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-01-0003

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GK: What did you do in camp?

SE: Well, the first couple of weeks we really didn't do anything. People were looking for things to do, and the Maryknoll sisters came in from the Los Angeles Maryknoll Center, and they asked the administration about setting up a school, because this is the middle of May and a lot of the kids had been taken out of school to come there. So they found a couple of barracks, and they asked for help. So my sister-in-law had been going to UCLA and wanted to teach, so she said, "Let's go down and see what we can do to help them." And so we took care of the little kids, we had them sing, and we took 'em out to play, and... we're not a very well-organized activity, 'cause we had no books, there were no chairs or tables, and the sisters were just getting started.

So we did that for a couple of weeks, and then the administration announced that the camouflage net factory had been completed, and American citizens who wanted to help in the war effort could come and work there. So I decided that was what I wanted to do. So we were making these huge nets, they were ten by twelve, they hang from the ceiling, there's a pattern on one side and a blank net on the (other), and you just weave these colored burlap strips, green, and dark green, brown and follow the pattern. And so that went on for a while, and then in June or July, the farmers in Utah, Idaho said that they were going to lose their sugar beet crop because they had no help on the farms, and they wanted the people in the camp to volunteer and go out, so my brother and my sister-in-law went out to work in Idaho. And some of the people in the Manzanar Free Press went out, the young men that were working there, so someone said, "Gee, you know, there's a couple of openings for reporters on the Free Press." (...) They said, "You know how you like to write, so why don't you go apply for a job?" And I did, and I got a job as a reporter. And so I enjoyed that, 'cause I got to walk around the camp, find out what things were going on. You know, one block, I think, Block 6, people had finished building a fish pond and a rock garden, so I reported on that. And I reported on things that were happening elsewhere. And we had a sports editor who wrote about all the sports activities.

So by the time, I guess June, July, things were beginning to settle down. People figured, "Well, we have to be here, so might as well go on with life." Then we had, they had set up a co-operative and the government asked these co-operative enterprises groups across the country to come in and set up co-ops, so the co-ops (were) like a beauty shop, shoe repair shop, a barber shop, and what we called the canteens, it was like a little grocery store. And it was kind of self-operating. People buy stuff, and then the money is kept within the business. The Manzanar Free Press was one that was also part of the co-op, and we got funding from them and also from advertising. Sears Roebuck and some of the big companies advertised so that they could send things back and forth by mail. So that was set up and people were able to get some services. So that was an interesting time for me in terms of being able to write and do a lot of reporting, and ended up as people went on out of camp, all of us young people, the youngest of the group, got (promoted) and became the editorial staff and I became the editor for a while.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.