Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Sue K. Embrey Interview
Narrator: Sue K. Embrey
Interviewer: Glen Kitayama
Location: University of California, Los Angeles
Date: September 11, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-esue-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

GK: My name's Glen Kitayama, and today is Thursday, September 11, 1997, and I'm here talking with Sue Embrey at UCLA's Sunset Village conference room. So, Sue, how are you enjoying the conference so far?

SE: Well, I think I finally settled down, it was a long trip coming here. [Laughs] It took me -- there was nothing on the freeway that I could see, but it was like 15 miles an hour, you know, we were going stop and go. I'm glad it's over. Sometimes it's nice to be the first one on. Sometimes it's not so good, but...

GK: [Laughs] So you were able to get it over with at least.

SE: Yeah, yeah.

GK: We were talking earlier about some of your camp experiences, so can you tell us where you went to camp?

SE: I lived just around Little Tokyo, so all of us went from there directly to Manzanar. Part of the reason was because my older brother had volunteered and was already there. We were all scheduled to go to Santa Anita, but at the last minute they sent directions, or instructions from the U.S. army that people who had relatives in Manzanar could go there (as) additional barracks had been built. So, I think basically that almost all of Little Tokyo went there. And some of my friends ended up in Santa Anita. I'm glad I didn't go there, because they said it was just terrible, with the horse stalls, and the smell of hay, and all that. But (at) Manzanar (had) new barracks and everything. Things, I mean, everything wasn't finished, but it was at least better than the horse stalls.

GK: Did any one of your family have to go there to help construct or...

SE: Yeah, my brother volunteered. They asked for 1,000 volunteers in early March, and so my brother quit his job and told my mother, "Well, if we have to go, maybe it'd be better if one of us went ahead and tried to make things a little bit better." And then we were worried that we wouldn't get there, because they were talking about our going to Santa Anita. But when the instructions came out that they had some room for people at Manzanar, my mother insisted that... so not only my family, but my in-law -- my brother was married, and he had an in-law family, we all decided to register (under) the same address and go together. So there must have between sixteen and twenty of us, you know, in-laws, and cousins, and all that.

GK: What were the conditions like at Manzanar?

SE: Well, we got there by train. It must have been around an eight-hour ride, so it was quite dark when we got to the station in Lone Pine. They picked us up by bus and took us to Manzanar, so we didn't really know 'til the next morning where we were, actually. And it turned out to be a fairly nice day until breakfast, and then the sandstorm came up and we could not see anything. And we were told to go and collect our suitcases, 'cause they didn't unload them the night before when we came in. So we all went out into this great big firebreak, and they just dumped the suitcases off the trucks, went back to the station to pick up some more. And so it was almost impossible to find our way back because every barrack looked exactly the same. There were no numbers on them in the beginning. And I can't remembered how we did, but we managed to get there. And it blew all day. That was the first, the first day we were there, and we thought, "Oh my gosh, is this going to be like this all the time?" And it was not that cold, it was early May, so it was just beginning to warm up.

GK: What were the winters like?

SE: Very cold. First year, I think '42, it didn't snow, so they were short of water, and they asked everyone to conserve. But in '43, it snowed, I think, on Christmas Eve, but I was already gone by then, so I don't... but the nights got very, very cold. It was about 3,500 feet altitude, so as soon as the sun went down it would get cold. Of course, the summers were very hot, and we were given a salt tablet a day to take so we wouldn't get dehydrated, and told to drink lots of water.

GK: Wow.

SE: So it got very hot in summer and very cold in winter.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.