Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Marion Michiko Bernardo Interview
Narrator: Marion Michiko Bernardo
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda, Barbara Takei
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: April 6, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-bmarion-01-0013

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So we had just talked about, you had, you got to Amache and then your mother died, and we were just talking about that. And so now I just want to talk about some other things at Amache and what that was like for you, and during the break you talked a little bit about the weather. And why don't we talk about how the weather was different in, at Amache, Colorado, from Walnut Creek. What were, what --

MB: Walnut Grove.

TI: Walnut Grove. Yeah, Walnut Grove, I'm sorry. So how was the weather different?

MB: Walnut Grove was hot, but Colorado was even hotter because it was just all dry land. They did plant some cottonwood trees later, and they attracted all these moths. We had moths all over the place. And then the winter we had to suffer the extreme cold. It snowed. And laundry outside, where else can we put our laundry? There's no dryer, and they were stiff as a board.

TI: Oh, so they would freeze outside, your laundry?

MB: No, I think they did give us a clothes dryer. I mean, they put wire lines to hang your clothes on. And they gave, they would leave a pile of coal and this heavy bucket, and we'd have to go get them. They're really heavy and they're so huge, the coals are so huge. It's hard, it was hard to lift and put it in the great big old stove. And then the summers were hot. There were no trees. Eventually they got old enough after, as we were about to leave camp. But there were rattlesnakes. There were no lights and I'd go take my shower in the shower room. There were like five different shower things that, so there'd be five people in that same room, but anyway, walking back and there's no light and, streetlight, and I know it was a snake -- I don't know if it was a rattlesnake -- but as I'm going back to our room one just kind of went right alongside my leg. I screamed. And then carrying all that heavy stuff and the laundry's wet and that's even heavier, and it's very hilly, it was very hilly, and I don't know how the old people managed 'cause I certainly don't manage the hills in our neighborhood now at my age like those old people. [Laughs]

TI: So how about activities? What type of things do you remember doing at Amache?

MB: There were small groups, like girls' club or... but I, and they had baseball. I guess they didn't have football, but my brother was very popular and he's a good pitcher, one of my brothers, and they were all nice to me because of him, these young girls. [Laugh] It was this college age kid who's a good pitcher and, but as far as those things that took in a lot of people, there weren't, I can't remember much.

TI: How, how about school? What was school like in camp?

MB: It was okay. They were not full-fledged teachers, the Japanese teachers that they hired. The, of course, the local townspeople or people from Colorado, they just had two years of college. They called it, what did they call it?

BT: Associate?

MB: Huh?

BT: Associate?

MB: No. But they weren't really graduates of college and they were, it was a good deal for them. They probably couldn't get jobs in their local communities, so they were teaching in our school, and some were good 'cause they were dedicated to come out there. I don't know what their salaries were, but some came because of their dedication. And they were, the high school was built separately and I remember reading the newspaper, and Lamar was about twenty-one miles from our camp and they had a newspaper, local newspaper, and they were, you know, big headline, "Send them back to Japan. Why spend all this money for education for them?" Very negative. We were probably smarter than they were, 'cause most of the, in Amache they were from L.A. and had good teaching source, so they were good students.

TI: Did you ever take trips to the town, or did you always stay in camp? Did you ever visit the town?

MB: Yes. We, okay, the town near us is, I forget, it was less than two miles. We'd walk there in the heat, but it was worth it just to get a sundae or something, and it was limited -- I don't know whether it was once a month or, but of course we didn't money to go that often anyway -- but it was a treat to be able to eat ice cream sundaes. And there was just only this one general store, and he had a little counter for ice cream and things, and then he had clothes, things that, underclothes and whatever, but he made tons of money. So little, little town, and we had a reunion there one time, and I think our group gave them money, they made sandwiches and we had a party, but mostly came from, the money came from us. I mean, they're generally pretty poor and they must be even poorer now that we're gone to support them. Lamar was a little farther, but it was a bigger community and it had more to offer us. But there wasn't much we could buy anyway because salaries were, sixteen dollars a month was the best, and twelve and eight dollars for the other two levels.

TI: Good. Any other memories of Amache that you have?

MB: I remember the nice teachers. Although one of them said, "Marion, that's a boy's name," in front of my class, and I was so embarrassed. He had no sensitivity. It was kind of fun to meet the people from L.A. We're from the country and they were more sophisticated, and it's nice to be together with them. They weren't especially prejudiced that we were country hicks, and we spoke Japanese whereas they all spoke English, and we thought, oh, that's great 'cause we spoke Japanese. Having gone to a segregated school, that's how we lived.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.