going to happen next to Japanese Americans?

CH: I don't know if the family... you know, my folks and my grandpa, they never discussed anything with us. So it's very hard for me to tell you that, what they're thinking of and all that.

KP: Can I ask a quick question? And that is, you said that there was kind of a lot of contention between your grandfather and your father. After Pearl Harbor, did you see that change or did you see it get worse, or did it stay about the same?

CH: That I can't remember now.

RP: Another comment that you made was that you saw harsher treatment of Buddhists than Christians in terms of Japanese.

CH: Yes. It seems to be that, I guess the culture is more closely related to the Buddhism than Christianity. Christianity is more --

RP: Accepted by the mainstream culture?

CH: Yes, uh-huh. So that's, we thought that was one of the reasons. We just said that they were picked up.

RP: Oh, in terms of Isseis being picked up. And you alluded to the fact that this gentleman, Mr. French, was it?

CH: Yes.

RP: Assured you that that wouldn't be the case with your grandfather or father.

CH: And you know he, there's one son, he's the same class as I am, and I wanted to see him and talk to him about it. He didn't show up at the reunion, so I don't know.

RP: So your religious, religious preference might have afforded more protection, being Methodist or Christian. I've heard that from other people, too, that their fathers were not picked up because they were Christian, they were Methodist or Protestants.

CH: But in my grandfather's case, I don't know why.

RP: But he was, he jumped around.

CH: Yeah. [Laughs]

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

RP: How did, first of all, how did you find out about this effort to exclude Japanese Americans, and particularly your own situation? How did you find out that you were going to be, your life was going to be changing and you were going to be leaving?

CH: How did we find out? I don't know how our lives would be changing, but I believe it was the Japanese American Citizens League, they had something to do with where we were going to be sent.

RP: They did?

CH: Yes. But to some people, they thought some people on our street on Perkins Road would be going to the same camp, but no. We went to Manzanar, and the rest of 'em went somewhere else.

RP: Yeah, there was a strong, sort of, demarcation, the railroad was essentially the...

CH: Oh.

RP: ...according to Tom, the railroad, people on this side went to...

CH: But it wasn't so, you know. It was mixed. 'Cause some people on the other side of the railroad... no, yeah, those people came to Manzanar. But you know, there were others that weren't on the other side of the railroad track. So I don't know how they figured. But I thought I heard that they had, we had given a choice, and my father and grandfather, they didn't want to leave California, and Manzanar was the place that they wanted to go. So it was our choice. I don't know if Tule Lake was there or not at that time. Yeah, I guess it was, but we didn't want to go to Tule Lake.

RP: Do you know why your grandfather and father would want to go to Manzanar instead of Tule Lake?

CH: Why?

RP: Why would they want to go to Manzanar?

CH: Well, I don't really know. They preferred... so many of 'em were going to Arkansas and other places, that traveling, they didn't want to do it.

RP: Stay as close to home as possible?

CH: Yes, uh-huh. They figured that probably would be the better chance of them going back to, you know, where we're from.

RP: Can you tell us how your family prepared for evacuation?

CH: All I know is my mother was just sewing up a storm, making those duffel bags, put the beddings in. I remember that. And then eventually they're putting all the stuff in one room. So we thought it was pretty safe upstairs. But it wasn't so.

RP: Was there somebody who took care of the house?

CH: Yeah, we had somebody who lived down the road, I can't even remember his name. But I remember he was either Portuguese or Greek, one of those people, supposed to take, look after 'em. But I don't know. We didn't have any written agreement or anything, so...

RP: So when you returned after camp, items were missing?

CH: Oh, yes. I guess it was during the time, I don't know when, but some of the things were placed in the hostel. There were two places, two hostels.

RP: Which, where...

CH: Methodist hostel, or would they call it... well, we called it Japanese Association Hall.

RP: Where was that located?

CH: That's in, that's actually the Methodist Church's hall.

RP: In Florin?

CH: Yeah. And we had, I think it was over there, stored sewing machine and different things.

RP: Where was the other hostel located?

CH: Oh, it was just a block away, at the Buddhist...

RP: Temple?

CH: Hostel, they call it, Kaikan, I guess.

RP: So those were, sort of, areas where it became kind of storage units for families who were...

CH: Yes. And later it became a hostel. So those who didn't have any place to go would have someplace to go.

RP: Did you make arrangements with this gentleman to live at the house?

CH: I don't think so.

RP: So there was nobody at the house when you left.

CH: Yeah, that's right.

RP: Did you own the house?

CH: No, we had a mortgage. And he couldn't pay the mortgage, so I think the government had something to do with it.

RP: So you lost the house?

CH: Lost it, yeah. So many people did.

RP: During the war when you had to..

CH: Those who kept their property had someone very capable handling those kind of things. So I don't know... what did Tommy's family do? I don't quite remember.

