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Richard Morita Oral History Interview, February 13, 2010

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RM: OK. As for growing up in Pasadena the reason I grew up there was my father; is where he got his education from and graduated from Pasadena high school then went to Coop College; Coop college now changed its name to Cal Tech. That's the reason I was born in Pasadena. I actually was born on the East side of town; in the old days it was? Park, but no one uses that name any more. When I was in second grade I moved across town to the western part and went to grammar school at uh Lincoln elementary school. Finished there and went to McKenzie high school then I went to what they call Pasadena Senior College. People call them community colleges now. On my birthday the 27th when I just 1:00turned 18 I dropped out of school because I was going to get incarcerated by the federal government. I was in what they call Tellary relocation camp. And then was transferred to the Hilo relocation camp. That's a misnomer because they're...the machine guns were pointed inwards, the barbed wire makes you stay in, so they call them relocation camps but they were actually concentration camps. And my brother and I both wanted to go to school so we applied at the American Friends Association created a, what they call, a nisei relocation 2:00center. And I was first admitted to Bowling Green in Ohio, now called Bowling Green University, but then college, but the townspeople wouldn't let me in.

So my brother and I decided we'd try all places and both of us were accepted at the University of Nebraska and that's the reason I went to University of Nebraska. And actually we left the relocation camp and we got on the train and as soon as we got on the train we noticed someone keeping an eye on is; it was an FBI agent to make sure we weren't bothered until we got to Kansas City then he disappeared then in Kansas City we took the train to Lincoln. And I was there until my last half of my junior year I finally got orders to report for the 3:00military induction. I can remember my brother was already finished and uh we went through induction of course in Leavenworth Kansas and you were allowed to theoretically choose what branch of the service you wanted to go into, but you really had no choice but the army. My brother was an engineer and he couldn't get into the navy period so. I ended up with the four point second regimental combat team and you probably never heard of it.

HB: no

RM: It's the most decorated unit for its size and number of days in battle in World War two. And you have to realize that a regiment is one third the size of a division and in that regiment is over 5,000 decorations of which 20 of em was 4:00congressional metals of honor and many divisions did not reach that level. But the casualties were quite great and the turnover was about 320 percent

KO: Oh wow.

RM: And it was the unit that rescued the lost battalion during World War 2. I was in Italy and in Italy and then the war was over but we were the last combat units in Italy. As soon as I came home and as soon as I got home I'd only stayed over the weekend, took the plane, went back to Nebraska to get back into school. I was about 5 weeks late. My major professor pulled all the cards for me. He told the other profs that I would be in. I took the plane in Omaha, Lincoln had 5:00no airport at that time. And then the next morning after I stayed at a hotel close to the airport and got on the bus and went back to Nebraska and finished up. I was the only person in the class, my graduating class, that had no job after I finished. No one would hire me. And I didn't know what to do. I said, well, I'll go back home. My parents moved back to to Pasadena and I stayed with my parents and I looked up one of my old friends I went to school with who had an advanced degree in microbiology, and uh he says well, if you're gonna go to graduate school you might as well learn viral techniques. Because in those days viruses were not studied at the graduate or undergraduate level. So I decided to 6:00learn some techniques and went in to the boss man who was chairman at USC of microbiology and parasitology and he says no I won't take you. And I says, and then, my friend talked to him again and he says, ok I will take you on the condition that you get three letters of recommendation that were good. So I got three profs back at Nebraska. He got em and called me and said OK yes can come to work. For nothing, you know? So I learned all the viral techniques, especially cerebral inoculation of mice all the way up to monkeys. And after I learned all that Shamron called me and says how would you like a teaching assistantship. I says fine. Before he says, well, come to USC, look around and 7:00see what you think. And the reason the wanted me was all the GIs were coming back and they didn't have enough TAs. So they gave me a teaching assistantship and I finished up at uh USC in 2 years and didn't know what to do. And I says, well, I'll go to Berkeley.

So uh, my friends joined me and we drove up to Berkley and I knew one of the students there. And he says, don't come here. For one thing there are 17 PhD students, 10 have completed all the course work, and of the 10 seven had lab space and three were waiting for lab space so that they could do their thesis work. So I came back and to USC and told my professor that and one of them says 8:00well why don't you go to Scripps, so that's why I went to Scripps. But at Scripps, I uh, started working in with, there was on post-doc and two technicians and another student ahead of me, but uh the post doc quit and the uh my friend that was a PhD student also he left on a Fulbright to go to Sweden to study for a year so I took over the whole lab. And then in those days research expeditions were null and void. Want to know why no one went out? Because all 9:00the researchers before that were in the 1890s and 1880s, there were none. And then, came the depression and nobody had any money to go out. Scripps finally decided to go out. The director Roger Rebellm got barely enough money from the office of naval research to take off. So I was on the first expedition and I was also lucky I jointed the Gelity deep sea expedition and after that I joined transpacific expedition. That was fine I enjoyed all of em. But it took me longer to get out of Scripps. 5 years instead of the regular 3. But it was worthwhile I saw the pacific and uh during the mid pacific expedition we went .4 10:00degrees north of the equator in to Honolulu and into Bikini and I was put ashore with 4 other fellas. And they left me in charge of doing chemistry and I did the chemistry. They left us with 3 days of food and said we'll be back for you, but they didn't bother coming back. It was seven days before they came back. We had lots of water to drink but we didn't have any food so the uh video operator would go out and go spear fishing and catch fish.

HB: There's a picture of with a blowfish

RM: yes

HB: Is that, is that uh

RM: yes! That's a puffer fish from Bikini. And uh, one day he caught an octopus. I'd never cooked an octopus before and I didn't realize that you have to cook an 11:00octopus a very short time or it gets real tough. Well, our teeth got a good workout. (laughter). After that I went back to Scripps again. Then the Gallatee expedition was Danish. I got on it and I flew from San Diego to San Francisco then over to Honalulu and as soon as I got to Honalulu a telegraph arrived and it says go get a navy uniform. So I went to the uh pearl harbor and I had to have a what they call a uh technicians license. It's a little square bronze that you put on the uh collar of the. . .and I come by and there weren't any more. One of the fellas that was there was a tech and he says I have one extra one. 12:00Well you're supposed to have two so he gave me one. But I says well if that's the case I might as well buy a uniform and so I flew from there to uh the Fiji islands and then to New Zealand and from new Zealand I went to the kermadack islands and back to new Zealand and then we got on the boat and rode back to the kermadack islands and then we went to American Samoa and in American Samoa we had three stow-aways. And so the captain of the ship didn't know what to do so he put them on an island just north of Samoa. And then we went from there to uh

HB: Who were the stow aways?

