Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Richard E. Yamashiro Interview
Narrator: Richard E. Yamashiro
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: San Jose, California
Date: May 24, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-yrichard_2-01-0009

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TI: Okay, so first impressions of Manzanar, so you take the bus with the shades drawn and it's hours and hours and you finally get there. What's your impression?

RY: A big nowhere, nothing, dusty, barracks all lined up, real stock barracks. There was a... it was nice because you could see the Sierra Nevadas and that's one thing about Manzanar, we had the Sierras in the background and that was kind of pretty but the overall camp was just dry and dusty.

TI: And about when did you go to Manzanar?

RY: I don't know the exact date but it was probably around April or May, somewhere around there.

TI: Okay, and when you got there, was the camp pretty full or were you kind of one of the early ones?

RY: No, the camp was pretty full because when we first got there they stuck us in a room with another family, with another couple as a matter of fact. And the divider was a blanket, they had a blanket strung up and happened to be... that couple happened to have the first baby in Manzanar, yeah, and we were living and it was pretty small.

TI: And so they had the baby when you were there, at the same time?

RY: Yeah.

TI: So that must have been sort of hard because the baby must --

RY: Two families living in that one room and then eventually we got moved out to our own room.

TI: And when you got there was it because they're still building barracks and then you got a new one? Or how did they --

RY: The barracks were already built but they were just assigning them... maybe they were still finishing some of 'em but it was pretty stark and bad in the barracks, too. Yeah, the barracks, they just threw them all together and they had like half inch holes in the floors, spacing and the worst thing was the first thing they gave us was a mattress cover, when you get there. And I said "What's this for?" Well, you go to this hay pile and you stuff it full of hay and that was your mattress. [Laughs] So you had to fill it up with hay, you had to stomp on it to kind of... and the room like I said was pretty stark and all it had was the potbelly stove in there and nothing else. And one thing about the barracks, they had, the ceilings were all open, all the way down the barracks. So you could hear everything going on all the way down to the other end of the barracks, it's pretty bad.

TI: Yeah, especially at the beginning when you're with a baby also.

RY: Yeah.

TI: It's probably crying. So you're twelve years old, about twelve, so what are some of the things that you do those first few days? Do you explore, do you walk around, do you check things out?

RY: Yeah, we explored and we had to see where everything was.

TI: And when you say "we," did you go around as a family or did you do it with your sister or friends? How did you explore?

RY: Well, I think me and my sister went around looking at different things and we had to... first we had to know where the bathroom and everything was because it was out in the center of the barracks there. And then we looked around and see where the mess hall was and where the school was and stuff like that.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.