RP: What's that?

CH: What did Tommy's family do? I know they lived off of Stockton Boulevard.

RP: I'm not sure. So you had to leave some important items behind. Your violin?

CH: Yeah, violin, and we had a typewriter, that old Underwood typewriter, which is priceless now, I guess. And of course my Shirley Temple collection, those things.

RP: Of you, and your dogs, too, dogs and cats?

CH: Oh, yeah. I'm afraid they were chained. You know, in the farm, you can't leave 'em roaming around. They had long chains, but...

RP: You had to just leave 'em there and go. So did you ever see any of those items again when you got back?

CH: Yes. I saw this beautiful dresser with a marble top, my grandmother's, it's over at my brother's house, right down the road. [Laughs] Yeah, he was able to get that. And he got an old treadle sewing machine, that's about it. And my mother did get her sewing machine back, yeah.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

RP: Where did you leave to go to Manzanar?

CH: Where did I what?

RP: Where did you leave for your trip to Manzanar? Where did you have to go?

CH: Oh, we went to Elk Grove. Mr. Davies on his truck loaded us up with our duffel bags full of stuff. Yeah, took a train with the shades drawn, and we went down to Mojave. And then we went up to Lone Pine, and then we got on a bus, transported us to Manzanar.

RP: Do you remember anything else about that trip?

CH: Oh, we got box lunch for lunch, and was it dinner or was it... the same thing, you know. That's about all I can remember. And of course we saw some friends. Didn't expect them to, to see them. That was kind of a happy moment, to find somebody that you know, classmate, especially.

RP: Who was that, do you remember?

CH: His name was Kenji Morita, and he lives in Lodi, I think, right now. And let's see, who else? Oh, my good friend was living in Los Angeles. At the time, I didn't know her too well, Peggy Kawaguchi. Her name was Peggy Ito Kawaguchi. She was on this trip. So I had new friends, too.

RP: When you arrived at Manzanar, what struck you the most about what you saw there?

CH: Well, first of all, I thought, "Gee, I've never seen so many Japanese." [Laughs] And then, of course, the barracks kind of, kind of depressed me a little bit, 'cause it was very crude-looking. But I guess that's what the soldiers were stationed in, weren't they?

RP: Yes, they were.

CH: So this, I didn't think we were prisoners, but we felt like we were prisoners when we got there.

RP: And you were an American citizen.

CH: I know. The government does crazy things, I guess, in time of war, and other times, too.

RP: Just to backtrack a little bit, were you in your junior or senior year at Elk Grove?

CH: I was a senior, supposed to graduate the next day or the day, that day, and we didn't have it. We just had to go. We couldn't extend it or anything.

RP: The next day was your graduation?

CH: Yeah. So all we did was, somehow, we got our cap and gown, and we took pictures of our, all of us.

RP: Before you left?

CH: Yeah. I don't know how it happened, but we did do that. Then, of course, we exchanged the pictures. But it was not a group picture, of course.

RP: That's a sad moment, to spend four years in high school and look for that, that final...

CH: Yeah. It's pretty sad. You figured who would be going to Manzanar and who would be going somewhere else. A lot of them were going to the Fresno Assembly Center, quite a few of them, I think. And they were the ones that went to Jerome, Arkansas, and of course some were in Tule Lake, I think, after that.

RP: So the Florin community was really dispersed.

CH: Yes.

RP: And so was the Elk Grove High School senior class. You were assigned to what block in Manzanar?

CH: (30-2). Everything was built by then, except maybe, maybe the mess hall was not completed, so we had to go to the next block to have our meals.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

RP: So tell me who was with you at Manzanar. Your parents?

CH: Yeah, my parents, my father and my mother, and my sister and my brother. And I, the two uncle family, Uncle George and Uncle Harry, their family, they had one, one child each.

RP: Now, had they joined you in Florin so you could all go together?

CH: Yes. See, my Uncle Harry came from San Francisco, so they came and stayed in the bungalow that we had. And my Uncle George, I don't know where they were, but they came, and we all went together, more or less.

RP: And how did the living arrangements work out in the barracks there? Who was where?

CH: Well, our family and my grandparents, we were in one room. But Uncle George and Uncle Harry's family, they lived in another, next adjoining, next room.

RP: So you had your grandparents, your parents, and...

CH: Yeah, seven of us.

RP: Is that the way it stayed through the whole time at Manzanar, or did you, did the kids get their own space?

CH: No. As soon as Uncle George, I think he went to Chicago, his family went to Chicago. And Uncle Harry and his family went to Amache, Colorado. So there was space in that apartment, so we called them Ojiisan and Obaasan, went to that apartment.

RP: Oh, your grandparents moved into the next room?

CH: Yeah.

RP: You said that your Uncle Harry went to Amache?

CH: Yes. Because Aunt Josie, his wife's family lived in, were in Amache, Colorado. Lot of people did that, where their family had...

