Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: George Hara Interview
Narrator: George Hara
Interviewer: Loen Dozono
Date: February 5, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-hgeorge_2-01-0003

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GH: Anyway, I grew up in this surrounding, and the center of our activity other than going to another grade school which was located in Southwest Portland, Sixth Avenue on Hall Street. This was within walking distance. And on Southwest Clay was located the South Japanese school, and I was enrolled in that, and most of the Nisei kids growing up in this area attended both Shattuck, and after the regular schools was over went to Japanese school and this was called Nampo Gakuen or Nampo Gakkou meaning South Portland School. And growing up in this area all my friends were Niseis, and at home, my folks spoke Japanese plus broken English, and at school, we learned English from English teachers, but we were in the majority. The other main group were the Jewish group, and they were the next largest. The hakujin, the whites, were really the minority at Shattuck. And the Jewish and the Japanese kids were raised with a high standard to achieve academic excellence and study hard. This was the kind of tenet by which we were raised. And hakujin teachers at Shattuck School, I think enjoyed working with the Jewish and the Japanese kids. We were very obedient, respectful towards them, and we studied hard, got good grades. And so our lives started during the main part of the day in Shattuck with Jewish kids as friends. But after school was over, it was back to Japanese school where all our companions, schoolmates were Japanese, and we were spoken to in Japanese by our teachers, and we learned the language, learned hiragana, katakana, and kanji, gradually improving, and improving our vocabulary. There was certain subjects, and I was fortunate in having an excellent teacher that encouraged me. And one of my favorite was the study of calligraphy, the use of a brush and sumi and my kanji characters on the special paper. And we did this on Saturdays, and she was better than the textbook instructor and made learning calligraphy really a joy. And it was a challenge to try and emulate what she was doing, showing by drawing these characters. And the other course I liked was essay, sakubun. And on Saturdays too, we were encouraged to write within one hour or two hours span sakubun in Japanese and tell any interesting experiences or any thoughts. And I really enjoyed this, and we would read the sakubun to each other and most of them sounded alike. And I tried real hard to come up with clever beginning story and end. And if you did well, the teacher graded these papers and the top grade was kojo meaning ko is the top and better than top. And a lot of times, I managed to get kojo, and it was a challenge, and I enjoyed thinking of stories that the teacher and I and the other classmates enjoyed.

The other activity at Japanese school was the yearly graduation. And the teachers and the parents that was supervisors would go on and purchase tablets. They purchased pencil tablets and little finer grade paper, and they even handed out as presents to the students with the high, high grades in each class. I can't tell you the exact number of students there but probably in the fifty range. There were about five classes and the five teachers at all time, and Mrs. Fukuda that taught us about calligraphy and sakubun was one of my favorites. And as we went along, we learned how to read, and in the homework was to study the next day's lesson and each one had a little more kanji. We had to know the meaning of the kanji and learn how to write it, and then we would be tested for it the following day. And as we read the text, and my mother was quite strict in making sure that I kept up with the homework. My parents weren't of much help in helping me with my English school lesson, but Japanese school, they were very helpful, and you know, a lot of discipline to get me to study.

And so it was a routine of walking to school, grade school, finishing, getting out of Japanese school which lasted about an hour and a half during the day, weekdays, two hours, Saturdays, and it was a routine that we enjoyed, and all our classmates were Niseis. Then afterwards, we had a choice of places to go to. These weren't organized areas but empty lots by the waterfront. And one of the favorites was on the south side at the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge. Boys and girls, about ten, twelve of us would play softball there, and that was a great experience. And then on the other side of the Hawthorne Bridge was a sand and gravel pit company, and so we got the use not of a sandbox but a huge mountain of sand that we climb, and we had hours of fun there plus the fact that this was right on the end of the seawall, and we could walk down to the river's edge. And as we grew more accustomed, we ventured down there and found that there were huge crawdads that we can catch underneath algae-laden rocks, and this was another form of entertainment. We found different ways to entertain ourselves.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.