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-01-0017

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So Ramsay, we had just talked about your parents, first at Sand Island and then they took the trip over on that freighter, so where do they go next after that?

RM: Let me think, Angel Island in San Francisco. And that was almost, from what I hear, it was almost like Sand Island, had barracks kind of buildings and all that kind of stuff. But I suspect... no, it was an island, must've had to use ships to get in and out, off and off. But from there by rail, I'm, I think, I remember her talkin' about Sharp Park, the horse racetrack down, goin' down the peninsula from San Francisco, and I think there is a plaque there commemorating the fact that internees have gone through there. [Laughs] I don't know who puts up all that stuff and I don't know who told me that, but I remember my mother talkin' about Sharp Park. And then from there into Texas, I think. No, wait, wait, the relocation center was Arizona, wasn't it? I'm not sure now.

TI: Well there's, I have in my notes Santa Fe? Did they stop at Santa Fe, New Mexico?

RM: New Mexico, okay. That was it. And then from there to Crystal City.

TI: And so tell me what you know about Crystal City. You were telling me earlier some stories --

RM: What my mother was tellin' me, when they first got there there was nothin' but barbed wire and tents and watchtowers at the corners. And it, sleepin' in tents and hearing the coyotes wail at night, she said made her, made her just indescribably lonely. I mean, she's talkin' like she was an orphan from Japan, but, but that's, that was her description. And I think she'd talk about starry nights and being cold, and then it was kind of eerie with her talkin' about the coyotes wailing. And of course by the end of the period, I guess you're talkin' about four years, I think, they had built a complete village in that enclosure with, with almost like a city hall kind of thing, central administration building, and they had a hospital that my father was the chief surgeon of, and they had a swimming pool dug out by hand. The first time I saw it, on that film I mentioned earlier, Justice Department film, and it appears from what I saw that it wasn't all that bad. They'd done an excellent job. My understanding is, was that within that Japanese group there were master carpenters and builders and they could just about do anything they wanted. The Justice Department kept bringing 'em, bringing 'em materials and they did that. But the other thing I learned about Crystal City was that it's completely different than the military run camps that everybody else was in, that I read about concentration camps and stuff, the ones in Idaho and California were quite different. And my understanding is that Crystal City was an area that, they called it a family camp, but on the other hand, I believe that they, they, or I got the impression, rather, that they had organized it so it would be available for prisoner exchanges. And I think because of that there were more prominent, socially prominent people in that camp than in many others. Among the Italian people that were there, I think, was a guy named... whoa, that old memory. [Laughs] Can't pull these names out.

TI: That's okay, but do you recall any stories that your mother and father talked about in terms of Italians or Germans or the, like Japanese Peruvians or anything like that in terms of different groups?

RM: Mother talked, talked about it all the time. She would attempt making potato pancakes German style and she'd call it, it was Japanese-fied and it would come out as "karutoferu puferin," that's with a Japanese accent. [Laughs]

TI: Say it one more time.

RM: Potato pancakes. [Laughs]

TI: Okay.

RM: But if you ask a German to pronounce it they wouldn't pronounce it that way, but that's the way my mother used to pronounce it.

TI: And so she learned from a German family how to make those?

RM: Yes. Yes, I forget what lady it was, but she, again, she was a very prominent German name, here, locally. One of the ones I remember was a classmate of mine named Bobby Shane, used to be [inaudible]?

KN: Yeah.

RM: Okay. And his parents were in the camp.

KN: So Germans from Hawaii were sent up?

RM: No, I think just at Sand Island. I don't think he got, I don't think he got sent out any further than that. But Italians in particular -- Joe Pacific is who I was thinkin' about. He used to be the big shoe man in town, and my father knew him. Get any shoe fixed, after the war, of course. [Laughs]

KN: So Joe Pacific was there?

RM: In Sand Island.

KN: Really? Well that's interesting.

RM: Once he found out that my parents were in camp, well, he took good care of 'em the whole time.

TI: So this is after the war, just that shared experience, he always took care of your...

RM: Yep, right. I mean, it wasn't exactly a brotherhood, but when you have common experiences like that there's a tendency to identify, yeah. I think that's, that's cool. I think that's cool. It's a nice thing about people.

KN: Were you in communication with your parents while they were in the camps? Whether it be you or your brothers or sisters or your grandparents...

RM: I still, I think my wife may have tucked away a letter or two that had censored marks on the, things that were cut out, you know. You'd have a letter and all of a sudden there's a hole in it, an indication that it had been censored and stamped.

TI: And who were these letters to? Were these to you or other people in the family?

RM: Some were, I think, I think I might've gotten one or two letters that were specifically for me, but mostly they'd be sent to Margaret, somebody like that, my older sister, or Victor, and then they were handed down to me. I think most of the time they didn't know where I was and they were workin'. 'Cause Victor and, Victor and Margaret were still going to Punahou School at the time, so they'd go to school and then they'd go to work after that, at the cannery and stuff like that. Eventually my brother ended up driving the big transport trucks, the eighteen wheelers, you know? They take all the field pineapples and bring 'em into the cannery. And that's a, by then that's a highly skilled job, but by then he had been driving the buses for HRT and a bunch of other things like that, but whole different world we're goin' through. But he did, he was actually, even at, even during the war, doing part time work at the cannery, he was quite successful.

KN: Was it to get pocket money or to help support the family?

RM: Support the family.

KN: Support the family.

RM: Paid a mortgage.

KN: Really? So your brother and sister were responsible for --

RM: Actually, let's see, who was it I met at, I should remember it because these obligations are important, but president of Bishop Trust, I guess, now, these people agreed to, for us to hold off payments on the mortgage and just pay the interest. Yeah. And even when we couldn't do that they would make allowances for it.

KN: So they understood your circumstances, that your parents weren't at home.

RM: Yep, they knew who we were and they knew our parents and they helped as much as they could.

KN: But your brother and sister felt that they had to go to school and work, to support the family?

RM: Yeah.

KN: And you recognized this even as a young...

RM: My brother Victor, worse than that, he went to school for another twelve years to become a surgeon, so got to give him credit. I can't, I don't have any such honors to put next to my name. [Laughs]

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.