Densho Digital Archive
Emiko and Chizuko Omori Collection
Title: Harry Ueno Interview
Narrator: Harry Ueno
Interviewer: Emiko Omori
Location: San Mateo, California
Date: February 18, 1994
Densho ID: denshovh-uharry-01-0014

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HU: And next thing, while we were eating in -- before we opened our mess hall, we were eating in the next block mess hall, we'd be standing there, and dusty, and the sun is so hot while stay in our line. And so I talked to one of, friend of mine working in the mess hall, said, "How about we dig the big pond there? We got plenty of water in here and maybe they'll avoid the dust kick up from the ground, and put the water in. That'll cool off, little bit, and put lot of rock around. And they could sit on there, and wait 'til the mess hall's open." They ring the bell but they have to stand on line, see. So that make it much easier for people to wait for. So we started to dig the pond and here comes one old man, his name is Nishi. He said, "What are you doing?" I said, "We're going to dig the big pond over here." And he said, "Oh, that's a good idea. I've got an experience to build a pond, so I'll give you a sketch so you could work on it." So we started working on his sketch and built a pond. We built a great big pond, about 80 feet, figure-eight shape. And the first thing the people work in the farm, we had one building, a lot of bachelors, they worked in a farm. They were from San Fernando, see. And we asked them, "Bring a chicken wire in." And people live around here a long time ago, they had a chicken coop and a lot of chicken wires that lay around in open fields. "Bring some of them, so we could put it in under the cement, they won't crack."

And the first problem was the cement. Those days, all the barracks' entrance a little high for the children. They had to crawl up to the, inside their apartment. And the old people, they're pretty hard to step in. So a lot of people steal the cement and make the block. They can't get any wood, so a lot of cement been stealing. So administration get very strict and a lot of people been put into jail for stealing the cement. And so, well, I started so I had to do something. I went over and the first time I met the acting director, Ned Kimball, he was a real power in Manzanar. Because the other director, Nash, Kimball and Coverley, they all stay a short time, you know, a few months and go. So he's the one that's a real power in administration at Manzanar. So I met him and I told him, "This is not for myself, for the people in the block, I build the pond there, please give me some cement." Not for personal use, but everybody, so he gave me permission for three sacks. Three won't do it, I know. So I told the driver, "Show these permits and get the three sacks, but don't give 'em." So he went over eight times -- [laughs] -- and we used twenty-four sacks of cement.

So we built the pond, and we named that Otowanotaki, that means [inaudible] pond in Kyoto. They still have that name in Kyoto. You know, there's a lot of old stories, love story, in that famous pond, so we used that name there. And we built that, and the people, whole block people working on Sunday, borrowed the truck and a trailer and bring great big rocks so they could put around the pond so they could sit on it. And the garbage men, they go out and dump the garbage in east side of Manzanar, they had a lot of small ponds all around there. And lot of carps in there. And they could bring a live carp in a garbage can and dump in there, so people could watch the fish swimming. And the farmer there, they come from up in Mt. Whitney, around there, there's a lot of trouts in irrigation water. So they bring some trout, too, so put it in the pond and people enjoyed those, watching it. [Laughs] So they dug out a few months ago, that pond, they going to rebuild the whole thing. The pond was in pretty good shape, I think, then. I'd like to see this year.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.