Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: James O. Ito Interview
Narrator: James O. Ito
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Laguna Woods, California
Date: November 9, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-ijames-01-0009

<Begin Segment 9>

MN: Now, when you got to Heart Mountain, what was your first impression of Heart Mountain?

JI: A beautiful mountain. And the river, had a nice Shoshone River. I took a walk, I was the first one to get out of the camp to walk around since I was placed in charge of the camp, head of Social Affairs.

MN: That was at Pomona.

JI: No, well, Pomona, it was Heart Mountain.

Off camera voice: No, at Heart Mountain, you walked around to test the soils.

JI: Yeah, I walked around the whole area.

Off camera voice: To test the soils, not for social.

JI: I defined what we had and what to do, 'cause I was placed in charge.

MN: Before we go there, Jim, let me ask you this: your first job was in charge of leave.

JI: That's in Pomona, you mean.

Off camera voice: No, in Heart Mountain.

MN: That's where you met your wife? Do you remember that? And then you headed the weather station.

JI: Yeah, I was in charge of the weather station. Let's see. I remember the post that I had, I don't remember exactly where it was. Saw so many places.

MN: When you were with the weather station, how cold did it get?

JI: One day it hit minus 41, and the rest of the time it didn't hit 40 again. It was always around 38, 36, 37, minus.

MN: That's cold.

JI: Yeah.

MN: And then after this, you were put in charge of Heart Mountain's agricultural program.

JI: Yeah.

MN: And this is when you were the first person to be permitted to walk around Heart Mountain, is that correct?

JI: Yeah, I walked all the way around to see what to do. Then settled along the Shoshone River. I had the best agricultural soil, and the levelest places to work. And there were a lot of clods and shrubs and things, but we took a couple of tractors and just went down and kind of mowed up the area. Eventually did the whole, round the whole camp, but primarily along the river. Inside of there we would grow our vegetables. And I was told to feed twelve thousand people. So I had to decide what to do and (where) to put things. We were very lucky that one of the (...), one of our evacuees had a seed business, and he sold us all of his seeds, and that's what we worked with. And we were able to even provide vegetables to some of the other camps. And his personal Japanese vegetables, we'd grow also. And I turned it over to the (...) cook group. They never invited me to any of their meals, and here I gave 'em all these special Japanese vegetables. That bothered me. [Laughs] After you give some people something special, and they do not invite you. So, well, I still remember. It still bothers me.

MN: Now, how long is the Wyoming growing day?

JI: Ninety days, I think.

MN: So how do you manage to grow your crop in ninety days?

JI: The days were longer up there. And so they grew faster. And along the river that I used mostly, the soil was nice and sandy and fairly deep. So we were very lucky to have that area to grow our vegetables.

MN: Who helped on the farm?

JI: Well, we would get volunteers to come, and we'd pay them, what, eleven dollars a month or something? [Laughs] We all got just eleven dollars a month. Things grew faster, and in ninety days we were able to get all our vegetables. And the winters we'd get, we'd get frost and snow.

MN: So tell me about this huge root cellar you had.

JI: Well, there was... I don't know why there was a root cellar there. It's about a block long. And it was used for, for the engineering... I guess they had something in mind that they used it for, but I took it over and we grew our vegetables in there during the wintertime.

Off camera: You didn't grow the vegetables.

JI: Huh?

Off camera: You didn't grow the vegetables in the root cellar, you just placed them --

JI: We kept them there. Well... we grew some things there. I germinated some things in there, especially in the springtime. I got, you start there before the frost ended.

MN: Now, when the "loyalty questionnaire" came out, the "loyalty questionnaire," do you remember the "loyalty questionnaire"?

JI: No.

MN: You don't remember that?

JI: Questionnaire?

MN: The "loyalty questionnaire"?

JI: Whatever it was. [Laughs]

MN: The "yes-yes" "no-no." Do you remember answering a long questionnaire?

JI: I don't know. I had so many of those things. I don't remember any particular one. (Narr. note: Yes, I remember.)

MN: Okay. Tell me about your younger brother David who got beaten up in camp. Why did he get beaten up?

Off camera: You remember David got beaten up because he decided to join the army? He volunteered to go to the army? You don't remember?

JI: I don't remember the details, 'cause I wasn't, I wasn't involved in it. A separate different affair, I just heard about it and that's it. (Narr. note: Yes, I was busy feeding 12,000 people!)

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.