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

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

RD: So, where were you born?

BS: I was born in downtown Los Angeles about 180 years after Los Angeles was born.

RD: You can, by the way, make these answers as long as you like, they don't have to be short. Tell me what is that part of Los Angeles?

BS: It was downtown Main Street I was born in, and we had a midwife that helped my mother deliver.

RD: And what is that area now?

BS: It was, at that time, way back in the 1930s, it was Mexican town, but my parents had a Mexican grocery store.

RD: How did they have a Mexican grocery store?

BS: Well, I feel my parents was overflow from downtown Little Tokyo, where all the Japanese people were assembled. But since it was a full house, my parents opened up a Mexican grocery store over there on Main Street which happened to be all Hispanic people there. And we had our customers from Chavez Ravine, Chavez Ravine being the site of Dodger Stadium today.

RD: And what was the grocery store called?

BS: The grocery store was Mercado Plaza, so actually it's "Market Plaza," which was taken after the name of Plaza Park right there on Main Street across the Pico House, and also my dad had Hotel Plaza, which was a half a block away from the grocery store.

RD: All right, now, where were your parents born?

BS: My parents were born in Japan, and I believe my dad came over when he was a teenager, about seventeen years old in 1910, and then my mother came about 1924.

RD: And did they become naturalized citizens?

BS: Yes, but it wasn't until forty years they were here in America, because they were ineligible to become citizens. But in 1952, the law changed and my mother got her citizenship at the Hollywood Bowl in 1953.

RD: And where did you go to school?

BS: I went to a local Catholic private school in Little Tokyo, which was about a mile away from home.

RD: Do you remember what it was called?

BS: Oh, the school was the Maryknoll school, or the St. Francis Xavier school. It was started by the Japanese missionaries way back in 1915. So we had, from kindergarten to eighth grade, population of the school about five hundred students, I believe we had one Chinese American and one Filipino, all the rest were Japanese Americans.

RD: But you lived in essentially the Mexican neighborhood. Who did you hang out with?

BS: Yes, it was a Mexican neighborhood, so my school friends were all Japanese Americans but my home friends were all Hispanic or Mexicans.

RD: And what was your life like in terms of, you know, you were sort of just a normal American kid. Tell me what your day would be like.

BS: Well, I was a little bit sheltered, but at home, my parents were too busy -- I hate to say it -- but too busy, so they sent me to a private school because longer hours. But sometimes I would accidentally on purpose miss the bus home from school so I could meander through Little Tokyo and maybe stop at, I called it our "reading room." It was the unusual reading room, because when too many kids assembled there, they asked us to leave. That happened to be the comic book section of the drugstore there in Little Tokyo.

RD: How big was Little Tokyo then, anyway? And I know you wouldn't actually remember, but how big do you think it was?

BS: Well, I heard at that time that, in the 1930s, the peak population, there was about 35,000 people of Japanese ancestry within a three-mile radius of Little Tokyo.

RD: And how close is Little Tokyo to [inaudible]?

BS: About half a mile. So we were half a mile from Japanese Town and right next door to Chinatown, and I lived in Mexican Town.

RD: It's almost like living in San Francisco, it's almost the same thing. We had heard a rumor in San Francisco that was a very popular one, was that the reason that they, the Japanese people were sent to the camps was because the Chinese people didn't want to obey the same curfew. Did you ever hear that?

BS: No, not really. I haven't heard that one.

RD: That's a good one, though, huh?

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2010 Raechel Donahue and Garrett Lindemann and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

RD: Now, do you remember where you were when you heard about the outbreak of the war for America?

BS: Yes. On December 7th, that Sunday, I was at downtown Broadway at a movie house. And after we came out, about two or three o'clock, noticed the headlines: "Japs Bombed Pearl Harbor." That meant nothing to me because I didn't know what, or where Pearl Harbor was, but I sure found out later.

RD: Yeah, and probably "Japs" either. You hadn't been called that, had you?

BS: Not really, because I went to an all-Japanese school and my Hispanic friends took me as one of their friends.

RD: And so then after that, so what did your parents say? Do you remember what happened when you went home?

