Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Kaz Yamamoto
Narrator: Kaz Yamamoto
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Santa Monica, California
Date: January 20, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-ykaz-01

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

RP: This an oral history for the Manzanar National Historic Site. And this morning we're talking with Kaz Yamamoto. Kaz lives at 2405 22nd Street in Santa Monica, California. The date of our interview is January 20, 2011. Videographer is Kirk Peterson, our interviewer is Richard Potashin. And we'll be talking with Kaz about his experiences at the Manzanar War Relocation Center as well as his life growing up here in Santa Monica.

KY: Uh-huh.

RP: And coming back here after some time in Chicago. Our interview will be archived in the Park's library. And Kaz, do I have permission to go ahead and record our interview?

KY: What was that?

RP: Do I have permission from you to go ahead and record our interview?

KY: Yeah, sure.

RP: Okay. Thank you very much for spending some time with us and sharing your personal stories with us.

KY: Uh-huh.

RP: I'd like to start first off in asking you to give us your birth date and where you were born.

KY: I was born March 18, 1924. And I was born in Sanger, California, which is Fresno, Fresno County. That's where I was born. That's where most of my family, my brothers and my last, my youngest sister's the only one that was born in Santa Monica. Rest of us were born in Sanger, California, which is in Fresno County.

RP: And can you give us your given name at birth?

KY: It's the same as it is now, Kazuyuki.

RP: And spell that for us?

KY: K-A-Z-U-Y-U-K-I.

RP: Okay. Did you ever have an English name?

KY: No.

RP: Uh-huh. And tell us a little bit about your parents, Kaz. Maybe you can mention their names and where they came from in Japan?

KY: My father and mother were born in Wakayama-ken, Japan. And my father came to America very early, you know, as compared to a lot of the other Japanese parents. He came real early. I don't know exactly how early it was. But, he came alone and he worked in, for a company that was tied up in what would that be? In... well, I was gonna say, the railroads, but that's pretty close. And they would go from one county or state to another. But he lived up north more, you know, towards Montana. But he worked for the railroad company and I don't know whether the work was agricultural or what, but a lot of the Japanese men worked for a company like that. Well, my father and his friend got tired of that, going, living in these cold place like Montana. So they said, "Hey, let's quit this place and let's hitchhike back to Southern California." They used to go different places and when they got closer to Southern California, that's when they quit and hitchhiked, you know. And they hitchhiked to Fresno, California, where they knew there were some Japanese people and they worked on the farms then. Because they were more used to doing agricultural work, you know. So that's what they did. They, my father and his friend, they hitchhiked to Fresno and found work. And then after a while, after years of working in the farm, they said, "Let's go back to Japan and find a wife." And so the, both of 'em, went back to Japan to find a wife and that's how he married my mother. And they went back to Fresno and they worked, but they got tired of that weather up there too. You know, it's, it becomes very hot, I guess. And the weather had a lot to do with their moving from Fresno to Santa Monica. And that's what they did, you know. I always say Santa Monica is paradise compared to these other places. It's never too hot in the summertime and never snows here. So this was the ideal place to live. And so my father came here and then he, his friends told him, "Why don't you become a gardener?" So he decided to become a gardener. And that's what he did until the war.

RP: What was his name?

KY: Denjiro.

RP: D-E-N-J-I-R-O?

KY: ... J-I-R-O, Denjiro.

RP: Okay. And did he marry your mother in Japan and then bring her back?

KY: Uh-huh, yeah, yeah. I guess he must have told her a lot of fancy stories about... and she probably thought he was, he was rich because he had a coat and he had a vest and he had a watch, you know. And to the outside person he looked like he was pretty wealthy, you know. But that was the only a ruse. He wasn't that rich or anything like that. He didn't tell her what a hard work he was doing on, out on the farm. So he kind of fooled her and believing what he was doing. And so she married him and they moved to Fresno. From Japan they went to Fresno. And she soon tired of that kind of work and my father too so... and he had a car at that time. It's hard to believe that he had a car that early but he must have made enough money to buy a car. And so he decided to come to Southern California. And so he had a friend in Lomita? Lomita, California. So he drove to Lomita, California, and probably did some farming there, you know, strawberry farming, whatever they, he did. But he soon tired of that and he had friends in Santa Monica. So they moved again to Santa Monica from there. And we've been here ever since. He found, he found a route for gardening and that's what he did.

RP: Your mother's name?

KY: Koto. K-O-T-O. It's actually O-K-O-T-O, Okoto. Yeah.

RP: Do you know the meaning of your name?

KY: Huh?

RP: In Japanese?

KY: My name?

RP: Yeah.

KY: It's actually "luck." First... Kazuo is number one, meaning the firstborn. And Uki is luck, it means luck.

RP: You, do you feel like you've had that in your life?

KY: I think I have. I was lucky to marry my wife. [Laughs]

<End Segment 1> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

RP: Have you returned to the area that your, that your mother and father came from? Wakayama?

KY: Uh-huh. Well, I've been there because in about 1932 or three my folks decided that we should go back to Japan and get an education in Japan. And so she took us to Japan and we lived at my uncle's house. And she asked my uncle if she would, if he would care for the children. There was four kids in my family. The youngest one was too young to be left with the, with the uncle. So she didn't plan on leaving her in Japan. But the three oldest children, including myself, she had intended to leave us there. But my uncle, being a smart guy that he was, said, "No. I think children should stay with their parents. You take them back to the United States, 'cause I'm not gonna care for them." I think he was pretty smart... and I was fortunate that he didn't want to keep us in Japan and live in Japan. 'Cause I hated it.

