Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: Lucy Kirihara Interview
Narrator: Lucy Kirihara
Interviewer: Steve Ozone
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Date: October 13, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-klucy-01-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

SO: What about the medical care?

LK: Oh my gosh, my teeth. It's a wonder I still have teeth. Because they didn't have fluoride in the water in those days, so you'd get cavities. I don't know what kind of dentists there were, but anyway they'd fill it with whatever they filled it with and when I came out to St. Paul we had to find a kind dentist that re-did all my teeth for me. He was appalled at what they did. And even glasses. We couldn't see too well and I remember this one optometrist, or whatever, he prescribed bifocals for my sister, this was in camp, I mean, in the assembly center, and she would get some kind of bifocals. But truly the medical care, I don't know what kind of doctors we had. We did have real Japanese doctors that were practicing in Portland. They got the top pay which must have been eighteen dollars a month? I think it was eight dollars, twelve dollars, maybe the teachers got twelve, and maybe the professionals got eighteen dollars a month. So you didn't dare get sick. I remember my father when he got to take the truck to work to go to the administration building, and once he jumped off and broke his ankle and then they didn't set it right. After he got out of camp he always limped. And it stuck out at the ankle, the bone was still sticking out, and it was gross. So we didn't have, but fortunately we didn't get real sick or anything in camp other than that food poisoning.

SO: Were there more than, was there more than one dentist?

LK: That I don't know. I can't remember. There must have been because we had a lot of dentists in camp, but they most likely didn't have the facilities either, of what to use, and they had to scrimp and save. And the teachers that we got, it was interesting. I looked in the yearbook, and a lot of them had their MS and MAs. And you wonder why they came to teach in the camp. Number one, I do know that they were paid a higher salary, and in those days teachers didn't get paid much... and then some must have had a kind heart. But my sister did say that some of her teachers weren't really that nice to her, but that could be the exception, too.

SO: What about the... you said that your sister told you about one of the doctors?

LK: Yeah, she said there were rumors -- and I don't know if this is true or not -- but that the head of the whole hospital facility was a veterinarian. And so rather than a people doctor, he was for animals. [Laughs] But I don't know if that's true or not, but she said rumors were going around, but maybe they're just trying to scare us or whatever it was.

SO: How big was the hospital, do you remember?

LK: It must have been, well, it would be barracks put together or somehow as I recall. I remember there was a chimney in there but I can't remember. There are some pictures in the yearbook showing wheelchairs and people. And people had to give birth in there, too. We must have had a cemetery, where they must have... although I know they went to Twin Falls, which was a small town outside of camp. They must have taken them there if somebody died or at least to be, if they were cremated or if they were embalmed I don't know, but there had to be some deaths there.


SO: And you were going to say, you were going to talk about your outlook on camp.

LK: Right. In camp, it was really sad to be, even if I were young like that, we knew we didn't have any of our privileges or anything, we were behind barbed wire and you see those guards. But I think what got us through is we were optimistic and we had a lot of hope, and particularly since by this time both of my sisters are in Minnesota, and so we know, "Gosh maybe we could someday get out of here." We knew we wouldn't go back to Portland. But still, we didn't know what was going to happen to us. "Are they going to keep us here forever?" And then suddenly they sent a notice saying we had to get out by 1946, by that December, that the camps were going to close, and that was terrifying, too, because we didn't have any place to go. And then our sisters were so happy...

SO: Yeah, but before you go on, let's talk about this picture.

LK: Oh, yes. My mother, like I told you, she was very good at sewing and she would sew kimonos, but she was also very good at doing embroidery work. And then this is the teacher, she was a very well-known teacher. And my mother had a chance, although she worked in the camp as a waitress, breakfast lunch and dinner, she still had some spare time that she could do this embroidery, and I still have them in my living room now, I have both of them in my living room. One son said he was going to take one picture and then his sister could have the other one or something. So they really treasure it, so she was very pleased that she had the chance to do it.

SO: Did she do anything after camp?

LK: No. Because her eyes, I think she got older, then he eyes weren't so good and so when she got out of camp, my sister got her a job at Peerless Cleaners and she was the alterationist there. And then if you're working full-time in there, it was hard for her, and then she's older, too, so that makes a difference.

SO: Tell me about this picture.

LK: Oh, that picture we look so happy. I don't know who had the camera. But that's my older sister Eunice, who is three years older than I. And then me, and we were in camp. You could see all the barracks in the background and how dusty and like desert it was. But we look pretty happy there.

SO: This must be a flagpole.

LK: It must have been. So we must have sent that to my other sister.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.