Densho Digital Archive
Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL Collection
Title: Mas Hashimoto Interview
Narrator: Mas Hashimoto
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Watsonville, California
Date: July 30, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-hmas-01-0019

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: So let me ask a little bit about, just about the Poston history part. So you mentioned earlier, Del Webb built Poston? So this is the Del Webb who was the real estate, construction, I think he did casinos? He did large retirement communities, this is the Del Webb you're talking about?

MH: Right.

TI: So in some ways, Poston was his start in these large...

MH: Far as I know, it was his start, with a government contract.

TI: Oh, that's, that's ironic. And you mentioned three camps. Why did they have three camps at Poston?

MH: Poston had over 17,000 people, and so they separated the three, the groups into three. And they had the land, it was an Indian reservation, they had the land, so they separated it that way. Each camp was about three miles apart or so. Camp 2 had about four thousand something, almost five thousand. Camp 3 was the smallest, it was the newest and smallest.

TI: But in general, so Poston was, if you include all three camps, was the, the largest, wasn't it, about the largest?

MH: No, Tule Lake, because Tule Lake was two camps in one.

TI: As it became a segregation camp, right.

MH: Because we get smaller, Tule Lake gets bigger because of the resisters and "no-nos" -- not resisters, but "no-nos."

TI: Okay, so three camps, when you think of the three camps, how close were they to each other?

MH: They were couple miles apart, about three miles apart. It was, you could walk it if you wanted to, but there was a bus system, a truck system, and you can go from camp to camp. I, I used to go to Camp 1 for swimming lessons. Camp 1 had the hospital, I got mumps. They didn't know whether it was an insect bite, spider bite or what, but they quarantined me, and it turned out to be mumps. And the hospital was in Camp, Camp 1. I only went to Camp 3 -- they had the best swimming pool, they had a concrete swimming pool with blue, clear water. We had a canal, big mud hole. You could almost drink the water in Camp 3, you wouldn't do that... you could fish and swim at the same time in Camp 2.

TI: Well, you also mentioned it was an Indian reservation. Was there any contact or interactions with --

MH: Very little contact, although the elders made contact with the -- let me get this right -- Colorado River Indian Tribal Council. In fact, we're still working with them, Ruth, Dr. Ruth Okimoto does a lot with them. San Diego people are really good with Poston restoration. So when the monument was built in Poston, the Sacramento people really did the work on it, Ted Kobata and others, they did a great job.

TI: And so again, from a history standpoint, most of the camps were not on Indian reservations. By it being on an Indian reservation, was there anything unique about how things were set up or how things worked at Poston?

MH: Yeah, well, Poston and Gila River were both on Indian reservations, and so the Bureau of Indian Affairs are going to be involved. And one of the things that we were to was to build a canal and water the area, bring water to the area, and teach the Indians how to farm the land. Farming is basically, Indian culture, is squaw's work. The man does the hunting and protecting, women do everything else. Well, asking a warrior to farm is like asking a person, you know, he's a "squaw man" if he, if he farms. It's supposed to be degrading. Well, we're to teach them how to farm, and farm the land successfully, and not be degraded by doing that. And we, I think there was about forty-three different kinds of vegetables that we grew. In fact, we sent food to the other camps, vegetables to the other camps. We even had contests on who could grow the best vegetables, like a county fair. So farming becomes really important in camp, but we also raised our own pigs and chickens, we had a chicken farm and such. So it's one way of getting fresh meat and whatever, not rely on the military or the government. Today, there's, the barracks were sold afterwards to the Indians for a hundred dollars, or they can split it and put fifty dollars. Lot of the Indians were using the barracks for their homes. The school, the adobe school that we built was used by the tribe for their school for thirty years. Adobe school was great because it was cool in the summertime and warm in the wintertime.

TI: So it sounds like this was all pretty intentional by the government. They wanted the, the Japanese, in some ways, to help develop infrastructure on the land, like the canals, to set up farming and all those things. And so it sounds like some of those things worked for the tribe?

MH: Uh-huh. Yeah, the resident expert on this is Dr. Ruth Okimoto, she lives in Berkeley, and she's a, she was in Camp 3, and she's great.

TI: Okay, I'll have to talk, I know Ruth, and I'll ask her more about that.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.