RP: So you...

KY: I didn't like it.

RP: How long were you there for?

KY: Well, less than a year. Maybe six months or so. And so I came back and I was in the, was in the third grade at that time.

RP: Yeah, what didn't you like about Japan?

KY: Well, the thing that I didn't like was the sanitary conditions. You know, we had to, we had an outhouse, you know, for a toilet. And to bathe, they had an outside bathing shack. And so everything was outside. You brushed your teeth outside, you know, just outside the, of the kitchen. We had to brush our teeth out there and everything was kind of crude compared to America. We're not, we weren't rich by any sense of the word but at least we had the modern facilities, bathroom and all the things necessary. And so compared to Japan, the United States was a much better place to live in. I didn't like it for that reason. And I don't think the rest of the kids really liked it either. And besides, my uncle had four kids himself. They were a little bit older than we were but one of, one of the boys was my age, same age as my... same age as me, but.... that's seven kids that he would have to take care of. And I think he thought about that and that's why he told my, mother, "No, you'd better take her back to Japan, to America." So, that's what my mother did. She took us to Japan and brought us back.

RP: So she took you there and then came back to the United States?

KY: Uh-huh.

RP: And then came back and then brought you back. There were two trips?

KY: No, he took, my mother took all those kids to Japan and we lived with my uncle. And then when it came down to going back to America, my mother had... there was a plan to stay in Japan permanently. And she decided, "Well then I'll take them back to America," because my uncle wouldn't have us.

RP: Did you go to school at all during the time that you were there?

KY: No, no, I didn't go to school.

RP: How were you treated by the other kids? Your uncles kids as well as other Japanese kids?

KY: Oh, we got along fine, yeah.

RP: How about language?

KY: Well, you know, you learn to the language... kids are funny, they can learn to speak the language right away because you play together and you have to converse with each other. It wasn't long before we could speak Japanese just as easily you know. And see, it's the same as if an American went to Europe or, or whatever, wherever, and then would have maybe relatives, and they would ask them to have their child stay with them. And then, and then if they wanted an education they would probably want them to send them back to America to learn English instead of being in Europe or wherever, wherever they went. Same with the Japanese people. They wanted the kids to learn the Japanese language so that's the reason why a lot of 'em sent them to Japan to relatives or something. Those people were called Kibeis. Have you heard of the term before? Yeah, those are the kids that were raised in Japan, were called Kibeis. And ironically, after they came back and joined their parents in America, life wasn't that easy for them. Because they had outgrown their parents and were so used to being kids from Japan. You know what I mean? You know, so, in a way it was good and in a way it wasn't. And I think mostly it wasn't so good because the association between the parents and the children gets lost if you don't grow up with the parents. And so things don't work out so well that way. So that's why we came back here and life was better for us anyway. It was for me.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

RP: Let's talk about your siblings, your other brothers and sisters.

KY: Uh-huh.

RP: Can you... you had an older sister?

KY: I had an older sister, picture I showed you.

RP: Uh-huh.

KY: She was the oldest.

RP: And how, what was her name?

KY: Yoneko.

RP: Okay.

KY: Yoneko, Y-O-N-E-K-O.

RP: And she was what, about, how old?

KY: She was...

RP: Much older than you?

KY: ...almost two years older than I was. But she was very bright. So she did well in public school and in Japanese school too. She was the smartest one in Japanese school. And by the time she graduated Japanese school, all her classmates, they all quit. When, when it was time for her to graduate, she was the only one left. She was a graduate of one. That was her. That's how smart she was. You saw, you saw how pretty she was. She was not only pretty. She was bright.

RP: Brains and beautiful. Yeah.

KY: Yeah, yeah.

RP: Did she, did she eventually go to college before the war started?

KY: No, she didn't, she didn't dream of going to college. And, but she went to secretarial school right here in Santa Monica before we, she went to camp. She graduated from... so, when she went to camp all the kids like my sister, they got a job in camp working for someone and, as secretaries and she was ideal for that because she graduated from this secretarial school. So she, everything was for her.

RP: And then you came along.

KY: Yeah. I went to high school but I didn't graduate because I was a senior when war broke out. Yeah, I was in the, I was in camp. I went to, for my senior year in Manzanar High School. And you met my brother, who was, followed me. He was another two years behind me. So, he spent his entire three years in high school in camp. And he graduated from camp, the first graduating class.

RP: And his name?

KY: Ken. His actual name is Kenichi. K-E-N-I-C-H-I, Kenichi. And then my youngest sister, Eiko, she was five years younger than me. And she graduated in Chicago, high school that is. But she was the youngest.

RP: And who were you closest to?

KY: Who was I closest to? Well, my brother for one. But my older sister was very close to me. Yeah. My older sister and I got along beautifully. But unfortunately when she got... when she came back to camp and to get married and found my folks, and then went to Chicago, it was eight months later she passed away. Eight months later. She had a brain tumor and she died in Chicago. That was devastating for the whole family. You can imagine why. 'Cause she was so bright, you know. And unfortunately, eight months later she passed away. And when my brother, brother-in-law was left without a wife, his father and his brother and somebody else, when she got sick, they were in Long Beach and they drove non-stop to Chicago, you know, to attend the funeral. And my brother-in-law decided to go back with them. And he moved back to Long Beach. That's where he lives now. And my sister is buried in Long Beach.

RP: Now, you said that they got married in Chicago. Was her husband also in the Manzanar camp?

KY: Uh-huh, yeah.

