Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: George Murakami Interview
Narrator: George Murakami
Interviewer: Steve Ozone
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Date: October 13, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-mgeorge_4-01-0007

<Begin Segment 7>

SO: How old were you when you got out of camp?

GM: I think I was ten; let's see, '45. I guess, eleven. I think I was in sixth grade.

SO: And then what happened after camp... oh, your father came back.

GM: My father came back when we were in camp, but he was also, he was sent to Bismarck, North Dakota, and I'm not sure what that camp was about but he mentioned being questioned quite a bit by the FBI or whoever ran that camp, and he came back to the family in Gila. He was working as a cook, but I remember him leaving to work the crops, I don't know, Montana. They would go, I think he worked the wheat fields in Nebraska or something like that, and then towards the end of the war, then he went out to Sacramento to kind of look for a place and a job, and then he found a place, a home. I think it was another Japanese farmer's home, and from there he was working more or less like a migrant farmer in the farming field. Then Japanese families, they were all coming back from camp too, so they were coming into their home we were renting, and so from there we moved to Elk Grove. He was still farming but he was more like a farm hand. He was the tractor driver and handyman type of person for the ranchers, and then they supplied a home for his family.

SO: Can you talk about this picture here?

GM: Okay, yeah. That's a picture of Gila. And that's kind of the traditional or standard block. There's the fourteen barracks and the men's toilet and the women's toilet and the laundry room. And then the one barrack was designated for administration and the other one was the dining hall. And that was typical of all the blocks in the camp.

SO: So each block had an administration room?

GM: Yes, they had a block manager. And they had, kind of a place where the mail was dropped off. Then it was distributed to the... each barrack was mainly divided into four, and a family had one of the four apartments in there.

SO: Where did you get this photograph?

GM: I really don't know. [Laughs] I know I didn't take it.

SO: It looks like an original. And then this was in camp, too.

GM: I'm not sure how long I took judo there, probably about a year. They always had a group picture of the club. I think that little sign on the door says Gila Judo Dojo.

SO: What can you tell me about the roof?

GM: Well, yeah, that's kind of typical. The end of the barracks had kind of like a double door, but the apartments in the middle sections only had single doors, and that shows a double door there too, and there it was just drywall and the roof. It had a double roof, and it was mainly because the heat in Arizona was so intense.

SO: So this was open?

GM: That was open between the two roofs, yeah.

SO: What about this, 1944?

GM: I don't know if every family had to have their picture taken but that's our family in 1944. My father, mother, my brother. I don't remember this but he must have been in the Boy Scout troop in camp there.

SO: And that's you.

GM: And that's me on the left with a plaid sweater and big collar. [Laughs] And that was Ray next to me, then Denny. And my sister Jean in the middle and then my older brother Bob in the Boy Scout uniform.

SO: Okay. Do you think that, I know you were only nine or ten, but do you think that the photographer was brought in from the outside or was there somebody...

GM: You know, I don't quite remember who took that picture, I really don't. But we were pretty well dressed up there. That's not our typical clothes in camp.

SO: So it seems like your brother had a Boy Scout uniform in camp. It was just like everyday things still went on.

GM: I think pretty much so. The only difference was you didn't live as a family. Maybe you slept as a family, but when you got up, you were on your own. You didn't have to eat together or anything, at the mess hall. And everybody had their own separate friends, and you went their own separate ways. And I don't remember too much about the different organizations they had there. I remember the teenagers had their dances, you know. And high schools had their activities. I don't know if each block had a team but they used to have sports. There were baseball, basketball and football types of things.

SO: And was everything outside?

GM: Yes. Basketball was outside, and the high school did have a gymnasium though.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.