Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Sumiko M. Yamamoto Interview
Narrator: Sumiko M. Yamamoto
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary); Barbara Takei (secondary)
Location: Sacramento, California
Date: December 8, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-ysumiko-01-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So from Salinas, what happened next? Where did you go?

SY: We went to Poston, Poston Camp I.

TI: So in terms of climate, this was very different now. You're going from...

SY: Really, from cool to hot. "Into the frying pan," you would say.

TI: Poston, Arizona, and then what month did you go?

SY: I think July.

TI: Okay, so really a hot time.

SY: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: So describe Poston. How would you deal with the heat? I mean, when you got there, what would you do?

SY: Oh, it was so hot. And when we got to the... you go to a certain place where you have to check in or whatever. Anyway, they said, "Don't drink too much water, just one cup," you know. Because I guess you, I don't know what happens to you when you drink too much water on a hot, when you're, I think you pass out or something.

TI: So they told people just to drink one cup, or just not too much.

SY: Or not too much, yeah. "Don't gobble your water."

TI: Because, do you remember being really thirsty and hot at that point?

SY: Well, not really thirsty, but, you know, you get so hot, you have to drink something to cool you down. And I think there was one young lady who drank, drank a lot of water and she just passed out, you know. She got real pale, I think, and she passed out. So they said, "Don't drink too much water."

TI: And this was while people were just kind of waiting to get registered?

SY: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: And so you're waiting in lines.

SY: To get your room assignment or something.

TI: Boy, do you remember what you were thinking when you got to Poston and this heat? Because here you were from a cool place, you're now in the desert. I mean, what were you thinking?

SY: "What a place," you know, if we could survive there. That's what I was thinking. And my sister got burned on the bus, you know. She put her arm on the seal, window seal, and then she got burnt right on her arm. Yeah, it was that hot.

TI: And what were your living quarters like when you got to your place?

SY: It was a double roof with tarpaper and wooden floors. And later on, you could see the grass coming up, you know, from the floor.

TI: And so in addition to the heat, what are some other things that you can remember about Poston?

SY: The sand was hot. And what else? Oh, we heard that there were rattlesnakes and scorpions and tarantulas, and gee, what a place. [Laughs] I thought it was really a concentration camp.

TI: So when you heard about rattlesnakes, scorpions, tarantulas, did you ever see anything like that when you were at Poston?

SY: I didn't see any rattlesnakes, and I didn't see any tarantula except in the jar. And I did see a scorpion.

TI: And what would... where would you see a scorpion?

SY: "Gee, that little thing is poisonous?" you know, they said, "Be careful of the scorpions." And there are little holes on the ground, and then they said you could fish the scorpions out of there. So we tried it, and then little baby scorpions would come out. [Laughs] They were white. Isn't that funny?

TI: So I'm curious, so how would people cope with the heat, the dust, all those things? I mean, how could people stay cool?

SY: Well, you know, a lot of people ordered the fan, the big fans. I don't know where they ordered it from. We had one too, but they made coolers out of them.

TI: And so would they, like, add something in terms of, like, water or something?

SY: Yes, they made something so the water, you have to have the water running all the time to keep the outside damp, and then the fan would blow, and then it would blow the cool air.

TI: So these fans with the water would be one way, any other ways that people...

SY: Did a hole underneath your floor.

TI: So this is the barracks.

SY: Barracks, uh-huh.

TI: So how would they do that? Would they have to go outside and underneath, or would they...

SY: I don't know they did it.

TI: Or did they cut a hole in the floor?

SY: Oh, yes.

TI: So describe, so there's a hole in the middle of your... or someplace...

SY: I guess, yeah, in the floor, I think.

TI: And then down below they would dig a hole.

SY: I don't know how they did it, but my father had one.

TI: And how big a hole was down there?

SY: Oh, I don't know. Big enough so two people could fit in. And my father loved shogi or go, you know, so they'd go down there and play those games.

TI: So just big enough for two men to go play go, shogi down below.

SY: Yeah, so it's a pretty big hole, I think.

TI: 'Cause it was a pretty cool place.

SY: Uh-huh, I think so.

TI: Was there a particular time in the day when they would go to the hole? Is it like in the afternoon or morning or night?

SY: I don't know. I don't think at night. I think in the morning or in the afternoon.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.