RP: So they wanted to reunite themselves, okay. And how, how soon after getting to camp did your uncles leave camp? Was it a year, was it two years? Do you have just kind of a vague memory of when they left?

CH: It would have been about 1944, and went to Chicago. I guess they started opening up the Midwest or whatever they call that, I don't know. And then I think my brother went to New Jersey to enroll in a, in those days, radio school, I don't know what, repair radios and everything. And my... my sister left in 1945 to Los Angeles, became a housekeeper at a then doctor's office, I think, doctor's home.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

RP: Now, you just mentioned the fact that you kind of were robbed of your graduation ceremony by the U.S. government. Did you ever get your diploma sent to you?

CH: Yes, it was sent to us. That was the good acknowledgement of that.

RP: Tom mentioned that fifty years later, in 1992, that there was the Elk Grove High School...

CH: Yes, we did.

RP: Were you part of that group?

CH: Yes, yes.

RP: And what did that mean to you, to sort of have that finality of graduation?

CH: Yeah, well, I thought it was a good thing for us to have that. I remember being televised at that time, and I don't know what happened. I just said whatever I thought, and of course they could cut some of that off. 'Cause my friend from Los Angeles, he was one of the former graduates to be interviewed at that time. So I kind of followed his... by the KCRA, KCRA television station.

RP: Oh, in Sacramento?

CH: Uh-huh.

RP: Well, can you share with us a little bit of what you, how you adjusted and settled into Manzanar? Did you immediately look for work?

CH: Well, I think there was a... I don't know, report or something, that said every able person must work. So we all seeked different jobs available.

RP: What did you look for?

CH: I went for the clerical. This lady was, she went to Manzanar, and she lives in Sacramento. Her name is... wow, I know her last name, but I can't remember her first name. Nakao. She was our boss. And I don't know who was above her. Then later, I went into the fiscal department, and worked under Mr. Carney and Mr. Boczkiewicz. And I think there was a worker (who was) the project director's son.

RP: Pete Merritt, Jr.

CH: Yeah.

RP: Yeah, you worked under him?

CH: Yeah. Because Pete Merritt was married to Mr. Boczkiewicz's daughter, I remember that.

RP: I think they actually got married in camp.

CH: Oh, is that what happened? I know he wasn't there at the beginning, I remember.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

RP: What type of work did you do? You mentioned clerical, but any specific work that you remember in the fiscal department? Did you type...

CH: Well, it was typing up all those vouchers, you know. And it had to be, it had to be done because we were fed by the government with all these awful food. [Laughs] Gosh, it was awful. Mutton, two thousand pounds of mutton, spread, of course, all... and that awful fish, what was that? I wouldn't eat it now. And then liver, we eat liver. And thanks to my cat, we had a little pet cat.

RP: You had a cat in camp?

CH: And they had liver for their meal, 'cause we won't eat it, so we'd give it to the cat. [Laughs]

RP: That was a very well-fed cat.

CH: Yes. And then after I worked in that department, I went into the accounting department, and took care of those huge books that had to be recorded. So that's where I became a nineteen dollar...

RP: You became a nineteen dollar professional?

CH: Yes. And that was very, very interesting work, you know.

RP: Who did you work under in accounting?

CH: That was Mr. Boczkiewicz, yeah. And then the head was Edwin Hooper.

RP: Now, did you work in the main administration building?

CH: Yes.

RP: That L-shaped building with the sidewalk leading up with the flagpole?

CH: Yes. Yeah, we had to walk, you know, from thirty to there, that's quite distance. I don't know, is that a square mile?

KP: You were walking close to a mile.

RP: Yes, and a mile back.

CH: it's nothing, I mean, what can you do? You don't have any cars. They had trucks, but you can't expect them to haul you.

RP: What did you think about the work that you were doing? Was it just filling kind of a productive role?

CH: Yes, I did, yeah.

RP: You had taken clerical courses and things in school?

CH: Oh, during that time, I think under Mr. Boscowitz, I took a leave of one hour to learn shorthand at the high school level, non credit. And that was so interesting, but I don't know if they use shorthand anymore. They don't, huh?

RP: Did you take other classes as well while you were in Manzanar?

CH: Yeah, I took an English class and I took a Japanese language class.

RP: You did?

CH: Yes.

RP: Where was that offered, the high school?

CH: This Dr. Ban, of Los Angeles.

RP: Dr. Ban?

CH: Yeah, Dr. Ban. I think he was a... he could have been a minister, a Methodist minister. But he taught Japanese language.

RP: Now, was that class geared to administration people, people who were working in the...

CH: No.

RP: Anybody can take that class.

CH: Anybody can, yes. And let's see, what else? Oh, I didn't have time to do anything else. I had to do my sports, you know.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

RP: Yeah, let's talk about that a little bit. You got involved in camp sports, you were involved in a club in Manzanar.

