Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Esther Takei Nishio Interview
Narrator: Esther Takei Nishio
Interviewer: Sharon Yamato
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: September 21, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-nesther-01-0014

<Begin Segment 14>

SY: So you, you somehow, though, were at an age where you really didn't, were you forced, were you told to work at Amache too after Santa Anita?

EN: I don't think I was told, but I did get a job right away.

SY: And that was...

EN: Well, my parents knew Dr. Nagamoto, who was head of the dental clinic at, in Amache, and so he agreed to hire me as a dental assistant. And so that was quite a promotion from being a waitress in Santa Anita. [Laughs]

SY: And also because you had no training. How did, how were you trained to be a dentist?

EN: They just train you on the job. It was really fun.

SY: Did that, that must've happened some time after you got to...

EN: Well, we got, we arrived in Santa, I mean Amache, in September, I think September 22nd. No, no, no, I think -- anyway, it was around, in the fall, and I went to work right away.

SY: Oh, you did? So they set up these dental, they set up Japanese people...

EN: Right, they had a hospital and a dental clinic, so they put all the professional people to work right away, doctors and dentists and nurses.

SY: And do you remember how much you got paid?

EN: Eight, I think it was eight dollars.

SY: Eight dollars, even though, yeah, that sounds not even, I thought the professionals made more.

EN: Yes, I think, like the doctors made sixteen dollars.

SY: So that was, that...

EN: That was top pay, I believe. I think there was an intermediate, twelve dollars for something, but I don't think I qualified.

SY: Yeah, you were on the lower end. And your parents, did they get jobs?

EN: My father was a block manager, I think, early, at the beginning. And I don't know what my -- my mother was drafted at a waitress at our mess hall.

SY: So she was doing pretty much what you were doing at Santa Anita.

EN: Right, at Santa Anita.

SY: I see.

EN: So a lot of the Issei ladies were working in the mess hall. So it was a jolly crew, really. It's no fun just sitting around, sitting on your hands. It's better to be doing something, and you make new friends and so forth.

SY: So she, she was as good as could be expected. And how about the facilities there?

EN: Well, the barracks were barracks. I think they had brick floors and thin walls and, of course, no curtains or anything, so the families tried to make their homes more comfortable somehow with what they had.

SY: And the showers, were they better?

EN: Well, one side was for men, one side was for women, same deal.

SY: Same set up. And the same with the restrooms, bathroom facilities?

EN: Yes.

SY: So if you, you had a pretty regular job there, then you, what did you do at night?

EN: That was up to you. So the, I think the Issei organized singing classes, the Japanese singing classes. And I think in our block we had a well known artist, Mr. Uematsu, and he owns the Bunkado on East First -- I think he's passed on now, but he had a Japanese gift shop on East First Street, and so he started an oil painting class in camp, so my mom went to his class during the week.

SY: So she liked drawing.

EN: She was very artistic. So everyone tried to keep busy doing something.

SY: And what did you do? What was your favorite activity?

EN: I don't remember what I did. I think I bummed around after work. [Laughs]

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.