Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Bill Hiroshi Shishima Interview
Narrator: Bill Hiroshi Shishima
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: February 8, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-sbill-01-0013

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MN: So your troop, the St. Mary's troop, what other activities did you organize? Did you go camping and hiking?

BS: Yes. In fact, they had the so-called district flag, and it was competition among all the troops. And you got so many points for advancement, you got so many points for hiking, so many points for cooking. So our troop was really a hiking camping troop. So out of the four time presentation in camp, we got it three times. So we really dominated. But our main competition was the Koyasan Boy Scouts, because they were, they had all the leadership, so they really advanced. So they had the most advancement in camp, but it was offset by our hiking and camping. So we always won the district flag there, three out of four times.

MN: So did Koyasan get the other time?

BS: No, they didn't get it. Another troop, I think maybe it was the San Gabriel troop that got it, Troop 343. I remember the number, but I forgot where were they originally from.

MN: So you're talking hiking and camping. Where were you going hiking and camping?

BS: So we went to a nearby river called Shoshone River, but to do that, we had to get permit from the camp to leave, plus we had to make arrangements for the mess hall to have us take some food out. Sometime we had prepared sandwiches, sometime we just had raw ingredients so we could cook it on our own hiking and camping trips. So we stayed sometimes overnight by the river bed.

MN: Did you have to order, like, special tents from the catalogs?

BS: No such thing. We slept under the stars, and we just took our army blankets and rolled it up and hiked to the river and slept in that.

MN: Did you ever hike up Heart Mountain?

BS: No. We wanted to, but we were too young. Some of the older Scouts went, but our troop never did that. Some of the other troops and the older boys did it because it's a full day's hike. It was approximately seven miles away, plus you have to hike around three thousand feet up the mountain. So that's a good day's work. So we never, I know we went closer to the base of the mountain but that's all.

MN: So I know there was competition among the different Boy Scout troops in camp. What kind of competitions, other than softball and basketball, did you have?

BS: Oh, we had Scouting skills, too. For instance, drilling. So on the parade ground, we'd drill around, have various commands, make sure we're following each other's steps, perform the right execution. So we had that, so drill, we had the fire making, or signaling, or first aid problems, we had those, knife and axe for preparation for fire building. So those were some of the Scout skills. And then also compass. So they give us compass directions and see if we end up in the right place. So we did have Scout skills also.

MN: Now how often did Boy Scout troops from outside come to compete?

BS: I could only recall one time that they came to compete with us. We have a so-called jamboree, and then we do those Scout skills, so they participated. I don't think they fared well against our Japanese troops. And by the way, that's where the so-called future senator from Wyoming came into camp as a young kid and he met Norman Mineta, which was also a Cub Scout then and then he eventually became a Boy Scout. But Norman Mineta and Alan Simpson ended up being senators, so they re-met at the White House again.

MN: Were your younger... do you know anybody who was in the same troop as Norma Mineta at the time?

BS: Yes. My friend Hal Keimi, he was my neighbor in camp, and then after camp, we got together, we played ball together during high school and after high school. We coincidentally ended up at the same college, at USC, and we both ended up in teaching. And by coincidence, we retired on the same day.

MN: Is Hal Keimi, you were sharing about sometimes when you had the snowballs, hit the icicles, people come out. Was Hal your target a lot?

BS: Yes. He was my neighbor, he lived in the next barrack. Plus, made it a little bit more closer because his aunt and uncle lived in the next unit to us, but we had a common entryway. And they became my uncle and aunt, so that was Uncle Tommy, Auntie Faith. So even though they were not actually my uncle and aunt, just in respect, call them that, plus my buddy Hal, he called them Uncle and Auntie so we called them Uncle and Auntie also.

MN: Now, let's see. Your Boy Scouts, the Heart Mountain Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts got to visit Yellowstone Park. Can you share what year that was and share about that experience?

BS: Okay. That was in the summer of 1945. I'm sorry, summer of 1944. And our camp director wanted to boost the morale, and he heard that Yellowstone National Park was going to destroy their CCC camp, Civilian Conservation Corps, and they were going to destroy the barracks that were there. So he thought, wow, it'd be a good chance for the Boy Scouts to go up there. So he got in communication with the National Park system, and they okayed us. So we were able to go, about a hundred Boy Scouts at a time for one week, so we got to camp there one week, and then Girl Scouts got to go there for one week, and then the rest of the Boy Scouts got to go there. So we had a nice one-week camping experience. And then one of our projects was to build a bridge across a small creek. So we were able to build that, all the Boy Scouts, I don't believe the Girl Scouts helped, I think it was just strictly the Boy Scouts. So we made that there. And then in the late 1990s, some of us Boy Scouts from camp, we had a reunion, and we were able to make arrangements for the park ranger to take us to that bridge that we made, and we got to see it. It's not workable now, it deteriorated. But we were interviewed by the park ranger, which is an archivist, and so he recorded our story sixty years later.

MN: So this bridge that you made in '44 was still there when you went in 1990s?

BS: Yeah, 1990 or early 2000.

MN: Now, share with us on your drive to Yellowstone, you had a little car trouble.

BS: Yes. Car trouble, our mode of transportation was army trucks, two and a half ton trucks. So we just had to, there were some benches in the back, mainly we just stood up. And after half hour or hour, the truck broke down. So we said, "Oh, no." I don't know how, but we got it fixed somehow and then we got to go home. So we were a little bit later than the rest of the boys, but we eventually got up there to Yellowstone National Park.

MN: Did any of your, either of your parents go along on this trip?

BS: Yes. By coincidence or luck, my dad happened to be committeeman of our troop. So he got to go, I don't know how pulled strings, but there was a few adults, not too many. But he was one of the few that was able to go up there. So, in fact, we were able to take a picture of us two together at the waterfall area and even the Old Faithful area.


MN: Did you folks have any problems with bears?

BS: No, but we did have one problem. And I don't recall it... so the boys, and our troop recalled it, so I must have been in a different barrack. But they said one of the bears came storming through the barracks, so they all left the barrack. And then the last one to be alerted was our scoutmaster. So he came out with an excited look on his face, but that was the only experience that I remember with bears.

MN: So your troop, what did you do, I know you worked on this bridge project. What other activities did you do during that week that you were there?

BS: Well, I assume we just got a truck ride to Old Faithful and Morning Glory, more of the popular sites. Not too much sightseeing because, you know, gas was rationed during World War II. So we couldn't have that, so we did some hiking. I remember we hiked to a Gibbons Falls, so we hiked there. So other than that we just was busy in the camp site and a little bit hiking.

MN: How would you describe your Yellowstone trip?

BS: That was the greatest. See a geyser just shooting up on time at that Old Faithful, that's how it got its name. Almost every hour that spurted up. Then Morning Glory, a beautiful, beautiful hot water pool, so beautiful. Some of the hot water pools we were able to touch, but others, they said, "Don't, it's too hot." There was one called mud pie or mud puddle, so just bubbling mud, that's all it was. So never saw anything like that, so really exciting.

MN: Was there a second trip to Yellowstone Park?

BS: No. That was in the summer of 1944, so prior, I guess the spring of '45, lots of boys started to join the Scouts again. Even though many of them were leaving the camp, still we had lots of new Boy Scouts in anticipation of going to Yellowstone again, but it didn't happen. So they were sort of disappointed, and we were disappointed because we didn't get to go again.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.