Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Mitsuye May Yamada - Joe Yasutake - Tosh Yasutake Interview
Narrators: Mitsuye May Yamada, Joe Yasutake, Tosh Yasutake
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Jeni Yamada (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 8 & 9, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-ymitsuye_g-01-0070

<Begin Segment 70>

AI: You know, something else that also happened in early '43, was when the government decided to accept volunteers to the service. And at the same time, they were also starting to encourage more people to go out for work leave.

TY: Oh, yeah.

AI: And so they had a questionnaire at that point that they called "Application for Leave Clearance." It was a very detailed questionnaire. It's the one that later people started calling the "loyalty questionnaire," or so-called "loyalty oath." And one of the questions there did ask for references, for about five --

MY: To leave? Uh-huh.

AI: -- references. And that was part of that--

MY: That might have been it.

TY: Maybe that might have been --

MY: And I don't remember that. I don't remember who I asked. I think I might have asked the Weddells in Chicago. But Mike remembers the questionnaire quite vividly. I probably just filled it out, "yes-yes," whatever.

TY: I did, too, I think.

MY: Probably. But Mike kind of took the questions very seriously, and he, and that was the reason why he got in trouble when we got to Cincinnati. But I remember that Mike and I were -- I don't know, I don't know whether because Tosh was already, were you already planning to volunteer for the army? Or, that wasn't even an issue in early 1943, though, was it?

TY: No.

MY: Yeah, because...

TY: I think it was, when people started going -- because I remember, I went out to, when they told us we can go out and help the farmers top sugar beets, etcetera, I remember signing some kind of a form, and I can't remember what that was. To get permission to go?

MY: Oh, yeah. Then you did go out.

TY: Yeah.

MY: Yeah, you were gone.

TY: So, remember Victor Izui, and Henry Itoi, and couple other people went as a group to Idaho Falls, to a sugar beet farm.

MY: Do you remember when Tosh went out?

JY: I hardly remember him being in camp, actually.

TY: You were too busy playing in the fun-house. [Laughs]

JY: [Laughs] That wasn't Minidoka, that was in Puyallup.

MY: Minidoka, that was in Mini-, they didn't have any fun-houses there. [Laughs]

JY: No, they didn't.

TY: Well anyway, I think, the only thing I remember very well was when we got to the farm, they said, we asked them, "Where are we going to, where's our sleeping quarters?" And they pointed to a boxcar that was out in the field, way, way down there. I could hardly see it. And so we said, "Fine," so we all walked down there with our luggage. And we opened up the boxcar door, and the stench just hit us, wham. And we found out what it was.

MY: It was a cattle farm?

TY: It was a pigpen.

MY: Oh.

TY: And it was just awful. And it was five o'clock in the afternoon, and we had to clean it up before we could even sleep there. And it took us all, almost all night to just scrub it, and clean it.

MY: Did you have any water to clean it?

TY: No. They brought water for us in milk cans. It's this tall. And we had to dip into it, to, they had a dipper. And then, and another thing I remember is they also brought us milk can full of milk, in milk can, and then the flies were so thick, that when you opened the lid up to get your milk or water, you couldn't, pour it in the cup and there'd be three, four flies in there.

MY: Eew.

TY: And what could we do? We just took the flies out and drank it. [Laughs] And surprisingly, we didn't get diarrhea or anything. [Laughs] But once we got it cleaned up, it was tolerable. And it was our luck to get a farm that had real small, sugar beets usually grow about, average about this big. And we were paid by the pound, how much we topped. And most of the ones they had were about this big, so we had to work twice as hard to get our money out of it.

MY: They grow in the ground, right? They pull it out --

TY: Yeah. They grow like carrots in the ground.

MY: Yeah, so you pull it up.

TY: And they have a big knife about this long, with a hook on the end. And before we top it, the farmer goes with a cultivator and loosen up the dirt, and then we go and our, and just bend over and we hook the beet with a hook, pull it and put it across our knee, and then top it. Get that, on top part like sugar beet. And then we throw it in the truck. Well, the sugar beets were so small, that it took us forever to fill up the truck. And we didn't make any money at all. In fact, I think we lost money. By the time we left, we didn't have any money, really, to other -- we had to pay for our food, and so we didn't earn anything extra while we worked there.

MY: How long did you work there?

TY: Oh... ten years? No. [Laughs] Seemed like ten years.

MY: Yeah, I know.

TY: Well I, I think it was about two months.

MY: So then when you came back, you went to the, worked in the hospital again?

TY: Yeah.

MY: Back to the hospital?

TY: Well, when I came --

JY: How many, how many of you were there? I mean --

TY: Well, there was Henry Itoi --

MY: You were all --

JY: Just on one hand, basically.

TY: Huh?

JY: Just one hand. I mean, it wasn't like you had a team of twenty people there.

TY: No, no. Each, each group was assigned to a different farm. And we just, it was our luck to draw a farm that was, that had poor sugar beets.

MY: So...

TY: And, but the farmer, the farmer was a Mormon, as most of the people in that area in Idaho are --

JY: Oh, really? I didn't know that.

TY: Yeah, Mormon.

JY: Is that right?

TY: They're very, very nice people, and lady used to bring us fresh baked, a fresh made bread, and once in a while she'd bring dessert for us, and she treated us very, very nice. And she made biscuits for us, but that didn't make up for the poor sugar beets we had. [Laughs]

MY: Well, you were working in the hospital, right? Before then?

TY: Yeah, and then Vic and Henry Itoi, all of us worked in the hospital.

MY: What did they do in the hospit-, yeah?

TY: And then when we came back, we went back to work at the hospital, and at that time I got promoted to be a lab technician. So I took, they drew blood and all that.

MY: Well, what did they do -- when all the guys left from the hospital, did they replace you? Or they didn't need help in the hospital anymore?

TY: I just don't remember.

AI: When you went out to do the beet topping, was that the first time you had been out of camp, then?

TY: Well, we, I remember we had permission to go to Twin Falls periodically. And I can't remember whether it was --

MY: Go shopping.

TY: Yeah, going shopping, and things. And I'm not sure whether that was before I went to the farm, or after. Do you know? I just don't remember. But we did have permission to, get permission to go into town, Twin Falls, which was the closest city --

MY: I remember going out a couple of times.

TY: Yeah, and we went to eat at the restaurants.

MY: And then the whole family went to get our picture taken before you left for the army.

TY: Yeah, that's right. So that was kind of nice, to be able to do that. But that was latter part of our stay there, I think.

MY: Our stay, yeah. So that was sort of more towards mid-1943, or later -- well, you were gone by 19-, June 1943.

TY: That was kind of like R & R.

MY: R & R. [Laughs] But 1943, you were gone by June.

TY: Yeah, I was inducted in June, 30th.

MY: Yeah, so the, so the visits to Twin Falls -- I, because I remember going to Twin Falls a couple of times. But that must have been after you came back from working.

TY: Yeah, that could be.

MY: So you, so the sugar beet, the sugar beet season must be in the spring. April or, March or April or something like that.

TY: Could be. But the weather was pretty good, so it couldn't have been --

MY: It wasn't cold.

TY: -- mid-winter.

MY: No.

TY: My guess is it might have been in --

MY: April or May.

TY: Well, March --

MY: March, April.

TY: -- or April.

MY: Yeah. That, that would figure. That would make sense.

<End Segment 70> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.