Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Robert Coombs Interview
Narrator: Robert Coombs Andrews
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: SeaTac, Washington
Date: August 2, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-crobert-01-0015

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AI: And so what did you see when you actually arrived at the relocation center itself? What, what was your first impression?

RC: The first thing I saw was the bridge over the rushing water, that they used for irrigation, and the water tower. The water tower fascinated me because it was a landmark. And I met the superintendent of schools, and the principal, who was from Stanford, also.

AI: That was Jerome Light, is that right?

RC: Jerome Light. Who I admired. He was a very creative person. Now, there's been a lot of controversy about him. And the thing that disturbed me about it was the fact that the people of Idaho finally realized they had a gold mine, politically, that they really weren't aware of. And then they suddenly realized, here are people coming from all over the country. And these are jobs that our people could have. (...) It became an interesting struggle for political power. And it was hard sometimes. Mr. Light, Dr. Light put up with an awful lot of problems, accusations that were not good, they were false. He had a beautiful family of four boys, a lovely wife. And they were living in the same kind of situation that I was living in (...). The boys were going to the school (...). And I learned a lot from him. School was not in session. We had to build the core program. And he knew (...) why I was hired. He was expecting me, he'd been notified by the professor that sponsored me. And he knew that professor.

So, the first few days (...) I was processed, and I wandered the project. Some blocks had not been finished being built and I got acquainted where the school was being built. The food was a problem for me (...) in our area. I don't eat fish. Fish and I never have gotten along very well. Basically, as a twin, the doctor told my mother, "If you're going to raise those twins you're going to have to give them cod liver oil." Yes. [Laughs] My sister lapped it up and I could not tolerate it. Well, you see, (...) as I told you, my grandmother had had three sets of twins, and my mother saw five of the six babies die. And so she knew what he was talking about. Well, I just couldn't tolerate fish after the sampling of that cod liver oil. And so, they finally got used to having something for me to eat dinner when they were having fish. They understood. And one of the nice things was to see some of the girls from the high school serving -- checking us off, because our meals were taken out of our checks. And I don't think it took me more than a week to be accustomed to the life that I was going to live.

And I had some fascinating experiences. I remember Jerry Light coming to me and saying, "We're going camping in the mountains over the Labor Day weekend, and we want you as our guest." Well, it was a nice experience for him, and for me, because we were talking about what we were going to be doing in the way of helping the teachers that were coming from all over the country. (...) There were teachers coming from (...) Japan (and) other Asian countries, that were traditionalists. And they needed to know what the plan was for the schools in Minidoka. And so we all met together. Some of them were a little bit cross over the fact that they felt that they were perfectly capable of teaching the way they had been taught to teach as opposed to the core situation that we Stanford people had been trained in and they were a little bit ticked by it. And my to-be-wife was, had her master's degree from University of South Dakota and she felt she was perfectly capable of teaching Spanish and French without having to be bothered with what Stanford said she had to do. [Laughs] (...)

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.