Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Yasu Koyamatsu Momii Interview
Narrator: Yasu Koyamatsu Momii
Interviewer: Sharon Yamato
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: October 25, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-myasu-01-0018

<Begin Segment 18>

YM: I'm telling you that, in Gila, by the time it got to Gila everybody, it's not asphalt like the assembly center, so they had beautiful gardens. People planted all kinds of things. And it made it home-ier. And then we would, I remember my older brother, it was so hot they would dig under the barracks and stay down there. It's cooler down there.

SY: It was actually underneath the barracks?

YM: Yeah, underneath the barracks. They would dig a hole and put water in there and dig it again. They kept digging it and they'd put more water in it until it was big enough to go down there and sit under there, sit down there. It was that hot.

SY: So you could sit on the ground, though. They just sat on the ground?

YM: Yeah, on a dirt floor, but it's cooler.

SY: Just, just above your head kind of.

YM: Yeah, probably just, 'cause I can't remember how high the, there was steps, I think, going up to the barrack, so there was room enough to go under, but anyway, if somebody starts it, it gets like, catches on so fast everybody's doing it. Then my brother made a cooler, I guess. You wonder, where did they get this and where did they get that? They bought a fan and they got some excelsior that was like shredded wood thing they use for packaging, they put that behind the, between a net, wire net like, and then they put the excelsior in there and have a drip system that wets that excelsior and the fan goes through it. And that was our cooler.

SY: So it was just --

YM: You'd make a big hole on the side of the barrack to allow this fan to sit there. And it was, like, so sticky. It was humid. Oh, if you sat in front of it you'd be, just get so sticky. But they tried, tried to do all kinds of things. And like I say, if somebody starts something, just everybody else hears about it. And you wonder where they get everything, but anyway, everybody's very innovative. They think of all kinds of comforts if they can, 'cause they have, you don't have to cook, you don't have to go to the shop. They have all day to do this. So some of the gardens were really pretty, just in front of the barracks, and you figure, well, I guess the bulbs come from Sears or somewhere, bulbs or plants. They all managed somehow. It's amazing. You'd be surprised. But since I was there only a year, later on I think my older brother was interested in Japanese plays -- they call it shibai -- and so he and a friend of his, they really, from what I hear, had a ball rehearsing and presenting plays.

SY: Putting on these plays.

YM: Yeah. So they had, he had a good time. My brother being a Issei, so they...

SY: Your oldest brother. Wow. So what, can you describe what the food was like? And did you miss cooking and all that?

YM: No, I think the food in, the presentation was much better in Gila because in assembly center they served so many in one mess hall and it was like you go with your plate and, you know. I remember they gave us our meal and then they had ice cream for dessert. They put the ice cream right on top. [Laughs] By the time you get to your seat and all it'd melt all over your beef or whatever it was.

SY: Wow.

YM: But so I think the mess halls in the relocation camps were much like home, more like home than eating in a huge mess hall in Santa Anita. But we didn't have any complaints. I did miss milk or something, 'cause it was only for children, younger children they'd allow. So I, once, when you don't have it, even if you didn't drink it all the time, if you don't have it you think, gee, you could sure use a cold glass of milk. [Laughs]

SY: Really, 'cause it was so hot, I wonder how did, what did they have to, did they have cooling to keep it --

YM: I'm sure they had the refrigerator and everything in each mess hall. It was a regular mess hall, and each block had a latrine for men and women and then they had the shower room and laundry room, right between the two rows of barracks. It was very convenient. It's not as if you had to walk miles to do anything.

SY: And did they complain about the lack of privacy?

YM: No, by the time we got there it was, at least the stalls had something. When we first went to Santa Anita it was just, it was so, they didn't, probably wasn't completed. But we had to get used to taking showers though. You try to go when there's nobody else there, naturally, but I think it had about eight showerheads around in one room, so you just face the wall. [Laughs]

SY: I see. They were open.

YM: Yeah. Right.

SY: You could see each others' heads?

YM: Not for, shower was all open.

SY: I see.

YM: Yeah.

SY: Even at Gila.

YM: Even in, yeah, right.

SY: At Gila. So...

YM: But the showers in -- I can't remember if it's Santa Anita, but anyway, the Gila showers were, there were still about, like I say, must be eight or, six or eight at a time.

SY: And your mother was fine with that? She didn't, she didn't complain?

YM: Yeah, she didn't complain. And the laundry room was convenient. Then they had men and women's latrines, so it was much better, naturally, than the assembly centers.

SY: So that was, that was an improvement.

YM: It was.

SY: But amazing all those little things though that, the ways that they came up with making it more comfortable.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.