Densho Digital Archive
Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community Collection
Title: Brooks Andrews Interview
Narrator: Brooks Andrews
Interviewer: Joyce Nishimura
Location: Bainbridge Island, Washington
Date: October 7, 2006
Densho ID: denshovh-aemery-02-0011

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JN: Anything else you'd could like to, to add? That is a very powerful ending.

BA: Let's see. You know, people would ask me, "Well, when you were in school in, in Twin Falls, Idaho, did... were you taunted by your classmates or anything?" And I don't remember anything like that at all. It came more to our family as a whole in the community. But I wonder -- and the thought just occurred to me -- maybe, maybe my playmates at school had no knowledge of the camp that was close by there. Just like the German people were not told oftentimes about the death camps over there. So I, I had a playmate that, whose father was in the navy, and, but I never heard any rah-rah or unkind word from my playmate about the world war and his dad going to fight the "Japs," and so forth.

JN: And, that's a reflection of the common people there, that they were ashamed of what was in their neighborhood...

BA: It could be, yeah.

JN: And so they didn't want to pass that along to their children, maybe.

BA: And you know, these, these living quarters were just abysmal. They were just terrible places, because they were, they were just a long row of barrack and they were, most of them were often made of green wood that had not been dried. And so when the summer heat came, you had a lot of shrinking of the floorboards, sometimes you would look through the floorboards and you could see snakes resting in the coolness, in the shade under the barrack. And it would shrink around the windows and the doors and then when you had the dust storms, oh, my gosh, you were just, dust would just come in just through every crack in the barrack there. And you'd find along the windowsill dust kinda piled up along the windowsill that had blown in there. And it was just one room. I think they were like, like twenty feet by twenty feet or something like that. And, there's one potbellied stove in the corner, that was... and you had to go outside to, to the coal bin to get your coal to put in, in the, in the stove there. In the wintertime that was, that was a hard chore to go outside in the bitter cold and get coal. And there was central dining halls, each... there were so many barracks in each block, and there was a block of barracks there, and each block had a central dining hall. There's central latrines which was very embarrassing for the Japanese to go to a central latrine and, and really didn't have the privacy that they were used to. And, and I reflect on the, the dining arrangements there. When you went to the dining hall, you, the family would break up. The children would go eat with their, with their friends in the dining hall. And to me, that was the start of the breakdown of the close-knit Japanese family that I experienced before war. And that's kind of a theory that I have, but I've heard some other anecdotal evidence that they feel the same way, so... but I was always looking forward to go to camp, because that's where my friends were, and we just made a day of it. Oftentimes on Saturday we'd go and there was a swimming hole that was dug out of the irrigation, big irrigation ditch that went by there. And we'd have picnics there and we'd have fun in the swimming hole, and we'd try to make life as usual. And, and... that was life, and we made the best of it.

JN: So there was no... anybody could go into the camp at that time?

BA: You had to have a pass to go into the camp. And when we, again, when we drove up to the, to the entrance, the main entrance to the camp, there of course were guards there. They had their guns and their helmets and everything else. And as many times as we had gone to the camp, and the guards knew us when we drove up, they would always stop, stop us. They would check our passes, they would check and see what bags of things we were bringing in. Just again, looking for contraband material and so forth. Another thing I remember, too, is the people in the camp were very inventive, very much able to, to make furniture, make things that they could not bring with them. They could not bring tables and chairs, and I know that they made a lot of things out of leftover lumber that had, that were left after the barracks were, were constructed. And -- oh, I know one story, Yo Ishimitsu, who is, she is the church administrator at Japanese Baptist Church in Seattle, today. And, she was on Bainbridge. And I can't remember her, her Bainbridge name then, but her married name is Ishimitsu. But she was, said, she said they went to Manzanar also. And it was very hot. But she said that the, the beds were just iron, steel beds with the steel springs, which was characteristic of Minidoka also. And the mattress, you went and you got a big sack and you filled it full of hay and that was your mattress. But she said that the bed, her bed down there was full of bedbugs. And so what they did, they'd haul the beds outside in the hot sun, and as the hot sun heated up the bed, iron steel bed, then all the bedbugs left. And so they, she said, "Then we brought the beds back in and they were fine after that." So...

Female voice: I just want to ask a question. Did you remember reactions of your friends, your playmates? I mean, you were just a little boy at this time. Do you remember what they...

BA: In the camp?

Female voice: Yeah. Would they would they complain to you, or...

BA: No, I don't remember any complaints at all. I think all the, all of us kids were very adaptable to the situation. And found our ways to cope, our ways to get around. We played a lot of games. I remember baseball was a big deal in Camp Minidoka. And the different blocks would have their own baseball teams, there'd be competitions there. And so it was, we just adapted to the situation, made the best of it.

Male voice: I have a question. How did it end? Did it, like on, the end of the war, did they open the gates? Or, did it take time after that? Was it, was it with a whimper or with a bang?

BA: I think late -- I don't know hard facts -- but I know toward the end of the war, more of the Japanese were able to, to be let, let go from the camps. And some of them went back to, maybe they had family back east, Midwest. I know there were a lot in the Chicago area, and Boston area. And, so there started this trickle of people coming back to or leaving the camp. And, so by 19'- early 1946, the camp was closed up. And so we, we gathered our belongings together and we, in the Blue Box, and made our trip back to, to Seattle, to start all over again. I have a picture of, of my family. We were standing in front of the main gate to Minidoka. Big red and white sign on the gate that says "camp closed." And I think that's probably the day, the morning that we started our trip back to Seattle. 'Cause I know it was still cold out, still kind of wintry. But, so we made our trip back.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.