Densho Digital Archive
Friends of Manzanar Collection
Title: Mas Okui Interview
Narrator: Mas Okui
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: April 25, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-omas-01-0014

<Begin Segment 14>

MN: Let me ask you a little bit about the public bathroom situation. Did that bother you?

MO: No, no, that didn't bother me. I know it bothered my mother. She would go really late at night to take a shower. It didn't bother me because my little brother always had to take the chamber pot out. No, it was kind of fun to get in there with your friends and get wet towels and snap at each other.

MN: You know when you were still living in Block 17, they were still constructing the rest of the camp. So did they have the shower system set up when you first got into camp?

MO: Yeah, we had the regular...

MN: Showers?

MO: Yeah, in the men's latrine, we had the regular showers there.

MN: So you didn't have to, like, take a bath, improvise a bath?

MO: Well, when we went to Block 27, because they'd run out of water, hot water, we would bathe in the laundry room, because they had the double laundry tubs. We would bathe there, because there was hot water there all the time. And I remember there was a little girl that used to... we'd only see her from just the eyes up, she would kind of peek, and we were going to beat her up. But you can't go chasing someone when you don't have any clothes on. [Laughs] We never knew who that was. It happened several times. But you know, when you're a kid, it's just being a kid. You run around half-naked anyway.

MN: So when you were bathing, what kind of soap did you use to bathe with in the beginning?

MO: They had brown soap. Today they market it as Fels-Naptha, it's a very harsh soap, and it was used for laundry. And then later on we got Ivory soap, I think it was Ivory soap. But, see, my problem was I always had chapped skin. Your hands were chapped, face was always chapped, because it was so dry up there. Yeah, I think it was Ivory soap. We never had any perfumed soaps, unless you ordered them from a catalog. And then you always carried your soap; you didn't leave it there, you carried your soap to the shower just like you carried your toilet paper to the latrine. Yeah, that's what it was.

MN: When you went to go bathe, what kind of shoes would you wear?

MO: We wore geta. They make 'em from a two-by-four. Next door to us, Mr. Kyosai lived, and he had been a carpenter. He made all kinds of furniture. And one of the things we used to do is we'd go out at night, my friends and I, and we'd get wood for Mr. Kyosai. It was just lying there, so we just brought it back and gave it to him, and he would make tables and chairs and that sort of thing. The hard part was getting nails. Nails were hard to come by.

MN: But you found them anyways?

MO: I don't know where he got the nails, because we never found any nails. Because it's dark. [Laughs]

MN: How about zori? Did you have zoris?

MO: Yeah, yeah. I'd forgotten we had zoris, but they were made out of rags. They were braided and then kind of rolled around and sewn together. Yeah, yeah, we had those.

MN: And then where did you wear the zoris?

MO: Inside.

MN: Inside the barracks?

MO: Yeah, yeah, you don't wear 'em outside.

MN: Then you mentioned that your, was it your little brother that had to take the chamber pot?

MO: Yeah. My mother or he took it.

MN: And who cleaned it?

MO: Well, one of them did. Because I never, my older brother and I never took the chamber pot, the chamba, never. We know what it was, but we never... it was considered low-class work. [Laughs] Actually you didn't want to be seen carrying it, but you had to. Someone had to do it.

MN: Now, you were a very kind of curious kid. You crawled over the length of the rafters?

MO: Yeah, one time I did that when we first moved in. Because when we first arrived, there was no furniture other than the beds. And there was the oil operated stove, and the walls only went up eight feet. And they had a beam that traversed the entire length, and you could crawl on that beam and look down on everyone, and they'd catch you and they'd yell at you, they're gonna beat you up or whatever. But it's just something that you do. Well, anyway, that we did, or I did.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.