Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Dennis Bambauer Interview I
Narrator: Dennis Bambauer
Interviewer: John Allen
Date: November 6, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-bdennis-01-0002

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JA: You were there -- how many people were there who were orphans like yourself?

DB: Oh, I'm going to guess about sixty. They range from very small children to high school age, and as I recall, when they reach the age of eighteen, which is considered to be a young adult, they would disappear from the camp, go live somewhere else because they had reached that age in which the government had no more, or the orphanage had no more responsibility for them.

JA: What kind of a place did you stay in when you first got there?

DB: Oh, our barracks were ready for us. We had nice facilities. I think they were a little better built than the regular barracks because they were built for the orphanage and as I recall, there were large dormitories. And I can only speak for the boys, but we had, where I was was like for... I'm going to say kindergarten through fifth grade, and then the other wing was like maybe sixth through high school or... but we were split. And the little kids were on one side and the big kids were on the other side. And in between it was the counselors' quarters. And we were very fortunate in that we had a wonderful counselor by the name of John Nagayama who guided us and gave us assistance as we needed in our growing up.

JA: What about the, what kind of food did they give you? Did you eat with the regular folks?

DB: [Laughs] No, we had a mess hall that was kind of funny. We were told that, well, we weren't told, we could have as much rice and brown gravy as we wanted, and that became our major staple. We were also told that because there was a meat shortage, that sometimes we were eating meat that was horse meat. Now, I don't know whether that was somebody's imagination, but I recall being told that some of our gravy was made from horse meat.

JA: Never know, mystery meat? Was the, the rice and gravy because they thought that was what Japanese people ate, or what?

DB: I think it was probably more convenient. How would I know, I'm seven years old, six years old, but you could always get more rice and gravy.

JA: What did your daily life routine come to be once you got settled in?

DB: One of the things that's kind of blocked out in my mind -- and I don't know why -- is I don't remember very well the, my school days. I remember a little bit about them in that we had a class. We went to school, and we had tables and straight-back... no, no straight-backs, just stools, benches that we sat on behind the table and did our schoolwork. So for some reason -- and I don't know why -- I don't have a lot of memories about that. Our typical day was, as I remember, it was getting up, we each had the responsibility to make our bed. We each had the responsibility to brush our teeth, wash our faces. We would go to the mess hall where we would have our meals, and then we would return to just be kids. That's the best way I can explain it. Because remember, we're on the little side. Now, on the big side, I recall those people had more responsibilities than we had, and I'm sure that we tried to get out of some of those duties whenever we could.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.