Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Russell Demo
Narrator: Russell Demo
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Corning, California
Date: December 18, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-drussell-01-0002

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RP: What area of San Francisco did you grow up in?

RD: On the Mission district. That was kind of a banana belt. The sun would be shining there when it wasn't anyplace else. Pretty nice area out there. It's changed quite a bit now. It's not the same as it used to be, but it was a real nice place when I was a kid, though.

RP: Right, tell us about that a little bit. You said you spent a lot of time on your own, kind of wandering around?

RD: Yeah, the summertime I went down on Seventh and Harris Street. That's, I don't know, six, seven miles, eight miles from my mother's house where we lived, and played ball there all day long, and turn around and come back home. I never had a glove or anything, I always played bare-handed. Then later on, I got acquainted with some friends and we used to do a lot of roller skating. Go down to the roller rink there at Levinson off of Mission Street there, between Mission and Market. 'Til I went into the service, I was working in the shipyards. My mother worked there, my father and my brother worked there, and my Uncle Archie worked there. My father was, had a fantail, which I was working with him. My brother was foreman of the afterpeak.

RP: By "fantail," what do you mean by "fantail"?

RD: That's the back end of the boat, you know, where the round part comes out like that, then the afterpeak fits onto that end there someplace in there. I don't know exactly how it is, but something like that.

RP: Where did you attend grammar school, Russell?

RD: I went to the Junipero Serra up there at Holly Park Circle. We lived off of Buchanan Street off of Cortland Avenue on Buchanan Street, and about a couple blocks up the hill there, a big old park there, Holly Park Circle. I went to Junipero Serra until the sixth grade, then I went down to Horace Mann junior high school which was around Twenty-second and Mission, someplace in there. And then I transferred from there, we moved on to Woodward Avenue and went one year to... oh, shoot. I can't name the school there, but another junior high school, and then I went to Mission High from there, went one year there and then I quit.

RP: Tell us a little bit about, San Francisco was such a "melting pot" of different ethnic groups and little communities. What was the Mission district like in terms of different groups of people?

RD: Well, later on it, down there it was just ordinary people, I don't know what, just to say regular white people and everything else. And later on when I was, I went down to visit my mother, it was all Hispanics and stuff there, had moved into the district. Then, but there was, it was a pretty nice little neighborhood, and wasn't too much going on there. There was no gangs or anything. Our excitement was going around ringing doorbells and then running, taking off running, and that was about it. I can remember we used to hike out to Daly City, which was a couple, three miles, and get fireworks, firecrackers and stuff. Things were pretty cheap then, we didn't, so for about fifteen cents we could probably come back with a whole bagful.

RP: Did you have any contact with Japanese American children in your classes at all?

RD: Yeah, I'm sure we had. I can't remember any offhand right now. There might have been, but I'm not too sure. I can't think of anybody offhand. I got my yearbook at home, didn't think about it. If you're gonna ask me questions there I'd have probably brought that along and we could have gone through there. But I'm sure there were some Japanese kids there, some type.

RP: How were you as a student?

RD: All D's and F's. When I went to Horace Mann junior high school, I didn't like the teachers there and we didn't get along very well. And then I transferred to Everett junior high school and I went one year there and I had all A's and B's there. I had a different school system. And then I went to high school, I got an A in gym, you know, and woodshop I got a B, I got a C in English because they had a spelling test every day, twenty words. And I got a hundred percent on that, outside of that, that's what gave me my grade there. And as far as the rest of 'em, were all D's and F's. 'Cause I didn't like Biology, so I'd skip class all the time. And I can't remember the others, the other grades were. So when I got to sixteen, I quit. I worked with the continuation school for four hours on Monday, and worked down in the workroom. Mother worked in the laundry, went down and worked for her out in Drosera Avenue.

RP: Was religion much of a force in your life early on?

RD: Pardon?

RP: Was religion an important part of your life?

RD: No, not really. I was Baptized Catholic, and really never went to church much or anything. But, I mean, Mother was always, believed in God and everything else, but we didn't go to church or anything. There was a little neighborhood church around there on Buchanan Street there I went to once in a while, and that's about it. I don't know what it was, or one of those... it wasn't Baptist, in that it was some little off-brand, some guy started something up there, I guess, I don't know what you'd call it. [Laughs]

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.