Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Ted Hamachi Interview
Narrator: Ted Hamachi
Interviewer: Kirk Peterson
Location: West Covina, California
Date: March 4, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-hted-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

RP: This is an oral history for the Manzanar National Historic Site. This morning we're talking with Ted Hamachi. Our interview is taking place at the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center at 1203 Puente Street in West Covina. The date of our interview is March 4, 2010. Behind the camera is Kirk Peterson and conducting the interview is Richard Potashin. We'll be talking with Ted about growing up in this area as part of a farming family and then eventually we'll talk to him about his experiences at the Pomona Assembly Center as well as the Heart Mountain War Relocation Center. Our interview is taking place, will be archived in the Park's library at Manzanar and, Ted, do I have permission to go ahead conduct our interview?

TH: Okay.

RP: Thank you very much for your time this morning. First, can you share with us your date of birth and where you were born?

TH: I was born in San Gabriel, California, known as San Gabriel, today it's called Rosemead, California but annexations and stuff changed the name. But I was born on May 26, 1927, in a farm house. Today I think it's the sixth tee box, where I was born, at the Whittier Narrows Golf Course. It's the Mountain Course, they call it the Mountain Course there.

RP: What was your given name at birth, Ted?

TH: Teruo, T-E-R-U-O.

RP: Do you know what that Japanese name would mean?

TH: According to the way you write it, it's supposed to mean "sunny boy." That's the interpretation I got, people who went to school in Japan, that's the way you read it.

RP: And how did you acquire the name Ted?

TH: I had neighbors, they were like, and today you would call them godparents. And they were Caucasian. And so instead of just taking us out to the field, I grew up in a home and sort of partially raised by a Caucasian couple. Their name were Patricia and Charles Lawrence. They were neighbors, the next field over from where I was born.

RP: So they named you?

TH: They started calling me, they couldn't say Teruo, so they said Teru or they started making it short so it would be easier to say.

RP: It finally evolved into Ted?

TH: Uh-huh, but during the days in camp, to get the teachers to not call on you, I stayed with my Japanese name. [Laughs] And that way, you don't get picked on as often.

RP: Good strategy. That's a good strategy. Let's talk a little bit about the other members of your family beginning with your father. Can you give us his name?

TH: Shotaro Hamachi.

RP: And where did he come from in Japan?

TH: He came from Fukuoka, which is the northern portion of Kyushu island. That's the next island below Honshu, the main island of Japan.

RP: Can you share with us any information that you know about your father's upbringing in Japan, his family?

TH: They lived in sort of a hillside village. And I was fortunate to be able to visit the home, saw pictures of where he was born. They had straw roofs. And if the roof leaked, they tied on more straw mats for the roofing. And the floor was dirt. When my sister went back to visit, she happened to see our numerous family photos, you know, the family photos hanging in this particular hut-like building. I would call it a hut because it wasn't very big.

RP: Do you know what the family did for a living in Japan?

TH: I don't know. I think, on my mother's side, they were farmers. But on my dad's side... not too positive. That's why he took an early exit. But I think his, my grandfather was in some kind of business because later on he had property. It was my grandfather's property that was later bought up by the Fukuoka University that was expanding. And so the laws, or the property owners in Japan are kept pretty discreetly because it goes back to the 1800s and they still have records of who's who. If you have a little bit of family left in Japan, they're looking for somebody and the word gets around that they were looking for so and so family, and then there's a relative, indirectly, that pointed our way. I was the one that they called and the transactions (were made) every so often, there was an interpreter and we finally got it finalized.

RP: Do you know how old your father was when he came to the United States?

TH: I think the first time he came... I really don't have a date but when he came the second time with my wife, I mean, my mother, it was December 25, 1919 (at the age of 31). And the port of embarkation was Seattle, Washington.

RP: So he came to the United States to make money because of some of the hardships that existed in Japan at the time?

TH: Uh-huh. He verbally talked about, typically, he spoke about making money and when they get back to Japan, he could have servants, serving him, he could get cheap labor in Japan... a lot of the goals of Issei Japanese. But my father never went back to Japan. He told me a few things. One of the things I remember most was that if you were to live in the U.S., southern California would be about the top place to live in. That was probably a good advice.

RP: Your mother, her name?

TH: Kohide Hamachi.

RP: You said that your father went back to bring her to the United States?

TH: Right.

RP: Did they marry in Japan?

TH: Yes.

RP: Was there a go-between?

TH: I don't know that part. I know how go-betweens work but I don't think it happened in my dad and mother's... I don't know. I can't say for sure.

RP: Did either of your parents have much education before they came to the United States?

TH: I think my dad had a high school education and my mother, whether she graduated high school, I don't know. She did have enough education to where she taught my older sister well enough that my oldest sister was born here but she was educated like she was a person born here, educated in Japan, and came back here. My oldest sister was really something that just before World War II, she was like a teacher's assistant, she could read, write and do fude, which is calligraphy. She did most everything pretty regularly. In fact, she married her husband (who) was a Kibei-Nisei and she could almost read and write as well as he could.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.