Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Ramsay Yosuke Mori Interview
Narrator: Ramsay Yosuke Mori
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda, Kelli Nakamura
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: February 28, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-mramsay-01-0016

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: So can you describe when, in terms of how you were able to meet with them, was it like an area, special area that you would meet them, or what was that like?

RM: Yeah, I think it was a, I don't remember too many details, but I think there was a area where you could meet. Wasn't anywhere near where, where they were kept, because I think they were kept separately, male and female and that kind of thing.

TI: Do you recall any conversations with your father or mother during this time?

RM: I, seems like the only thing I got was "are you being a good boy?" kind of thing, but nothin' spectacular. There were no secrets. They were just there. Some of the interesting things they did to pass the time was... you know, Sand Island is an island that was reinforced, built up by the dredging of Honolulu Harbor and the airport and this kind of area, so there were a lot of shells, in particular cowries, tritons, those are the ones that whirl, and what these guys would do because they had nothing to do is they'd find a piece of concrete and they'd take that shell and rub it against the shell, I mean rub it, rub it against the concrete until they wore it, wore both sides of the shell down until you'd have a perfect cross section of the shell and the growth inside. It was fascinating. And these guys had the patience to do that for a while. I don't know if I've got any of those around anymore, but those were great, great souvenirs.

TI: Oh, so they would do that and then when you came it was like a little gift that they would give you?

RM: Yes.

TI: I see.

RM: Those were beautiful. I think they do things like that commercially now, but back in those days these guys were in camp, didn't have anything to do, so they made those.

TI: Yeah, if you find one of those I think Brian would like one of those, too, if you ever found that. That would be, that would be pretty amazing.

RM: I'll look around.

TI: Yeah, no, that'd be pretty, pretty cool.

KN: Do you remember about your parents' appearance at the camps? They were allowed --

RM: Yeah, my mother, my mother told me at first that, when they first got to camp these GIs would come out with fixed bayonets and they would march these old ladies to wherever they were going, to the, to the latrine or, or to the dining rooms, you know? And of course, even if they were Japanese, they were, a lot of these people were very well connected, like I say, they could send their kids to Punahou, right? And so like there was, Mrs. Freer was very active in making sure that the ladies were treated like ladies, according to their proper status, social status, and they complained to the commanding general about things like that, like what is this? You take these sixty, seventy year old ladies and marching 'em out at the point of a bayonet? That's crazy.

KN: These are white women outside of the camp, outside of the camps? In the communities?

RM: Mrs. Freer was, yeah.

KN: Advocating on behalf of these...

RM: Right.

KN: Oh, I never heard that. That's interesting.

RM: And those things were fixed pretty rapidly, I believe. And of course, with the men as well, they had different means, I'm sure. I mean, what do you do while you, are you gonna let razor blades into the, into the camps so these guys can shave or what? But they got these things fixed up. And again, Gilbert Bowles again comes up. The name keeps coming up during the war. Did a lot to humanize the situation.

KN: How so? How so, in what ways?

RM: Well, to make it livable. He'd go in and talk to the internees and ask 'em what they wanted, that kind of thing. The GIs weren't gonna do it. They're eighteen years old, didn't have any sense anyway. They knew how to fix bayonets. [Laughs]

TI: So it sounds like some of the, the prominent white people in the community would visit and advocate for some of the people at Sand Island?

RM: I cannot pull any names, pull any names out of the hat, but you're absolutely right. There were a lot of people of conscience, really, religious people primarily, that came forward and checked on these, demanded to, to make sure that it was being humane.

TI: And Gilbert Bowles, was it more of a religious or was there like a personal friendship with some of the people there?

RM: Quaker. Quaker.

TI: How about your --

RM: I, yeah, I had personal friendship with the grandchildren, but that didn't make any difference. They took people into their homes that were in need, they fed people. They were truly, truly missionary. Truly Christian.

TI: Now, were you aware of any family connections? Your grandfather and your parents knew people in the community who were prominent. Did, did any of those people come and help or advocate for your parents or family?

RM: I am sure, particularly in my grandfather's case, that people, other than those that were obvious, must've spoken for him because they knew his age. They knew he wasn't an enemy, and I'm sure they had a great deal of influence. They probably made the military look like, look like crap, puttin' an old man like that, old women into a jail type of confinement.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.