RM: I don't remember their names from uh, two young kids who wanted to go to 13:00Hawaii. In Samoa there's nothing for the kids to do. By the way when you talk about the various south sea islanders they all talk about beautiful women. It's not true (laughter). The beautiful women are the half-caste. The half-caste children are real good looking, especially the girls. And we came back to Honolulu and then to San Francisco and then to uh, oh, near Monterrey bay where uh, Dr. Boleen, the ichthyologist was located, Stanford located, then finally 14:00down to Scripps. But when I was in San Francisco displaying the uh ship uh research possibilities and one elderly lady came in with a group of people while we explained how everything worked, what we did and so forth. Then after the end she told me, for a Dane you speak awfully good English. (laughter). Well, I let that go. And the third trip I made on Scripps was um with the Gallac expedition TransPac. Went North to Alaska then to Adak, off Kamchatka to Tokyo, and we were 15:00in Tokyo, we had an audience the emperor, so I actually met the emperor. And uh the funniest thing was that uh he asked us to come in because he was an amateur marine biologist. So that's why we had a chance to meet him. Well from there my major professor had made arrangements for me to go to Kyoto to visit. . . am I getting too far ahead?

HB: No, no, I'm just, I'm sorry, I'm just checking the time on this.

RM: Anyway, to Kyoto to meet a marine microbiologist in Japan who did his work on uh cellulose digesters. The reason he was working on cellulose digesters was that in the old days all the nets were made from hemp and not artificial 16:00material so the nets would rot. I went to see him and he lived on the opposite side of Japan on the western seaboard so I took a train with him and went to, pardon me, to pacific almighty, I came back. That's why I told you when I talked to all these individuals scientifically they all laughed at me because I spoke Japanese like a woman. I learn my Japanese from my mother. My father never spoke to us in Japanese, so it was different. And that's what I did at Scripps. So I took 5 years to get out instead of 3, but it was worth it I thought. And from there, let's see, what did I do during the great depression, yes I remember the 17:00great depression when I went off to work because I got paid two and a half cents an hour. That was supposed to be good money.

KO: What kind of work?

RM: Well I worked in fruit stands in various markets; those were jobs we were allowed to have, and I could never get a job as a newspaper delivery boy. I tried by the only thing that ever happened is that I would substitute every once in awhile for somebody that couldn't come in and make his route. But that was OK. And then I got incarcerated when war broke out. I got incarcerated with my family and then we first went Wynona artillery relocation center and from there 18:00we moved to the Hilo relocation center south of phoenix about fifty miles and that's where I stayed until I got out. And when I got out my brother and I tried to go to various schools but the University of Nebraska was the only one that accepted us so we went there. And then while we were there we got our notices to report for the services. We went from there to fort Leavenworth Kansas and we went from there to camp ? where I took my basic training and for someone who ?, before you went into uh fort uh (pause) oh, what was it, Kansas, anyway we were 19:00delayed in going they just held us back so we didn't get in the service right away. I was lucky because those extra months made it possible for me to join the 442nd regimental combat team. After the war was over. And uh that delay of one month, otherwise I would have been in the thick of things when they broke the gothic line because they were used to spearhead all the uh forward movement of the troops in Italy as well as France.

HB: Was the, uh, 442nd, um, were there other people of Japanese ancestry?

RM: Just some of the officers. Not all of them, but most of them. I? in my 20:00company, second platoon, second squad and I ended up being a bar man. You know what a bar man is?

HB: A browning automatic rifle?

RM: Yup. I carried that and uh one of my, I didn't know him, I've written him a couple times, one of the bar men in my platoon won the congressional metal of honor. One of my childhood friends in K company also won the congressional metal of honor. And uh went to Italy then came home and went back to Nebraska and finished up. Came home and no one would hire me that's why I started looking around for something to do and I ended up learning viral techniques as the 21:00county hospital that did all that kind of work. And from there I went to USC and the reason is that they didn't have enough teaching assistants they had all the GIs that were coming home. And I finished there in three years and didn't know what to do and started to go to Berkley and, I told her, if I went to Berkley seventeen phd students and the other from across from, seven had space and three were waiting, so I came back and told my professors that it was too crowded I didn't want to go there. I didn't want to wait that long. One of them sent me to his major professor at Scripps. That's how I went to Scripps.

NE: What, um, got you started with your work on microbial um extremophiles?


RM: Microbial what?

HB: Your work on um uh the uh extremophiles, the

RM: Extremophiles. Yah.

HM: Was that just a matter of chance?

RM: No, it wasn't a matter of chance. It was because no one else wanted to go off to sea for such long periods of time because they were married and I was the only one. So the first trip on the alkie, I mean, mid pacific expedition I was the first to take core samples uh beyond the continental shelf.

HB: Wow.

RM: So, in those days you'd just have a small core sampler. Then all of a sudden the kuhlenberg core sampler came about. I don't know if you know what the 23:00kuhlenberg is.

HB: No.

RM: It's a long one. You could get up to about 70 meters and get the sediment. They had a piston inside of it. When it would touch the surface of the soil the piston would come up that would help hold it then we'd pull it out, then we'd push it out, then I'd take my samples there. And that's how we learned that there such things as extremophiles. The organisms that require pressure in order to grow. So my major professor and I worked on those and we published on that, on those extremophiles and then, when did I cut away, 62, I came to OSU after uh 24:00finishing Scripps. Went to University of Houston, couldn't stand it there. I left and went back to Nebraska. I was there three years and they asked me to come out here. Well, when I came I was working on pressure and temperature interaction on microbes. I thought I needed something else besides that. So I decided to look for cold loving bacteria, sacrophiles, but all my students laughed at me. I brought three students out from Nebraska out here and they said you'll never find them. And after reading the literature the reason I realized something was wrong was that none of the people that were trying to find cold loving bacteria would take their sample of water and put it in the refrigerator 25:00to keep it cold. They'd always bring it back up to room temperature and never realized that room temperature is too hot for them and it would kill them. So I took an ordinary bottle like this, but not plastic, glass and put some yeast extract on the bottom, about a gram of yeast extract. Fill it half way, sterilized it, put the cap on, and told a technician in oceanography to take a sample of water below the thermocline and put it in there and put it in the refrigerator. When he got back to Newport I came out and put it in the refrigerator and picked it up. That's how I actually on sacrophiles. When I started all three of my students that were phd students decided they wanted to quit their research problem and work on sacrophile. I said no, by contract on 26:00research grants, you have to finish what you're doing, but that's when sacrophiles came into existence. So, I worked on that for quite awhile.

