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Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Charles Oihe Hamasaki Interview
Narrator: Charles Oihe Hamasaki
Interviewers: Martha Nakagawa (primary); Tom Ikeda (secondary)
Location: Culver City, California
Date: February 24, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-hcharles-01-0019

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: So like a typical day, what would a day, like, be at...

CH: It's a long day.

TI: Yeah, so from the very beginning, like waking up, just kind of walk through what you would do.

CH: No, like a winter month, it's too cold to go outside. That's why they, people, they like to gamble. Like I was in the fishermen, that's like about three barrack. They get to go, they talk to us, then few, "You're from Hiroshima," "You're from Wakayama," they all get to talk about old stories. And then there's a time to listen to -- we had a radio. "Oh, Japan's winning the war. Japan's winning the war." Then they're all winning the war. "Oh, Japan win, huh?" So we got to all sing, praise the Japanese emperor and the Japanese people. Everybody start singing Japan song. When that come to me, hell, I don't know how to sing any Japanese songs. So I sang, "God Bless America," and "America the Beautiful," and "Star Spangled Banner." Say, "Hey, you're in this kind of place, why you want to sing American songs?" "I don't know any Japanese songs." I told 'em, "Grammar school I learned "Hata Po Po," that's all, but I don't know the words. I told 'em, a few other kind I learned. That's why. You know what? They brainwashed me. "You got to learn Japanese songs." They teach me how to sing Japanese songs, 'cause all they know is "Naniwa Bushi," and old kind of songs. I still remember that kind of thing, what they teach me in there. That's where I learned. So when I got into this band and singing group, sometimes I sing that song for them. "Yeah, where the hell you learn that song?" When they ask me question, I make a long story short. Yeah, they're all surprised. Lot of people, they don't know my story. They don't know. So I want to explain it to them. Maybe they don't believe me. Lot of people, lot of people talk about it, and they talk real bad about the internment camps, concentration. But I was a real concentration camp, I was in. They got guard tower and every damn thing. German people.

MN: Charlie, I just want to go back a little bit, just get this on record. When you got to Bismarck, when the FBI arrested you, did they let you pack a suitcase?

CH: Nobody had suitcase. Just coat and shoes, that's all they said.

MN: So when you got to Bismarck, that's all you had.

CH: That's all we had. We didn't have nothing. Nothing, nothing. No suitcase, nothing. Yeah. And a lot of people, after they find out you could send letter, and all the letter come over there, they're all censored. All censored.

MN: How was the food at Bismarck?

CH: Oh, it was bad at first, that's why we called the Spanish consul. Spanish consul, they were neutral, neutral country at the time of the war, Spain. That's where we... was it Spain or Switzerland?

TI: No, I think Spanish. Spain.

CH: Huh?

TI: It was probably Spain.

CH: Spain, yeah, something, they came. Saltpeter, you know what that is? They went, "No, no good." Probably, she probably don't know what it is, but they gave us that thing, number one. And other kind of things, lousy food, after that the food got little bit better maybe. But actually, Tom, I didn't know what I was eating. I forgot what I was eating. No, I don't know that. And camp, too, relocation camp, I wonder what I was eating, actually.

MN: Were you the only father-son...

CH: There were two.

MN: Another...

CH: Another, you know, it's a Bonsan-san. Me and him were the youngest. Maybe there was three. There was another young guy. Other guy, oh... other guy, he was a little bit older than me. I'm wondering if that Tani no father was Missoula or Bismarck. He was in there, too. There were four young guys. One guy, that guy, and Terminal Island, three guys. They were older than me, though. They were born in Japan, too. But there were a few guys born in Japan, they were younger, so they didn't have fishing license. There were a few people born in Japan. When they took the families, they happened to be born over there. So I was talking to a lawyer, "Hey, you know, you could be American citizen." "Yeah, I know that. You're talking about Feliz, huh?" Yeah, well, that's human, too. It's an alive thing. So you could be too late. [Laughs]

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.