Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Kanji Sahara Interview
Narrator: Kanji Sahara
Interviewer: Brian Niiya
Location: Torrance, California
Date: October 5, 2018
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-448-9

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 9>

BN: And then I'm going to come back to Jerome, but I want to finish up with Santa Anita first. In your area, were the barracks similar to the WRA style?

KS: Yeah, the army has different barrack designs. And I think if you say a serial number, then the army knows what that barrack looked like. I think the barracks depended on how close you are to the combat and what kind of weather it is, like that. But it was very similar. But the main difference between Jerome and Santa Anita was that Santa Anita, all the barracks were one after another. For the ten thousand barracks in the parking lot, they were all just one after another in one gigantic pool. While in Jerome, they were divided into blocks, and then there was about forty or fifty blocks in Jerome. And that's the way they did it in Rohwer and also in Manzanar and other places, that they decided to have blocks. And each block would have a mess hall, and then they'll have the latrines, the men's and women's latrine, and then they had the laundry room, and then the ironing room. And in Jerome or Rohwer, they would have six and six, twelve barracks in a block. Now, Manzanar had fourteen barracks in a block, but the same sort of idea.

BN: And in Santa Anita, what were the bathrooms like? Was it flush toilets?

KS: Yeah, in Santa Anita, they had flush toilets, but the big problem was that Santa Anita at that time, the town of Arcadia didn't have a sewer system, so then everybody was on the cesspool.


BN: I wanted to just finish up with Santa Anita. Before, we were talking about the septic tanks and overflowing, can you talk about that?

KS: Okay. So then in Santa Anita, the town was not on a sewer system, which also had a septic tank. Then, I don't know, after so many months, it started overflowing, looked like, almost every day. So they had these trucks that would come, and then the truck would pump the sewage from the tanks into the truck, and that was a smelly operation. So that was really bad. But I used to remember that, and then another thing was that Santa Anita, lot of people used to have hotplates, and then they used to bring their food home or for the baby or for the invalid or something, heat it up at the house. And then in Santa Anita, the hotplates used to overdrive the circuit, so then caused lot of burning the fuse and stuff like that, so then they used to have a lot of blackout because of that. So then one day, the authorities decided they're going to confiscate all the hotplates, so they went from barrack to barrack confiscating hotplates, and that was the cause of the riot. The people got upset, so they started forming groups and stuff like that. And then I don't know how many thousand people would organize here, notify them over there and stuff. So that's when the army sent in their troops. So there was two hundred soldiers, two half tracks, so they came in from the entrance, and then they put down the riot. Now, they didn't have to do any shooting or anything, but I think when the people see the soldiers with the bayonet, they decided not to congregate anymore. So it's strange, but that's the reason you have the ironing rooms at each of the camps, like at Jerome and Manzanar, you had the men's toilet, the women's toilet, the laundry room, and the ironing room. And the ironing room is where you're supposed to iron and where you've got the heavy circuits so you won't have any burning out, you won't have any riots. But that was to prevent the riots. That was the big event, when they had the riots.

BN: Was your family nearby?

KS: Not exactly nearby, but I saw it. So I saw the riot.

BN: Did you see the commotion?

KS: Well, I saw the soldiers. And then another thing I used to see is that the classrooms were in the grandstands, so they had the pair of mutual rooms in the grandstand, that's where the classroom was. So that when I used to go to school, I used to see them making the camouflage nets. So then they were hanging the nets from the roof of the grandstand, these nets, and then they would weave the burlap bags into the netting. But I used to see that every day I went to school.

BN: And your sisters were about the age of a lot of the workers. Did they work on that project?

KS: No. My oldest sister, she had a job in the mess hall, so her job was a waitress. So her job was to clean the tables after the people left. And then my second sister had a job in the milk station. Now in Santa Anita, the barracks did not have electricity or anything like that, no refrigerator. I mean, they had electricity, but nobody had a refrigerator. So they had these kiosks that they called milk station, and they were about, like, four feet by four feet in size, and that's where my sister sat. So then when the mother came, then my sister would give my mother the milk for the child. So that was the job of my second sister, and then my father, he had a job in the kitchen, so he was never a cook before the war, and then that was the assignment in Santa Anita, to work in the kitchen. And then in Santa Anita, my mother did not have any job, so she stayed home.

BN: And your oldest sister, I think, she would have been about graduating high school? Did she graduate in Santa Anita?

KS: No, she graduated high school in Jerome.

BN: Oh, in Jerome.

KS: Yeah. So in Jerome, next time, in Jerome, my father had a job as what they call a boiler. So over there, in Santa Anita, the running water was in the mess hall in the laundry rooms and men's latrine and women's latrine. But the women's latrine and the men's latrine and the laundry room and then the ironing room, it was in a H-shape, and between those was the boiler room. So the boilers supplied hot water to all those facilities. So I think they had about three people working in the boiler room. So I don't know how they do the timing, but they had to have somebody there shoveling coal into the boiler, and that's the job my father had in Jerome. So then that was, quote, an "easier" job than being a cook. And then when we went from Jerome to Rohwer, then he finally got a job at the warehouse. So warehouse, you just watch the stuff and then dispense it. So that was, quote, the "easiest" job. So every time he moved from one camp to another, he got to figure out, what's the easy job here? That's what my father got at the end, the easy job in Rohwer.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.