Densho Digital Archive
Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL Collection
Title: Shoichi Kobara Interview
Narrator: Shoichi Kobara
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Watsonville, California
Date: November 18, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-kshoichi-01-0017

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: Okay, so we're going to continue the story. I mean, where we left it off was you had just been escorted to Poston, Arizona, by an FBI. So when you got to Poston, describe what it was like for you. What did it look like when you got to Poston?

SK: It was just a bunch of barracks and everything. And because I came out of the hospital, I worked in the fire department as a dispatcher, operator, because they says, "You can't do physical work." So I was a dispatcher at the fire department. Sit in the office and if there's a fire or something, call and just tell the chief, and he sent out to fight the fire.

TI: So I'm curious, were there very many fires?

SK: Not that much.

TI: So how many times did you have to actually dispatch?

SK: I'd only been there maybe about a year or so. Not too many. I went to one fire, and I learned how to operate all that fire trucks and everything. 'Cause when there's nothing to do, you ask question. And the fire chief was Japanese man from Carmel, he used to be a fireman in Carmel. His name was Kodama. He used to teach us everything what to do.

TI: And what kind of fires did you have at Poston?

SK: It's at the barracks. Something happened, and all those tarpaper on the side. So if one barracks gets on fire, it's a little, I don't know how many feet between those barracks, it wasn't too wide, so it'll catch onto the next one right away. So they keep watering other barracks, too, keep 'em wet. But we didn't have any camp -- I was in Camp 2, and we never had a big, major fire.

TI: Now, if there was a fire in one of the other camps -- so Poston had three camps, 1, 2, 3.

SK: Yeah.

TI: Would you ever have to go over there and help another camp with their fire?

SK: No, I don't remember ever.

TI: And how large was the fire department at Camp 2?

SK: We only had one truck.

TI: And so how many men would that be?

SK: I think there was maybe four or five guys.

TI: And so during the day, the men would just hang out and wait?

SK: Play cards or something. And then they would clean the fire truck and stuff like that. And if they do go to a small fire, sometimes they had small fires, they had to come back and clean the hoses and stuff like that.

TI: What are some other memories of Poston? Like the food, what was the food like?

SK: They've got to go to the kitchen, they had one kitchen over there. And women and stuff, they were paid fourteen dollars a month, I guess, to work. But the food was pretty lousy. [Laughs] I remember when I was a kid, I never ate mutton. So they had mutton stew and beef hearts, like that, and they put a lot of curry in there to camouflage the taste. But once you take one bite, you can't eat it. So the garbage, the garbage cans were full of people that are not used to eating that kind of stuff. Eat whatever you can. And I guess there were problems once in a while that were... guys that were director in the camp, stealing the good meat to sell outside because it was rationed outside. And they were saying that's why we always get lot of mutton, beef hearts, lot of stews.

TI: So when you heard this, these rumors about food being, sort of, stolen from the warehouse and sent outside, how did you hear about that, or who told you about that?

SK: People, I guess it gets around. I don't know how, but... then they had that, sometime, they had like a camp newspaper-like, newsletter, you'd hear about it. And people knew. It'd get around right away. There were some investigation going on every once in a while.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.