RP: So did they meet there?

KY: Yeah. She was goin' around with this, her fiancee from camp. And when my sister decided to go to Chicago with her friends, he tagged along and he had a friend of his, the two of 'em found an apartment. And they lived in Chicago. And they found some work which was the only thing they could do. He wasn't trained for anything else. So, he found, he found a job. I don't know what it was, but he worked there as long as my sister was there. And then of course, like I told you, they went back to camp to get married.

RP: What was his name?

KY: Who?

RP: Yoneko's husband.

KY: George. George Tani.

RP: George Tani? T-A-N-I?

KY: Uh-huh.

RP: Okay.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

RP: Let's go back a little ways, Kaz, and maybe you can share with us what was it like to grow up in Santa Monica?

KY: Beautiful. Santa Monica was, is paradise as far as I'm concerned. It was the nicest place to live and go to school. And I dreamed of... if you're a Santa Monican, if you go to Santa Monica High School, they have an outdoor theater, open theater, that's where the graduation happens. And I dreamed of graduating in that outside surroundings. But I never made it because of camp. I always dreamed that I would graduate in that place, you know. If you went, if you were there you'd know what I'm talkin' about. But, it's a beautiful place to graduate.

RP: Where did you go to grammar school then?

KY: I went to, I started at Garfield, Garfield school. And at the time when I went to Garfield, it was located right next to Santa Monica High School. It was an elementary school right next to Santa Monica High School. And that's where I went, started elementary school. And then it moved to Sixteenth Street, right near where, where I was living prior to the war. I lived on Sixteenth Street and Garfield moved right on Sixteenth Street, about a block away. And then I went to junior high school which is located on.. is it Sixteenth? I think it's, the junior high school is located between Fourteenth and Sixteenth Street, somethin' like that. And not too far from where I lived too. It's around Arizona and Sixteenth Street. So, it was close for me to go to school.

RP: And what was your upbringing like?

KY: Huh?

RP: What was your upbringing like?

KY: In what way?

RP: In your, well, with your parents, was it predominately sort of a combination of Japanese culture as well as American?

KY: Yeah. Most of the Japanese that lived in Santa Monica went to Japanese school. At least all my friends, close friends, went to Japanese school. So if there was anybody that didn't go to Japanese school they weren't my friends. They were, you know, they were strangers as far as I'm concerned. They, I would see them in high school or public school, but since they didn't go to Japanese school they weren't my friends because I didn't play with them. You could imagine why. And so all the people, Japanese friends that I knew, all went to Japanese school. Like Lewis Kato you said, he didn't go to Japanese school. So I didn't, I didn't play with him or anything like that so that's why he was a stranger as far as I was concerned. There was no association between us. Because you see them in public school and then back at Japanese school again, so you know, that's all you played with was the people that went to Japanese school.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

RP: And where was Japanese school located?

KY: It was, it was on Sixteenth Street too, near the cemetery. You know where the cemetery is? It's right down the street from the cemetery.

RP: So you were pretty centrally located.

KY: Yeah. And you know, no matter how hard it was, I enjoyed Japanese school. All my friends were there and we played together and that's why we went to school, to play. [Laughs]

RP: And what did you play?

KY: Oh, you know, sports, anything.

RP: Did you, did you get involved in any, in a Japanese martial arts, judo or kendo?

KY: No. We didn't have the martial arts like in West L.A. They had judo. And I didn't, I didn't have judo so I couldn't take judo. But they had kendo. Do you know what kendo is? It's those bamboo poles, swords. They had that. The teacher was a kendo enthusiast. Se he taught kendo. I didn't feel like getting bumped on the head with a bamboo stick so I didn't go there. If they had judo I would have gone, but not kendo. It didn't attract me at all. So I didn't, I didn't go to the kendo class. But, a lot of my friends went to kendo. When I moved here I was closer to West L.A. where they taught kendo, I mean judo, so my two boys went to judo over there. As a matter of fact, I became the, not the instructor, but the president of the, of the judo school. I became real involved in judo.

RP: So you actually were, took part in judo too?

KY: I didn't do judo.

RP: You didn't do it but you...

KY: I was too old by then, you know. But, my kids took judo, my two boys. And the friends that I met there were very good. I enjoyed being involved in judo.

RP: What was the most difficult part of Japanese school for you?

KY: Well, you know, Japanese school I didn't mind so much. But, like most second generation Japanese like I am, it was a strange language as far as I was concerned. And so we didn't study that hard I don't think in school. Those that did, like my sister, she was number one in the class. So she could write and read Japanese like a, like a parent. But not me. I wasn't that smart. I fooled around more than anything else. But, I didn't mind the school. I liked the teacher. I, all the time I was there we had, let's see... one, two, we had three teachers that I was taught under. The first one was the best. I liked him very much.

RP: What made him the best?

KY: It's just that he was, he was better than the others. He was, he was a good teacher and a strong teacher. Very disciplinarian but he was very good. And I think I learned most from him than any other teacher. Everybody says the same thing, that they really liked him. Good teacher.

RP: Do you remember his name?

KY: Yeah, Yoshizumi. Yoshizumi. But he went back to Japan after... he quit. He interrupted teaching to go back to Japan and then he came back again by himself. He left his wife and his two children in Japan and he came back to America and he became a principal of another Japanese school in Los Angeles. Yeah. Many of the Japanese people who were in Santa Monica really worshipped him and wanted him to teach again in Santa Monica but I think, I think why he was paid by the Los Angeles school was something that our parents couldn't afford. But he was an excellent teacher.

