Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Ike Hatchimonji Interview
Narrator: Ike Hatchimonji
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: November 30, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-hike-01-0009

<Begin Segment 9>

MN: Now what was your first impression of Pomona?

IH: Well, it was quite a disappointment. It was just dilapidated, hastily built barracks, not well built. And you've heard the stories about cracks in the walls, just single walls where you could see everything in the neighboring unit, open ceilings and such. And the bathing facilities and latrine facilities were very poor. And as well as the food and the way it was prepared, it was just very discouraging.

MN: You mentioned food, what do you remember of eating? What kind of food did you eat at Pomona?

IH: Well, at first it was very bad because the cooks were Caucasians and I guess they didn't particularly care. They burned a lot of food. How do you burn oatmeal? They did, oatmeal. We just had a lot of things that were very... frankfurters, just raw frankfurters and a slice of bread or something like that.

MN: You know, did you get diarrhea because of the food?

IH: I recall having some digestive problems. It was a long wait, the long waits in line. You've heard this story, it was very common. And it was quite hot and dusty, and we had to stand in long lines.

MN: I know Pomona gets really hot in the summertime.

IH: Yes.

MN: Now, when you were at the Pomona Assembly Center, did any of your Caucasian friends come to visit you?

IH: Yes. Mrs. Mills came, because they did allow visitors. They had an area, sort of a compound of high fences, double fences, you couldn't actually be in contact, you had to talk through a double, might have been a chain link fence. And, but we were, I remember Mrs. Mills brought some chicken one time, a box of chicken, and that story I remember very well. We took the box of chicken back after visiting was over, took the chicken back to the barrack unit, and then my brother and my sister and I just gorged ourselves with that. It was delightful to have chicken, fried chicken. But my mother saw that and she was overcome. So I remember that very distinctly.

MN: When you say your mother was overcome, did she break down?

IH: Yes.

MN: Was any school or classes held at Pomona?

IH: I don't think so, but they did have some sort of handicrafts and that sort of thing. They did have organized sports, softball was popular. They had some real good softball games. And the American Friends Service Committee, they were, I think, one of the organized groups that came on a regular basis for counseling, to bring gifts, books, crossword, jigsaw puzzles, that sort of thing. And they, I think to this day, I admire the extent that they did for us.

MN: Now you mentioned there was a graduation ceremony?

IH: Yes, there was. Because most of us had to drop out of school before graduation, and so they, somehow or other they arranged to have all the diplomas from various schools that we were in brought, and we had a ceremony outdoors. And so I received a little grammar school graduation diploma.

MN: Now was this only for grammar school kids, or up into high school?

IH: I think they might have gone as far as high school.

MN: Was there cap and gowns, or what did you wear?

IH: No, just ordinary. It was very informal.

MN: Who passed out the diploma?

IH: I really don't recall. Probably some of the administrators.

MN: And was this held up on a stage or just in the...

IH: It was in an open field. There might have been some bleachers, maybe a flat platform or something.

MN: What was your feeling about getting this diploma?

IH: Well, satisfied because I had something tangible that showed that I graduated. I don't know if at that time I felt any regrets or hatred that we were being denied the regular graduation. I don't recall having that feeling.

MN: Now you shared this memory of when people drove their cars into Pomona they had to leave it in a dirt field.

IH: Yes.

MN: Now, what did you witness happening to these cars?

IH: Yeah, well, they were all in a fenced-off compound right outside of the camp area, and we could walk out in an open field, dirt field. We don't know why, but whoever's in charge of the military, there was a lot of soldiers who ran the place. They were able to literally race around with those cars and crash into each other. It would be called a jalopy derby, they didn't care if they, how much damage they inflicted on the cars. They were just raising dust and just going around and around, just having a great time. And I remember the nursery truck, the Hayami family, my good friend Walt, I was standing with him and we were watching this. It was amusing at that time. But when you consider what they were doing, allowed to be done, terrible. I don't think there was any compensation for those vehicles. They were just given to the military to destroy as they saw fit.

MN: Now, what were your parents doing at Pomona?

IH: You know, there might have been some small handicraft classes that my mother... I don't think there was much in the way of organized. We were only there for three or four months, so we don't really, there weren't any activities like that that I recall. The only organized thing that I recall is like the softball games.

MN: Now you didn't grow up in a large Japanese American community. How did it feel to be all of a sudden to be surrounded by so many Japanese Americans?

IH: It was a new experience. My goodness, I remember as we came into the camp, there were barricades on both sides that we were walking down, coming into the camp, and gee, all the Japanese faces. It was surprising. Well, I didn't really, I guess at that point it began to sink into me what was happening to us in the world we put together, confined, because of the war and because of our ancestry. All those things really didn't occur to me 'til I was in that camp.

MN: Now when you were leaving Pomona, you have this very distinct memory of how you left Pomona. Can you share that memory?

IH: Yeah, well, again, the impact of this particular day when we had to walk down this dirt road toward the train, because that's where we boarded the train for Heart Mountain. There were soldiers on both sides of the road with shotguns and every few feet there was a soldier with a shotgun. It struck me at that time that, "Why are they doing this to us?" They're treating us like criminals. I felt, again, the impact was quite strong. I was beginning to realize what's happening, I guess. I guess that's the military way of doing things, but still, it's the impact that it had on me and everybody else. Very unnecessary.

MN: So you felt like a criminal?

IH: Yeah, felt like, "Why are they doing this to us?" We did nothing wrong.

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