CH: Yes, I was the president of the club.

RP: Did you start the club?

CH: Yes, I did. I gathered all these gals, and I think I had pictures of them in there, but I couldn't remember all the names.

RP: These were all Florin gals?

CH: Mostly. There might be a few outsiders, but that was because they were in our block anyway.

RP: Did you come up with the name, too?

CH: No, their name was chosen by a high school student, and her name was Mary... what was her last name? Murata. And I believe she lives in San Francisco now. I have no idea.

RP: What was the name of the club?

CH: Crackshots. Everything's Crackshots. [Laughs]

RP: So you had a baseball team or a softball team?

CH: Uh-huh. We had a very good pitcher from another block, that way, which is the Block 35, I think it was. And I had to catch her softball, whew, it was quite hazardous, you might say. [Laughs]

RP: Did you have a regular large catcher's glove?

CH: Yeah, but I'm not very good at it, I don't think. 'Cause I sprained this finger, and my mother sent me to the, called it a masseuse, and he just wrung it around and just made it look like I broke it. I didn't even go to the doctor, it was terrible.

RP: There was a masseuse in the camp. Was he in your block?

CH: No, he was up on top of the hill. So I don't know where it was. Maybe some of the twenties, I guess.

RP: And where did you customarily play your games, Carol?

CH: Well, let's see. There was a basketball court designated for these girl's basketball. Gee, I can't remember where it was.

RP: There was a court in Block 30.

CH: Oh, yeah.

RP: To the east of the latrines.

CH: Probably so, yes.

RP: And baseball was probably played in a firebreak area?

CH: Yes, yes.

RP: Did you have bases or a home plate?

CH: They had something there. [Laughs] You know, this was an after, after supper, yeah, 'cause they had it kind of early, suppers. Once they rang the bell, you better be there or you're just not going to have anything.

RP: Did you play girls from other blocks or just...

CH: Oh, yeah, we played with others, other teams, you might say.

RP: And the Crackshots also were, you also organized events like dances or activities?

CH: Yes, we did that, too. But as you know, there's a lot of timid people. We tried to encourage them to start dancing, oh, no, they just stood back. It's hard get them going. And I think we, I think we had a... I forgot the lady's name. This Caucasian lady, she was with the... she was just kind of a social person, social, and we're trying to establish a, kind of a clubhouse, and that didn't go well either. I don't know what happened. People are not accustomed to changes, I guess.

RP: Did you have any contact with the Manza-Knights boy's club at all?

CH: I've heard about them, yeah. Maruki, huh?

RP: And Shy Nomura.

CH: I don't know about them. I heard about Modernaires, the girl's club. I think it's that team that had that championship bowler, (Tashima), Chiyo (Tashima), Chizu Toyama, something like that. She was a pitcher for that one team.

RP: And she went on to be...

CH: Yeah, she was amazing person.

RP: Did you have to hit against her?

CH: Pardon?

RP: Did you have to hit against her or bat against her?

CH: I think so, yeah. I don't think I did well. [Laughs]

RP: Your father took up shigin.

CH: Shigin, yeah.

RP: What did you think of that?

CH: You know, it was okay. It's nothing that I would do, but he liked it, and it was okay with me.

RP: He didn't practice at night in the barrack? [Laughs]

CH: I just remember that -- maybe I better not say it right now. It's, you know this voice thing, I'm supposed to do like the shigin people do. They breathe in and breathe out kind of thing. It starts from the belly, they say.

RP: Abdominal breathing?

CH: Yeah.

RP: You might start singing if you do that.

CH: Oh, boy. That would be the last thing I'll do. [Laughs] I couldn't sing normally with this voice, you know.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

RP: Church was an important part of your social life in Florin. Were you able to sort of reincorporate a Methodist church group?

CH: I didn't go to them. My mother wouldn't let us go.

RP: Did you go to church at all?

CH: Oh, I went to church, Sunday school every Sunday. Saturday school and Sunday school.

RP: Saturday school.

CH: The rest of the week.

RP: You were a Sunday school teacher, too.

CH: Yeah, I remember that. I have a picture of it, but I didn't bring that one. There's a whole lot of kids.

RP: You told a story about Mary Shimizu.

CH: Shimazu, yeah.

RP: Shimazu, and a story about church and Reverend Bovenkirk. Can you share that with us?

CH: Yes, I remember that.

RP: Tell us about it.

CH: Well, we were in church, and Reverend Bovenkirk was sending the message, and all of a sudden, Mary got the giggles, and she just giggled away. And I don't know who the other person was, they both giggled. And we just, they couldn't stop. I hope Bovenkirk wasn't offended by it. I imagine he would have been. But he was, let's see, she would have been fourteen or so.

RP: Just suddenly burst out in giggles.

