Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Hiroshi Kashiwagi Interview
Narrator: Hiroshi Kashiwagi
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Klamath Falls, Oregon
Date: July 3, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-khiroshi-02-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

AI: So then, at that point, what happened? Were you kept together as a family unit?

HK: Yes. We, there were four of us, and we got the end apartment, and it turned out that we were close to the bathrooms. Just run out for my mother and my sister, because it was right across, and then we would just go to the left. It was very close. And that was pretty important, because in the winter it was kind of cold, and snowy sometimes.

AI: What block were you in?

HK: Forty, forty. Forty was second block, it was on the corner, that block. And four was across the, the firebreak on the other corner. So we were... yeah. And Ward 5, Block 40.

AI: So that, that first few months, or that fall, in Tule Lake, what kinds of things were you doing? You got a job, and...

HK: Yeah, I looked for a job, and the only job available then was carpenter. And Jimi was saying that we became daiku-san. [Laughs] But that's carpenter, actually, we were just putting up plasterboards. Because they hadn't finished doing that, and so we went around to each of the apartments, and put up all the plasterboards and the ceiling and the walls. And we were not carpenters at all. I mean, we could barely pound the nails straight, and I was the youngest among these people. And, and then people welcomed us, because we were improving the quarters, and they would move out all their, whatever they had inside, not too much. Some home-built furniture, and then they would give us sodas and treat us royally. [Laughs] But, yeah, it was kind of embarrassing, because all we did was put up these boards. Yeah. And that was my job for about three months, and then we were finished, and then I had to look for something else, and I think after that I worked in the mess hall, which was another easy job. I mean, easy to get. I didn't go beyond easy. [Laughs] I could have worked on the newspaper staff, that would have been fun, and I should have done that. Then I would have met different people, but I didn't. I don't know why, but... but I soon found the theater, little theater they were starting, and they were recruiting, and so I joined that, and I thought, "Oh, this is for me." And I was in several plays, and the director was a rather, kind of old Nisei woman, rather sophisticated.

AI: So what kinds of plays, plays would you produce?

HK: We only did American plays, the old sawhorses, one-act plays that most high schools did, or it was available and you didn't have to pay royalties on these. So, yeah, we just did plays that were fun to do, and at first, this director didn't think that I was much of an actor, some country hick, and so I got some uninteresting parts. But by attrition, some guys got sick, or they went out of camp early or something, so that for the first production I was in two plays. [Laughs] And I was playing one of the lead comedy parts. And then in the other play, I was cast in that originally, and Yuki Shimoda was in that play. He became an actor. And he was a dancer, and it was a play about dancers, and then I was, I don't know, I was the dream-maker or something. Huge hat. Kind of fun, but...

AI: So it sounds like you had a lot of fun doing that.

HK: Yeah, I did. Especially doing the comedy act. So they realized that I had some talent, and then I was put into better parts and I really had fun.

AI: Were you also doing some writing during this time?

HK: No, except that I was in a writers' group, and that again, being just a high school kid, it was made up of people who had gone to college, UC, and I don't know what else. I doubt that there was any Stanford people. But mainly, you see... and they were not graduates, they were, they had been students. And they were not exactly writers, either. I mean, they were college students. Interested, maybe, in writing, and the activity was to write something, bring it to the session, and then maybe you read it. And so different people read their stories or whatever, and they were writing things like, Dos Passos was popular then, and Steinbeck, and Hemingway, and some of the hard-boiled writers, detective. So, some of these people were trying to copy their styles, and it was just very impressive. And there, the room was pretty full, and I assumed that they were all college students, and they were all interested in writing. As it turned out, they were only there -- [laughs] -- as a, not as a participant, but to observe, I guess. I learned this later.

AI: So, so while you were in this writing group and where, where many of them were college students, did this affect your own thinking about what you might be doing, or whether you might have a chance to go on to college later? I mean, here you were, stuck in Tule Lake, but at the same time, you were with a bunch of, of other young people who already had been to college, or had begun college.

HK: Well, I hadn't thought of it. I, I just assumed that I was not college at that time. And so I was very, feeling very self-conscious and intimidated and so forth. And yet, when it came my turn to write, I wrote a story based on some, something that happened to me, and it was handwritten, and it was not too long, but decent. And I read it in the group, and there was not word of reaction, response. No response. Yeah. It was amazing, and I didn't, I didn't dare to ask for any, any kind of comment. And so I decided, "Well, the story wasn't much, and so what?" And so I set the story aside and probably lost. And then that, few months later, Jobo Nakamura, who was sort of writing for the paper, Tulean Dispatch, he was one of the leaders of the group, and he came around and he says, "We're doing a collection of things written in camp, and I was interested in printing your story." [Laughs] By that time I had thrown the story out, and I couldn't reproduce it. So, but I don't know why there was no response. Maybe it was just too close to everyone's experience, or, I don't know. [Laughs] But that was my story experience, I don't think anyone came out of that group who continued to write. They were, they became scholars, maybe, sociologists or something. Jobo wrote a few things later, but he didn't pursue writing.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.