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-01-0021

<Begin Segment 21>

MN: Now in August 1945 when Japan surrendered, you were still in Manzanar. How did you hear the news that war was over?

MO: We were told by people that the war was over. And we really didn't attach much significance to it, or I didn't. I know some of the people whose sons had gone off with the MIS or 442, they were relieved that they were... because 442 was already on its way back. And I remember reading that book, The Misfits of Company K, what an incredible book that is. [Laughs] Story that's never been told, but that is just a magnificent book.

MN: All the troublemakers, huh?

MO: Well, they didn't have anything to do, so they made trouble.

MN: Now, your father left Manzanar first. Do you remember what month or day he left?

MO: No, he probably left in September. And he went to stay with Dr. Long, our minister. They were going to get us a place to stay and whatever it was, and fortunately they created that trailer camp in Burbank, so we had two trailers in that trailer camp. So we had at least a place to stay, and during that time we went to Burbank High School for just a couple months.

MN: Now, can you compare the... what was the living condition like in these trailer parks?

MO: Oh, better than in Manzanar, because we had two of 'em for our family. And my parents and the two little kids stayed in one, and the three of us stayed in the other trailer. It was nice.

MN: But was it like Manzanar because, did you still have to go outside to go to the bathrooms?

MO: Yeah, there was a public restroom. Yeah, it was a public restroom, but the sense of privacy was... everyone was in the same boat. We had our own little place, the three of us.

MN: Now, who was the majority that lived in this Burbank trailer park? Was it all returning Japanese American people from Manzanar?

MO: Just about. No, no, there were people from Heart Mountain there. But, see, they had several of them throughout there. They had one in Lomita and one in Long Beach, somewhere out near El Monte or somewhere like that. And these were just temporary housing until we got the place. For instance, my wife lived in Sawtelle and they stayed in the Buddhist church, they had it partitioned off. Yeah, yeah. It was just part of our lives. We had to stay somewhere.

MN: Now I've heard complaints of people who were living at the Burbank trailer park, had at least one person tell me that it was so loud it was hard to sleep. Lockheed was doing a lot of...

MO: Well, yeah, well, the airplanes were taking off. When you get right next to Lockheed, you're right across from Hollywood Way from the Lockheed air terminal, so it was noisy. But that's, that went with the territory.

MN: It's kind of ironic that Japanese Americans were suspect, and then now you're next to a defense...

MO: Well, I remember our family friends... I'll think of their last name. But they had a truck farm right there at Five Points, which is where Victory and Burbank... I keep thinking Satsuma, but that's not right. They had a truck farm there and they were ousted. My brother and I used to sell magazines at the Lockheed where the workers came out, Liberty magazines, and we were told that we couldn't sell magazines there. But that's the way it was.

MN: And which high school did you attend?

MO: At that time we went to Burbank High School.

MN: How would you compare the education at Burbank High School to Manzanar High?

MO: It's hard to say because I wasn't at Burbank very long, maybe two months. I remember Mrs. Vaughn was my English teacher, and she'd always comment on my work in the class. But she's the only one I remember from Burbank. Well, Mr. Trainer was my geometry teacher.

MN: What kind of comments did Mrs. Vaughn give you?

MO: She would say, "You really write well," as though people that looked like me are not supposed to write English well.

MN: Did she know you were in a camp?

MO: Yeah, they all knew that.

MN: Were most of the kids at Burbank High School from camp, from Manzanar?

MO: I don't know, but a lot of them were. A lot of them were. Because the people who moved back there were largely the people who had lived in San Fernando Valley previously, and all of us went to Manzanar.

MN: Now you said you didn't stay in Burbank High very long. How long were you there?

MO: Maybe a couple of months. No, I didn't finish that semester, because we were going to San Fernando. And it was an entirely different environment in San Fernando because half the school was Mexican, whereas Burbank was nearly entirely white.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.