Heart Mountain Photos are Worth a Thousand Words
Patti Hirahara donated what is said to be the largest collection of Heart Mountain photographs.
By Nalea J. Ko, Reporter
October 23, 2011
From his home in Anaheim, Calif. Tom Hide, 84, recalls images of everyday life at Heart Mountain during World War II. His memories are still crisp in his mind of the time when his family — including his brother, two sisters and parents — left their home in Yakima Valley, Wash. for the internment camp in Wyoming.
The Japanese American remembers his boyish joy of not having to do chores at camp, playing softball games with Block 15, city boys picking fights with country boys, and teenager girls sneaking behind the latrines to meet boys.
But he also has memories of the hardships endured by the Issei, or first generation JAs, who saw the erosion of their family life in the camp setting. He recalls seeing the Issei struggle with camp life, many of whom lost their businesses and homes following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
These memories are preserved in black and white images stored in Hide’s photo album. Hide’s lifelong friend Frank Hirahara, who was born and raised in Yakima Valley, took some of those photos in Hide’s personal photo album.
“Like they always say: photos are worth a thousand words. So it’s always nice to have photos,” Hide said with a laugh.
A far larger collection of over 2,000 Heart Mountain images taken from 1942 to 1945 by Frank Hirahara and his father, George, was donated in September to Washington State University, or WSU. The donation, which was gifted by Frank’s daughter Patti, is said to be the largest collection of Heart Mountain images.
“Everybody keeps saying it’s our history, but it’s not. It’s the history of all those internees at Heart Mountain from 1942 to 1945,” said 56-year-old Patti Hirahara. “It’s more important that it be given out for everyone to see. I would be selfish to keep it.”
With the help of a National Park Service grant of $49,217, an online database with about half of the photos will be available online in October of 2012. Those handling the collection at the university are scanning the images to start the database.
“It’s going to be such a tremendous resource for understanding life at Heart Mountain,” said Trevor Bond, head of WSU’s manuscripts, archives and special collections.
After her father Frank Hirahara passed away in 2006, Patti Hirahara discovered the boxes of negatives among his belongings. She also discovered many other Hirahara artifacts from the family’s days in Yakima Valley.
In a rental van Patti Hirahara and her husband packed up those family artifacts and donated them to Yakima Valley Museum in 2009. They brought with them enough artifacts to create a 2,000-square-foot exhibit, which will run through 2013.
“My great grandparents and my grandparents are buried in Yakima,” Patti Hirahara said. “I think for them they’re happy because their possessions are brought back to them.”
The Hirahara family took root in Yakima in 1909 when Motokichi Hirahara, Frank’s grandfather, relocated there from Japan.
George Hirahara was four years old when his family settled in the United States. He owned and operated the Pacific Hotel, which is still standing, until the outbreak of WWII. In Heart Mountain George Hirahara was a member of the camp’s camera club and worked as a “refrigeration man” for the complex.Printer-friendly version