Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Tom Akashi Interview
Narrator: Tom Akashi
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary); Chizu Omori (secondary)
Location: Klamath Falls, Oregon
Date: July 3, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-atom-01-0019

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: Now, things like when you're -- 'cause Topaz was set up to be more of a permanent place for people, so things like school, did you, did you go to school?

TA: Yes, we went to school.

TI: Because you were, like, eighth grade at this point?

TA: Yeah, we went to school, and it was a little room like this with benches, potbelly stove. If you talk about the (convenience), it was barely nothing, you know? No pencils, no papers, and there was old Mrs. Lyle. Good old Mrs... and she was an excellent teacher. And I think she brought things that, to reality, says, hey, all this fancy stuff, you don't need it. Says, "Concentrate on the, on the book, the study, and we don't need fancy things. All we need is the, the motivation to learn."

CO: You know, they had many Caucasian teachers in those camps, and when you look back on it, you wonder...

TA: They were great people.

CO: Yes, on the whole. And how did they recruit these people? You know, to come into a place like that, they came from back east.

TA: They lived in the same barracks that we did, they had a corner there for all the, the Caucasian employees, maybe the decors were a little better, but then the, the conditions were the same. And they, they were dedicated teachers. I mean, they really, to leave places, their old jobs, to come to, to Topaz to teach. So, and when they taught, they were very firm, but they were serious, they wanted us to study, regardless of what the circumstances was, to study. So that was highly motivational.

TI: Now, these are serious things, because I think one of your teachers assigned you to be, like a reporter.

TA: Yeah.

TI: To go out and...

TA: Go out there and collect information.

TI: Collect information, interview people, find out what's going on, and write about it.

TA: Yeah. And I, I interviewed the principal, (Grande) Nobles, and he was a real good gentleman. And he says, "Oh, you're the class reporter, okay. I'm ready for an interview." [Laughs] And he treated me pretty good. And so I asked him a lot of questions pertaining to what's going to happen to the students, and what our future was, and that in general. I said, "What is the, the climate, and what is your thought about us being here?" and things like that. And he was very candid, frank, and he says -- it was encouraging, too, he says, "Well, this is only a temporary," but he said, "We'll have the school running, we'll have books, we'll have, things will be better, and we won't disappoint you. And eventually you'll, you could study here and go out and you could continue your education." And I talked to him and I talked to the gym coach, and I talked to the class president, the senior class president, and he, they were very positive and nice interviews. Found out that, that students were leaving, families were leaving, and that they were going to places like, like Salt Lake, they were going to Chicago, New York, they were going to Denver. They were going to places, and they says that, "A lot of 'em are going to school, and they're doing very well." And so it was sort of a positive thing.

TI: So this is what you thought was going to happen to you also.

TA: Oh, yeah. Of course. Of course. That's, that was, was dear, it was in my -- I believed it, I thought about it, I knew we had to go. I says, I knew, I've already made up my mind that it's gonna be hard, and I'll, probably I'll have to work, help the family out. But, you know, my father emphasized education. He said, "Education is foremost." So I knew that I was gonna go to school.

TI: Well, I'm curious --

TA: Studied hard.

TI: -- your father was such an avid reader of the news, how did he react when you were reporting? You were doing all these interviewing and writing?

TA: Oh, he was very proud. He says, "Oh, this is great." Of course, before the war, he was saying, "Become a lawyer," but then he says, "Become a writer." He says, "Write about it. Write about the situation here. Let the people know." He says, "After the war," he says, "let the people know what happened to us." So he was pushing me -- I think what he really wanted to do was be his recorder to, to spread the word. [Laughs] But anyway, he was very supportive. When it comes to education, that's one thing, he was very, very supportive.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.