Densho Digital Archive
Raechel Donahue and Garrett Lindemann Collection
Title: Bill Shishima Interview
Narrator: Bill Shishima
Interviewer: Raechel Donahue
Location: California
Date: 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-sbill-02-0004

<Begin Segment 4>

RD: So then you find out you're going to be moved. Do you know why you're being moved?

BS: No, no idea. And just when we seemed like we got settled, I think about a barrack away was a Christian minister, Reverend Toriumi, and he had all the toys you could imagine like Monopoly and all these different card games. So we were really having fun in camp.

RD: And then suddenly you're transported. So now you get on another train.

BS: Yes, now we got on another train, no one knew where we were going, and first thing, they made us pull the blinds down, so yet we wanted to see where we were going, but no, MPs on each car made sure that we had the blinds down. But in the open space, we were able to put the blinds up.

RD: Oh, come on, you were peeking.

BS: Yes.

RD: Tell me.

BS: But still, I didn't know where we were.

RD: Right, but you peeked every once in a while? Tell me that.

BS: Yes, I did. Every once in a while I had to peek out because just curiosity, and because I never really left Los Angeles and any distance away, so I was just curious what the rest of the country looked like.

RD: So nobody told you? Did you know you were going to Wyoming?

BS: No, we did not know.

RD: Okay, so tell me. So you get there, and some people stopped in Billings, right?

BS: Okay, no, I recall we came to Vocation, Wyoming. And I thought, wow, at first I read it as "Vacation, Wyoming," so I thought, wow, that's nice. But big open space, looked like the middle of nowhere, just countryside. Never saw such big open space. But then when we saw the black tarpapered barracks, I thought, uh-oh, is this where we're gonna live now?

RD: What did you think of the mountain?

BS: I thought the mountains were beautiful. But having to live there, I was sort of leery, and it was a little bit on the chilly side. I believe we went to Heart Mountain about September of 1942.

RD: It's about to happen, right? And you're dressed like you're dressed now, probably.

BS: Probably, yes. We didn't have so-called winter clothing, so we were sort of concerned. But in camp we all issued World War I sailors' peacoat. But yet, since they were sailors, they're all adult-size. So when I wore the peacoat, looked like the jacket was walking.

RD: And do you remember the first snow?

BS: Yes. Oh, I just couldn't feel enough snow, first time I felt snow. In Los Angeles I saw the snow-capped mountains once in a while, but never touched snow in my life. So it was really invigorating.

RD: And then you got a blizzard, right? You must have. And then when did you decide to not like the snow?

BS: Well, no, I always sort of enjoyed it because it was a different experience, always liked to have snow fights. But one thing I didn't like was when we had to go to school, there was a blizzard, so it's almost parallel to the ground, the snow coming and hitting us in our face. So we had to walk backwards to school or something like that.

RD: [Laughs] Walk backwards to school, I haven't heard that one. Okay, do you remember any guards?

BS: Yes, there were guards, I think there were half a dozen guard towers on the circumference of the camp, but I believe after the first year or so, we never saw the guards again.

RD: Why do you think?

BS: That I don't know why, but as kids we used to go under the barbed wire and make our homemade toboggans or cardboard sleds and slide down this small hillside there.

RD: Well, that hillside was out of bounds, though, wasn't it?

BS: Yes. But like I said, we never saw any soldiers after that. Only time you saw the soldiers was if you went to the main gate. And then we couldn't walk out of there unless you had a permit.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2010 Raechel Donahue and Garrett Lindemann and Densho. All Rights Reserved.