BS: Not really. I really don't remember them discussing anything other than at school we found out that eventually we're gonna have to be moved. So all of us classmates, after school, we walked down to downtown Broadway, had our pictures taken, small, 1x1 pictures, and we shared our pictures. In fact, I still have that today.

RD: You mean you had them taken yourselves? You did that?

BS: Yes. No, we went to a studio on Broadway and had individual pictures taken. I forgot how many, maybe forty pictures of each other, and we passed it and exchanged pictures.

RD: Wow. But it wasn't something the government made you do.

BS: No, no, just the kids at school said, "Let's do that."

RD: Wow. Wasn't that expensive?

BS: I don't recall how much it was, but I think I had a regular allowance that would have been able to afford it.

RD: Yeah, the same as a comic book, probably.

BS: Yes. Well, no, that one we just read.

RD: Okay, so then, after a while passes, then you find out that you're going to be taken away.

BS: Yes.

RD: Do you remember how that happened in your house?

BS: No, but after I found out that General John DeWitt, commander of the Western forces, issued a hundred and eight of these so-called exclusion orders, and my family lived on the outskirts of Little Tokyo, so we had to adhere to Exclusion Order 33, which was dated May the 3rd, 1942, and we had to report to this local church on May the 9th, 1942. So we had, shall we say, one week's notice to report there.

RD: And you had to do what in that week?

BS: Well, my parents did not own the grocery store, nor the hotel, but they leased it, because they were ineligible to own property here in California since they were aliens. So they had to find buyers for the grocery store and the hotel, so they, actually, they gave it away, and a Chinese family purchased the store from my dad.

RD: Was the Chinese family friends of yours?

BS: No, they were just strangers, but they were looking for a good deal, and that's what they got, a good deal. So my dad was very bitter that he had to give up his grocery store and hotel business.

RD: Were you able to sell anything... so you sold the inventory of the store and of the hotel like that?

BS: We had to sell everything, yes, or give it away. I know he couldn't sell the truck, so he gave the truck to the buyers of the grocery store.

RD: And do you remember what you took with you?

BS: Not really. Just minimal clothing, that's all I can really recall.

RD: Did you have, when you were a little kid, did you have like a radio or flashlight or anything like that that you weren't allowed to bring?

BS: No. I had a camera, but we couldn't bring that. And my pet was a bird, since we lived in the hotel, my only pet was a bird, so we couldn't bring that either.

RD: Well, you went to school with a lot of Japanese kids. Did they have to leave their pets behind?

BS: Yes. No one was allowed to bring their pets, so that was a little bit heartbreaking.

RD: Do you remember any of them, the other kids that you knew?

BS: Some of them, yes, they had to leave their dogs or cats at home, so they had to actually give it away so someone could take care of it.

RD: Oh, that's so awful. I'm such a dog and cat person, and I can't take it. So where did you go first?

BS: Well, we reported to this local church, which at that time was called Union Church of Los Angeles, on 120 South San Pedro Street. So we reported there before noon of May the 9th.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2010 Raechel Donahue and Garrett Lindemann and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

BS: We reported to a church on San Pedro Street, 120 North San Pedro Street, before noon on May the 9th. There we boarded buses, and on our bus we had armed soldiers with fixed bayonets. And then we had a police escort to a place in Arcadia, California. A big thing in Arcadia, California, was the Santa Anita horse race track, which was the so-called "assembly center."

RD: Were you there at the beginning?

BS: No, not the beginning. I believe it probably opened up in April of 1942. We didn't get there 'til May, and then we stayed there about five months before we were, again, relocated to Heart Mountain, Wyoming.

RD: Do you remember as a little kid, do you remember the searchlights at Santa Anita?

BS: Oh, yes. We used to play games with the sentries at Santa Anita. I say play games because in the evening, when we had to go use the latrines, the spotlights would pick us up and follow us wherever we go. So if we went into the latrine, they follow us there and waited for us to get out. So as we got out, we used to play games with them, hide behind the barracks, so they couldn't follow us.

RD: Weren't you afraid?

BS: Not really, because it was just a game for us. I said, "Gee, why should the spotlights be on us just because we're going to the latrine?" So we used to just play sort of hide and seek from the spotlights.

RD: But these were armed guards. I mean, you're a little kid, weren't you afraid you were going to get shot?