CH: There must have been something that really triggered it, but I don't know what it was.

RP: How were you treated by the Caucasian bosses that you worked under?

CH: Oh, they were, they were real nice people, yeah. They were very sincere.

RP: Did you have any contact with Ralph Merritt at all, the project director?

CH: No, not really. Maybe he was there when there was this American Indian, B.O. Wilson. When he passed away, maybe he was there, I don't know.

RP: Mr. Wilson worked in the administration?

CH: Yes. And he used to come with Mr. Hooper and sort of tease me, I suppose. I don't know what it was. Yeah, they were very friendly people.

RP: And he passed away in the camp?

CH: Yeah, and then had the funeral in that auditorium at the time. It was practically brand new, I would think.

RP: What, you mentioned the funeral in the auditorium. Do you remember other events that you attended in the auditorium?

CH: Yeah, I've been to a dance with Bill Taketa, I remember.

RP: You danced with Bill Taketa in the auditorium?

CH: He asked me to go, so I went. And then there was this Ralph Lazlo, well, he used to come around our block, but I didn't go to dances with, or did I? I've kind of forgotten. But I did see him at one of the reunion, not the reunion, pilgrimage, that Los Angeles people were at, way back before he died. He was a nice young man. He didn't have to be in camp, but he was. How did the government ever not find out, huh?

RP: Well, they did, and they said, "You can stay," so he stayed. So did you actually go on dates with some of these guys?

CH: Yeah.

RP: How were your parents about dating in the camp?

CH: Well, they were okay. I mean, like my sister, she had a lot of beaux. But sometimes, some of these parents, if they weren't, if that person isn't the same religion, it was a no-no. That's what happened to my sister. Because the fellow was Buddhist, and she's a Methodist. They don't seem to figure that out, that that's not the point. But, of course, being a... well, he was a second son, so it wouldn't have mattered. But I guess to be safe with his family, we just stopped seeing each other.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

RP: You were in, you were in camp when the government passed, I think it was all people over the age of seventeen to respond to a "loyalty questionnaire"?

CH: Oh, yeah.

RP: Question 27 and 28 were the key questions.

CH: I thought that was very unfair questioning. But I wasn't gonna go for Japan. So we all stayed, because especially Grandfather, we were all in this country and born in this country, and had no intention of going back and starting there, that way.

RP: So it was a unanimous consensus amongst your family.

CH: Yes, we didn't have any disagreement on that one.

RP: No "no-nos."

KP: You said that you thought that it was unfair question. How did you think it was unfair?

CH: Oh, maybe I didn't mean it that way, huh? Well, let's see. I don't really know. I'm sorry.

KP: You just felt it wasn't quite the right question they should have asked.

CH: Yeah. No, that's okay.

RP: Do you recall families who struggled with those questions, maybe families in your block that had arguments or conversations, discussions about how to answer these questionnaire questions?

CH: I would imagine some of them, yes. Or they're a big family, you know.

RP: Do you remember when people began leaving to go to Tule Lake when it became a segregation center?

CH: Oh, let's see. When was it? Probably 1944?

RP: Early '44.

CH: Yeah. And, of course, some of 'em, they took out their citizenship. I don't know how they do that, but...

RP: Renounced their citizenship.

CH: But they later really got it back, didn't they? It wasn't a set agreement or whatever that was called.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

RP: I wanted to learn a little more about your, the rest of your family in terms of what they, whether they worked in camp or not. How about your father?

CH: My father was a pot and pan dishwasher, I guess. They had these huge pots, they had to wash those. That's what he did. And my mother was the kitchen helper, the cook. She was very good at it, fast. And let's see. My grandfather was a janitor.

RP: He would clean the latrines?

CH: Latrine, two latrines. And let's see. My sister worked at a co-op, as a co-op seamstress. They had a co-op, you know. And of course, my brother was still in high school, and I was clerical.

RP: You pretty much worked in clerical your whole camp life.

CH: That's right, yeah. In fact, at the end, towards the end, they were trying to recruit some of us to work at Manzanar under the federal government. I think some did.

RP: You mean after the camp closed?

CH: Yeah. I don't know how they did that, but I think some did.

RP: As 1945, a number of people had already relocated out of the camp, they were very short on labor, and they began hiring high school students and anybody they could find to work in clerical, and that type of thing.

CH: It's kind of a stepping stone for me. Although I, there was a time I just stayed home, after I got married and had children. But I ended up working for the library as a library assistant for twenty, almost twenty-seven years, same department.

RP: So some of the work you did at Manzanar helped you?

CH: I think so, yes. Of course, they didn't have computers then, that's a lot of difference.

RP: Any other vivid memories of events or personalities at Manzanar that you can share with us?

CH: Personalities?

RP: Or sights, sounds, or smells of the camp that you'll never be able to get out of your mind.

