Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Elaine Ishikawa Hayes Interview I
Narrator: Elaine Ishikawa Hayes
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 12 & 13, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-helaine-01-0033

<Begin Segment 33>

AI: Excuse me, you had just mentioned that, the cold weather. And I was just wondering, what was it like that first winter in Tule Lake, and as it's getting colder and colder and then coming up to Christmas time, what was going on?

EH: (Yes), Christmas was very emotional. In, and the recreation department was in full force for that. But, what happened was, mid-way, by mid-way into December -- and I suspect that this may have happened at all the camps -- we got flooded with gifts. Simple, lots of puzzles and... I can't remember... coloring books and, and they came in boxes. Not in cases, but, if people donated them, they were just put in big boxes and somehow delivered at camp. And so it, and in the recreation department, we were up for, oh, several, several nights, just wrapping gifts in a fury. And, and they managed to distribute these to kids under ten, or something like that. That was a, that was a very gratifying experience. 'Cause, you know, you never, you never met these people, and there was hardly, I don't think any communication.

The other thing that happened as far as churches go, that the, in Tule Lake, we were on a dry lake bed. So there were a lot of tiny shells, small white shells, and there was something called tule grass, tall stick kind. And the women gathered those, and they made offering plates out of the tule grass, woven, wove them into kind of flat plates. And, and then they made jewelry out of these white shells, and somebody probably ordered boxes of pins to put on the back. They lacquered them with nail polish, and they, they were quite attractive, and fairly solid. Those would, the offering plates, I'm sure, went to churches as a thank-you. The pins made a nice gift. You know, even if they were primitive material, and I think Wing Luke (Museum) still has some in the, in the exhibit. I know my mother did that kind of thing.

The other thing my, my mother did -- and I, I never got around to asking her -- but she was famous for making natto. Do you know what natto is? Northern Japanese, it's fermented soybeans. And it really becomes a peasant's mainstay in rural northern (Japan). And up, right to Pearl Harbor, my mother made -- 'cause I would ask about, "How come the Inais never eat natto?" And she'd say, "Because they aren't from the north." So I grew up thinking only northern Japanese ate natto. But when I got to Tokyo and my cousins in Tokyo always had natto. But she made natto constantly. And we had this potbelly stove, and there were coal piles scattered strategically, so you'd just get a bucket of coal and bring it to your... because you really had to have some heat in the wintertime. But she would have this, these soybeans simmering. It takes almost all day, I think, for soybeans to cook. You soak 'em overnight, but somehow -- I don't know whether we brought, whether she brought a pan or pot or not, but then the trick to soybeans is after they're very soft, you drain all the water out, and you pack it in, she used to use egg cartons, and I can't remember what she used in Tule Lake. She might have, she might have gone to the mess hall and gotten the egg cartons that came there, or milk boxes or something. She would line it with waxed paper -- 'cause there weren't, there wasn't plastic in those days -- and she would pour these cooked soybeans in kind of a thin layer, cover it tight, wrap it with towels or blankets of, or something old, and I think she used hot water bottles. We must have brought some hot water bottles. But it takes about four or five days to make natto. And that's all you do, and you have natto. And people loved it. She was always giving it away, but I never found, that was wartime, and I don't know (who) would have been selling soybeans. Because unless you were an Asian store, nobody used soybeans. It's really amazing. (...) Soybeans have the most calcium, iron, protein, and potassium. And that really is what saved China, historically, as a protein source. But she was always making (it), and my sisters would, Martha, particularly, would growl, because it really smells. If you know what natto smells like. But that was hilarious moments, 'cause it was amazing that she could do this with no cooking facility but that potbelly stove. Even at home, she would... well, no, in Chicago we, I finally signed some papers (and) she bought a two-story brick, two-flat place, and it had radiators. And she always had natto on those radiators. [Laughs] And my sister, and Martha would come over, and she'd always growl, "Mom, your house always smells like that." And my mother would say, "Well, you have to have natto." And everybody else said, "No, you don't." But, but she always did. In the process of relocation, there was one store -- I mean, the stores that had Asian (food) available, material available was rare, but we had one in Chicago early. And (the) people that owned that store was Tokyo Rose's parents. And I don't know how they managed to get what they did, but I used to shop there, and I asked them once, "Could you, would you be interested in natto?" And, "Yes, where, where can we get natto?" And so I was telling them about my mother, and I said, "Well, I'll tell her to come by and see you, because she has to make the reservations." But that was a favorite item.

Now, Christmas, we had just a few trees. I don't know where they came from, and we made a lot of decorations. But the kids had their little kinds of parties, teenagers, and even, I think we must have had an office party, and the only refreshments we could have, generally speaking, was peanut butter and honey. That was, that was day in and -- every party, that was the mainstay of, of the refreshments. And I suppose we were glad to have that, and we knew better than to grumble about it. And, you know, it's kind of a good thing that we had at least that. Sugar was rationed, so, so rationed items were a problem.

One of the things that I did in this course of evacu-, of recreation, the head of the wardens, with the police system, was called wardens, and he was a sociology professor from College of Pacific in Stockton. Very good person, I mean, Tule Lake was fortunate to have had him as the head of the wardens, because when the "no-no" issues came up, it really became precarious. But his wife was a Stanford graduate, and had done YWCA work in, particularly in San Francisco's Chinatown. And so, being a social worker and a Stanford graduate, she was eager to get involved, but they had two little, little ones, preschoolers, and, but anyway, I soon got to know them, and Joyce Jacoby helped in many ways. She, I think she got the donations, or she collected funds for three of us to go to a Pocatello, Idaho, conference. And just a marvelous person, and I, I got so I was visiting them, visiting Joyce all the time. And she would manage to get manuals of program activities and things like that. But, and she would kind of join in the advisorship. I had no trouble getting friends to be advisors of, I had gone to public schools and introduced the concept of Girl Reserve and Girl Reserve was not that unusual. I think major high schools had Girl Reserves. I didn't look for that in Sacramento High School, 'cause we had our own groups. But it was, I had enough friends who had YWCA Girl Reserve experiences, so they could be advisors of, and I think (...) in high school we had three or four groups, and we had two or three in junior high school.

AI: Within Tule Lake.

EH: Within Tule Lake. (Yes), ultimately, I think I, I suggested to my friends that they should organize business girls, YWCA groups. Ultimately, I think I ended up with nineteen groups. And that's how I ended up having to spend my Sundays, because Sundays (were) a logical time, and a social time, (...) and people needed to do (something), so there were always meetings being organized here and there, and I tried to make the rounds. One of my problems was we used hymnals, because there was no, no other (song book). I don't know whether the Y, I don't ever remember seeing a YW songbook of any kind, ever. But I was always lugging armfuls of hymnals in the snow and ice, and I ended up developing a tendonitis, because I was walking miles, and now, I would have thought to get a cart. But in those days, I don't think we had -- I don't think we ever saw any carts. Maybe there might have been a wagon somewhere. But there were certainly no cars available. And the other sad thing I wish we had was a camera, because I think for the girls, it would have been nice to be able to look back now on pictures, but we were not allowed to have cameras, so we could never --

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.