Densho Digital Archive
Emiko and Chizuko Omori Collection
Title: Hisaye Yamamoto Interview
Narrator: Hisaye Yamamoto
Interviewers: Chizu Omori (primary); Emiko Omori (secondary)
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: March 21, 1994
Densho ID: denshovh-yhisaye-01-0008

<Begin Segment 8>

CO: So tell us about this little newspaper that got started up.

HY: Oh, the Poston Chronicle? It was originally called the Press, Poston, the Press Bulletin, under this reports officer named Norris James, and it was mimeographed in one of the barracks. And later on we, we were able to print it with a printing press, but that didn't last long and then we went back to mimeographing. And by then they had been building the school buildings, the administration buildings and the classrooms out of adobe that volunteer groups went out there to bake, make, and bake in the sun. And we built a kind of newspaper office out of the adobe, too. We were in the larger section, in the Japanese section, which would painstakingly stencil the news. It was nearby, you know, right in the same building.

CO: So how often would this paper come out?

HY: You know, I don't remember whether it was... I don't think it was every day or twice a week or weekly or what. It must have been weekly; there wasn't that much news.

CO: How did you get the job?

HY: Oh, Jeannie and I walked over there. And I guess they didn't chase us away, so we just stayed around and then later Wakako Nakamura, now Yamauchi, came with Hannah and George Okamoto, I think, as cartoonists, you know. And they did illustrations for the paper.

CO: Was this a paying job?

HY: Well, everybody, the professionals, like the doctors, got nineteen dollars a month and everybody, most everybody else got sixteen dollars a month, you know, whether you were cooking or nursing. No, no, wait a minute. The hospital was different. And then the apprentices got twelve dollars. And when everybody found out that hospital workers got nineteen dollars a month, everybody started to gravitate over there. So Wakako was working as a dental assistant and Jeannie became a nurse's aide and I was doing receptionist in the hospital just for that nineteen, three extra dollars. Well, there was stuff to buy. You know, the Sears & Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogs would come in by the truckloads and I'm sure they did millions of dollars worth of business in all the relocation centers. And Spiegel, which wasn't that elegant a store then.

EO: So, excuse me, so I just want to get straight about the origins of this newspaper. This was started by a white person?

HY: No, no, well, he was the reports officer. And each camp had its own reports officer and newspaper. And later on, the name of the Press Bulletin was changed to the Poston Chronicle. And it went through all kinds of phases. Like getting mimeographed and then printed and then towards the end it was multilists. You know, the typists print the, type out the multilist sheets and then they go through kind of like a mimeographing machine.

EO: And the reports officer is who?

HY: Well, in the beginning it was Norris James. And then later on it was a woman called Pauline Bates Brown, who had worked for the Arizona Republic, I guess.

EO: When you -- what is a reports officer?

HY: Well, they were in charge of anything that was printed within the camp. And then they had to send reports to Washington, too, I believe.

EO: So this was run by the reports officer?

HY: No, she was there, like, in the end she was there like a kind of advisor so we wouldn't print anything that Washington would frown on, I guess. Well, we pretty much knew the rules so we didn't write stories that would be subversive or anything like that.

EO: So what were the rules?

HY: Patriotism, patriotism. That was the rule. And then little stories like new library books. And how was the guayule project getting along, and places to relocate to and stuff like that. Well, it was information that was valuable to the residents.

EO: Would you call it censorship?

HY: Oh, yeah. Sure.

EO: I mean, did you have, was the press free to speak its mind --

HY: Well, like the Manzanar press called itself the Manzanar Free Press. But I doubt it, you know.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.