Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Kunio Otani Interview
Narrator: Kunio Otani
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Rebecca Walls (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 31, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-okunio-01-0013

<Begin Segment 13>

AI: Well, going back to what Tule Lake was like as a camp, as kind of a community in a way. You got a job. And you were saying, just like any other town, there were all kind of jobs. Not everyone worked, and people didn't have to work. But, how did you get involved with your job? How did that come about?

KO: I really can't remember, but I think that they... I think they had a bulletin or something going around that they were looking for people to do certain kinds of work. That may have been the way that I became involved with the paper there. Once I got involved in that, working for the newspaper, I just didn't seem to have enough time to do much of anything else.

AI: So it became something that you really enjoyed?

KO: That's right. And met a lot of new friends, and people that I still am friends with today.

AI: Well now, I -- you and I had looked at some of the old copies of the Tulean Dispatch, and I saw that for quite awhile there, you were the sports editor. Could you tell us a little bit about some of the sports that, how they started up there, and anything you recall about when you were covering the sports? What kind of -- were sports really big in camp?

KO: Well, yes, because people needed to have some type of recreation, and certainly sports is a big thing. And in fact, I think the administration of the camps encouraged people getting involved in sports, feeling that they had to have something for the people to do while they were in camp. And so, as soon as we got in there, I think one of the first things that happens naturally is, being kids, you're looking for games to play. And so, I think baseball was probably the first thing -- softball or baseball, or whatever you want to call it. People started playing and then they, as these people came in from different areas, you'd play against the teams from Sacramento, or wherever it might be. And Salem, and...

AI: So teams were organized around groups of people from various areas?

KO: As a rule. As a rule, they were. But at the same time, like our newspaper, we formed our own basketball team and I think we had a softball team, too. So, sports was certainly an important part of the people's lives and there was some fierce competition going on among the teams. It's amazing that there was -- every block had an open area between the barracks. And I think practically in every block they made a basketball court right out in the open, and that's where people played; they didn't have a gym. Eventually when the schools were built, we had a gym, but I think most of the games were played on dirt surfaces outdoors.

AI: Wow.

KO: Yeah, I remember baseball games drawing huge crowds, and they'd have P.A. systems, and the whole ball of wax. So they were well organized.

AI: Well, it looked like, from the way the coverage looked in the newspaper, looked like it was very serious and that the competition was pretty heavy.

KO: That's right. And it's amazing that -- well, unlike nowadays, where people get mad at each other and go after each other, though I don't ever recall anything like that happening. It was important to compete. And to try to do your best to win.

AI: Well, now I know that this was very big for the guys but -- also the fellows, but what about the girls and women, did...?

KO: Well, I think the girls kind of weren't quite as competitive as the men. And I think back in those days, there weren't too many people that, girls that played basketball. Although they formed a girls' softball and basketball teams. In track, I don't know if they had any women competing in track. I don't, I don't... I think back and, I hate to keep repeating, "those days," but I don't think they did too much competing in track, the women.

AI: Well, let's see. I also wanted to ask you, you mentioned that you brought your tennis racket, and did you end up playing tennis there, in camp?

KO: Oh yeah, that's right, we did. I think there was an area that was part of an old -- I shouldn't say old, it was a warehouse that was never completed. Had the cement surface as I recall, and so we drew the lines and I don't know where the nets came from, but we somehow ended up with balls and rackets. So we had enough people involved to hold little tournaments and things like that, which was probably pretty unusual for that kind of a situation. 'Course nobody ever had a golf course there, so nobody played golf. [Laughs]

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.