HB: So you found those when you were at Oregon State?

RM: Yah.

KO: What was the response in the research community here to that discovery?

RM: As my uh discoveries on a lot of things here, nothing. (laughs)

KO: Nothing.

RM: As a matter of fact I didn't think too much of OSU at the time because, uh, I got a letter in the mail asking me to put my name in for an endowed professorship at Temple university back in Pennsylvania. And so I decided to do 27:00that. And in the meantime around the same time my friend Bob Becker, I don't know if you know names, Dr. Robert Becker, biochemistry. Came up to me and said, Dick you know you're the lowest paid professor on the campus. And I says, no that can't be true. He says yes, in those days they published the salaries in a volume in the library so you could go look. I never bothered but he did and so I decided to look at this other job but I needed a few letters of recommendation so I went to Dean Young who was dean of research at the time. And I had worked with him before because they were just starting research committees and I was one of the original members. And I went up to him asked him for a recommendation and he got mad at me. He says what do you want a letter of recommendation for. I 28:00said I want to apply for a job. He says , I said the university doesn't treat me very well. He said oh that's not true. So he had his secretary check my salary. And he went to the higher board to get my salary changed but they won't do anything about it. It took him two years and he finally got it adjusted. That was the first time that happened. It happened a second time too. I was going back to the national Science foundation as a program director. And what our salary was in Washington was based on our salary back home. And our dean of science at the time was Dean Carls who moved back there and knew what it was all about. He looked at my salary and looked at the uh position and he says no your 29:00salary is too low you can't live back there on that salary. So he uh he finally got my salary changed so that I could live back there decently. Not luxuriously but at least decently. At that time there were no funds available so John Verner helped. Cause I was working oceanography and I was the fourteenth professor of oceanography there and he supplied fifteen percent of my salary and that brought me up. But uh oceanography was started with uh, Burt, Wayne Burt. And Wayne Burt uh and I knew each other when we were both at Scripps. So that's why I, the 30:00reason I came to OSU position. But they didn't offer any pay with it. But at the same time that happened I, [technological malfunction] oh I got all kinds of em. Then I went to Alaska, off this coast, anywhere I could get to. Anyway, he told me I believe it. Give me the manuscript.

KO: This was Limnology and Oceanography?

RM: yes. And so he published the paper. It never went out to the review. Too many reviewers at limnology and oceanography. That's how it got published.

KO: Oh wow.

RM: But stokes still would not believe it. He sent one of his students here to 31:00see for himself. He wouldn't come at all. And he went back and told him it was true. And then the last bit of being professor I had was the same person, he wanted to come here

KO: And see them for himself, huh?

RM: Well, he wanted to work on some of em so he came.

KO: And then they believed you?

RM: Well he believed me, but stokes, I don't think he ever let up. But now he's passed away a long time ago. He was one generation ahead of me. (pause)

HB: So, uh, we got the recorder to work. We're just uh, we'll just be very careful that it doesn't go out again, and apologies for uh, the repletion. Um, I 32:00think where we left off was sort-of you were starting to talk about you came to Oregon State and um your uh in 1962, right? OK. And I think we were

RM: 63

HB: 63? Oh, OK. And um, we were discussing your, uh, just what your research was and those kinds of things.

RM: Well uh, that's how I got started with sacrophiles. And uh, but I did the work, I realized the relation that no one kept their samples cold. And in a 33:00bottle about that size I put some yeast extract and filled it with water and then uh sterilized it and had a technician out in the ? boat, which was very small at that time.

HB: What boat was that?

RM: OSU boat. The one that first uh, the first one that OSU had, I think it was called the Aquina. And the Aquina went from OSU to Alaska. Because although OSU ran it, the boat actually belonged to the National Science Foundation. And then OSU got another boat. I don't know what the one is called now. Anyway, I 34:00isolated the sacrophiles, and three of my students, Sherrill Burton, Roger Hang, and Paul Mathimeyer wanted to change their problems, but they were on research grants so I said no, so that's how it got started.

HB: And you were telling us about um how you had a tech on a boat um get a sample?

RM: yah, and they I went down with an ice chest and

HB: And you drove back to Corvallis?

RM: then all the Petri dishes I used for isolation were already pre incubated in the refrigerator. I did not let them get above room temperature. Then I started to isolate them. I isolated so many that it was really pathetic (laughter). And 35:00then also I uh, oh, that's an interesting story (pointed at hat), oh

HB: Trojan explosives?

RM: You know what Trojan Explosives is?

HB: No

RM: It was the second largest producer of explosives in the US and located at Spanish worth, Utah. And they were having troubles because they manufactured all their explosives in uh Colorado. They asked me what they could do because explosive materials were in the soil and they had to get rid of it. They didn't know how to do it, so they called me in and I said, "Oh, yeah, that will be easy." (laughter) And so I went back there and I bought some energy sources from 36:00anywhere and sprinkled it all around and the microbes had to... so it just pulled them back into the explosives. They are amazing little things.

KO: Oh, wow!

RM: So that's how my...

KO: Bioremediation

RM: That's how I got the cap. They said, "Well, you deserve a cap," and gave it to me.


RM: Well that bioremediation went off very well. They were all surprised. I said, "Well, you know..." They sent me a check for $1,500.

KO: Oh, wow!

HB: Um, so your work with microbes has done some fairly interesting stuff. I mean, bioremediation... oil spills? Were you involved in any...


RM: Oh, yeah, we did it back in Alaska. We got to work with cycopods but we were working with oil spills too. So we had a grant to take care of Alaska all the way from Point Barrow to all the way around. And we did that for... wow... six years. But, uh, we addressed soil, or oil, rather.

KO: Did you find a bacteria that...

RM: Oh, they were there the whole time.

KO: They were there?

