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-02-0005

<Begin Segment 5>

RD: How did you get money?

SY: You know, I never got any allowance. My parents... well, even if we had money, we didn't need money. And if we went to the canteen, my mother will take us, and she'll buy ice cream or whatever. So there was no need for money -- oh, with the exception of movie, but that was a nickel or whatever, and my parents gave us the nickel to go see a movie.

RD: A movie in camp or the...

SY: No, no, right in camp, in one of the barracks.

RD: They made you pay for the movie in the camp?

SY: Oh, yes. Well, it's really typical of any movie that I remember, in San Francisco I used to go to the Hardy Theater. And when the cartoons came on, everybody screamed and hollered and yelled. When we were in camp, we did the same thing, we hollered and yelled because it was so entertaining. But the nice thing about it was we knew exactly what was happening with the European war, conflict, and the Asian, the Pacific. Because we knew how the war was going, as time went on, we knew that it was a matter of time that the Germans were going to surrender, and also Japan was going to eventually surrender.

RD: Well, as part of that information, because of the beginning of the movies they'd have the newsreels?

SY: Newsreel. But the newsreel usually was a month or two late. And that was the time when we saw, also, the sports. I remember Buddy [inaudible], Frankie Albert, these were big heroes of ours. And after the movie, we would imitate how they ran and played sports. So we weren't restricted to sports. As kids, we had a lot of opportunities to play football, basketball, softball, go hiking, swimming, ice skating. Even though, as young as I was, I had lots of dates. We didn't have to ask the girls, the girls used to ask us. So it was a fun time, and they also had talent show where we used to learn and see and hear the modern Hit Parade songs.

And even at the swimming hole -- at first we started off swimming in the ditch, which you can't swim very much. And then we eventually, some of us went in the Shoshone River, it's too cold and dangerous, the current. And then there was a pond near the Shoshone River, and all of a sudden one day they said, "Hey, there's a snake in here." He said, "Well, obviously it's not poisonous." One of the boys said, "Well, it's got a rattler on the end." Well, we sprang out of that pond and we never went back into that pond. And there was a canal for the irrigation, and we used to go into that. Until one boy, a Boy Scout that belonged to the same troop as I belonged to, 333, died in there, drowned. But I heard later on that he had a heart condition. So I'm assuming that the Heart Mountain people built a swimming hole. Not a swimming pool, but a great big hole. The irrigation water will come in, go into the swimming hole, and then it would go out, continue with irrigation.

RD: Oh, so it was kind of clean.

SY: Yeah. But we enjoyed it. There was a fellow by the name of Quinn Ishiba, who was the best and fastest swimmer in camp. And every time we went swimming, we would just, everybody would stare at this guy because he was so good. He looked like an Olympic star. But we noticed the people from Hawaii, they had their ukuleles, and they would sing. And they would sing the Hawaiian war chants, and they would sing a variety of songs like "Manuela Boy," which you ask a Hawaiian now, they never heard of it. But we heard, so we would imitate their singing. And then they sang the Hit Parade songs, and I remember my mother used to say, "Oh, what is this generation coming to? Oh, my gosh." They couldn't understand it.

RD: Now, speaking of the sports, were you on the basketball team or the basketball and the football?

SY: At camp? No, I wasn't...

RD: You weren't old enough?

SY: No, it was just our block. See, we had about thirty blocks, different, separate blocks.

RD: But there was a football team.

SY: That was a high school.

RD: Right.

SY: Yeah. But we played, like, intramurals within the upper fourteen and lower fourteen, or if we're lucky, the older guys say, "You want to play?" and then we get to play with them.

RD: Did you ever go to any of the...

SY: Oh, definitely. It was so exciting to see all these, I hate to say, a cliche, these great big white guys. [Laughs] I mean, humongous ball players, and the Japanese ball players are extremely small, but talented and fast.

RD: This fellow that we just talked to said that they got creamed. Here's his theory: his theory was that they came, and he said it was so exciting for them, and they heard, the rumor was that even though there were only playing six-man football teams, because their town was only six hundred people, right? What was his little town? Byron. And he said they just had this little tiny town, so they didn't have any coaches, they didn't know what they were doing. And they said they [inaudible] eleven-man team, but you were just really being nice, so just brought out the six to pound them into the pavement. He said it was, he said the bigger teams wouldn't come because they've heard.

SY: Oh. I do remember in the eighth grade, there were big boxes, and this was a PE class. And they opened up the boxes and there were all kinds of uniforms, and probably from high school. So we start wearing these football pants, and where the knee pads were supposed to be here, the knee pads were way down here. And we put on the shoulder pads, and a lot of us didn't know whether it was front or back, but we enjoyed wearing it. So that was one game that I remember, there was fifty players on one team and fifty players on the other team, all Japanese. And all the little guys, the skinny guys, all played on the line, all the big guys played in the backfield. And I was a skinny guy so they put me on the line.

RD: Do you remember the first snow?

SY: Well, you know, we welcomed the snow, because in San Francisco it doesn't snow. And so making that first snowman was fun, having snowball fights was extremely fun. And I remember we had these snowballs and we placed it in the laundry room, and then when the people came out from the lunch area, we would throw 'em. Well, somebody put water on the snowball and it turned into ice ball. And a pretty girl walking by, I threw that. The minute I let go I realized how hard that snowball or ice ball was. It hit her right on the head. Fortunately she didn't pass out.

RD: That's not one of the girls you were dating?

SY: No, no. But I always wanted to meet her as an adult to apologize, because at that time I was so scared to apologize, because if I killed her, everybody would have heard about it. But probably the worst snow was the blizzard. The howling wind and the cold penetrating. And the first year, the first snow, the blizzard we had, we were not ready for it, clothes-wise. We come from Southern California or California, we didn't know what an earmuff was, we didn't know what a glove was. We didn't know why people wore all these silly hats, we didn't know why they had mackinaw, Pendleton shirt, we couldn't afford them anyway. But our parents knew, by ordering through the catalogs, to order longjohns and shortjohns. But we were so ashamed to wear those, because if you go into a public restroom, you had to lower your pants and unbutton all these buttons from the rear end, it's so humiliating. And so we didn't mind the cold weather, instead of wearing the longjohns. And if we did wear the longjohns, we made sure that we had shirts that could cover up the longjohns so nobody would know.

RD: Yeah, we heard a story about one of the guys there who said that the military were supposed to issue coats.

SY: I'm sorry, military?

RD: That the army was supposed to issue coats?

SY: Coats?

RD: Coats, jackets. But then they never arrived.

SY: Well, I never seen it.

RD: They said they never saw those coats.

SY: But we ordered through catalogs, you know, Sears or...

RD: But they didn't give you any coats.

SY: No. And as a young boy, oh my gosh, we wanted a glove with rabbit fur inside. And they kept on saying, well, mittens are warmer because your hands are together, but that didn't look masculine, so we preferred the regular gloves, but my parents never bought any gloves. And in fact, we played marbles outside, and our hands would be so chapped it would be bleeding, but we still played. And as young boys, we didn't want to use cold cream or Vaseline or anything else, we'd rather have that bleeding knuckles.

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