RP: Was he, was he around when the war broke out?

KY: I don't know if he was or not. He... I know he went back to Japan. And then he came back here to visit but... I don't know if he was in Japan when the war broke out. But it seems logical that he did go back to Japan and, but he was a big man for a Japanese. Very big man. Very good looking man and good teacher. Everybody, everybody's favorite as far a teacher goes. Everyone liked him the best. But, the other schools realized what a good teacher he was so they outbidded the Santa Monica parents and so he went to another Japanese school to teach there, mostly as a principal. But he was a very good teacher.

RP: So the parents each, each family donated a certain amount of money to keeping the Japanese school going?

KY: Yes, it was a private school you know. It wasn't public. He had to be, he had to earn money teaching Japanese at the Japanese school in Santa Monica. And after all, let's face it, Santa Monica is a small community as compared to West L.A. or Los Angles. So they could afford to pay him more than the Santa Monica community could pay him to teach. But I think if you were to compare other teachers in other areas, he was probably the best teacher that money could buy. He sure was popular among the Japanese people. Very good, very good teacher.

RP: You mentioned that the school had an auditorium?

KY: Well, that's what it was. It was a big building and all the classes were in that building.

RP: And there were on occasion you remember going to see movies at the auditorium there?

KY: Yes, uh-huh, on weekends. But, so when, when the school was in session, the desks were situated right next to each other. Although, as if there was a line between one class and the other, we all were in the same room, large room. It wasn't separated at all. So the teacher would go from one group to the next group and to the next group, and things like that. And that's how we managed. And they managed it real, real good.

RP: Were you tested regularly too?

KY: Tested?

RP: Yeah.

KY: Well, I guess we were. But, we were separated, we were separated from one class to the other with, with no division in between. How he was able to teach each class separately is pretty difficult to understand. But that's how they did it. Right next to me was another class, sitting next to me. And then, and then a little ways another class started. And so you were side by side but different classes.

RP: So, would they be, like beginning and advanced and that type of thing?

KY: Sort of like that.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

RP: And what did... did you have a particular strength? Was it speaking or writing or...

KY: What was that?

RP: What part of, of Japanese school was your strength? Was it speaking the language or writing it?

KY: What's strange? Well...

RP: What was your strength?

KY: Well, they had different classes for whatever the subject was. But, there was no set rule on how it was taught. But, for instance, Japanese is taught with, you know, ink and a brush. And that's a way to write Japanese, with a brush and a, you know what I mean? And they, you'd have a little thing that had... in order to make the ink, the ink for the brushwork, you have to make it with this tray and you put water and you have the piece of this chalk you might call it, and you go over like this and it would make its own ink. And that's how you made the ink for the pen, I mean the brush. Well, that, so that was one form of Japanese is to learn how to write the characters. But normally it's from a book that you learn the different subjects. For instance, reading, and then there's this... but characters are drawn with this, with this ink and brush. And that's how you get to know how to put pressure on the brush to make the character. And that's what you did there. So, that was the only thing that was different from the rest of the language. Rest was you read, and you learn to read Japanese, and the characters you learn from the book. And, but...

RP: So you ground your own ink?

KY: Huh?

RP: You ground, you ground your own ink for the...

KY: Yeah.

RP: ... for the brush.

KY: For the brush.

RP: That was part of the process.

KY: That was part of the training.

RP: Oh. Did you learn about the country of Japan and the customs and the history of the country as well during your...

KY: During our studies?

RP: During your studies.

KY: No, not so much, no.

RP: And so mostly focused on the language.

KY: Yeah, from the book.

RP: And how, how far did you go in the books?

KY: Well, I think it was book twelve. You read from, you started from book one and you go to book twelve. And then it's like going to junior high school. You went to a junior high school. I went to the first year in junior high school. I never did go to senior high school. They, I don't think they had a class in senior high school. But if anybody had the most training, it was my sister. She was the smartest one in the school. She was so smart. Because when, whenever we have a graduation, say my class... we move from one class to another. We go from the first grade all the way up to the twelfth grade. And then we go into a junior high school like crowd. And that's what you call kotoka. In other words it's junior high school. And then, I don't know of anybody that had high school education in the school that we went. There was no high school. All it went was junior high school. And I was in the first or second year in junior high school. By then I'm going to high school in the public school. But, I remember though that after I, we went past twelfth grade or twelfth book, the teacher asked me and several other students -- there was only myself, this other girl, and another guy and... no more than four of us -- to go on a test, go to this place and have a test of your knowledge. And I did real well in that test because I happened to be studying a certain part of that, or these twelve books, I was, luckily for me I was studying a certain chapter and when the test came that we went to, a lot of the subject was on that particular subject that I was studying. So it was easy for me and I passed, passed that part of the test like it was nothing. And I did real well in that. Because I happened to be testing, studying that part of the books. So it was easy for me. But when it came to writing... you had to, you had to write a story about your family. I didn't do so well because I didn't, I didn't know all the characters that I needed to know to write a composition. That's what I had to do. I had to write a composition. And I wasn't, didn't do so well there but I did okay on my written part. The girl that I went with, she was number one. You know why? She was, she was formally, from kindergarten on, she was in Japan with her parents. And so she was, she had most of her education in Japan, unlike us. So she was a whiz at Japanese because she had the advantage. So she joined our class, but hell, she was an outstanding student because she had all this training in Japan. It was kind of unfair. But I don't know how far she went in public school. I don't think she... she was probably just past the grade school compared to us. We were already, already in high school and when she joined us in Japanese school she was much, she was the, she was the best student because she had this advantage of going to Japanese school in Japan. So it wasn't really fair but that's how it was.

