Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: Helen Tanigawa Tsuchiya Interview
Narrator: Helen Tanigawa Tsuchiya
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Bloomington, Minnesota
Date: June 16, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-thelen-01-0010

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MA: Can you tell me about that first day at Gila and what you were thinking and what...

HT: Yeah, first when we got off the train, there was a bus there. And as we were approaching the barbed wire area, you could see the sentry post up there. And there were a whole bunch of guns laying there. And we drove in and went to the administration building, and they'll tell us just exactly where we're going to go and everything. They had us all... and we were in to 23-7-B, which is Block 23 and the 7, there was four rooms and we were the second room. And then the fourth room is always a couple or it's a smaller one. And so we finally got our place. And at that time, we said, "Oh my gosh." It's just a straw bed with, they had that. And then just a pot-bellied stove and then everything else, just a bed. And I thought, "My gosh." All of us are sleeping in there. So then we started bringing out our sheets and separate a little bit. And then as the Arizona sun was hot, and they used green wood, they did not wait until it dried, so the Arizona sun would beat down on us and the wood would shrink. And they would be slats open like this and they used to have -- Arizona was, it's a desert -- so they used to have dust storms and it would come up from that. And my mother would go out to the bathroom and get water, and we used to put our face in the water. It was so bad there for a while and then my brother was, he was chosen to be one of the leaders in our block, assistant manager, whatever. So we told him that something's going wrong, so then they started finding a few things out and then try to put, cover that. But the bathroom was the worst. They had stools like this, just stools. And then the shower was just like, and no partition or nothing. And the, some of the girls wore swimming suit to take a bath. You know, we're teenagers. Why should we all take our clothes off? So a lot of time, we just used to take a bath in the house. We used to bring water in and wash ourselves. But the main part that I was really surprised was when we had our period, what are you going to do? So we told my brother, I said, "You have to help us. At least find something. that we could put at the last stall and then we will watch." So he looked around and he found a cardboard. And he put it up the last one and then every time anyone was like that we said, "Go in there. We will watch you." And that really helped. That really helped. Otherwise it was just gruesome.

MA: No privacy at all.

HT: No privacy at all. And then the guys were in the next one. Guys, they don't care anyway. But finally toward the end we got used to it, just take a shower. But at first, I even was shy, real shy. So my mother realized that so she used to get water and just rinse ourselves. But it was really bad.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.