Densho Digital Archive
Raechel Donahue and Garrett Lindemann Collection
Title: Shig Yabu Interview
Narrator: Shig Yabu
Interviewer: Raechel Donahue
Location: Camarillo, California
Date: 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-yshig-02-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

SY: The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, the reason why... well, number one, I went to the first Heart Mountain reunion in Los Angeles, and I felt like a misfit, out of place, because all the people were older than I was. People from the eighth grade below did not attend. Those that were in the ninth grade and above, it's like a school reunion. So when I first went there, I looked around with the hopes that I could recognize someone that was at Heart Mountain. So the second day I had a nametag, and I listed I had the only talking magpie, I lived in Block 14-1-C, a marble champ, and anything I could think of, I listed, and everybody looked at me like a weirdo. But Shig is a very common name. So when I heard Shig, I would turn around with a big smile, it was the wrong Shig, it was somebody else. So I said to myself, I'll never go back to another reunion because it's for the reunion for the high school kids. And what was interesting about that was after about the fourth one, there was a Heart Mountain reunion in San Jose and my mother was a widow, and I was up there in the Bay Area basketball tournament for the seniors, so I said to myself, "I'm going to take her to the Heart Mountain reunion." And she really enjoyed it. The only time she got mad was when they asked the people, "Those that are a certain age, sit down." And when her age came, seventy-nine, she had to sit down. And somebody in the ninety won that award, which is just a recognition, he was ninety-something. And I don't think she was really mad, but she just couldn't believe somebody was older than she was.

And I got this postcard from the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, "Would you join the foundation?" Well, I set that postcard aside because I said, "Why would I want to go back to Heart Mountain when all we did was talk about leaving?" So after about three weeks, I was ready to chuck all the junk that I didn't need, and I noticed it said "Dave Reetz, Patricia Wolfe, John Collins, Rick Eric, Eric Muller, Douglas Nelson, Ann Noble, these are all Caucasian. I felt sorry for them, I says, "Why are they helping the Japanese Americans?" So I sent my twenty-five dollars in, and the next thing I know, I get a newsletter, and the newsletter says they're looking for artifacts. Well, here was my opportunity to give my envelope. And then I got thinking, I says, "We could only carry in just two suitcases, and we could only carry out two suitcases." So I thought, how many people carried out a bunch of stuff that they would donate for artifacts? So I wrote this little story about Maggie, I was just fooling around with the new computer I had, and I got a letter from a lady by the name of Patricia Wolfe. I never met her, and she says, "I went to Heart Mountain," she lived in Powell, which is thirteen miles away, and says, "I took flowers, and only you and I will ever know that the flowers was for Maggie." I said, "Man, this bird died fifty years ago." I called her up, I said, "I want to thank you for that nice gesture of giving that flowers for Maggie." I said, "I really appreciate that." She said, "Could we use your story about Maggie?" I said, "Sure, go right ahead." Next thing I know, I expected a condensed story about this big, well, two pages. I thought, "Oh, my god." And then she says, "You know, we're having a meeting in California, why don't you attend?" I assumed it was going to be in Los Angeles so I said, "Well, I'll attend. What restaurant are you going to meet in in Los Angeles?" "Oh, we're meeting in San Jose." And I said to myself, "I'm going to travel almost three hundred miles to say thank you?" But I says, you know, she didn't have to give flowers for Maggie, she didn't have to do all the nice thing about the newsletter.

So I went out there. And then next day, says, "You know, there's a board meeting. Would you like to come?" Well, I had nothing else to do, I had no excuses, so I'll attend. And here Dave Reetz is talking about, "Well, we cannot build any structure up at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center, the actual center. But where the military grounds were, we could build, we could purchase fifty acres of land." And they talked and talked about the pros and cons about this fifty acres. Well, I came to Camarillo because I started a Boy's Club here in Camarillo, in a condemned building with three thousand dollar grant. And when that three thousand dollar grant ran out, which included my salary, that was the end. That would have been history of the Boy's Club.

So after a period of years went by... well, prior to that, I had this old asphalt driveway, and we extended that with the cement, concrete, donated, and we made a basketball court, outdoor basketball court. And when I was washing the basketball court because it rained and all the mud was on this outside court, Joe McCray came driving by, and he looked at me and he says, "You know, Shig, you deserve something better than this." Little did I know that he was gonna donate the brand new gymnasium at this new complex at the Boys and Girls Club of Camarillo, which turned into a 27,500 square foot building, which I owe so much to Joe McCray.

RD: Oh, that's fabulous. You know, where they're building the interpretive center, so that's below where the camp was, right?

SY: Yes.

RD: And where were the gardens, I mean, all the stuff that they grew that they put in their root cellar?

SY: Oh, it's between the building and Heart Mountain. From the building you could actually see Heart Mountain, okay. And, oh, at that --

RD: Remember all the stuff that they grew, the produce?

SY: Well, there's like seventy-two vegetation that they grew. Somebody went to California and got the seeds and was able to plan all these vegetables, and people in Wyoming says, "No way," and they did it. Well, they were great farmers anyway. But when Dave was talking about this 50 acres of land, and I knew what I had to go through with the Boys and Girls Club of purchasing land and so forth, I said, "Gee, I heard this same story before." So I made a check out for a thousand dollars and I gave it to the Heart Mountain Foundation. And so that was the start of the purchasing of the land. And what was leftover, they did the walking tour and they built a flagpole and a little area where there's concrete with emblems honoring the 442nd, all these different people. But the interpretive center I really have to give credit to the people from Powell, Wyoming, the Caucasian people. Without them, that building wouldn't have even been started.

RD: Yeah, it looks like they're going to get a million dollar grant also from the National Park Service.

SY: Not quite, but almost.

RD: Pretty darn close. I liked it when they actually did that $999,000 thing, it's like 99 cents out of a dollar.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2010 Raechel Donahue and Garrett Lindemann and Densho. All Rights Reserved.