RP: Did your parents speak any English at all?

KY: Oh they spoke some, especially my mother. She was, she was doing housekeeping while we were living in Santa Monica prior to the war. And so she could speak better English than my father did. All he did was do gardening and you don't have to, have to learn to speak English that well. He got along okay but I think my mother was smarter than him in that way.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

RP: What were some of your interests? Did you have any hobbies growing up?

KY: Getting what?

RP: Any hobbies or interests when you were growing up?

KY: When I was growing up?

RP: Uh-huh.

KY: Well, living in the beach city of Santa Monica, we naturally liked to go fishing a lot. And so that's what we did most of the time. We tried to go fishing a lot. And I used to take what they call a Half-day Boat and Half-day Boat, and you get on the boat and go out not too far and then there was a barge out there, off Santa Monica, there was a barge. You can go to the barge and fish off that barge, and catch all the mackerels you want. But the interest was mostly on fishing that I did. And other than that, all the other sports we enjoyed. My friends that I grew up with enjoyed all the different kinds of sports. And so we would get together and have fun playing the different sports. So, that's all I can say is we enjoyed our friends that I grew up with.

RP: You said you were living on Sixteenth Street in Santa Monica?

KY: Uh-huh.

RP: Was that predominately a Caucasian area or were there a number of Japanese families?

KY: It was mostly Caucasian. There was a mixture of Spanish people. But it was mostly Caucasians and the place that we lived in, there were a lot of Japanese that mingled in the neighborhood. So that's why I got to know a lot of my friends who were Japanese and we became good friends. We didn't, we didn't mingle too much with Caucasian friends because the only Caucasian friends that I knew were in public school. And after that it was Japanese school and all our activities at Japanese school was about Japanese things. Like my sister, she did flower arrangements and all the different Japanese things. Like she used to play this like a harp, only it's long on the floor.

RP: Koto?

KY: Koto, yeah. She did that. So they were all things that were Japanese. But for us, the boys, there wasn't anything "Japanesey" like that. It was normal American activities. But... nothing special in... I can't say that all we did was things Japanese. It wasn't. It was all American activities.

RP: How about social life? Did you, did you go to movies or go to dances or any of those type of things?

KY: No. Only thing that you do in the public school, like in high school, junior high school and high school, you would do dancing. But that's the normal thing. But other than that there was nothing you can point a finger at and say that because it's Japanese, that's what I took. The only thing that would be Japanese would be kendo or judo or some martial arts. But, they didn't have all the martial arts in Santa Monica. All they had was kendo.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

RP: Was there, in Santa Monica, was there an area where the community, Japanese community, gathered regularly?

KY: Not, not that I know of.

RP: What about, was religion a significant part of your upbringing too? Was religion a significant part...

KY: Oh, religion?

RP: ...of your upbringing?

KY: Religion? Well... religion. I'm trying to think. You're talkin' about religion in the Japanese cultural way, huh? No, no. The only thing, the only thing that's even close to that would be the koto that my sister took. That's strictly Japanese, that she took.

RP: Did you attend church at all?

KY: Huh?

RP: Did you attend church?

KY: What?

RP: Did you attend church?

KY: Oh, church?

RP: Yes.

KY: No, I didn't go to church. There was, in Santa Monica there was a church that was mostly Japanese, Free Methodist Church. And when we first moved to Santa Monica we lived catty corner from this church that was taught by this Caucasian couple. And they apparently years before were missionaries in Japan or somethin' like that. And so they could speak Japanese very well. So they were teaching at this church. So they could speak both English and Japanese. And they were very popular there. And that's the only church that we went to when I was growing up. But I only went there just a few years because I didn't, I didn't live in that area for very long. Before that... I moved from there to another area. So I was quite a ways from that church. But even still, that same church exists now but it's in, I guess it's... is it Gardena? It's on, I guess it's, I guess it's close to Gardena now. But it moved. And it's called Free Methodist Church. And most of the people are Japanese that go to that church. But I didn't go, I didn't go to church that much at all. Only when I was young. Yeah. None in my family went to church regularly, on a regular basis. But when I moved to Chicago, I used to go this church that was, the minister was Japanese, Baptist church. I went there. Matter of fact, that minister is the one that married my wife and I.

RP: Your dad was a gardener. Did you, did you work with him at all?

KY: Yeah. I worked with him to help him out. But I didn't, I didn't enjoy it very much. But I went to help my father more than anything else. I didn't get paid or anything. And maybe that's the reason why I didn't, I didn't care for it because here I am working my ass off and not getting paid. [Laughs] So when I got a chance, my brother, he had a classmate whose father used to run this produce market, and he wanted some help, part-time help, and so my brother's friend asked my brother if I would be interested in working there. So naturally I said, "Sure, I'll work there." Get paid. So I, that's what I did. I worked in this produce market. On the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked I was working in the market. It was a Sunday. And so I was working in that market, but as a part-time worker. But I got paid.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

RP: What do you remember about that day?

KY: That day?

RP: Yes.

KY: Pearl Harbor day? Well, the fact that me and this other fellow were working and we heard the news that Pearl Harbor was attacked. And well, I didn't think much of it. It didn't bother me. But as it turned out it did because we went to camp after that. We were put into concentration camp. Had it not been for this Pearl Harbor thing we probably would have never gone to camp, right? But that's what happens.

RP: So you were in your senior year at Santa Monica High School. And you...

