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-02-0006

<Begin Segment 6>

RD: Over a period of time, I heard that the barracks, that yet everybody tried to make them into real homes.

SY: Yes. In Block 7, which was next to Block 14, it was a half a block. Half of the block was for school, the other half was with a basketball court and swings and so forth. But they had a great big mound of wood leftover from the barracks, from the mess hall, administrative building, high school, and so forth. And people will take all those wood back to their barracks and make furniture, whether it's benches or seats or tables or whatnot. And the leftovers obviously which you couldn't use you put in the stove, our potbelly stove, to get the fire started.

RD: We saw some pictures from the government that are hysterical, that they're like propaganda pictures where they show these lovely little cottages with little curtains and sort of the modern couch and we're thinking, probably not. Do you remember one particularly nice one, though? Is there somebody who had the talent to make a really nice place?

SY: Well, I think what was available was the wood. Now, those that weren't talented in carpentry will use an orange box or something to make seats out of. But as time went on, you soon find out who were the carpenters and they would say, "Would you make one for us?" and so forth. And a lot of people enjoy showing off their skills. And so, of course, you didn't need a sink, because there was no water, but they did make, some people actually made a chest, different things, store things away.

RD: Yeah, that's interesting, because the government pictures shows us a kitchen. It shows a kitchen, it shows this little, it shows a Japanese man with his son, and he's wearing like army boots, like laced up to here and he's holding a little kid like this. And there's also one where the guys have suspenders and a pipe, and then the mother's over at the sink like this doing the dishes. I'm thinking, that's not how I heard it. [Laughs]

SY: Uh-huh.

RD: So, now, I imagine some people had funds, some people had means. I mean, weren't there people that, like, people that you considered to be rich people?

SY: I would say as a young boy between nine to thirteen and a half years old, I remember all types of entertainment and fun. Because kids have the ability to create fun. And at the very beginning, where most of the people that did their washing clothes, they had sinks and they had a lot of people, the children would be crying and so forth. But on the other half of the room was like a community center. And the older kids would teach us all types of different games. We would play yo-yo, chess, checkers, blind man's bluff. We could get knives and poke it between our fingers, and the faster you do it, the more coordination you're supposed to have. One real, the dumbest game I ever saw was we all held our hands and one person will stick a knife into the electric socket, and the person on the end would get the biggest jolt. And so we would all take turns being on the last. Until one summer, there was a fellow by the name of Tom Omori, says, "Hey, remember we used to get..." he had a knife, and he says, "Let's do it again." Well, we were too smart. We said, no, we don't do that anymore. Well, he stuck his knife in. Fortunately there was plastic or something, insulation, and that thing exploded. And so it was fortunate that he didn't stick a metal piece with his hand because he would have been fried.

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