RM: They're everywhere. You can't get rid of them.

KO: Right... but I guess I mean, were there other people using that technology already or were you developing the bioremediation of oil technology?

RM: Oh, people had done that on soil so that technology was already there. We just applied it to water.


KO: Right, okay.... Aright, then... that's great.

HB: Um... so I think part of what we missed was you talking about your, um... the unstructured part of Scripps and your... how you brought that sort of unstructured... you know, self directive approach to Oregon State. When you were... as a professor... as a major professor.

RM: Well, the reason I had students go for their Masters is because I wanted to see how they thought in terms of research ideas and so forth. If I wasn't satisfied then I didn't take them as a full professor... or, I mean, PhD. And 39:00the funniest thing is while I was here I had a visit from a student in Sealine...

KO: Oh, wow.

RM: And they wanted me to come back down there to take care of their research. And I said, "No, I'm not interested." And that's how one of my students by the name of Gillespie went down there. And he went down there and I said, "One thing you make sure when you get down there, to demand a sibilation counter... you know, to count radioactivity so they can view things radioactively. And that's what they did. He liked it so much down there that he became a citizen.

NE: Oh, wow.

RM: And... I could tell you where all my PhDs all ended up. The one I put in starting at Nebraska went back to a chair in the Caribbean. Then there was one 40:00by the name Hill. He came back as a botanist to get his PhD underway, and his research. And he went up to McAlester College. And then, the last woman who finished up here was Cho Burton who went to Nebraska and did some very good work. And, being as she was a Mormon, BYU called her back, so she taught at BYU. The second one was one that I brought from Nebraska by the name of Rodger Tate. After he got done with his PhD he didn't do too much, which I was very surprised when he ended up at San Jose State. And let me go down the list. I had... oh... 41:00Mary Albright from Canada, and Penny Eany from Portland State, who is now a dean at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I had Gill Geasy, who was professor at the Montana State. Larry Jones came to me from Iowa. He ended up at El Paso... the University of Texas at El Paso. Paul is up at LSU. Navitsky ended up at... in Georgia. Steve Hardesty ended up at Clemson University. And I had a very 42:00brilliant student who was here by the name of Ron Junes, and he ended up at Florida State... or Florida International, rather. Couldn't stand it there, so when he got a job at Portland State, unfortunately he went blind. He was one of the most brilliant students I had ever seen. But, that does it, I think, in terms of students.

HB: Did you... did you remain close with your students. Did you keep in touch?

RM: Well, some of them stayed in touch, but most of them, no. They got too busy in their own work.

KO: Yeah...

RM: I can't blame them.

KO: Yeah... Let's see, I think another thing that we missed is... that I thought 43:00was interesting, but it was not necessarily a good thing, but it was interesting was just that how you found out that you were the lowest paid member of the team, and I was wondering, if you wouldn't mind going back over for the tape, how you discovered that and then what happened...

RM: Oh, I didn't discover it.

KO: Yeah... how somebody else discovered it... yeah.

RM: They, in those early years... they published those salaries and put them in the library, here. And he went over to look at it, and that's how I found out that I was the lowest paid professor on campus. I came here as an associate prof and in two years I made professor. The chair didn't want to make me a full professor immediately. I had only served as an assistant professor for three 44:00years at the University of Houston, which I despised.


KO: Why did you despise it there?

RM: I taught all the various course in microbiology and I found out many years later I was the lowest paid professor in the department, and I had post-doc work. The eldest assistant professor had no post doc work and was paid much more than I. In the fall that I had taught human microbiology, he taught no courses except for one, and the chairman let him go to school to get his PhD. He got his PhD while I was there, and so she was going to promote him before I was promoted. And so I said, "Nothing doing," and so I left. And it was a twelve-person department, and out of the twelve, nine of us left at the same 45:00time. And having no place to go to, I chose to work in the Antarctic or going back to Nebraska. And my old chair had hired me without interview or anything, and his colleagues were quite put out with him because he hired me. But, then... they got over it after a while. And the only reason that I left Nebraska was I was going to be promoted ahead of my colleagues, and I was most junior in terms of rank. So as soon as I got to Nebraska, I went in and stood up and voiced the papers. They looked at my publication and they said, "You should be an associate professor by now." And so in only a year I became an associate professor. And I 46:00was the last to be promoted ahead, and then to be a professor very shortly, after being in rank only two years.

Then, my position here came about. The reason it came about is when I was at the University of Houston, the position for a physiologist opened up, and the professor that got it was Lela Parks. But I was not a physiologist, but they realized I taught the course, and Paul Whitaker saw it. And the next trip he made to Texas, he asked me to meet him at the Dallas airport. I went from Houston to Dallas and he went over and back down there and he gave them a number, and he said to me, "As soon as I find the funds, you'll be out on the faculty." I forgot about it and, by God, a couple years later he came down and 47:00he came to Nebraska and he said he had the funds for me to come to OSU. So that's how I finally ended up here.

HB: And did you immediately feel... uh... welcomed? Or did it take a while to adjust to the research and life at Oregon State?

RM: No, it didn't take me long, because I had all night callings. Lela Parks went over to Gilmore. Gilmore made sure that I would have a salary after the grants ran out for paying me. And... there was a microbial geneticist from 48:00Massachusetts, Kriptorn, who I got along with very well, and Bill Sandine was here. Well, there's one more... I can't remember his name. He was in the office next to me. He had to be a medical microbiologist, and... Henderson was a younger fellow. He was a microbiologist. Those were the people. Then we hired quite a few after that.

HB. And, so, it sounds like your department was expanding when you got... you were involved in getting Nash Hall built?


RM: Yeah.

HM: Okay. Maybe you'll tell us again how... uh... why Nash Hall was built?

RM: Well, we knew we needed a new building because we couldn't put any equipment up there. And, so Paul and I went back to Washington trying to find money. And we looked around... the National Science Foundation didn't have any money, but we came out for an interview and the person that was the academician on that site was Chad Rittenberg that I knew when I was going out for my masters degree, and the second interview was with the Office of Education... no, I'll take that back, it was the National Institute of Health, and the interview was with a 50:00Star, Mortimer Star, and he filled right in quite well. And the third was with the Office of Education, and that person was McVicor. He was the one to interview. And the Office of Education had the money but president Johnson cut it off in all of that money flaw. The first one that had the priority, and two tied for number two, and that's how Nash Hall got built. And it was built by the architect that they used... the Japanese were making so it was earthquake-proof. And that's why it would shake, so that it would give instead of break. That's how Nash Hall was built. But they changed it all. They spent a lot of money trying to get it to the American way of having a building, so Nash Hall is now 51:00earthquake proof by American standards.