BS: Not really; we thought it was fun.

RD: Okay, then Santa Anita. Did you ever see, you probably got there too late, but you heard stories of cars being burned at Santa Anita? You didn't see that?

BS: No, didn't see anything like that.

RD: Okay, so then you're there for a little while, and then, how did your parents tell you what was gonna happen next?

BS: They didn't know.

RD: Say, "My parents."

BS: They didn't really tell us too much.

RD: Say, "My parents."

BS: Oh. My parents really didn't talk too much about what's happening because I believe they didn't know what was happening. So they weren't able to communicate with us other than us kids. Well, backtracking a little bit, when we were going into camp, I thought, gee, I can't join the Boy Scouts. I was looking forward to joining the Boy Scouts, I was just eleven years old, and my brother was in the Scouts already, so I was waiting to become twelve years old. So that was my first disappointment about going into camp. But then what happened? We had Cub Scouts in Santa Anita Assembly Center, so I joined the Cub Scouts and really, to me, it was really exciting because I got to join the Scout program and then had hundreds of childhood friends all around us. We had school on the grandstand, but school was a little distracting because the open grandstand, we had thirty or forty or kids clustered in the grandstand with the teachers in front of us, but the backdrop was that we could see the young men and women making camouflage nets. So behind barbed wire fence and armed guards, they're helping the war efforts by making camouflage nets, so we're distracted by watching them. And also on the racetrack, that was our PE playground. So kids are playing baseball or football, so we're really distracted even though we had classes in the big grandstand.

RD: Wow. Had you ever been to Santa Anita before you went there as a prisoner?

BS: No, never. But I did go there after.

RD: Yes, we took Kaz and Nob there, and they told us the same stories about the searchlights.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2010 Raechel Donahue and Garrett Lindemann and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 5>

RD: So did you get to go out of camp?

BS: Yes. Because I was in the Boy Scouts, so it was really great, Boy Scouts started a block away from us, and happened to be from the same school that I was in Los Angeles. So the Maryknoll school people started Boy Scout Troop 345, so I joined them. And then, I think, a few months later, I just happened to get pneumonia, so I was in the hospital. When I came back from the hospital, our block started a Boy Scout troop, so my parents wanted me to join our block troop, which was sponsored by the St. Mary's Episcopal church from Los Angeles. So I joined our block troop.

RD: Was that 333?

BS: Troop 333, yes. And that's what, you know, I read a book, Baseball Saved Us in camp, but to me, Boy Scouts saved us in camp, because we were able to meet boys and girls from other blocks and other, throughout the camp, different age level, younger ones, older ones, whereas in school you just meet your classmates. So it was really exciting to be in the Boy Scouts, and it kept us busy. We had a patrol meeting every week, we had troop meeting every week, and then in between we had troop camping or hiking, so it was really exciting.

RD: Shig Yabu told us that he felt that his parents approved of the Boy Scouts because it had, the values are similar to traditional Japanese values in terms of family...

BS: Well, I think mainly the Boy Scout organization, throughout the Japanese community, they were all sponsored by either the church or the cultural centers because it's not book learning, it's learning that you get other than in school, such as leadership, camping, hiking, camaraderie and discipline. So I think that's why they always sponsored scout troops.

RD: Tell me about the trip to Yellowstone.

BS: Oh, our Yellowstone trip was really great. And hate to say it, but that was one of my first bad experience in camp. We were in the chow line getting ready to eat, and one the Boy Scouts cut in line ahead of us. So I said, "Hey, there's a line behind us," and he just got behind me and knifed me. Oh, I was shocked, he cut my, behind my elbow here, it bled a little bit, but I was more shocked than anything else. First time I got knifed, and that was a Boy Scout?

RD: And so when you took the Boy Scout trip, where did you go?

BS: We went hiking in Yellowstone park, and the we also had a project. We made a catwalk across the Nez Perce creek. So all the scouts did it that went before us and after us, and we completed a catwalk across the Nez Perce creek.

RD: Did you know the history of the Nez Perce at the time?