KY: Uh-huh, when war broke out.

RP: ...and you had this dream about graduating there.

KY: Yeah.

RP: What was school like the next day after Pearl Harbor was attacked?

KY: Nothing unusual. No. Nothing unusual.

RP: Did anybody come up to, or offer support? Teachers or principal or anybody say, "You're not responsible for this. We support you"?

KY: No, no.

RP: No incidents?

KY: No incidents. No. But after I moved here, this gal, she lives on north side but she's, I don't know what she does. But she approached me and said that, "How would you like to speak to this group at the high school about your experience in camp?" You know, concentration camp. I says, "Well, okay I don't mind." So a group of us that were in camp, there was about half a dozen of us, we were at Santa Monica High School and we spoke to the students about camp and our experience there. Because a lot of 'em probably never heard about the concentration camp. Because that's what it was, a concentration camp.

RP: What was that experience like for you, speaking to the students?

KY: Well, it wasn't, it wasn't bad. A lot of, like I say, a lot of the kids didn't know anything about the camps. They certainly didn't teach it at the high school, about what happened during the war. But if one of the teachers felt it was important enough to teach the other students at the high school what I went through, well, we said okay and we talked to them about our experiences.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

RP: This tape two of a continuing interview with Kaz Yamamoto. And Kaz, we were just talking about the attack on Pearl Harbor and how that affected you. Can you tell us a little bit about the time after Pearl Harbor? The time between Pearl Harbor and when you went to camp, what was life like for you in the three or four months before you went to camp?

KY: Well, strangely enough it, it didn't affect me at all. And we did the normal thing, going to school and stuff like that. But, no one ever... no one ever threatened me or anything like that, because I'm Japanese. I never got into any conflict with other people. I guess the people in Santa Monica are nice people.

RP: So you didn't feel, was there any signs put up or...

KY: [Shakes head] No.

RP: You didn't, you didn't feel that.

KY: I didn't feel threatened at all.

RP: Uh-huh. Now, a lot of Japanese, Japanese families were concerned that if they had anything in their house that was Japanese that they might be visited by the FBI and they...

KY: Well, there might have been some scared incidents and they tried to probably destroy them. And I wouldn't blame them, but...

RP: Did your family, was, did that happen in your family where things were destroyed or burned or...

KY: No.

RP: No?

KY: Nothing like that. But I heard stories like that. And there is some people, not in Santa Monica especially, I don't think... well, there was one family I remember, they moved inland. I don't know where they went but they moved inland to some city to get away from the Japanese neighborhood. But, so they didn't go to camp like we did. But it was no picnic for them either. This one girl that I know, she had a very hard time to where she moved to.

RP: Do you know where they moved to?

KY: I can't think where it was. But...

RP: Was it outside of California?

KY: Yes, I think so. And but they didn't have an easy time of it either. I think we were better off going to camp. Being among our own people more or less.

RP: Do you recall any restrictions that were placed on Japanese Americans?

KY: Restrictions?

RP: Travel restrictions or curfew.

KY: Well, there were certain curfews or restrictions. We were told you can't have cameras. And some things, I can't think now, but we were told we couldn't own, own some, some things. I can't at this moment think what they were but there was some restrictions. But that never came to my family or anything that I had.

RP: Was your father affected because he traveled?

KY: No, no, he wasn't affected in any way. He did his normal work and it didn't affect him at all.

RP: Did you have any friends whose families were visited by the FBI?

KY: They may have but I don't know of any. I'm sure there must have been. But there was one incident, my older sister, she used to go around with this guy who was a Kibei. You know what a Kibei is? And so anyway, this Kibei friend was inducted into the army. Well, I noticed that by the time that we got into camp he was, he was joining us in camp. So they must have discharged him. You know what I mean? Because he was raised and educated in Japan, I think that must, must have made a difference. Because there was other guys that weren't Kibeis and were also sent to the army about the same time that he was but they served their time in the camp, in the army. So it must have been the reason why he was discharged.

RP: And so he joined the army before Pearl Harbor?

KY: Yeah. I think so. It might have... I don't know. I don't know when he got, was in... it might have been after Pearl Harbor too.

RP: And then later on, ironically, they were interested in those Kibei because of their language skills.

KY: Yeah.

RP: So life went on for you. But then a little later on in February an executive order was signed by the president and the zones were established, military zones, and what was your, do you recall what your thinking was at the time? Did you have any concerns or fears of what was going to happen to you and your family as time...

KY: What kind of zones are you talking about?

RP: Like a military, these military zones where, where Japanese Americans could be excluded from.

KY: Gee, I don't recall anything like that. Isn't that funny? I don't recall us having a restricted zone where we couldn't go, anything like that. But I'm sure that must have happened. But I wasn't aware of it, anything like that.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

RP: So when did you find out about the fact that your, that your family and your community would be removed?

KY: Oh, gee, it's hard to remember. But, I know that soon afterwards, while I was going to Santa Monica High School, I had to drop out of going to school. And that was the reason why I dropped out because of the imminent thought of being sent to a camp. So I dropped out. And I suffered because of that because I wasn't going to school anymore and when Manzanar had the school started once we got there, I suffered in the subject. It happened to be in math because naturally I wasn't able to learn the things that when I, when I was going to school I was, one of my classes was in the math, math class. And when I tried to continue that same kind of course in Manzanar, I was lost because I lacked that education that I should have been getting if I had continued school. So I had to quit that class and take somethin' else. And so it didn't do me any good to drop out of class.

RP: So what did you do after you dropped out of high school?