HB: But they didn't... they were... uh... they changed it because the shaking was affecting the instrumentation, or the labs?

RM: Um... the entire building would shake a little.

HB: Oh, okay.

RM: It gives, you know? Just like Jell-o, you know it kind of bounces back.

HB: Yeah, and you can feel it...

RM: Well, you could feel it... but that's how Nash Hall was built. Nobody over there finished meeting with the architect to check it out. Because when Nash hall was built, we had an architect out there designing that building for about six months. It was a young design. We went to Portland and the architect was the 52:00one who completed the design for this building.

HB: And did you know that Oregon had a lot of earthquakes then? Or I mean...

RM: (Shakes head no)

HB: No... okay. Um... and then you were also involved in getting the Marine Science Center built.

RM: No, Wayne Burt.

HB: But you and Wayne Burt and...

RM: ...the other members were Bill Piercy and Doug Kurl. Wane is the one who was heaviest involved in writing .

HB: And so, what was supposed to be going on out at Hatfield? What was the idea?

RM: To have a marine station.

HB: Okay. Um...

KO: A question I had... you'd mentioned that your wife also has a PhD, but she 53:00ended up deciding to stay at home...

RM: She's an immunologist.

KO: An immunologist? Wow! I was going to say... how was your family involved in your career? I know you have a couple of children. Did they come on campus a lot or were they supportive at home?

RM: They grew up at home. When we moved all three kids were youngsters. My oldest daughter ended up with a PhD in history. But she is partially blind so she could never find a job. She lives at home. My youngest daughter is the only one who doesn't have an advanced degree but she ended up with an accountant and got married and lives in Heany Valley. And my youngest is a boy who's an 54:00associate dean in Portland.

KO: Wow. I was going to say... um... So, what do you feel like was your greatest contribution to OSU during your time here?

RM: That's a good question. I don't know. I guess my publication.

KO: And you were saying that you made your findings by... and correct me if I'm wrong or elaborate on it, was the sacrophiles, right? And the starvation sruvival, would you say those are your two greatest...

RM: ...with the extremophile... But the major professor and I developed a thalloid.

KO: Right.

RM: But I think I got most of my ideas in the.... were the one hundred and... 55:00what... thirty-some publications or something like that.

KO: One hundred and thirty publications... wow!

RM: But I think the most interesting one is the last review I put out on hydrogen and its survival. And I published one book. I had a student that did his undergraduate at OSU that came into my lab and did a little work. And he contacted me about a year ago. He's up at the University of Michigan, faculty. 56:00He picked up on my starvation survival because he was in the Netherlands and he went back to and old collection of microbes and he isolated them. They were not touched for over fifty years and he was kind of surprised that I had written about such things. I was also reading one of my post-doc from Spain. There used to be a number of bacteriaphage, the little virus... microbial viruses in the marine system and it floated. So that was a first also.

KO: That's really interesting... I guess kind of another big over-arching 57:00question: what do you think your biggest challenge was while you were at OSU? What aspect of your career was the most challenging?

RM: ...I don't know


KO: ...big question... yeah.

HB: I guess... um... you were here from '62 to... as a... and then you formally...

RM: '63

HB: ...I'm sorry, '63. And then you formally retired in 1987... '88.

RM: Yeah, I ended in '88. Well, I kept my office for seventeen years.

HB: And so you had been at Oregon State for a while and... did you see any 58:00changes in... um... What kind of changes did you see in the school itself, and also just in your department and in oceanography.

RM: A lot of students. I came and the student population was in the five thousands.

HB: Wow! And so it grew four-fold.

RM: It grew four-fold.

HB: Wow!

RM: I could remember having... teaching the beginning micro classes were small, and then all of a sudden they got big. Then after a while, I was teaching microbiology and... what's that auditorium where the zoologists are located?

HB: Um... it's not the Gilfillan Auditorium, is it? No...


RM: It's across the way from Nash Hall. It's behind the... it was between the oceanography and Nash Hall.

HB: Oh, Peavey? No? They changed the buildings over there. I'm not sure

RM: There's an auditorium over there that holds about two hundred and fifty.

HB: Okay.

RM: And I used to lecture in there twice a day: once in the morning and once in the afternoon. So I had a total of five hundred students.

KO: Wow!

HB: Did you have a lot of TAs?

RM: I didn't have to take care of the lab. So I just taught the lecture and the 60:00TAs took care of the lab.

HB: So you have seen a remarkable increase in the number of students.

RM: When I first started teaching beginning micro, it was in an auditorium in the engineering, it was in a small auditorium. So that was easy enough. But all of a sudden it blossomed and got too big.

HB: Yeah... Did you find any... did you find there was more competition for grant money and that... maybe your research got a little more difficult to carry out?

RM: No, I was fortunate in that I got grant money. I got quite a bit. I had 43 % of the grant money at one time in the department and I definitely had more money than the department by far. That was the whole department. And that's what mad 61:00the department function easier, because there was overhead on these grants so the chair could use the money on the department. Even today, you will find departments that don't have enough money to run the department as it is. Microbiology was the exception.

HB: So you saw the College of Oceanography grow, too.

RM: Yeah

HB: And you saw the buildings over there being built: Burt and...

RM: It was first located in... Sheldon and then it moved to Food Technology. And I think it moved back to Sheldon at the end. They finally got the first part of 62:00the building built and the man that was in charge of putting it up was a Rick Picklewoods. He wrote the grant and got funded. The second part of the building, I don't know who wrote that up.

KO: That's a lot of change...

RM: And then the third part... unfortunately I was one of the committee members that wrote that up (laughter).

HB: Did you say "unfortunately"?

RM: Yeah...

HB: Was it a lot of work?

RM: Oh... it took time.

HB: Yeah...

RM: That's a difficulty. If you're in academia you have to realize it's not an 63:00eight-hour day, definitely not. Not if you want to get anywhere, because the competition is not on an eight-hour day.

KO: Um... you mentioned that you had won a couple of awards for your work. Is that correct? ...throughout your time as a researcher...

