Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Hiroshi Hamasaki, and What He Meant to Me in 1969…by Robert M. Katzman

by Robert M. Katzman © August 2005

(Sometimes I get hired to read my stories in public in front of groups of people–a way of becoming known as a writer worth reading–and then hopefully selling some of my books. But I will never read this story in public. Never this one. Read it, it is very brief, and you will understand what happened 50 years ago this month. If Hiroshi were still among us today, I am imagining the terror he might be reliving…again).

Hiroshi Hamasaki, or “Frank”, as he told non-Japanese people to call him, came to my wooden newsstand in Hyde Park for the first time in fall, 1966. He was self-conscious about people stumbling over his unconventional actual name and long ago selected a name that would make strangers feel more at ease with him.

 At the more established, larger newsstand down the street from me, the irritable  news vender who owned it, a World War II veteran, had made an unfortunately vile reference to Frank’s ancestry, even though Frank’s family had lived in the United States for generations.

 He wore a white straw hat with a dark band around it.  His face looked like it was beaten up long ago like he was a former boxer, but I never mentioned it, or asked him about it.  His hands were very strong with stubby fingers.  He laughed easily, and had a slight Japanese accent.

 Frank asked me for a newspaper, started to talk, stayed two hours and then we shook hands and he said he would see me next Sunday. He not only returned, but as he hung around, talking, he began waiting on the cars as they pulled up, giving me the money and the cars, their newspaper.  Then a few Sundays later, he brought a battered softball.  When business was slow, we played catch. Soon, he arrived like clockwork on Sundays, as if he were an employee, stayed three hours, refused any pay, and then left.  This went on for years.  He became a fixture on that corner, like me.  Part of the landscape.  People liked him, and I saw that he enjoyed their friendliness to him.

 I didn’t really have a life, working seven days a week, but Frank knew that there was something that I really, really wanted to see, but that I would be unable to because of my endless hours at the newsstand.

So without any warning, one Sunday, July 20th, 1969, Frank reached into his pocket, handed me the key to his one room apartment a half a mile down the street, told me his room number, and said:

“Go!  Hurry up or you’ll miss it!”

Oh, I ran!!  Because of Frank’s sweet nature and generosity of spirit I was actually able to watch the first Moon landing on Frank’s television–as it actually happened, and not just read about it later–in the papers that I sold, day and night.  This meant everything to me.

There would never be another “first time” for me to see a human walk on Earth’s Moon.  I was an eyewitness to history. 

 Frank died about a year after that, near the age of seventy, when i was twenty-one.  He and his family had been imprisoned by the United States Government during most of World War II with the rest of the West Coast Japanese civilians and they lost all that they had owned. 

One of the ways Frank, his family and his friends passed the long days for the years they were imprisoned, was by playing baseball, or just playing catch. I was unaware what Frank might have been reliving when we played catch. Maybe it had been a very long time since he had anyone to throw a baseball to. 

He never married and had no family left.  I missed him terribly, for a long time.  He taught me that if I showed simple friendship and kindness to someone totally different than myself, with no concern at all for their race or any other differences, well, there’s no telling what good things can come from that.  Not just anyone can give you: The Moon!

No family left, Frank?  Oh, I don’t know about that.

I can say your name, Hiroshi Hamasaki, I can say your name.


My only other story involving Japan, it’s culture and my own family is: “Sayonara, Shalom, Good-Bye– https://www.differentslants.com/?p=2734


Publishing News! 

Bob Katzman’s two new true Chicago books are now for sale, from him! Vol. One: A Savage Heart  and Vol. Two: Fighting Words

Gritty, violent, friendship, classic American entrepreneurship love, death, heartbreak and the real dirt about surviving in a completely corrupt major city under the Chicago Machine. More history and about one man’s life than a person may imagine.

Please visit my new website: https://www.dontgoquietlypress.com If a person doesn’t want to use PayPaI, I also have a PO Box & I ship anywhere in America.

Send me a money order with your return and contact info. I will get your books to you within ten days. Here’s complete information on how to buy my books:

Vol 1: A Savage Heart and Vol. 2: Fighting Words My books weigh almost 2 pounds each, with about 525 pages each and there are a total together of 79 stories and story/poems.

Robert M. Katzman Don’t Go Quietly Press PO Box 44287 Racine, Wis. 53404-9998                                                                                                                    (262)752-3333, 8AM–7PM

Books cost $29.95 each, plus shipping

For: (1)$3.95; (2)$5.95; (3)$7.95; (4)$8.95 (5)$9.95;(6) $10.95

(7) $11.95; (8) $12.95; (9)$13.95 (10)$15.95 (15)$19.95

Shipping by air to most of Europe, due to the weight of my books is $99.00

I am also for hire if anyone wants me to read my work and answer questions in the Chicago/Milwaukee area. Schools should call me for quantity discounts for 30 or more books. Also: businesses, bookstores, private organizations or churches and so on.

My Fighting Words Publishing Co. four original books, published between 2004 and 2007 are now out-of-print. I still have some left and will periodically offer them for sale on my new website.  My hour-long story reading at WGTD 91.1 NPR Kenosha, Wis is now a podcast. The interview and story can be heard here:

Speaking of Our Words – June 30th, 2017 With special guest star and featured writer Bob Katzman. Bob reads his memoir, “Audrey, Pink Bunny Slippers, Her Cat and the God’s Eye” and talks about his w…   Your comments are welcome, below, and please tell others I can be found here as a writer. I can also be hired as a speaker for organizations, etc, both here and in Europe. Seeking an agent. robertmkatzman@gmail.com Poet & Storyteller for hire for organizations, schools or private events   www.DifferentSlants.com to view recent and older examples of my work

Preview YouTube video Speaking of Our Words – June 30th, 2017

Speaking of Our Words June 30th, 2017


Comment by brad

July 8, 2019 @ 8:33 am

Because of you, Frank still lives and we have an image of him.
Nice story Bob!

Comment by David Griesemer

July 8, 2019 @ 3:22 pm

Every time I think Bob has served up all the fascinating characters this world can hold, he unwraps another one.
Frank: a beaten-looking face that laughs easily under a white hat. Never married. No family. His parents were turned upon by their neighbors. He bears gifts. Work, play, moon-landings.
Why not read this story in public?
Some say the 40s could never happen again. Look around.

Comment by sue burckhart

July 8, 2019 @ 4:28 pm

Really wonderful story. I always get tears in my eyes after reading your posts.

Comment by Mark Jagitsch

July 23, 2019 @ 5:08 pm


Nice story. I really like it. People need to belong, and the gift of belonging given to others is beautiful.


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