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-02-0007

<Begin Segment 7>

RD: You still see Aki, right?

SY: Yes. He's the one that got me into Troop 333.

RD: Okay, so tell me about Troop 333.

SY: Well, one of the things... I went in there with a different name. I went in there as Shig Okada, because it was, that was a social event. Just the school I had to go with my real name, Yabu. But one of the things that they really pressured us into was working to get your first tenderfoot badge and learning all your skills and so forth. And we also had a patrol. So in our patrol, we would go to the dry river bed and practice our cooking. Well, actually cooking is opening up a package of Lipton soup and we thought that was the most delicious thing in the world. But we had to bring our own water and cook out there, which was not that far away. But we did go to the Shoshone River to camp overnight, and it was the coldest evenings, and my mother used to use safety pins, and use the army blankets to make a sleeping bag. Well, when you sleep on a slope, you're sleeping up here at night and you're on the bottom of the terrain in the morning. And then they said where there's water, it's the coldest, and that's where we slept, right next to the river. But some people were able to rent out sleeping bags and so forth. But my mother, being a pre-med student, was so conscious about cleanliness. She washed the army blanket so often, that it was so thin, that it was cold even in their barracks. So on a cold winter morning, or after sleeping, all you have to do is just go, huff, and you could see steam coming out. That's how cold it was.

RD: Did your barracks ever become a place it was comfortable?

SY: What do you mean?

RD: I mean, did your mom, I know your mom and your dad would have tried as hard as they could, but you know, you said you didn't have much in the way of money. What were you guys able to do with your barracks?

SY: Well, my mother had a friend, her name was Estelle Ishigo, and she was one of the only Caucasians living there. And she lived in Block 14, so whenever we had breakfast, lunch or dinner and there was an opening, she would say, "Mrs. Ishigo, here's a seat for you." And my mother enjoyed talking to her because she was bilingual. And I would also see her talking. My mother didn't work while she was in camp, and she was a PTA president because she went two years of university. So that didn't help me because I was a super clown, because I knew my mother would bail me out if I got in trouble, being the PTA president.


RD: Okay, do you remember any... you told me about the drowning, and you told me about, do you remember any particular tragedies when you were there?

SY: Oh, yes. One day my friend Sam Iyamoto and I decided to go to church. Not for religious purpose, but to meet some girls. And we only walked between lower 14, halfway to upper 14, and he wanted to lay down and sleep. And so I discouraged him from laying down, and I felt a lot of weight, so I decided to bring him back to the boiler room, probably about, I'm guessing, 25 yards. And later on I visited him, and his mother said he had frostbite on his cheek, his nose, and his toes. Well, I went to a Barron's reunion probably about ten years ago, and I told Sam, I said, "Hey, Sam, do you remember the time you were gonna go to church and you wanted to lay down and sleep on the ground?" He says, "You're the guy that saved my life." He says the doctor told him that if he did sleep, the hypothermia, he wouldn't have never got up and he would have died. So he thanked me, but I didn't realize I saved a life as a young teenager.

RD: You know, you've talked to me about some of your friends in Boy Scouts and that you met during the reunion, but did you, when you left, keep in touch with anybody?

SY: We went to a Heart Mountain reunion and Troop 333 reunion, and we went to Heart Mountain, Cody, Buffalo Bill Museum, we went to Yellowstone, Jackson Hole. We went to Topaz relocation center, and then we went to Salt Lake where we had the Heart Mountain reunion, and then on the way back we went to visit one of the Scouts that couldn't make the trip, he was too ill, and he lived in Las Vegas, so we visited him.

RD: But that was kind of later. Weren't you all brought together by that young guy who was in the Scouts?

SY: No. Oh, Aki Yoshimura was the only one that I've been in contact with. And then Bill Shishima, he works at the, volunteers at the Japanese American museum. And I see him once in a while.

RD: So what does Aki do now?

SY: Aki was either, somewhere between 20, 22, I don't know which one. And I think Bill was up in 28, and I was in 14.

RD: And where is Aki, in San Francisco now?

SY: No, Los Angeles.

RD: Los Angeles. What does he do? Is he just retired?

SY: He's retired.

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