RM: Not here at OSU.

KO: No, really? Okay...

RM: I won what they call a... oh... the science in Canadian microbiology. They 64:00gave an award for the marine work. And I was invited three times by the science region of microbiology of England for quite a bit of my work. I went to England quite of number of times by invitation. I can't count the number of times I've been in England and Scotland lecturing.

KO: Wow!

RM: At the end of my career after I retired, I lectured in... in Norway, the Netherlands... and Spain twice and Portugal, and I made six trips to Peru... I 65:00mean, Chile lecturing. After the war I went to Japan two or three times lecturing, which they invited me and gave me an honorary... so it made it nice. But I only lectured in Mexico once.

KO: That's a lot of traveling. That's great.

RM: And I lectured at all the major universities in Australia

KO: Wow!


HB: Oh, right I... didn't I read that you were a visiting professor down at the...

RM: I decided I had better take my sabbatical or I'd lose it. But you know, when you take a sabbatical, if you go to (?) you could get full pay while you are on sabbatical. But if you go to (?) I think you have to put a third of your salary... so you had to dig up the rest somewhere. So, I had an idea that I would go to Israel, and I made arrangements to go to Israel and I had a friend named Moshishilo, and he was going to set it up for me and handle it in Israel. 67:00Then the Olympics came around and they had that terrible incident where one of the Israeli athletes got killed...

HB: Oh, in Munich...

RM: Yeah... so my wife put her foot down and said, "No, we're not going there." So I had to figure out how to get somewhere and I thought about going to Japan, but I couldn't dig up enough funds. So I thought, "Well, maybe I'll go to Australia." So I asked my friend down there... I can't remember his name... Schoolman... he was a microbial taxonomist. He told me, "Well, why don't you come to Australia?" I says, "Fine, but I need some means to support." He said, 68:00"Don't worry about that." And he got me what they call the... what was it... Queen Elizabeth II Senior Fellowship, given once every two years. So I was the second one to receive it. The first one only went down there for a month and came back. That was Theodore Bullock who was a great physiologist, and I was the second. That that's how I got to Australia. My youngest daughter lived in Oxford...


HB: Did your family... how old were your children?

RM: Oh, they were old enough. My oldest was finished high school already.

HB: Oh, okay. And they came and visited?


RM: No, I took the whole family.

HB: Oh, you took the whole family...

RM: So I lectured all the way out to... oh... the western territory... what's the name of that school? Anyway... when I lectured there was hardly an audience because the school wasn't very big.

KO: Yeah... That's so great, the experience. I would love to go to Australia, that would be wonderful.

RM: Australia is a strangled place.

NE: In your time here at OSU what was your relationship like with the other professors and the administration? Was it strictly professional or did you form 70:00a lot of friendships here?

RM: Oh, I got along with quite a few profs, mainly Paul Liquor. We were also classmates. And there were a few others, but they're all disappeared. I'd say, I mainly intermingled with my associates within the department. And in Oceanography, Bill Pearcy mainly. For a time, Herb Curl, but he left. And, uh, I 71:00got along very well with Pieckowicz. Oh, there's another physical oceanographer that was here, but left. I can't remember his name. I'd have to go back and look.


KO: You remember a lot of names though. With all your grad students, I would have forgotten.

RM: Well, my master's students, most of them, I don't know where they are. The first one I got was from Penn State, Mary Weimer, but I terminated her Master's degree. She wanted to go on, but I said no. So, she went directly into 72:00Oceanography instead, and tried to get started there and get her Ph.D., but didn't make it. But she was the first one. As a matter of fact, when I taught at Houston, I had two females there that took my class, and I met them in Australia.

KO: Oh, funny.

HB: And they were teaching there?

RM: They were on the faculty at two different universities there.

HB: Wow.

RM: And then, when I first got to OSU a senior in the department wanted to work in my lab. I said, "OK, fine." So I went to Australia and there she was! Down at the University of New South Wales and that's, I met her again.


HB: It's a small world, isn't it?

RM: Yeah. I think one of the smallest things is, I did some work on starvation-survival in microbes and two South Africans picked up on and wrote a couple papers. She wanted to see me, so she shipped up the cheapest way she could, and she got on a plane and flew through Brazil, and flew up here, got on a train and then came up to Corvallis. So I had her stay at the house and I had one of my post-docs by the name of, uh - isn't it terrible, I can't remember. In Seattle, he took care of her for a few days. Then she went across the country. 74:00But that was unusual. I used to have all kinds of visitors when I was at OSU. I'm sorry I didn't keep a log of them, but I used to have, I'd say, a visitor at least once every two weeks. A lot of them were from Japan and a lot of them were from Europe.

KO: And stay at your house?

RM: No, they would stop in after they found a motel or something.

KO: That's really great that you'd look after them.

RM: And when we did have money to bring in speakers, I was fortunate I was able to get people from outside the U.S. to come in to give lectures. And one of them 75:00was Dr. Professor Wilheim Schwarz.

HB: What was his -

RM: He was a marine microbiologist.


RM: I'll tell you a funny story about going over to Russia - I mean Germany. I decided on my first trip to Europe - in those days research grants had no money for going overseas. And I had an invitation to speak at the Society of General Microbiology of England in, uh, a town in Northern Scotland known as the Granite City - I can't remember the name of it. And then I had an invitation to speak in 76:00France - Poitier, France on pressure, because I was one of the few people working on hydrostatic pressure on microbes. I couldn't find a way to get over there. So, Wayne Burt heard of it, heard me squawking about it. Wayne arranged for me to fly military air transport from Portland to London, from London back to the U.S. And Paul Ehrlicher dug up $250 dollars, I don't know from where, and gave it to me. He said, "This is for transportation while you're in Germany and France." So I flew from Portland to London, to France. I got to France and I 77:00didn't know what the hell to do. I didn't know how to get to Poitier, and I was having my passport taken care of, and he stamped it, and I heard someone else saying he was going to Poitier.