BS: No, I didn't, and I still don't know it. But I think about in 1998, about twelve or thirteen of us Boy Scouts, we had a reunion, and we gathered in Cody, Wyoming, we had a reception by the Simpson brothers, Alan Simpson and Pete Simpson greeted us there, we had a nice reception there. And then we went to Yellowstone National Park, and we had prior arrangement so the rangers took us to the old camp site and we were able to go to the creek, Nez Perce creek where we saw the catwalk or wooden bridge, but it wasn't in use anymore.

RD: Did you ever meet Alan Simpson when you were a boy?

BS: No, but I recall seeing a picture of them when he came with his parents. Because the minister in our block happened to know them or meet them, and I had their pictures. So I was able to meet, I think, Mr. Simpson in 1998, and then he showed me the picture and I happened to know, he couldn't remember the name of the people he met, and I knew it was Reverend Yokota, which lived in our same block.

RD: And did you know Norm Mineta at all?

BS: No. I met Norm Mineta, oh, about fifteen, twenty years ago, here in Los Angeles, but not in camp.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2010 Raechel Donahue and Garrett Lindemann and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

RD: So what did the barracks look like?

BS: Well, to me, it was just a square building or rectangular building. And it didn't bother me too much other than it was bare and stark, and we had single cots. But other than that, it didn't bother me too much. Initially, though, we had six in our family and the unit, about twenty feet by twenty-four feet, so it was basically wall-to-wall beds. And then my brother was born on December 26, 1942, so by that time some of the barracks had been vacated, so we were able to get another unit, so we had two units. And my older brother and myself were able to live in one unit, and then the rest of the family lived in the other unit.

RD: Were you with both your parents?

BS: Yes.

RD: Did your dad start to fix the place up, did he build any furniture?

BS: Little bit. I think he built sort of like a jewelry box or something, with a Heart Mountain shaped box top, shaped like that, and then a small drawer jewelry box for my mother, I believe. And we had that until recently, but not I'm not sure what happened to it.

RD: Do you remember any other furniture? Because a lot of people didn't have any.

BS: No, I don't remember other furniture. I think he made some boxes or stools, but that's about it.

RD: And, but you were comfortable.

BS: Yes, as a kid, I was comfortable, and wasn't too particular about that.

RD: What did your parents tell you about why you were there?

BS: We never really discussed it other than, "How come?" because we looked like the enemy, we were in camp, but other than that, never said anything.

RD: Did they say, "It couldn't be helped"?

BS: Yes, so the Japanese words, "Shikata ga nai," "that couldn't be helped." Or they always say, they use the word gaman. Gaman means to endure or put up with, so that's what we had to do. But I did miss my Hispanic friends back home going to downtown Broadway and the movies. But other than that, there was plenty of playmates in camp.

RD: How about the food?

BS: Food, I never was too particular about food. So that was okay with me, and I think every once in a while, especially in the summer, we used to get watermelon treats. So my friends knew I didn't care for watermelon, so they'd always try to sit next to me on Sundays when we had watermelon treat.

RD: Well, that's funny because that was the first time it was ever grown in Wyoming, I think. Tell me about the swimming hole.

BS: Oh, the swimming hole was, sort of I looked forward to, because I was a non-swimmer. And Boy Scouts and the whole community helped, sort of lined this, it was just a bulldozer came, I believe, dug a deep ditch or a hole, then we had to line it with bricks. So looked forward to doing that, it was lots of work, but it was looking forward to having this swimming hole opened up. But when it did open it was sort of muddy, but it was still nice, especially in the hot summer heat.

RD: But you're a non-swimmer. Did you go in?

BS: Yes. So I'd always try to swim. I was able to dog paddle, but that was it.

RD: Aren't you supposed to learn to swim in the Boy Scouts?

BS: Yes. That's why I was looking forward to that.

RD: And then how far did you get, did you get any badges in Boy Scouts while you were there?

BS: Yes, I was determined to be a good scout, so I did get up to Star rank. So it's Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, and then Star.

RD: And what did you have to do to do that?

BS: You had various tests, requirements, study the knots, first aid, hiking, camping, cooking. And then, in fact, I remember for hiking we had to do a fourteen mile hike. So we got a permit to leave the camp and we went to Ralston, the neighboring town, they told us that was about seven miles away. So about three of us went to Ralston and back to fulfill our hiking requirement.

