Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Ben Tonooka Interview
Narrator: Ben Tonooka
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: February 6, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-tben-01-0026

<Begin Segment 26>

MN: Now, so Jerome is just about to close and you're having this banquet and the weenie bake, did you have an opportunity to go out sightseeing to other cities from Jerome before it closed?

BT: Yeah, friend of mine and I, we got a weekend pass and we went to Little Rock.

MN: Now, how did you get to Little Rock?

BT: Well, going, this commissary truck was going to Pine Bluff, which is thirty miles south of Little Rock, so we got a ride from them to Pine Bluff. Then we had a lunch there and we hopped on a bus and went to Little Rock. On the way back we came back on a train.

MN: Was it a segregated train?

BT: Yeah.

MN: Which side did you sit on?

BT: No, no, it was, the car, the car was all white.

MN: What did you do in Little Rock?

BT: We walked around, and then we came across a movie theater, and it was a movie that looked pretty interesting, so we went in. It was already started, so we sat down and watched it. And I forgot what movie was playing, but when the film finished, the lights went on and we looked around, we were in the black theater. Yeah, everybody was lookin' at us, wondering we were doing there, I guess. We, I mean, there was no hostility or anything. They were just curious what, what these two guys are doing.

MN: So Little Rock is a segregated city at that time.

BT: Yes.

MN: What facilities, did you use the white facilities or the black facilities?

BT: White. Yeah, because when they first started going out, the story goes that this one guy from the camp, he was in the department store in Little Rock and he wanted a drink of water, so he goes up to the water fountain, then he noticed one's painted black. So he's standing there looking at the white drinking fountain, the blacks' drinking fountain, he didn't know which one to drink from. So then somebody tapped him on the shoulder, says, "You drink out of the white one." So that, that story spread around camp, so we knew that they considered us white.

MN: So then where did you stay, what kind of hotel did you stay in?

BT: It was a, it was a real nice hotel. In fact, I think the camp arranged the, staying at the, I think the name of it was Lafayette, Lafayette Hotel. The building is still there, but it's not a hotel, used as a hotel anymore. It's more office.

MN: And then you mentioned you came back on a train to Jerome.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.