Densho Digital Archive
Steven Okazaki Collection
Title: Chizuko Iyama - Ernie Iyama Interview
Narrators: Chizuko Iyama, Ernie Iyama
Location: El Cerrito, California
Date: December 11, 1983
Densho ID: denshovh-ichizuko_g-01-0001

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Q: Ernie, could you describe the evacuation, what you did or where you were?

EI: Well, up to the time of the evacuation, I was working at the county in the election department for about five months previous to evacuation, and I actually worked until the day before evacuation. It just happened that the county clerk, Wade, was a good person and he kept me on until the last day. And that was the reason for my working there. And then of course the fellow I worked with was about my age too and we got along well. And the type of work we were doing was re-precincting in the main, in the county, we would go out and try to break up the areas into about 250 voters in each area so that each precinct had about that number, or we would estimate that they would have that number in a year or two.

Q: Can you describe the preparations for evacuating and then the assembly center and your impressions?

EI: Well, actually, we had a lot more time than the people in the south had. Because by the time it came up to us, we had about, oh, two and a half or three months' time. So we were more or less prepared for it, and what happened was I, I was living with friends. I was a bachelor because I came back from Japan alone and what we did was four of us, four of us got together and stayed at a, in a flat of one of the fellows whose uncle had gone inland to avoid being sent out. He thought that if he went inland, that they wouldn't have to move again but they had to move again anyway. But, so we were in this flat and then on the day of evacuation which was the first part of May, I think it was about May 3rd, I don't remember the exact date, and we went into an assembly center, we had go to by bus. And we were really surprised when we went there because we went into these horse stalls which we weren't expecting. And the stench was really something because they hadn't cleaned them out or anything, and the boards had cracks on the bottom so all the stench that was in there for years, you know, came up, and especially on a warm day, it was really bad. So we had to leave the front door open because that was the only way we got ventilation. There's no windows. And this was mainly for bachelors and couples, and the families went into the barracks, but it was really bad for us. It was really something because you can't, you can't explain what it's like because sleeping in there and that stench was really bad.

Q: Which camp did you go to?

EI: Oh. We went into Tanforan. That was the racetracks that we went into, and that's the reason for going to these horse stalls. Because they utilized the racetracks and used all the horse stalls, and where they had to, they built these barracks, army barracks which had tarpaper on the outside and very flimsy. And families were put in there, but they were all in one room so it was very difficult for them too.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.