My great-uncle Howard, outside the Japanese internment camp

Feb 14, 2017

At age 92, our great uncle Howard Horii has many stories to tell, but one of the most compelling is his story of the Japanese- American internment camps during WWII.  Because of their Japanese-American heritage, after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, many Americans viewed the Japanese, even those born in this country, with suspicion, and thousands were taken to prison camps to remain for the duration of the war. Howard’s family was in a camp at the Gila River Relocation Center in Arizona and while they tried to make it seem normal, they did feel like prisoners. They had lost their home, farm, and grocery store and knew it would be difficult after the war.

But Howard’s family, Buddhists in beliefs, let go of the anger and fear that many might have, and became successful citizens of the country where he had been born.  So, when Howard visited with us by phone, he mainly visited about his childhood, which in his eyes was pretty wonderful.

He called it a pretty typical California childhood.  He was born on January 4, 1923 in Hermosa Beach, California.  He was named Nobuo in Japanese, and was given the English name of Howard.  His father was a farmer and grocery store owner.  He remembers weighing string beans for the customers and he was very proud of the fact that he didn’t have to use a scale to weigh an exact pound of beans, as he knew it by heart.

His father would let a regional circus house their animals on his farm and in return they were given free tickets to the show.  Howard remembers that as a wonderful time and while they didn’t go to movies or other events often, the circus was a very special time.

He was raised with 7 brothers and sisters and they often helped on the farm and in the grocery store.  His brothers and he loved the beach and the ocean and would build surfboards and rafts for the water and wooden stock cars for the gravel roads.  School was very typical and Howard did well, especially in art.  Through the assistance of a teacher at school, Howard won a scholarship to the Otis Art Institute and that began his lifelong pursuit of being an architect.  First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt had visited the internment camp while Howard was there, and she told the people to “branch out” and move throughout the United States…so Howard chose New York City to pursue his dreams. 

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This is the fourth of eight stories from the feature reporters at Kid Scoop News, a monthly newspaper tabloid designed for and by Siouxland students. The hope is that these readings might inspire others to start recording the stories of friends, family members and loved ones they don't want to forget.