Densho Digital Archive
Preserving California's Japantowns Collection
Title: Kenji Maruko Interview
Narrator: Kenji Maruko
Interviewers: Jill Shiraki (primary); Tom Ikeda (secondary)
Location: Fresno, California
Date: March 9, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-mkenji-01-0017

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TI: So let's talk about memories of the Fresno Assembly Center. So when you're there, what kind of activities were you involved with? Did you have, like a job?

KM: I had a job, yeah.

TI: Okay, what was that?

KM: I was in the motor pool with all the trucks. I didn't get a chance to go to Pinedale, Pinedale Assembly Center.

TI: Now, why would you want to go to Pinedale?

KM: Just to see what it was like over there in Pinedale.

JS: Oh, to drive one of the trucks over?

KM: Yeah, uh-huh. Yeah, I should have asked for assignment there, but it never did get there.

TI: Now, I'm curious, what did you hear about Pinedale? So you had the Fresno and Pinedale assembly centers not too far apart.

KM: Right, right, uh-huh.

TI: And the Pinedale, the people in Pinedale were not from the Fresno area.

KM: Yeah, they were from the Washington area.

TI: Right. So what did you hear about the people in Pinedale?

KM: Yo8u know, really, we didn't hear too much about it. And they had a newspaper there, and we didn't hear too much about that, either. Maybe I should -- I have some copies of the Fresno assembly newsletters.

TI: Yeah, one of these days I'd like to see those. I've seen the Pinedale ones.

KM: Oh, you've seen Pinedale?

TI: Yeah, I haven't really looked at the Fresno ones.

KM: Oh, yeah.

TI: It could be interesting to see how they're different. I think that for the people from Washington, they complained about the heat.

KM: Heat, yeah. Oh, yeah, they did.

TI: Now how about you? Were you used to the heat?

KM: Yeah, we were used to the heat. Yeah, it didn't bother us.

TI: [Laughs] Yeah, it's a big contrast from the people in Washington. That's all they talk about, was the heat.

KM: The heat, yeah. They couldn't stand the heat.

TI: Okay, so you worked in the motor pool. You mentioned your father, your family had a bicycle. What would your dad do with the bicycle?

KM: Oh, he'd, instead of walking, he'd ride. [Laughs] Yeah. It was funny. It was funny.

TI: It seemed fitting since he owned a bicycle shop.

KM: Yeah, bicycle shop, right.

TI: It was like advertisement for his place. In your spare time at Fresno, what kind of things did you do?

KM: In the spare time? Played basketball. I wasn't too much in baseball. And then the Butler, Butler Avenue was closed off because the camp extended past, south of Butler, so they closed that off. And then on Saturday nights, the fire department would wash down the street, and then they'd have social dancing at night, Saturday nights.

TI: Oh, on Butler Avenue?

KM: On Butler Avenue, uh-huh.

TI: And describe that. I mean, what... how many people were out there?

KM: There's quite a few young people out there, because we'd, community, there were people from all different areas. Sacramento, Florin, and Fresno, Caruthers, on through the valley. And, of course, the young people wondered what there is to do, so Saturday night we'd come out, you could listen to the music or start dancing. And kind of looked forward to being in the motor pool, we had to bring the chairs out for the side, fire department washed the streets down, and then the kitchen brought... what was that? Not corn flakes. Anyway... oatmeal, put it on the road to keep it... instead of...

JS: Instead of the dirt?

KM: Instead of dirt, yeah.

TI: And, like, what kind of, for the music, was there a band or was it...

KM: Oh, they were forming a band, because there were musicians there, too. So they were forming a band. And I know in Jerome they had a band.

TI: Oh, so they were just forming, so the music, they used a record player, then?

KM: Mostly a record player, yeah.

TI: And what kind of music did you guys listen to?

KM: Oh, we were listening to swing and all of that 1940 music.

TI: Yeah, it's a real vivid picture. I'm trying to think... and then in terms of the lighting, did they have lots of light around?

KM: No, we didn't have too much light, because we just used the streetlights. They were bright enough. We didn't have any lighting.

TI: Yeah. That's just a real visual kind of scene, when you think about the street and the dancing, and how they prepared everything.

KM: Lot of 'em, for a couple, three hours, there was a lot of preparation for that. And then they had a... on the, I think the rec. department, they put on a couple plays, camp life plays. So there was activities around.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.