Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Min Tonai Interview I
Narrator: Min Tonai
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: September 2, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-tmin-01-0025

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: So let's, let's kind of move to Amache now. That, you told that great story of actually looking at the various options and thinking that Amache would, would be the one that you'd want to go to. So you go to Amache, what are your impressions?

MT: The train ride was interesting. One thing is, I don't know if people remember this kind of thing, but when we came out of L.A. we were on the Union, we were on the Union Pacific. The food was great. We got served regular food. It was really good. Oh boy, this is really good. Even the cooked carrots were good. [Laughs] They were good. And we rode to, instead of going the south we took the northern route. We went up to Salt Lake City and Salt Lake City, on the way, every time we came to town we had to close shades. We always had to close shades; they didn't want anyone to see us. And when we got to Salt Lake City, we get there, surprise, surprise, the Japanese people looking for their friends. People in Salt Lake City knew that we were coming there. I don't know how. They were looking for their friends. And, and then we got on the Denver Rio Grande, or Rio Grande they called it, and we went from Salt Lake and went through the Royal Gorge and, because I like, I said, oh boy, I get to see the bridge over the Royal Gorge. That was to me a thrill, because I want to see that, because I had read about it. I saw the bridge over the Royal Gorge and, oh boy. It's way up there. Because we're by the riverbed and there, up there... and we went there and we went to Pueblo, and then we changed to, and the food wasn't as good as it was. It just wasn't as good as it was in Union Pacific. Then we got on the, then -- and see, each time the tender changed, the engine changed. We were on different, our car was the same. Our car was very old. It had gas lamps on it. These, because the regular trains were all being used for military purposes and stuff, they didn't have anything, so only thing they could find were these cars that were basically in moth balls. They brought 'em out. And so rigid back, no, no cushion, just rigid back seats, you couldn't tilt 'em or anything. And if you tilt it you would bother the other person anyway, if you had it, and so we had to, we basically slept sitting up. And so then the next train went to, went to... and so that was the same car. We never changed cars. They always had MPs at the entrances so that you couldn't get off. One time I snuck off and they yelled at me to get off, so, but other than that, I made some friends on there, people I didn't know and still friends today. but then we got off at Pueblo, which is Santa Fe. The food even got worse in Santa Fe, and that took us into Granada, the town. It's written Granada, but they pronounce it Granada because that's what it was pronounced when the town was further east, and they moved the railhead over there, so that's, that was the head of the cattle trail from Texas. So anyway, that's where we got off and got on trucks and we went to, to Amache.

TI: Now, back then what did you and the others call the camp? Was it Granada or Amache?

MT: Well, we went to there and it was, we called it Granada Relocation Camp because if you come from California we pronounce it Spanish-wise. The people call it Granada, but we called it Granada. But what happened is that, soon as that, soon as we moved there and the paper came out, Granada Pioneer. That was our paper. But soon afterwards they had a problem, because if we were Granada and it was Granada outside, you had two post office with the same name. So they decided to change the name, so they changed the post office name to Amache, which was the wife of the person, big landowner, and she was a daughter of a Cheyenne chief. So, and she became well-known in the place, so we became Amache and so everybody called Amache. One, there were two reasons, one is because of differentiation, other was the people in Granada didn't like us initially. They really didn't like us and have anything to do with us. I found out some of the German-born, German descent people wanted, were afraid that they might be treated the same way as we were, so they kind of shied away from doing anything with us or being kind to us. I didn't know this and way after the war when the kids around there told me about it. So anyway, we, so that's why, and then after that we called ourselves Amache. People called... and the, and the sad thing about it is we're the only ones that's call only by the legal name. Right? Poston is really Colorado River.

TI: Right.

MT: Gila is Gila River. It's not Gila; it's Gila River.

TI: Even Manzanar is Owens, Owens Valley, I think.

MT: Something or other. And then the one in Utah is, what was the name of that?

TI: Topaz.

MT: Topaz, it's called Delta or something. No, Central Utah something or other. Okay. And we, and they, and their post office became Manzanar, whatever have you, Poston. Everybody calls it that, but for some reason everybody avoids calling us Amache. So you look at anything and we're, I'm very vocal about it, I get after the Colorado people all the time 'cause they want to call us, then if they call us they want to call us Camp Amache. I said absolutely not, 'cause one of the things we always fought with the Colorado politicians, they always wanted it, said we're being coddled in the stucco -- because it was beige colored -- in the stucco palaces. And they also said, one guy said that we have three swimming pools there. We were the only camp on a hillside, so from the highway you could see our camp. Well, the three pools they were talking about were the sewage settling ponds. I know one guy fell in there because he was trying to ice skate on it, but other than that nobody, we avoided -- in fact, the block that was closest to the thing, we used to kid 'em because it smelled so much when the wind blew the wrong way. But we still, people were still calling us Camp Amache and I'm forever telling 'em and slowly they're trying to get in because I, the last time I wrote to 'em I just wrote, I just blasted 'em.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.