CH: I didn't know a lot of places in Manzanar, 'cause we were sort of isolated in a couple of blocks, that's about it.

RP: Thirty and thirty-one?

CH: Yeah. I did one time, had to, I didn't know what I was supposed to be doing. With this fellow, I had to go all the way up and down the block to, what was I supposed to be doing? We were like an auditor or something. I don't know what we were doing. [Laughs] Back and forth, back and forth.

RP: Oh, so you went through the whole camp?

CH: Yeah. Through my department, I think. I don't know what we were doing.


RP: Did you visit gardens at all in the camp? There was a pleasure park, Merritt Park area.

CH: No, we didn't go too far. People had their, we had lawns, you know. I think my father helped plant the lawn, and then strips of gardens.

RP: Around your barrack?

CH: Yeah.

RP: Did you have vegetables or flowers around there?

CH: Maybe flowers, I think. See, we had a field outside the camp, where they were growing vegetables. And that one fellow that was in that book lives in Sacramento, not far from here right now. Yeah, he was working there. And I don't... farmers were working there at that time. It was sort of a continuation except they didn't have to work all, just a certain time, that's all.

RP: For your father and your grandfather who worked really hard on the farm before they came to Manzanar, was it some kind of a break for them a little bit?

CH: That's right.

RP: Quote, a "vacation"?

CH: That's what they told us. 'cause they could rest when they want to, and it's not a whole long day. Lot of things have been done in several hours, that's about it.

RP: Now, your mom worked in the camp as a cook, kitchen helper. Was that the first time she'd ever worked before, other than the farm? I mean, to have an independent...

CH: I believe so, yes. And I think she took up... I don't think it was dressmaking, she made clothing of some kind.

RP: Oh, designing?

CH: Yeah, she was very good at that, too.

RP: So how did, how did your camp experience, did it promote a sense of independence in you, more than you had before?

CH: Yes, yes. But I totally didn't have the determination yet, at that time.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

RP: So let's talk a little bit about leaving camp. You told us about your uncles going, your two uncles leaving the camp.

CH: Yes.

RP: And when did, when did your family leave?

CH: It was, I think it was October 1945.

RP: Just a month before the camp closed.

CH: Something like that.

RP: What was it like at the end?

CH: Well, first of all, we had to move from 30 to 20 once more, I mean, once. And then somehow we decided, "We better not stay here any longer." Then we... I told you about the cat. I had this cat, beautiful cat, and put him in a crate, and we shipped him by rail. I don't know what we rode on. We must have rode on a train.

RP: Back up to Florin?

CH: Yeah. I can't, I don't remember that.

RP: Was there any food on the train for the cat?

CH: That's the one. We forgot to put anything... that's why. There was no cat food or anything, especially water. Wasn't that terrible? But when he got to Florin, we had him stay over at Bill Taketa's mother's, where she was staying. We left the cat there for a while, while we were in the hostel. All the things we did.

RP: How long did you have the cat in camp? When did you get the cat?

CH: Oh, my mother found him, maybe in '43. She found a sandbox, she found sand for the, you know, litter. Just a loving cat. And we had another one, too.


RP: Where did she find the first cat? Was it in the block, in Block 30?

CH: Yeah, my mother found it. It just came into the camp somehow, or I don't know where else, where it would have been, unless it came from the administration area.

RP: Maybe somebody dumped him off on the highway.

CH: Well, gee, they sure dumped a beautiful cat. Long hair and creamy color. It was a beautiful cat. We called it Akachan. Akachan could mean "baby," or it could mean "red." Aka.

RP: Akachan.

CH: Yeah. It was kind of a red hair, red fur cat, so my mother named it that. And she's the one that brings home the liver for it. [Laughs]

RP: And the cat stayed in the room with you, or was it an outdoor cat?

CH: Well, both ways, yeah.

RP: How about this other cat? You said there was another one?

CH: His name was Moja.

RP: Moja?

CH: Yeah, he was like a tiger, Moja. And he was kind of feisty. He roamed around a lot looking for other cats, I suppose. But I don't know.

RP: So you, you shipped Akachan back to Florin, what happened to Moja?

CH: We had to leave him. We couldn't take both of them. We could have, but it was a little too much for us to handle.

RP: Do you recall seeing any other cats or dogs in the camp other than the ones that you had?

CH: There might have been somebody, but I don't recall.


RP: This is tape three of a continuing interview with Carol Hironaka. And Carol, we were just talking about some of the cats that you took in at Manzanar. And you have another story about, about cats to share with us?

CH: Well, we had this cat -- this is in Florin. We had lots of little kitties. And one day, this man came over, and he said he wanted one of the kitties. Everybody says, "Yeah, go ahead, take any one you want." But before that I told my mother or somebody, "There's a man that looks like a bulldog." You know, he had kind of a mustache, and he looked so mean-looking. [Laughs] And I told that to my mother and she didn't say anything, but I thought it was kind of amusing. But we gave that cat away to this man. I remember that. And this man's name was Mr. Kadoya, Kadoya. He lived out that way. [Laughs] I could remember all those old things, but I can't remember the current things.