KY: I didn't drop out of high school, just the class.

RP: Just the class, okay.

KY: Uh-huh. So I took some other subject. But...

RP: So, when you knew that you were going to Manzanar, what did you do to prepare for that?

KY: I didn't do any preparation for going to Manzanar. We didn't really know what was going on really. We were in the dark as far as I know. All I know is the bus picked us up and we landed in Manzanar. What a strange place. I remember coming over the pass and coming to Manzanar. We could see Manzanar in the distance and you could see all the dust flying around. You know, that's Manzanar. And I'm telling you, it was strange. And I didn't know what to expect really.

RP: What did you, did you own your own house here in Santa Monica?

KY: No, we were renting. It was an old house anyway. Cheap. That's the reason my folks rented that house. Because it was cheap. It's not there anymore. But I've gone by that place many times since I've come here. And I guess within three or four, maybe six blocks, neighborhood, there was a lot of Japanese living in my neighborhood. Folks that I got to know real well.

RP: Do you remember packing suitcases or duffle bags for your trip?

KY: We could only take what we could carry. We couldn't take several suitcases or whatever. Whatever we can carry is all we were told we could take. So naturally most of the furniture and things that were in the house we had to just leave, abandon it. My father's truck that he used to garden with, we just abandoned it in the garage. Fortunately for me he had bought this sedan, a two door sedan, because whenever there was any, anything going on at the school, you know where we had movies and stuff like that? My father, all he had was this truck and you could only put three people at the most in the truck. So he bought this passenger car and I was the designated driver. I got a license when I was sixteen. And so I drove that car all over the place. I was the only one that drove it. I drove it school, to Santa Monica High. And one of my classmates, I remember his name, John O'Brien. He was one of my classmates. He came with his father to my house a few days before we were to leave. He bought my truck, my car. I think he paid two hundred dollars for the car. That was a lot of money at that time. So at least we were able to gain that instead of having to abandon it. And so my folks made that two hundred dollars or whatever it was that we sold it for. But I'm sure there was a lot of cases like that among the Japanese where they had to abandon their cars and of course they had to abandon anything in that furnishing. Like all this furnishing you see here, we would have had to just leave it. Can you imagine? People could come in and just pick 'em up and go home with it. I mean, what a loss. If you were to count all the people that were evacuated. How much did they lose because we had to abandon everything. Couldn't take it with us. Yeah. They gave us money after we came back in nineteen, I think it was 1980, sometime in the '80s. They gave us money for what we lost during the war. But it was such an insignificant amount of money that it would never be able to pay for what we lost. But that's what happened to us.

RP: Was that tough to see that sedan go?

KY: Well, at least I got money for it, my folks did.

RP: So the family had some money that they could bring up with them to Manzanar.

KY: Yeah, that's about all.

RP: There was no... do you know if your parents had money in a bank at all too that they...

KY: You know, right after Pearl Harbor I think it was, they stopped the Japanese bank in southern California. So, like this guy that I used to work for in this produce market, he was, his money was stopped in the bank. And of course having a produce market, he needed money to run it. And so his customers that he got to know real well, that used to shop at the market, I don't know how many of 'em but there was a few people, friends of his, customers, they came to him and says, "Do you want any money? We could give you some money, lend you some money while this is goin' on. But he told 'em, "No, that's okay. I can manage." So things like that happened. The banks were closed to, the banks that the Japanese people banked at. Of course they could bank at any bank they wanted to but those that did bank in like Sumitomo Bank, their funds were restricted. So I don't know what they all did. They must have gotten some of it back.

RP: Did your father have money in the Sumitomo Bank?

KY: I think so.

RP: And the gentleman who ran the produce market, what was his name?

KY: Tanaka.

RP: Tanaka?

KY: Yeah.

RP: Did he end up at Manzanar too?

KY: Uh-huh. Yeah. Henry Tanaka. After he came back, he was able to gain that market again. And so he could continue his practice, his job afterwards. But he told me that people have asked him, during that time, if he wanted any money and he told 'em, "No, that's okay, I have enough money to get by." So there were some nice people that understood the situation.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

RP: Do you recall anything, any details about where you, where you went to pick up the bus?

KY: You know, it's a funny thing, I don't know why I still can't remember. But I can't remember that part of my history, how I got to where, where we had to board the bus. I can't remember that part. Isn't that funny? It just, it's blank in my mind. How in the hell did I get there? It seems like a simple thing but it's just blocked out of my mind and so I couldn't remember how I got to the place. I think it was on Lincoln someplace from here, where I used to live. And how I got to where we had to board the bus, that part of me, it's a total blank. I can't recall what I did.

RP: Do you recall your, any, your feelings or emotions that day when you left Santa Monica?

KY: Not really. It was, it was a sad case having us meet the bus that took us there but, but I don't recall any sadness or anything like that, emotionally, of having to leave my house. All I know is that it was a new part of my life that I am faced with, that I'm gonna go, go board the bus and go to some camp somewhere inland. But things like that I wasn't concerned about too much. I knew it was gonna go someplace but where, I don't know.

RP: When you first got there, Kaz, you were, were you...

KY: Huh?

RP: ...which, which block were you assigned to?

KY: Seventeenth block.

RP: Okay. And do you remember your specific block address, the barrack?

KY: Yes, 17-13-1.

RP: Seventeen-Thirteen-One. Okay.

KY: It was the end, end apartment.

RP: Right.

