Densho Digital Archive
Topaz Museum Collection
Title: Helen Harano Christ Interview
Narrator: Helen Harano Christ
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 18, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-chelen-01-0009

<Begin Segment 9>

MA: And what were your living conditions like when you...

HC: In Tanforan?

MA: Yeah, in Tanforan.

HC: In Tanforan we lived in a barracks, we had two end rooms. And as I recall, they were about, maybe... well, five cots could, could go side by side with a, just a bit of an aisle in between. So they'd be that wide, I don't know what that would be, maybe 15 x 15 size rooms. And so my mom and dad and (five) of us kids were in one room, and then my grandmother and her two (sons) and my older sister were in the next room. And then there were three or four families in the other rooms down the, down the barracks. And there, there were no ceilings, so we could hear all the sounds all the way down, so my parents had to keep telling us to be quiet. "Don't talk so loud, be quiet, don't play so loud." And so we, so we could hear snoring, and we could hear babies crying, and we could hear people shouting at each other, and we could hear people, people being unhappy and all these kind of things, just because there were no ceilings. There were just the partitions.

MA: Right.

HC: And there were two windows on each side of the room, and we had one door in the middle of the room. And in my grandmother's apartment there was the two windows, and then one door. And they fixed it so that one uncle was on this side and the other uncle was on this side, Grandma was in the middle and Betty Ann was over there, so that everybody had a spot, and then that left kind of the middle opened. We basically lived out of our suitcases, I think, and we slept on, at first we slept on ticking of straw that we stuffed, had to stuff into the mattress, mattresses. After a while we got real mattresses, cotton mattresses, but we slept on ticking for a long time. We had one lightbulb hanging down the middle, and no heat. We were on the south side of the track, as I recall, and the people who lived on the inside of the track were also in barracks, and some of them did things like made gardens and a bridge, a lake with a bridge over it and some Japanese, very Japanese artist. My grandparents lived in horse stalls over on the, over in the north, north side of the, of the Tanforan racetrack. And we went to visit them and I saw a bubble, a little bubble on the side of the, side of the door as we were going in. And I went like this to straighten it out, and when I looked at it, it was manure under that paint, so it wasn't very deep paint. And my grandparents had fixed it so that the two, Roy and John were in the front part of the horse stall, and then Grandma and Grandpa were sleeping in the back part of the horse stall. And I heard that the horse stalls weren't very quiet because people could hear each other a lot, even though there were partitions all the way down. And they weren't very big, probably altogether maybe the size of this room, although deeper than wide. And so, and since there was no, there was only one window, maybe, then they were very stuffy. And since they had been whitewashed so recently, they would smell bad. I don't know what was on the floor. It may be that they would, there was nothing on the floor, maybe that there had just been straw strewn on the floor, I just don't recall it being hardwood or anything like that. But it was not as pleasant, and I remember thinking, "Boy, I'm sure glad I live in a barracks instead of in a horse stall." And I suspect it's because we were small children, and my parents, and my brother was sick and they needed to have someplace where, where he could get well.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.