So we both got on the same train, and it went to Poitier. I gave my lecture, and I went to eastern, no, the western part of France and looked up a micrbiologist. But he never told us that he was a physician and his hobby was marine microbiology. And then I went to Germany. And when I went to Germany, I thought 78:00I'd better look up a professor there, a young one, and I did. And he said I want you to meet my - in Germany there is only one professor per department. He didn't want to speak to me. I guess I looked pretty young at the time, I had just became a full professor. I went in and introduced myself, because the person that brought me there didn't dare go in. And he couldn't stand it, he had to ask me what position I held. I said I am professor of microbiology and oceanography. And he looked at me, and he changed his attitude. For him it meant I was chairman of microbiology, chairman of oceanography.

HB: Oh, both.

RM: Both!



HB: And you were young!

RM: And so I talked to him. Well, many years later I found he finally went to one of the universities in Arizona to give a couple lectures. Anyway, he was really surprised that I made professor.

HB: Oh, that's great.

KO: One thing I was curious about is that you had mentioned that when you were, back when you first applying to college, and you tried to go to Bowling Green and they wouldn't let you go.

RM: These townspeople.

KO: The townspeople. And that was right after there were these internment camps, there was a lot of discrimination at that time.

RM: Oh, yeah.

KO: How have you seen that change, and when did you start seeing that change? Do you think it has changed?

RM: It has changed. After World War Two.

KO: After World War Two, so it was just during that time there was a lot of -

RM: Yeah, especially in California, Oregon and Washington.


KO: So when you were at OSU, was there any remnant of that, or do you think it changed?

RM: Oh yeah, there was. But Paul Ehrlicher was a screen for me. He was a screen, but, uh, I could feel it. Paul himself was a very fair man, he was a son of a minister.

KO: Sounds like he was a great help in a lot of ways.

RM: Yeah, Paul was one of the reasons I stayed at OSU, for many reasons. I did receive a lot of offers to be considered at, Deans at various schools, but I didn't want that. Being at NSF was something like opening the gates for it, invitations.


KO: Yeah.

KO: I think we've covered a lot.

NE: Is there anything that you think might be interesting to add that we haven't talked about today?

RM: No, I can't think of anything.

HB: You've had a really remarkable life, Dr. Morita.

RM: Yeah, even including the incarceration.

HB: Yeah, it's an important piece of Oregon history, for sure, and definitely national.

RM: Well, I'll say one thing. My army uniform is in Seattle.

HB: Oh, where is it?


RM: It's at the, what they call the Nisei Veteran's Association.

HB: Oh, ok.

RM: They were asking for donations of one kind or another, so I sent my uniform up there and they put it on display. But after World War Two was over, most of the GIs kept wearing their GI pants because things were expensive, and they didn't have a fund. They kept wearing their GI jackets and so forth, whereas I didn't want to see it. So I put mine in mothballs and put it in the attic and left it there. It was in perfect shape.

HB: You were saying that your regiment was highly decorated? Were you yourself...?

RM: No, I missed action.

HB: Oh, ok.


RM: Because I went in late. But about two days before the ship hit Naples, the audio system of the ship announced that the war was over. So from Naples we went all the way up to the [undistinguishable] valley, which was what it was called where a lot of people got killed. We put on a demonstration of actual combat for other troops, because we were highly trained. Most GIs went through basic training, what they call 9 month basic training. We had to go through basic training that was 18 months. The reason for eighteen months is, we had to learn to use a .25 automatic all the way up to an anti-tank gun. We had to learn how 84:00to use each one, strip it, everything. And one of the things that really got to me was bayonet practice. Oh, it went on for a week. Got so tired at the end of the day, I could hardly hold a rifle up.

HB: Wow, yeah.

RM: And, so, one day, we were with the cadre, during bayonet practice. So I asked the cadre, "Why so much?" And he says to me, "The 442nd was the only outfit in Europe to use the bayonet charge."

HB: That close of range...?

RM: Yeah. I swore at that time, that if I ever had to go on a bayonet charge, 85:00I'd pull the trigger first.

HB: Right.

RM: Provided no one was in front of me. That is, another GI. But it didn't do any good anyway, as soon as I got overseas, and the first time we assembled as a company - and I was in I company - I lined up with my fellow GIs, and the platoon sergeant looked at me, he goes, "Oh you're a pretty good-sized fella!" Because Hawaiian Japanese-Americans are smaller than I. He says, "You look like a big fella, here," he gave me the BAR. That's heavy. Nineteen pounds without the bipod, 200 rounds you carry on your belt. You also have an ammunition 86:00carrier that's with you all the time. You also carry 200 rounds.

All: Wow.

RM: But fortunately I never had to fire it. I did fire it once. In Italy, after the war was over. We were guarding a German compound, and I was on the watchtower. And one of the German prisoners-of-war was testing me out. He'd go from the barrack towards the fence. And I'd wave him behind. He kept doing it, more than once, so I put a round in a rifle I borrowed, because I was on guard duty, I tried to borrow a rifle from one of my colleagues. Put a round in, and let it fly, purposely missing him. He never came out again. I have to say, that 87:00was something. The favorite town I was in when I was in Italy was Florence. It's a beautiful town. And, what I used to do, when we got a weekend leave, we'd hitchhike to Florence, which is about sixty miles from where we were. And then stay, where, the Army had camps where you could stay a night for the equivalent of 25 cents. So I'd stay overnight. Also, you could get meals there, for nothing. And, the first time I ever had pizza. It was about, like, that size. [Motions with hands to make small circle] Not like we have now. [Laughter]

And I can remember going to the restaurant, at that time I knew a girl by the 88:00name of Harriet Benson who was an elderly Red Cross, I met in Cortina, Italy where I took a path. And she happened to be in town, so we went to this restaurant and had pizza. While we were eating pizza, they closed the restaurant on us because there was a hunger strike outside. The thing that really got me more than anything else, when - at least you get fed on post - we'd get canned corn. Sometimes, a female or two would come by the post and sit. And relax. And when we got fed, we'd offer them some of our meal because we knew they were 89:00hungry, and they would never touch the corn. So I finally asked them, "Why don't you eat the corn?" They said, "Pig's food." That was it, pig's food. They wouldn't touch it.

KO: Even though they were hungry...?

RM: Even though they were hungry.

HB: Did you ever go back to...?

RM: Italy?

HB: Italy, yeah.

RM: Only at the airport.

HB: Oh, ok.

RM: I... I don't ever care to go back.

HB: Yeah.

