Densho Digital Archive
Raechel Donahue and Garrett Lindemann Collection
Title: Joan Ritchie Doi Interview
Narrator: Joan Ritchie Doi
Interviewer: Raechel Donahue
Location: California
Date: 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-djoan-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

JD: I was born in Los Angeles, California, in Boyle Heights.

RD: And were your parents American citizens? Tell me about your parents.

JD: Yes, my parents were American citizens. My mom was born in Hawaii, my dad was born in Japan. Now I have to stop and think about that. But he is mixed, Italian and Japanese.

RD: And your mother was Japanese?

JD: My mother is Japanese.

RD: And they were, of course, both American citizens?

JD: Yes.

RD: And where did you go to school?

JD: I went to school at Malabar elementary school in Los Angeles.

RD: What was your typical life like before you went to camp here in Los Angeles?

JD: Before we went to camp? I guess we were just kids growing up, going to school, going to Japanese school, just having fun. It was just kind of a normal life.

RD: When you said you went to Japanese school, that's separate from your regular school?

JD: Yes. Every day after school we went to Japanese school.

RD: So you have quite a mixed culture. So you speak Japanese?

JD: No. [Laughs] I mean, I speak very little Japanese because it was interrupted when we were quite young.

RD: And do you remember hearing about the war or being notified that you were going to be taken to the assembly camp?

JD: Yes, because some of our neighbors, some of them were businessmen, and they were taken first and they were put in a different camp. They were Japanese schoolteachers and whatever, so they were taken away. And then we had to get ready to go, so, of course, parents were trying to sell everything that we possibly could sell.

RD: And how old were you when you went to the assembly camp?

JD: Let's see, I was ten, I believe.

RD: Did you go to Santa Anita?

JD: No. I was in Pomona Assembly Center. We lived where the horses lived, in the stables.

RD: That's the camp that I remember, because I went to school in Riverside. So I knew a lot of people. And so your family, did they own property at the time?

JD: No, they did not. So I guess all they had was neighbors or someone who just kept different possessions for us, but no, we did not own any property.

RD: Did you get everything back afterwards?

JD: No, I don't believe so.

RD: Tell me that -- use that as a sentence.

JD: Oh. No, my family were not able to get anything back that they had left behind.

RD: That's amazing. I knew people who lost nurseries and gardens and homes and all of that. So what was your first impression as a young girl coming to the assembly camp?

JD: I believe it was a little scary and also kind of dirty because the living conditions were so different from in a home. And I remember having to fill up bags with hay that would be our mattress. I don't know, it was just pretty different, so it was scary. As we got older it became a little different.

RD: I'm sorry, what?

JD: As we became older and went on to Heart Mountain, it was a little different. By this time we're used to living in this style and things were a little bit better, I believe, in Heart Mountain than in Pomona.

RD: Yeah, probably, but not much, from what I've seen. What did your parents tell you about why you were going?

JD: Well, I think we were aware of the war, and because we were Japanese, well, we knew they were sending us off to war. And as we got older, then we understood who was behind sending us to camp. But it took us a while to understand that. I was too young, really.

RD: What did your parents do to for a living?

JD: Actually my father was in jewelry business, but he had gotten sick. So at that point, my father had just gotten over being ill, so he wasn't doing anything. And my mom was working, she used to monogram handkerchiefs, men's shirts and things, and that's what she did to keep the family going.

RD: So you sold everything so you would have money to go to the camp, right?

JD: Uh-huh.

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