Densho Digital Archive
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-01-0024

<Begin Segment 24>

MN: How long were you at Bismarck?

CH: February, March, April, May, July, six months. August I came out.

MN: Were you and your father released at the same time?

CH: No, no, he came later. One month later he came out. "Hey, Papa, you got released." "Yeah, yeah, got released."

MN: After you got released from Bismarck, where did they send you?

CH: Santa Anita. You remember I was telling you, when I was, coming from all the way from, what do you call, Bismarck? We stopped at Billings, Montana, and I was looking outside, window open, you know. We see some girls. "Hey, you're..." they don't know I'm Japanese. "Hey, we need a farm worker. Can you come and help?" "Hey, I'm going California." They don't know where I was coming from, you know. Still coming down there, it's free, see. Maybe there was about ten guys in the whole train. That's regular passenger train, ten people.

TI: Did they have, like, MPs with you?

CH: No, there was nothing, nothing. No, free. Free. So then our train stopped to let this other train go. No, other train stopped, so the main train get to go. Then you know, this train was stopped, then I get my coat, I look around, all Japanese face. I look around, "Oh, Japanese. Where the hell you going?" Then I saw my friend standing on the platform like this. "Hey," but too late, my train was going. See, I came, I came, and later I find out those people was going to Heart Mountain, Wyoming. Wow.

TI: So when you were going back to California, you did not know that the Japanese community was --

CH: Yeah, yeah, I still didn't know. They were, that train was from Pomona, not Santa Anita. Pomona Assembly Center. Two different centers. So when I went over there, August, September, they ship us out, too, just like those guys. Yeah, I told my friend when he came to L.A., "I saw you," you know. But he don't know I remember. Kikuchi Matsushita. I still remember that guy. Man.

TI: But going back to that, when that woman asked if you wanted to work at the farm, if you wanted to, you could have just gotten off the train...

CH: Yeah, probably, yeah. Probably. Who the heck gonna stay in Montana? Nothing but wheat field. From one end of the state to the other end. You call that, what do you call that now? Acre...

MN: Okay, so when you got to Santa Anita, your family, were they living in the horse stalls or in the parking lot?

CH: [Laughs] Parking lot, those parking lot was all barrack, all barrack. Of course we're put in the horse stable. Hey, but let me tell you one thing, Martha. I'm a fisherman, commercial fisherman. You think fish don't smell?

MN: It smells.

CH: It smells. Horse stable, it wouldn't smell nothing to compare with fish. That's why I was used to it. But all the people were going like that. [Holds nose] The farmer, but all the merchant, townspeople, it smelled. That time they really emphasized how much the horst stable smells, see. You had to put it in the paper to make the story good, but it didn't smell that bad. Yeah, that's why all the younger people, "Ah, horse stable." And when the white people or any other nationality heard horse stable, they think, "Way down, horse stable." I didn't think nothing about horse stable. Probably they were living in a nice home. Then from nice home to horse stable, huh, Tom? There's lot of difference. But like us guys, we were living in a barrack, same thing. Terminal Island all barrack, mostly barrack, individual homes, Terminal Island. Terminal Island, remember, there were three thousand people all congested together, you know. Like going back to thing, we had a bath, public bath, one bath, six family. Each family take turns. And no gas, wood.

TI: So what did you think when you saw the city folk, and they would come, and they were holding their noses and they were kind of grumbling...

CH: Where? You mean Santa Anita?

TI: Yeah. What would you think about those Japanese?

CH: You know, I didn't even think about those guys until they start publicizing about the horse stable and the smell. I never heard of it before But when you talk about horse stables to some other nationality people, they say, "Horse stable?" They emphasize the word "horse stable."

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.