RM: I went to Israel for a lake... uh, a warm lakes conference. While I was in Israel, I had to do something else. What the heck was it? Anyway, on the way back from, from, uh, Israel, the plane stopped at Rome. Came back. I never got 90:00to see Italy except for Cortina, and uh, Pisa, and Florence. My brother was lucky. Right after the war, he was traveling from, all the way from Naples all the way to Austria. They were carrying food supply. And, uh, as a result he was able to go to Naples, and go to the Island of Capri, and see Rome and everywhere else on his trips back and forth. And here I was, stuck with guard duty, I didn't get to go anywhere. But I do know, he said when he was in Austria, the 91:00civilians in Austria did not want to talk to him, they were scared, because they thought they were Mongolian troops.

KO: Oh...

RM: So, he never talked to any of them.

NE: Do you still keep in touch with people from when you were in the service?

RM: Most of them are dead, as much as I hate saying so. I had a good friend that I, you know, went to basic training with, and shared a shelter-half with when we were out in the field, sleeping. Because when I was in Italy, we slept a lot in the field. We finally got bunks. And the first time we had a place to stay, it was an old warehouse, and we slept on the floor. Then they gave us cots. Then we 92:00moved to, of all places, an old cow barn that had been swept out. We lived in that for about four months. Then we got moved out of Florence to, uh, to Marina di Pisa. Went to Tower of Pisa, I didn't think it was that spectacular. [Laughter] But anyway, life in Italy was, I would say, very boring. Guard duty, guard duty, guard duty. And right after the war, they started putting out these small pocket novels. What I used to do was, I'd grab as many as I could, and 93:00hang on to them, and when I went on guard duty, I used to read them. [Laughter] Passed them off, tried to exchange them for other... but I didn't a lot of reading. When I got out of the service, I remember we finally came into New York, we got on a train and went cross-country. And, we went from Patrick Henry in New Jersey, all the way to Marysvill, to camp, oh, I forgot the name of it, there's an Air Force base there. And, the cooks would not come out of their cooking unit. They were scared because they had to face troops that were coming 94:00back from overseas, and all they had to feed them was Spam! And as of today, I still won't eat Spam!

So they never came out of their cooking quarters. So, when we hit the various cities, there'd be various vendors selling sandwiches and so. Big cities, when we had enough time, we'd run into town - like Denver, we ran into town and got what we wanted to eat. Did the same thing in Utah, all the way across the country. When we got there to be discharged, I wanted to get out so I could get to school, because school had already started. And, so, I went up to the front of the line and explained my situation, so I got to the front of the line, in front of everybody. So I got out of the service about three weeks before my 95:00brother did, because he had to stay there and wait in line. So, I got my discharge papers, and 300 dollars for being discharged. And I took the bus all the way from Marysville to L.A. and they used to have the, what they called the big red car, from there, L.A. to Pasadena. It was just a trolley. And then I stayed home for three days, then I went back to school. I flew back. I was fortunate in that my major professor yanked all the cards for me, I was five weeks late. Next week, the following week was six weeks. Triad exam. I must have 96:00flunked them all!


RM: It didn't count!

KO: They let you get away with it?

RM: Yeah, but then, at that time, since I had not spent Christmas home, I decided to go home and spend Christmas. So, there was a, uh, another Japanese fellow by the name of Mohashimoto. Fortunately he was a [inaudible] so he had bought a car, and a fellow by the name of Knighteye, who ended up being a captain in the U.S. Army, and I, we drove from Lincoln all the way to Pasadena. Straight, without stopping. Because, two of us would be up, one would be 97:00sleeping in the back. That's how I got home.

KO: Great stories.

HB: You've given us a lot to work with. This is really remarkable. You've lived a remarkable life, and...

RM: Well, at least different.

KO: Yeah, a lot of different phases. A lot of different achievements.


RM: Well, Mishimoto, a fellow GI I bunked with, he passed away quite a few years ago, but he was from Ontario, and I get a journal that deals with all the various companies in the 442nd, and just last year, the end of last year, one of my friends from the same platoon passed away in Seattle. And every time I get this newsletter, there's about five or six that are no longer around. I will say something, their passing went pretty quickly though. Because I'll be 87 next 99:00month. I outlasted my brother by, what, 16 years now?

KO: Eighty-seven years in this century, in this country, it's seen a lot of different changes, got to witness a big range of events.

RM: I will say one thing, growing up in Pasadena, the discrimination was very subtle but it was still there. But the main thing I remember about discrimination in the early days, we were only allowed to go to the public swimming pool one day a week.

KO: A special day?


RM: Then the next day they changed the water.

KO: Oh my gosh.

HB: Really?

RM: Really! Yes!

HB: Wow.

RM: This was the Brookside Park. Brookside Park is where the Rose Bowl is.

HB: Oh, ok.

RM: You know, I played in the Rose Bowl.

HB: You played in the Rose Bowl?

RM: Yeah.

KO: How funny.

HB: What year?

RM: That's a different matter! [Laughter] When we were young we lived close enough to the Rose Bowl to walk down there.

KO: So, actually play in it, as a kid, you played in it!

RM: Into the playing field, and start playing ball. Then the caretaker would come out and kick us out. But I played in the Rose Bowl!

HB: On that note, do you root for USC, or do you root for the Beavers?


RM: Oh, when they play? I don't root for USC anymore than I do for the Beavers. I just watch the game. I don't follow football, I used to. But then, I got tired of it. Because I played football in junior high school and high school, but I always had to play on the B-team, because I was too light. I was the lightest man on the B-team, at 116 pounds, and I played right tackle. The reason I was able to do that, I was pretty strong at my age. At age sixteen, seventeen, I could carry 300 pounds.

All: Wow.


RM: That's how I was able to handle right tackle.

HB: And a BAR.

RM: Yeah. A BAR is something I'm glad I never had to fire. Oh, I fired BARs. Matter of fact, I knew how to strip a BAR before I went into the service. The reason is, at the University of Nebraska, the first two years, if you were male, you had to take ROTC. And I was in ROTC for two years, and learned to strip the M1, as well as the BAR. So, I got overseas, duck soup, so to speak, to keep the thing clean. I can remember once, the war was over, people said the heck with 103:00their rifles, pistols, so forth. And one day, an inspection came, of all the weapons. The guys had nothing else to do, they were checking all the units. But we were the last unit in Italy that was for combat. And I was the only person that had their weapon in tip-top shape, in terms of having it clean and everything. That was an unusual incident.