RP: Everybody's that way.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

RP: So your trip back to Florin with the cat, how did you feel about leaving camp? You had spent three and a half years of your life there, and you had worked in the administration area. You made some friends and befriended a few cats. How did it feel to be leaving this place?

CH: Well, since everybody else was leaving, I felt that it's...

RP: Time to go.

CH: Time to go. Can close that chapter in my life. Yeah, everybody was leaving. Just, there was no one. My best friend left for the L.A. area. And some of my friends left early to go to Washington, D.C. to work for the government. And they're still around.

RP: You got back to Florin, you settled into the hostel?

CH: Yes.

RP: Now, was that the one at the Methodist church?

CH: Yes.

RP: Can you describe how they had set it up?

CH: Well, we had so much space to hang curtains, I mean, sheets and bedspreads and things. And that's where we stayed for... I know it was grape season, wine picking. We did some wine picking, I remember that. Then shortly after that, I don't know. My father asked me to write a letter to Mr. Divinny of Capitola, California. He has a huge Tokay grape field in that part of the country. I wrote to him asking him whether they needed a foreman for the ranch. He was very nice and said, "Yes." Prior to that, before the war, my uncle George worked on that farm, lived in that same house that we were going to live in. So it was quite a, you know, there was some...

RP: Connection.

CH: Yeah.

RP: How long did you spend there?

CH: Oh, let me see. My parents, they must have stayed there ten to fifteen years off the bat. Then they moved to... what's the next place? Bradshaw Road down there. It's part of Sacramento now. Yes.

RP: Your sister didn't go to the hostel, did she?

CH: No, she was still in Los Angeles.

RP: So she had left camp and gone to Los Angeles?

CH: Uh-huh.

RP: Oh, that's right, she was a housegirl?

CH: Yeah, housekeeper, they called it. They just kept, the family just kept me, I don't know. They must have had some motive, I don't know.

RP: Yeah, people were split.

CH: Yeah.

RP: Did you, did you stay in Acampo for a while with your parents?

CH: Yes. I stayed there... let's see. I guess about a year, year or two. They days get mixed up, the dates, yeah.

RP: Then after that you went to...

CH: Sewing school. And my mother insisted I go to a sewing school in Los Angeles, because there's a teacher, was in Manzanar also. So she wrote a letter to her saying, "I'm going to send my daughter to your school." [Laughs] So...

RP: Was that something that you had an interest in doing as well, or was it just something your mom thought you should do?

CH: My mother, for one, I thought, well, I took a home economics in high school, but I really didn't like it. But she figured that -- oh, my sister did go to a sewing school in Sacramento before. And she figured that I should have the same type of upbringing, too.

RP: Traditional roles.

CH: Yeah. And that's where I graduated, and I have that picture in there. And let's see...

RP: Where did you live while you were going to sewing school?

CH: Oh, I lived at a Mr. and Mrs. Lawson of Los Angeles. It was on Country Club Drive. If you know Los Angeles, it's between Western and... Western and what is the other street? Off of Pico Boulevard.

RP: It sounds like they were well-to-do?

CH: Oh, yeah, real estate. [Laughs]

RP: And what did you do while you were there?

CH: Well, I was a schoolgirl, so I helped with the dishes, and sometimes I helped with the dinner, cooking. And other times I had to do the cleaning and that kind of stuff. And once in a while, I think I did some laundry, too, yeah.

RP: Did you feel a closeness to them?

CH: Oh, yeah. They were very kind, too. I had so many offers to do that kind of work, to stay there, I could only choose one. And I chose the one that was closest to the school, which was on San Pedro, way downtown, you know.

RP: Near Little Tokyo?

CH: Yeah. It's all, it was next to that church, Union Church down there. And so...

RP: We're... the class, was it a class that you attended with other students?

CH: Oh, yes.

RP: And what was the makeup of that class? Were there other Japanese Americans?

CH: They were all, they were all Japanese American except there was one lady, I think she was from Japan, but had been living here many years. Just like the teacher. Probably lived in this country more than Japan.

RP: Did you return to Florin after your...

CH: Well, let's see. I graduated and then the Lawsons bought a new place out in Flintridge, which is near La Canada, California. Big estate with a running brook and everything. [Laughs] They wanted me to stay, but I declined to stay. They wanted me to drive their car and everything, oh, my gosh. Because, you know, it was sort of out of the way. She couldn't get anyplace without a car. And I did need to -- oh, I forgot to tell you. While we were in camp, we were issued driver's licenses. We don't even have a car. We don't have anything to drive, but we were able to maneuver some of that, kind of. And we offered licenses to the Isseis, yeah, in camp. Because they, they probably had expirations and everything. So that's one good thing the government did for us. [Laughs] Yeah.

