Densho Digital Archive
Topaz Museum Collection
Title: Grace F. Oshita Interview
Narrator: Grace F. Oshita
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Date: June 4, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-ograce-01-0010

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MA: So going back a little bit to arriving in Tanforan, what were your first impressions of your first day at Tanforan? What was going through your mind when you arrived?

GO: Okay, as soon as you got off, got in line, and they gave you this, "unbutton your blouse," or whatever, and they listened to our hearts, just a general physical, brief physical. And what else did they do? It didn't take very long because that whole downstairs was, I mean, it just made lines to register. And we had a family number given to us, I think ours was 14801 or 14201 or something like that. But everything was, had that number on it and then our name on it, so we knew that our, some of our things were on this truck. And my mother went up to the driver and said, "My mother-in-law, she can't walk, my mother either." No, no, her mother was already in the hospital, but they transferred her from a San Francisco hospital to a San Mateo hospital. It was so "dangerous," they had to be all moved out of San Francisco, whether they're terminal cancer patient or who. It was an utter, I don't know, non-thinking... so anyway, she was moved here and there, but at the end, at least she was with family.

MA: So in Tanforan, what was your living conditions like?

GO: Okay, now, the horse stables are, it's back-to-back. In other words, there's no window in the back side of the apartment, and so it was just divided big enough for a horse, and there was, the front part where you walk, covered walk, they made a second room. So we had an inside room without windows, and a front room with a door and a window, and one light hanging from the ceiling, and no furniture whatsoever, except a bed. At least we had a regular steel or whatever it is, metal spring bed, and we were supposed to get a mattress for that, and just our luck, they ran out of mattresses. And so they told us, "Well, over there, there's some ticks, mattress ticks, so fill that up with straw," whatever they're providing us with. And that night, or for about a week, we had to sleep on that. And it added to the aroma, everything else, the hay, the hay smell and everything. And so everybody was so busy that until everybody was moved in, we had our suitcases in our room, and sat down on that empty steel bed, we sat there. And that was the first time that we heard everybody crying, up and down, because there was space, they didn't close up the rooms clear to the ceiling, or put a ceiling on. So you could hear somebody crying, and that's the way we all felt. Up until now, I mean, we could do what we needed to do, wanted to do, whatever, but now, it was all under command, you do this and you do that, and we didn't know how to think for ourselves. That was sad because all we can think of is my father not being there. And we didn't know, "Well, suppose he's sent first? Then what do we do?" Sure, we'd go after, follow, but I don't know how the, we didn't know how the -- this is wartime, I mean, Japan was desperate, too. So we were wondering if we would be accepted, hardly, maybe if they lived in the country, at least they have some food that they'd grow.

MA: Oh, this was thinking that, at that point, your father might be sent back to Japan?

GO: Yeah, that's right. And some -- not that they were sent, they opted to go, they signed up to go to, back to Japan.

MA: Right, some did.

GO: Yeah. For that exchange program, so that their prisoners, some of them, ambassadors, those people, had to be back home, too, so it was an exchange program.


MA: So I had a question about your, back at Tanforan, how did you occupy your days during that time? What did you do, sort of, on a daily basis?

GO: Okay, everybody had a job, because most jobs were evacuees taking over, you see, whether it be mess hall or office or almost a nothing job. I mean, they had jobs, and so that was taken care of. It was the little kids, college students and college graduates noticed they're just running around doing nothing. And so they begged the administrative officers to please start the school. And so they hurriedly did that, and of course, at that point, it was all Niseis teaching.

MA: Did you attend school in Tanforan?

GO: I was, yes, I was still a senior, and I got... no, the Tanforan classes were, didn't count, I think. We had to do the whole one year of high school, senior high, my senior year at Topaz. But there, too, most teachers were, I have pictures of teachers, and you could tell that they were young teachers. But they did wonderfully.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.