Densho Digital Archive
Raechel Donahue and Garrett Lindemann Collection
Title: Nobu Shimokochi Interview
Narrator: Nobu Shimokochi
Interviewer: Raechel Donahue
Date: 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-snobu_2-01-0007

<Begin Segment 7>

RD: So did you make a lot of friends with the other kids that you kept over the years?

NS: Yeah. Well, you know, when they closed the camp and everybody went to the four winds, it was a big struggle to survive. And not only that, but with everybody leaving the same time, we never had an opportunity to exchange addresses, so we lost track of a lot of our friends. And being so busy trying to survive, you kind of... all the memories eventually just faded away. They were dear friends while we were in camp, but we weren't able to maintain our relationship.

RD: And a lot of you got together because of the Boy Scouts again later, right?

NS: Yes, because of Kaz. He did a lot of research and started looking for the troopmates. And he called me and I... oh, he tried to call me but my number was unlisted. So he sent me a letter, so I called him, and that was the beginning of our relationship. And that was, what, fifteen years ago or somewhere in that neighborhood. And he asked me who else I knew, and I had run into Sam Nakagawa, who was our assistant scoutmaster or maybe the last scoutmaster as we left the camps. And anyway, everybody knew somebody. And one of the main people we couldn't locate was Stan Yoshida. Nobody... he seems to have vanished, nobody knows whatever happened to him. But he was well-loved as a scoutmaster.

RD: Do you have a picture of him?

NS: Pardon?

RD: Is there a picture of Stan?

NS: I think there's a picture somewhere.

RD: You know, we have all this, your yearbook from Heart Mountain.

NS: Yeah, I think --

RD: I wanted to talk to you about the, so we have something to go with that. Because it seems like it was just a normal school, seemed pretty normal except that everybody was Japanese, right?

NS: Yeah.

RD: So tell me about your life in school there.

NS: Well, you know --

RD: Did it get normal pretty fast? Because they had to have built all that and put it all together.

NS: Yeah. The first year, we had classes in barracks. And they pushed in, what, about twenty-four chairs with arms on 'em into a room, and some of those rooms were so small that it was really a tight fit. And I remember in one of those rooms I dropped my eraser. And the chairs were so close together I couldn't bend over to pick it up. And erasers were hard to come by, and not only that, but they cost a dime if you could find one. And, well, a dime was worth a lot back in those days, especially when your parents earned only nine cents an hour. Well, anyway, what I did was when the bell rang, we went out the door, and I stayed right near the door as everybody went out. And the last person went out, I went in, picked up my eraser, and ran out before the next class moved in.

RD: You had to dive for it, huh?

NS: Yeah.

RD: So did they have, they had proms and dances?

NS: Yes. Yeah, that's all in my yearbook.

RD: Uh-huh. Could you just tell me that so I'll have something to look at? Say, "Just like other schools, we had proms and dances."

NS: Yes. And we had class officers and the most popular student in that class. It was kind of interesting. We did a lot of events that kept us busy, kept our interest, and yeah, that was certainly part of it.

RD: It seems like there was a big focus on trying to keep the kids' life as normal as possible.

NS: Right. You know, the Issei, the first generation, was very concerned that they couldn't, with the new environment, it was kind of difficult to instill the traditional Japanese values. And character traits were very important to them, and that's why with the first generation parents, they liked the Boy Scouts so much, because that was about character training. And, well, for instance, the Japanese trait of ganbare or ganbaru, it meant to... it doesn't translate very well. It meant to persevere, persist, to do your very best, to just... the, what do you call it? Just do your very best and don't quit. Whatever you do, don't quit, don't give up, or never give up. Just to persevere no matter how difficult the situation was.

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