Densho Digital Archive
Friends of Manzanar Collection
Title: Keiko Kageyama Interview
Narrator: Keiko Kageyama
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Lomita, California
Date: May 5, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-kkeiko-01-0011

<Begin Segment 11>

MN: What was your first impression of Manzanar?

KK: Desolate. I thought, oh boy, just like no-man's land. Nothing there, just barracks. We weren't the first ones there, but close to the first ones. Because people came in after us. But anyway, they didn't even have a hospital then. That came later. Because when we signed up to work in the hospital, then we were assigned to Block 29.

MN: What was the first block that you lived in?

KK: The first block we lived in was Block 11, I think it was.

MN: Block 11? Was that near the Terminal Islanders?

KK: Yeah, not too far from the Terminal Islanders, next to the Terminal Islanders, I guess.

MN: Did you get along with the Terminal Islanders?

KK: Yeah. I mean, we didn't have any problems.

MN: What were some of the first things that you did when you got, walked into Manzanar?

KK: When I walked into Manzanar, our room, assigned room? Oh... I don't know.

MN: What did your room look like?

KK: Our room looked like... just like the houses that we used to live. But then it had, it was all open, you could see the cracks. Because they didn't have tarpapers and stuff yet at that time. And all, and the winds come blowing in, all the dust came in. Oh, it was really terrible. It was so dusty. Everything was dusty.

MN: Was it hard to breathe when there was a sandstorm?

KK: Well, we had to have handkerchiefs around our mouth all the time to keep the, to be able to breathe. But then it got better.

MN: Did it get better because people started to plant things?

KK: Yeah, uh-huh.

MN: Well, when you were first there, like even at night when you slept, did you have to have a towel over your face?

KK: No, no. It wasn't that bad by that time. After the first few days, we kind of put things around so that it wouldn't get so dusty. And as the weeks went by, they start to tarpaper the outside, so it wasn't so bad.

MN: How about the floors? Did they have linoleum from the beginning?

KK: No, they didn't have anything. So the dust would come from below, too, as well as side. [Laughs]

MN: When you first arrived, did they issue you coats and things, clothes?

KK: Yeah, uh-huh. They gave us a blanket, army blanket, one army blanket and a peacoat. I guess that was it.

MN: Did you have to get shots?

KK: Yeah, we all had to go get our immunization. I forgot what it was for, but it was two shots we got.

MN: I know some people got sick from the shots. Did you get sick?

KK: No, I didn't get sick.

MN: When you arrived in your barrack, did you have to also make your own mattresses?

KK: No, it was there already. Mine was there already.

MN: So someone had already put...

KK: Yeah.

MN: ...the straw in your mattress for you?

KK: Uh-huh.

MN: Was the mess hall finished?

KK: Hmm?

MN: Was the mess hall finished?

KK: I think so, yeah, more or less. So we got to eat.

MN: What did you eat those first few days?

KK: [Laughs] I don't know what I ate for the first few days. I don't remember what we ate.

MN: Were you eating the same food as the army, army men, like the K rations?

KK: No, we didn't have any K ration. 'Cause I don't remember eating any.

MN: What do you remember of the food at Manzanar?

KK: Well, it was like a slop. [Laughs] Depends on the cook. Some people went for one, different ones because they knew that their cook was better. But I didn't go around.

MN: Like what did they give you for breakfast?

KK: Well, mostly cornflakes, I think it was.

MN: How about for lunch?

KK: Sandwiches.

MN: What kind of sandwiches?

KK: Bologna sandwich, jelly sandwich. They weren't too inventive. [Laughs]

MN: What about dinnertime?

KK: Huh?

MN: Dinner.

KK: Dinnertime was spaghetti or stew or okazu, whatever they made us. I don't remember too much about what kind of food we had.

MN: Let me ask you about the latrine, then. Was the latrine finished by the time you got in?

KK: Yeah, it was finished, as far as I know it was finished. But there was no partition. I think they put partition in later. But when we first went in, they had no partition. They had showerheads, and that was it.

MN: Now you're a young lady. How did you feel about that?

KK: I went when nobody else was in it. [Laughs] Nobody else was taking a shower.

MN: So when were those times?

KK: Well, during the day when nobody's there. Or late at night when nobody goes.

MN: I thought everybody waited until late at night.

KK: Well, go as late as possible.

MN: Like midnight?

KK: Yeah, past midnight.

MN: So they had hot water that late?

KK: Yeah. I think the later you went, the more hot water you got. Otherwise, if you go too early, most of the water's used.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.