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1-Introductions & Berkeley Childhood

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

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.

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.


When you were a kid, were you living in a Japanese community?

You know what the covenants are, the real estate covenants? Almost all the cities that I know of had real estate covenants and in Berkeley that meant, you couldn't live east of Grove Street—Martin Luther King

Street here—or north of University Avenue. In Alameda it was a much tighter community. In San Francisco you have Chinatown because they couldn't buy or live in properties, or rent in other areas. That is how a lot of different communities started.

In Berkeley, where I lived, there was a grocery store, and then our family. And the lady next to us was a midwife. She delivered babies. And then there were no more Japanese until you got to the other end of the street. But across the street, there was only one family of Japanese. So it was mixed. But still, if you went beyond—there was a little area around Dwight Street where you could live above Martin Luther King—but generally you stayed in this one area.

You had to stay in the one area and even after the war there were covenants. It's a real estate covenant, and you have to sign this thing saying that you will not sell to Chinese or Asians or whatever it is that they don't want. So the kids that I played with were Black kids, Italian kids, Scottish kids and we all played together and it was fun.

You keep referring to "they," who are the "they?"

Black people, Asian people, I don't know about Jewish people, and in those days there were not very many Latinos, at least I don't know of any, or just a few. But generally Berkeley was a very segregated town, and also a very moneyed town. You came in off the freeway, so that area where you come in off the freeway was generally not as good of a neighborhood as when you get up into the hills. And when you get up into the hills, the area is filled with very well-to-do people.

Did you feel any discrimination when you were growing up?

Not until I went to junior high school. When I went to junior high school, then I realized that the kids that lived in certain areas had clubs and groups—even Girl Scout groups—that didn't allow other people from other areas to join. They were very strong in their social group, so that even when running for school office, they would vote for each other. But they wouldn't vote for the next school down the hill, they wouldn't vote for the people from the next school down the hill.

If you take a look at the yearbook of that time, you can see that certain kinds of kids—they almost wore a uniform, their hair was all a certain way, their clothes were all a certain way—would be in certain groups and they kind of kept out the other kids.

How do you feel you handled the discrimination once you realized it was there?

I didn't do anything, but when I went to school in camp, then I realized you could be anything you wanted to do. You could be in a school play, you could sing, and I think the boys especially could be on the basketball teams and everything. Berkeley High, for a long time, didn't allow blacks on their basketball team, except maybe say, one. They would allow one to be on the team, but they wouldn't let other people play on the basketball team. They kept the number down.

But then that's true in San Francisco, at San Francisco State. Right? So they were able to keep very good—not were able to but they did—keep very good basketball players off the team.

When you were young, you said that you felt very free. When did you begin feeling more limited with your freedom?

I think with the evacuation, we lived maybe a mile—or even a little bit more further—from the public library. But my sisters and I would walk to the library every single Saturday and got ourselves an arm-full of books and brought them back and read them. And we were free to do this. I don't think my parents ever worried about whether it was safe or not.

I know with my grandchild, her mother doesn't like her to walk to school by herself. She's ten, she's capable, but one of them walks along with her.

She lives in Berkeley?


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