Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Rudy Tokiwa Interview II
Narrator: Rudy Tokiwa
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), Judy Niizawa (secondary)
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: July 2 & 3, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-trudy-02-0018

<Begin Segment 18>

RT: And to show you see how things go now, we get to Poston, there's nobody in there's gonna cook for you. And so immediately, the young guys got together, and they knew I was cookin' in Salinas Assembly Center. So they got together and they came to me. And they said, "Rudy, you was cooking in Salinas Assembly Center. How about cookin' here? We gotta have somebody to cook the meals." "Nah, hell, I ain't gonna cook in this heat. No way." I says, "Any of you guys wanna get stuck in there? It's not like you got gas-burnin' stoves or somethin' like that. You're cookin' in coal." And so I said, "No, no. No way." But I guess they, I was, I thought about it later. And I thought to myself, "How come I wasn't angry that they, or surprised that they quietly walked away?" I said, "All right, you won't cook, I guess we'll have to do somethin'." So about an hour later, here comes all the old people. And they said to me, and they started talkin' to me in Japanese. And they said, "Please. We have to have somebody cooking. And you know us old men, we're already in, real old, and we can't take this. It's gonna have to be you young guys. So please, will you take the kitchen over?" And I'm only -- what the heck was I? Fourteen or somethin' like that?

JN: (Sixteen), I think.

RT: And they're tellin' me I gotta take the kitchen over. I says, "Man, I don't even know how to do it." But the old-timers always said, "Onegaishimasu yo." So, "Oh, well. Guess I gotta go." [Laughs] And I tell you, went to the kitchen, and there must have been two inches of sand in there. So I was surprised what, later on, I found out when all the young guys realized that I was more Japanese. And they figured, well, those of us born in this country, somebody tell you, old man come and tell you, "You go do it." You tell him, "Why don't you go do it yourself?" But since it's Rudy, why he has that Japanese stuff pushed into him, so he'll probably say, "Okay." So as soon as they came, why, I put a young crew together, and we went, cleaned out the kitchen and everything. And we got there. We didn't eat, the first night, we didn't eat 'til, I think it was after midnight. We had to wash the kitchens down. And they had all the stuff that was in the refrigerator was just thrown in there, and I had to sort it all out. So I've always laughed about it, because it was, the people come in to eat, and I figured man, I'm gonna get all kind of complaints. Because, you know, I just slapped something together. But instead of anybody squawkin', as they were being served, they said, "Thank you, Rudy." They all realized what it was all about.

So I cooked in there for about four months. All right straight through, all the heat and everything. Finally, they pooled all our money together, the residents in the block, and they bought water coolers for the kitchen. Always standing in front of a coal-burning stove, and the damn temperature outside is 112, 114 degrees. That gets hard to take. So they bought us three water coolers to put in the kitchen. And we had water hose hooked up to it across the floor and everything. And it was going good for a while.

TI: And how did the water coolers work? It wasn't to drink, it was to just try and cool the room off?

RT: Yeah, what you do is...

JN: Fan.

RT: There's a fan on the inside, and what do you call? Excelsior? The wood (shavings) all on the outside, see, and the water drips through these things, and the dampness comes through, see.

JN: Evaporation.

TI: Oh, I see.

RT: And that cools it off a little bit. It doesn't get real cool, but...

JN: The evaporation cools the air.

RT: But it's a hell of a lot better than it was. So...

TI: And they did this because they knew how hard...

RT: Yeah.

TI: It was for you to work in there, so appreciative?

RT: They were appreciative. Yeah, they used to come through. And a lotta times, we'd say "Well, geez, what are we gonna do with the food today?" And I'd think, "Oh, well, we'll give 'em Spam today." And then I'd think, "Well, they'll probably come through, and everybody's gonna say, 'What the hell kinda cookin' is this? You just fry the damn thing.'" But they'd come through, and "Domo arigato ne. Sumanai ne." I look back at them days, and I've always said, the Japanese people, even here in the United States, you don't find people like this. You look at the lousy food they were being fed, and instead of complaining to you, they thank you for even doing it. I was, I was quite surprised. They even built a big swimming pool. And they built a canal from the Colorado River into Camp Two, so that it'll feed that swimming pool. The old-timers were really somethin', you know?

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.