RD: Did you ever follow any of the baseball or football teams there?

BS: Not too much. I mean, we watched it all and we participated in it. We had our own Boy Scout basketball leagues and Boy Scout softball leagues, so that was fun.

RD: Did you ever go into town?

BS: One time I was able to go. We had the so-called seventh grade basketball all-star team, and I was selected to go into Cody, Wyoming, and we played basketball against them. And I don't recall the results, but I'm pretty sure we were walloped. But it was just exciting just to get out of the camp and see civilization again.

RD: You don't remember seeing any signs about "Japs go home" or anything like that?

BS: Oh, yes.

RD: Tell me.

BS: It said, "No Japs here," and there were numerous signs there about "No Japs." So I was sort of, we had to be selective to go in to get something, bite to eat or something, because we had to avoid where it says "No Japs."

RD: So it wasn't everywhere?

BS: No, not everywhere.

RD: Do you remember a place that you would go?

BS: No, I don't remember any of the stores.

RD: And were your parents unhappy, could you tell?

BS: I'm not sure if they were, because I think they worked harder outside in civilian life, so maybe it was sort of a break from a seven-day work week for them. So my dad worked at the community enterprise office, so he, I think, sort of had to collect rent from the PX store that they had in the camp, so that was one of his duties. But other than that, I think...

RD: So your mom didn't have to work?

BS: My mom didn't have to work, just wash our clothes, and didn't have to prepare food, so I think she was a little bit more relaxed. And I guess she was able to meet lots of old friends and make new friends and use her Japanese language in camp.

RD: How was your Japanese?

BS: Poor. I went, as I mentioned earlier, I went to a Catholic private school, but we had one hour a week Japanese class. But my parents wanted me to learn Japanese -- I'm sorry, wanted me to learn English, not Japanese, so they never emphasized that. So I used to do my English homework in my Japanese class. But after we became young adults, she regretted that and didn't teach us Japanese because it was too late then.

RD: Do you remember, did you remember seeing Shig Yabu's bird, Maggie?

BS: Yes. Well, no, I saw a magpie at our reunion in 1998. And then he approached the magpie like he did in the book. I was shocked. So I have pictures of that, him entertaining the magpie in 1998.

RD: Oh, well, I need to see that.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2010 Raechel Donahue and Garrett Lindemann and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

RD: And do you remember the day that you left camp?

BS: Sort of. I was twelve years old, my brother was fourteen, and my dad was already in Los Angeles at that time. And he wanted to make sure that the two older children, my brother and myself, got to Los Angeles before September so we could go in school. So my two sisters, my brother and my mother were still in camp, but my older brother, fourteen -- I'm sorry, I was fourteen, my brother was sixteen, and we left Heart Mountain, Wyoming. And we were, we went through Salt Lake City, and at that time my uncle was living in Salt Lake City. So something like one or two o'clock in the morning, we woke him up just to say hi, and then we ventured on to Los Angeles.

RD: And how did your parents remake their life in Los Angeles?

BS: Well, there was no place to live. So he lived, my dad was at a friend's house, so he invited us to there also. But we couldn't stay there, so we got a schoolboy job. My dad got me a job in Harbor City, and it was a rabbit farm. So they, for room and board, I had to feed and clean the rabbits before school and then after school again I had to do the same thing. So that was my pay for being housed there.


BS: Okay. Since my parents couldn't find a living place for us, we had to go do a schoolboy job. That's that I had to work for my room and board. I worked on a rabbit farm, so my job was to feed and clean the rabbit droppings every morning, then after school do the same thing again for my room and board. And my brother found a place in Silver Lake district, which at that time was sort of a middle, upper-class community, so he went to school at Marshall High School. And for his room and board he had to mow the lawn, wash the dishes, and do household chores.

RD: Wow, it's like being an indentured servant. When did you see your parents?

BS: I didn't, except sometimes on the weekends, but not very often, because I still had to work on the farm for myself.

RD: Were the people nice to you?

BS: Yes, they were very good.

RD: Still, it is child labor.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2010 Raechel Donahue and Garrett Lindemann and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

RD: Let's go back to the camp for a moment to the swimming hole. You knew the boy that drowned?

