Ray Nosaka
100th Infantry Battalion, B Company

Early Adulthood

Unemployed after graduation, Ray decides to join his brother in San Francisco. His father objects. But after Ray's two attempts to stow away, Magoichi relents and gives him some money.

In applying for a passport to the coast, Ray learns that his birth was not recorded properly. At the age of 19, he is issued a birth certificate and obtains a passport.

In San Francisco, he enrolls at the United Engineering School.

After Graduation from McKinley (1935)

[Y]ou know what I really wanted to do was, at that time, I want to save a few dollars and then go to the Mainland and try to do something different. That's what my mind was. But I never did succeed on all that.

Galusha Business School

I went one year at Galusha Business School.

So when I went to business school for a while, I had to work my way. Every month I go early, I clean up the place. When they're all through, I tidy up the place. And then they give me a discount on my tuition.

And those days, we like to work because we like to get some money. So my brother, he's. . . . Like Fort Street, like this, I walk on across, and he walks across. We go to store, store, right down the line. Look for job. And in the end, we end up in Manoa cutting grass. Can't get a job.

Fort Street, Honolulu, Hawaii

And this guy Mr. [Frederick] Makino, he was a very activist-like man [Hawaii Hochi editor and publisher]. He used to get a big home in Manoa. Had swimming pool and everything. He wanted to adopt my brother and myself. So he used to invite us every weekend. We used to catch a streetcar. We stayed overnight and come back. But somehow, it didn't materialize. But I was told that he wanted to adopt my brother and myself (chuckles).

Trying to get to San Francisco

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[T]wo times, I tried to stow away. Those days, used to get boat, yeah. Two times, my friend and I got caught. Royal Hawaiian Band play, they throw this kind [streamers] and then after the Aloha ['Oe] play, the ramp go away. Somehow, they find us in the bathroom in the boat. I wrote a note to my sister, "Don't tell anybody, don't give this note to nobody until three days later." She gave 'em ahead. So one of the brothers came down looking for us. He told the officers that three guys were in there, stowing away. So they look for us.

So just before they put the ramp up. They caught us, so we. . .Out we go. But good thing we didn't go jail for that.

Twice I did that, twice I got caught. So I didn't make it. But finally, my dad gave up, he gave me a few dollars, tell me, "Okay you go join your brother."

Difficult Finding Work

Otherwise, I would never make it. Hard, you know. And no more steady job [in Hawaii]. Those days, you cannot work for Pearl Harbor, you cannot work for Hawaiian Electric, you cannot work for Hawaiian Tel. And Liberty House, the closest you can get is elevator boy. Jobs were so scarce. Because we're Japanese, yeah, they won't even do the application. I never did get called or anything. I did that repeatedly. Never did call. And now, I look back, I find out why.

Because before, Japanese [naval] boats used to come all the time, training boats and we used to go out and respect them and all that. I have no affiliation but my dad used to take us. All the family go up there, treat them, and everything. And those days, was all right. But when 1938, when Hitler came strong, came allied with Japan, then everything fell upon us. We cannot do this, we cannot do that. They restricted. But now, I can see. But those days, you think, "Chee, why?"

But I still say, "I'm not shame to be Japanese." I think there's a lot of good things about Japanese philosophy, too. Yeah? Gambare [tenacity], and the things, the kind [of values], they use. "Try your best. Be loyal to your family." Those things that you learn. When they tell you, at that time, it might not stick. But as years go by, you say, "Yeah, they were right." Because there's a lot of philosophies that use that term. I think I learned from that, too, you know.

I learned through experience. So all these things, I never regret what I did because I always somehow I learn from them. I learn bad things, I learn good things, too. So I'm grateful for that.

No Birth Certificate

When I went to San Francisco, my brother was over there already, he asked me to come down. My Chinese friend, he was going to UC [University of California], so he was going to UC and my other Korean friend, he just wanted to go with me. So the three of us went to the - Fort Street, used to get American President Lines, you know, boat. So, first the two bought their tickets, when it came to my turn, he [clerk] said, "I'm sorry, I can't give you the ticket." I said, "Why?"

He says, "I only work here, you have to go get a passport." "Wait a minute," I said, "I'm an American citizen." But he said, "I'm sorry, I only work here, you can see my boss, but he's going to tell you the same thing. So you have to go to the immigration station to get a passport."

I don't know why but at that time, was 1938. That's just when Japan and the Germans became allies. That's why they couldn't trust us. And so I went to immigration station but they told me, "Where's your birth certificate?" I said, "I don't know."

So I went home and I don't have any birth certificate. So my old man witnessed when I was born and things like that. So I was issued a Hawaiian birth certificate when I was already about nineteen years old, with a nineteen-year-old picture on my birth certificate. Those days, always midwives - used to be just like a doctor - so some of them, they don't report the thing right. Not even recorded. But that's how it was in the midwife days. They deliver and then they don't care. That's why they spell the name wrong or give the date of birth wrong. And sometimes they don't even report and things like that.

San Francisco

And so finally, I got my passport and I went to San Francisco to meet my brother. When I went there, he had a little room - he was a bartender - and I guess they pay for his room, too. That was in Japanese town. Japan Town, they called it. And I used to sleep with him.

United Engineering School

I wanted to go better myself, so I wanted to go to school. So my friend, he graduated from United Engineering School, he told me, "Why don't you go to that school?" So I applied and I was accepted and I stayed there. But you know, tuition is not that cheap. So I applied for a job there. I worked for Dr. Riley. And all I had was room and board. And then every day, I don't know how to cook but the lady peeled potato, onions. I used to help 'em, things like that.

And then from there, I catch the trolley, go to school, back and forth. I make my own sandwich and I go back and forth. And that's when [1939] they had the World's Fair, too, in San Francisco. So I used to go there because they gave you student discount. Every day, I used to go, back and forth.

Powell Street cable cars, San Francisco

When I used to go school, first part of the school [in San Francisco], I used to walk all the way from Market Street all the way to Japanese Town. And no place to study, so I used to go in the bar, where my brother works and I used to study in there. So the people there, in San Francisco, Japanese, they stay away from me because they tell, "Hey, the guy always in the bar." But actually, I wasn't drinking or anything, I was studying. But they don't know.

Return to Hawaii

When I came back [to Hawaii], I applied at Hawaiian Electric and those places but I couldn't get nowhere. They just bar me out.

After that, about four months later, I got a notice to be drafted. So I went in the army, first draft, in 1940. I was glad that I went there because no jobs. The only job I had was a recreation director. I took the exam and then I became part-time recreation director. And then I used to keep books at Harada Service Station down on Kapahulu. I used to keep books and then between that time, pump gasoline. And one man always gave me ten-cents tip. I still remember that same guy, always give me ten-cents tip.

Ray Nosaka's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of National Archives and University of Hawaii Archives, Hawaii War Records.

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