Page 1

Click on text below to watch and listen to Fumi's answers. If movies do not appear in the top left frame after clicking the answers below, install the free Quicktime Player and try again.

Second Interview Insert Key
Indented text represents the follow-up interview conducted on February 9, 2006.

Introduction of Interviewers

Hi, I'm Woody, I'm Natalie, and I'm Allegra. We're here on May 5th, 2005 interviewing Fumi Hayashi in Berkeley California.

I'm Woody and I'm here interviewing Fumi Hayashi for the Urban Telling Their Stories website. It's February 9, 2006, in Berkeley, California.

I'm Fumi Hayashi and I was born in Alameda, California in 1926 and I've lived in Berkeley since I was two years old. Except for the time in Topaz and then schooling in St. Louis, I've returned and spent most of my life here in Berkeley.

Could you state your full name?

My full name is Fumi Manabe Hayashi.
Where were you Born?
In a hospital in Alameda, California. I've lived in Berkeley since I was two.
What is your date of birth?

Could you tell me about your first childhood memory?

I went to school in Berkeley. I went to Lincoln School, which is not very far from here. I think I was very happy as a youngster and had a lot of fun playing with the kids that lived nearby. We were always free to go in and out of our friends' homes and their yards—their backyards—never had to ask anybody. There weren't as many cars then as there are now.

We used to play out in the streets—especially in the evenings—and so we had lots of friends. Whoever came out got to play. We would play things like Kick-the-Can, or Prisoner Space, or something like that. When we were not being nice, we would take weeds growing in empty lots—we would take the bottoms and make them into real hard-like balls—and we would take the weeds and just throw them. We'd have fights.

Would you throw them at each other?

Oh yes. We would build bonfires. There was a man that lived next door to an empty lot, and he grew vegetables. He grew potatoes, and we would try to build a bonfire close to his potato plants because sometimes these potatoes would "wander over" into our fire. He would tell us not to eat his potatoes. We would say, "Oh, we wouldn't do that." But somehow, a potato would always come in to our bonfire.

It seemed to me that in those days, people were not terribly uptight about what you were doing. No one would really get angry with you. I know that in my house, if somebody broke our window playing ball or something, my dad always considered it his place to replace that window himself. He would never go and tell somebody's parents, "Your kid broke my window," or something like that. In many ways, I think life was easier than it is now.

What do you think happened to that easygoing attitude of the past?

I think that when we were growing up in Berkeley, we lived in neighborhoods and went to neighborhood schools, so we got to know each other quite well. We could play in peoples' yards—in each other's yards. We used to play out in the street in the evenings and we always felt safe.

I think these days that we worry about children and what might happen to them. Maybe it's because television shows all the worst things that could happen to children. We are always worried about picking up children after school or making sure that they arrive someplace safely. When we were very young, we used to walk maybe a mile to a public library every single Saturday and bring home a bunch of books and return them. Nobody ever thought that my mom had to come along with us or anything, we just did it. The youngest ones in our family weren't even in kindergarten yet and we used to walk that mile.

Can you explain that response that your father might have to a broken window, in comparison to my father who would have gotten mad and went to the neighbor and made them pay.

I don't know, I hear neighbors complain about dogs barking. I don't like my grandchildren to play out in the street because they might run into a yard or run over a plant that is kind of in the way or whatever. But my dad never worried about things like that. The only time that he really put his foot down was when the kids used to play Tarzan on our oak tree in the front. A friend across the street lost his hold on a branch after he swung, and he fell and broke his arm in two places.

But my dad didn't say anything he just got barbed wire and put it all around the bottom of the tree and into the lower branches and we couldn't play. But he didn't scold them. But that boy's father didn't come over to my dad and say, "This happened on your property, you have to pay for the doctor." It was his kid, his kid did it, he took him to the doctor, and that was it. So I think in many ways, I've often heard it said that, like in Chinatown or in Japanese communities or something, there's a lot less crime. I'm not sure that there's a lot less. I think, maybe, we accept what each other's kids are doing, or whatever. I think I'm getting away from your school question, but I think that it was easier and more relaxed.

Your father was a priest right?

He was a salvation army officer.
He was a religious man?

He was a religious man and he believed in common working people preaching the gospel. Like the original disciples were all just working people. That was his goal, to be like that.
What kind of role did religion play in your family?
Every once in a while I'll meet somebody and I'll say something, and they'll say, "Oh, you do that?" I think I'll say, "Yeah, I like to go to Reno, or I like to do this, or I like to do that." And they're surprised.

What are some of those things?

I like to go and gamble. I know that when I was young and I used to play the piano in church, I used to like to paint my nails bright red. It would drive people crazy.
Why is that? It was unusual?
You have to do something, you know? But, my parents were strict. Even after I was engaged to be married to the person that I'd been going out with since Tanforan, my mother sat up and waited for me to come in the house. I had to be in by twelve midnight. Since we didn't have a car, it was often very difficult. But we did it. And my kids think it is hilarious.

Page 1

Previous Next