BS: Oh, yes. In camp, one of our Boy Scout members, Toru Shibata, him and his younger brother and I believe another friend went to the local irrigation canal. And there's different stories I heard, but I heard they challenged him to swim across the canal. He said, "Oh, I can do that." But when he jumped in, the canal was cold and swift and he didn't make it. So his brother had to view all of that, so it was really heartbreaking. And then after we heard the news, they lowered the level of the canal, and so the Scouts had to go in the canal and walk it hand in hand across the canal. And one of our Scout buddies, Kenny Yoshikura, we noticed he stepped on Toru Shibata because he ran out of the canal yelling, so we knew he found him. And it was really heartbreaking because he was the life of the party type of boy. He was always cheerful, always with a smile, always joking. But as I mentioned earlier, we had our Boy Scout softball leagues. And at one of the games, which happened to be about two weeks before he drowned, he asked our scoutmaster, Mr. Sab Fujise. He said, "Mr. Fujise, if you die, do you go to heaven?" And like a true Scout leader and father, Mr. Fujise said, "Yes, all good Scouts go to heaven." And that really shook me up because I recall him asking our scoutmaster that about two weeks prior to his drowning. So I thought, wow, maybe he had some kind of premonition about that event.

RD: That actually wraps up our whole story about him. Do you think you might have a picture of him?

BS: I think... did you get the troop picture? We have a troop picture, I believe he's in there.

RD: Oh, it's gonna be in, yeah, I might send it to you and ask you to pick out which one he is. Because it was in your pictures there?

BS: Yes.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2010 Raechel Donahue and Garrett Lindemann and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

RD: So when your parents, when you came back home, you said your father might have been on the [inaudible]. What did they tell you afterwards?

BS: He never said much, but you know, he never told me, but he was a college graduate. He graduated University of Southern California as an architect in 1928, and he never mentioned that. But after camp, he got into the hotel business, and he always used to sketch. I was wondering how come he's always sketching and I asked him, "How come you're always sketching buildings?" Then that's when I found out he graduated the University of Southern California as an architect, but he never got a job as an architect. I believe he built one church building and that was it. So 1928 depression here in America, plus, he looked like me, so maybe that's why he didn't get a job, I don't know. But he never practiced what he got in college.

RD: And he didn't talk to you about it much. What did you tell your children? Do you have children?

BS: Yes.

RD: What did you tell your children about your camp experience?

BS: Not too much. They're not interested. And even though they know I spend much of my spare time at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo, they never really cared about it. I tried to get them to some of our speakers, our exhibits, they're not interested.

RD: Why do you think the Yonsei should know?

BS: I think they should know because this shouldn't happen to anyone anywhere again. Just because we look like the enemy, we're incarcerated? There was no charges against us, no due process of law, but just because we look like the enemy, we're incarcerated. In fact, the government called us young American citizens aliens, enemy aliens. So my uncle, he wanted to volunteer and fight for America, but he was classified 4-C, and 4-C is enemy alien, and he's an American citizen, and he was refused to join the American army.

RD: Well, how come someone like Ben Kuroki could go?

BS: I'm not sure. I believe some of this... well, the soldiers that were in the army prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th, some of them were, shall we say, booted out of the service, some were taken away from strategic areas, sorry, and some were, their weapons were removed from them, and others were able to remain in the service.

RD: Would you take it from: "some were taken away from strategic areas"?

BS: Yes, that's what I heard, that some were taken away or booted out of the service, too. But I think Sergeant Ben Kuroki, he was from Nebraska, so maybe he was one of the few exceptions, especially he was in the air force. At that time, they were not able to go into the air force, but he was in the air force, so I'm not sure how he was able to go in. Plus, when he came into Heart Mountain camp to recruit, there was mixed emotion, I heard. I was too young I was probably around thirteen or fourteen when he came into camp, and to me, he was a hero. But yet, other people felt, gee, he never went into camp, why should he come and recruit people of Japanese ancestry to fight for America behind barbed wire fence and armed guards? So we had two different camps. I mean, not two different camps, two different ideas about Sergeant Ben Kuroki coming into camp and recruiting for Uncle Sam.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2010 Raechel Donahue and Garrett Lindemann and Densho. All Rights Reserved.