RP: Did you leave camp on a bus? Oh, you said you went to the train station. You ended up at, after sewing school...

CH: I went back to Acampo. And... yeah, that's it.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

RP: And how did you meet your husband, and tell us a little bit about him.

CH: Well, my sister married his brother, and that's where I first met him. But then we had these go-betweens, they always had to be around. So they came over while I was gone. They couldn't get my answer because I wasn't there. So I don't know when it took place, but I said, "Yes." So they were... it's like, what is it? John Smith was asking for marriage in hand for one of the... you know the history, he sent somebody else? That's what it was like.

RP: Did you actually meet your husband before you married him?

CH: Yeah, oh, yeah.

RP: So, "This is the man that we want you to marry, go out with him."

CH: Yeah. One of the go-between was my, his uncle, my husband's uncle. So it was not a total stranger. So we had four kids, two boys and two girls, and all those grandchildren.

RP: Did your husband have a camp experience?

CH: No. He was in the 442. He was up on the mountain in Germany where they had to rescue the Texas battalion. That's where he was. And he was fortunate to be able to come back whereas so many hundreds of soldiers died, that conflict.

RP: So he, had he been drafted before the war began?

CH: Yeah.

RP: So he was in the army for a while.

CH: Yeah. I was so stunned to hear my uncle Harry, who had a family, and they drafted him in those days. I guess because they had the draft.

RP: Uncle Harry was drafted, and where did he serve?

CH: Gee, I don't know. He didn't go overseas, I know. He had one son at that time.

Off camera voice: He was over forty, wasn't he?

CH: Yeah. That's the strange part of it. Why would they want a soldier that old? [Laughs]

RP: Now, was it Uncle Harry or...

CH: Uncle Harry.

RP: Is he the one that went to Chicago?

CH: No, he's the one that went to UC Berkeley. [Laughs]

RP: He went to UC Berkeley and then he went to Amache.

CH: Yeah. And then from Amache, I don't know where he went, then he was drafted.

RP: Did your other uncle who went to Chicago ever come back?

CH: Yeah, I think he went, he did come back to a camp once. 'Cause I remember my cousin going to school there. Then he, they went back, I think, to Chicago, 'cause they have great job opportunities, yes.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

RP: Carol, I want you to look back like you have been doing, at your camp experiences and share with us how you feel they kind of shaped the rest of your life. What are the things that you took from Manzanar, positive and negative?

CH: Well, the work experience is very good. It's not... I need that kind of regimen, I guess. But it makes you realize that if you're confined into a small, well, area, that you have to do the best you can to do whatever you want to do, and not go back and pick up the negative things.

RP: You also mentioned in your write-up, you said that you lost, "I lost my naivete about government."

CH: What did I do?

RP: "I lost my naivete about government."

CH: Oh, yes. Well, I don't know exactly why my daughter wrote that way, but I kind of lost trust of them. So we've got to find some... well, if you go back to religion, you will not find any human beings that can really bring the government up. It's more like it's going down. That sounds kind of religious, but oh well. [Laughs]

RP: What are your feelings about the movement to obtain an apology for the...

CH: Oh, at the time, I thought it was, it was a good idea, but I didn't really push for it. The government wants to give us money, that would be great. I'm sure that there were a lot of people that thought of that, and what else. I know some people have rejected the idea of getting money, but I guess what we lost sort of compensates for getting it.

RP: Tell me about some of the... have you visited Manzanar? Have you attended pilgrimages?

CH: Yeah. When Marion was pretty young, I don't know what age it was, but we went to visit the camp. And at that time, we saw that the sentry house was all, in bad shape. But we got in through the barbed wire fence, and we scouted around. We said, "This is what was here," and it was great. [Coughs] Excuse me. I remember it was a very hot day, probably in August.

RP: So you shared your camp stories in a place where you lived with your, with your kids?

CH: Uh-huh.

RP: Did they seem receptive to knowing about...

CH: Uh-huh. In fact, all my grandchildren had to write a report on that kind of...

RP: Just a few more questions. What would you... if you were talking to a group of kids, say at Elk Grove High School or any school in Sacramento and sharing your experiences, what lessons would you want to offer them based on what you went through?

CH: Well, I would hope that the United States of America would not think of gathering people of their, because of their racial background. And, let's see, what else? And to listen carefully about what your ancestors or, you know, your grandparents or parents had to say about different things. 'Cause that's very important, that you know about lot of things, because it will come up. That's what I think.

RP: Do you have anything else you'd like to add to the interview that we haven't touched on?

CH: I think that's about it.

RP: Carol, thank you so much on behalf of us and the Park Service.

CH: I wasn't much of an interviewee. [Laughs]

RP: I think I would say differently.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.