KY: Block 17 and thirteenth building, and one, the first barrack. 17-13-1. And you know, when we were assigned that barrack or... it was no bigger than this living room. That's how small it was. And here we had six in our family, four children and our parents. Had six and they assigned another young couple to stay with, in the same room. Can you imagine that? They finally were moved to another building but here we were eight kid, eight people in that small room which is no bigger than this living room. I don't know how we did it, but that's what they assigned us. Talk about crap quarters. I hope they got out quick enough to make up the difference. But, I thought Jiminy Christmas, eight of us in that one room. It was just enough room for our beds to go in there. Eight beds. That's terrible. But it was an emergency so that's what they did I guess. They finally moved them to another barrack.

RP: And you stayed in 17-13-1?

KY: Yeah.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

RP: Now, one of the first things you did in Manzanar was working at the camouflage net factory.

KY: Uh-huh.

RP: What do you recall about that experience?

KY: Well, it was something I'd never done before, but it was simple enough. And... I could still smell the smell of the... camouflage is, was, string about this wide [Gestures with fingers] and you had to string it through a, like a netting. And we, that's what we did all day long. But that only lasted a few weeks if anything. So it wasn't a long time. Just a brief while.

RP: Did you work with a team of other people of did you weave the net yourself?

KY: I did it myself but, but there was, there was a lot of people that joined with me in stringing these, these yarn, if you want to call it that. It was quite a few people there. And I think there was a competition, who could make, make the most nets or something like that. And I remember getting a slice of watermelon for a prize.

RP: So how long would it take you to weave a net?

KY: I don't know. I can't remember that. It's not that I didn't enjoy it, but it wasn't something that I looked forward to. It was simple work. After all we were just weaving things.

RP: Do you remember how you got the job there?

KY: No, I don't remember how I got it. All I know is I was doin' it.

RP: Can you describe the shed where the nets were woven? Do you remember the large shed where the nets were woven?

KY: I'm, I would imagine anything where the netting was but I really can't remember how, how the nettings worked and if it was a building like this. I can't remember anything of that stuff. But, it must have, it must have been some nets hanging down and just weave it, yarn. I guess it's yarn.

RP: Strips.

KY: Strips of canvas.

RP: So you mentioned that you could still smell the...

KY: Yeah, I could, I could almost remember how it was.

RP: What did they smell like?

KY: Oh, you can just imagine whatever. I can't tell you exactly what it smells like but...

RP: Did you wear any protective...

KY: No.

RP: Some people had masks and...

KY: No, I don't remember having any masks.

RP: You didn't come down with any rash from the strips or the chemicals?

KY: No. Like I say, I didn't do it very long. Just a while, short time. I guess I was glad to be goin' someplace else, doing something else.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

RP: And then you started school or finished...

KY: Yes, as soon the schools opened, we were going to school every day. But it wasn't like going to Santa Monica High School.

RP: What was it like?

KY: It was different in that you had to walk to wherever you do. You didn't have a car or anything. You had to walk. And I lived in the seventeenth block so you can imagine how far that is to the school area. School area was... since you know Manzanar, how it was, I imagine you do. It was near the front of the camp. And so we had to walk wherever we went. Wherever we went we had to walk, walk walk, walk.

RP: How was going to school at Manzanar different from San-Mo High School?

KY: Well, there was nothing but Japanese kids. And that I wasn't used to. I had no Caucasian friends there with me. And then, in the very beginning, we had to sit on the floor because there wasn't enough chairs to go around. No desks. So, it was just a bare room. And girls or boys, it didn't matter. You had to all squat down and sit on the floor. So it was an inconvenience. But later on it got better. But they were just the bare necessities.

RP: How about the quality of the teaching?

KY: It was good, it was good. The music teacher that... I had a, I had a class in music. And his name was Louis Frizzell. Do you know that name?

RP: Uh-huh.

KY: He was a nice guy, and I enjoyed being taught by him. As a matter of fact, after I left camp he and I started corresponding. Yeah. He went to New York area I think. And whenever we had a reunion, he would sometimes come to that reunion. But he was a very popular teacher. And everyone remembers him. Nice guy. He was, you know the TV program Bonanza? He was on that as a regular. Yeah. I watch it even now. The old, old films that... I'm looking to see Frizzell in there. [Laughs] But he used to write to me from New York. Yeah, when I lived in Chicago, I started corresponding with him. And I corresponded with him for some time. But he was one of the teachers that I thought was very nice and everyone liked him. And the other teachers I don't remember. But Louie Frizzell, I really remember well.

RP: What was it about Louie that kind of captured your imagination?

KY: Well, he was just a nice guy and all the kids really liked him. And so did I.

RP: So you took a music class from him?

KY: Huh?

RP: You took a music class?

KY: Yeah.

RP: Did you sing in the class too?

KY: Just sing. Sing. I didn't play any instrument. I didn't know how. I didn't have any instrument anyway. But that was one class that I enjoyed. I think because I used to enjoy singing and he tried to make it as enjoyable as ever. And everyone liked him. He passed away young. I think he was pretty young when he died. But one of these days I'll see him on Bonanza again.

RP: So you corresponded with him for a while.

KY: Uh-huh, I did. Louie Frizzell.

RP: You didn't save the letters did you?

KY: Uh-uh.

RP: And you graduated from Manzanar High School, 1943?

KY: Uh-huh.

RP: Do you remember anything at all about your graduation in the camp?

KY: No, but all the graduates were, were Japanese kids like me. Same boat as I was. And I don't know if I have a picture of that class anymore. But I had a picture of the whole class. And that was the only thing that was different from graduating from Santa Monica High School. 'Cause there was no such thing as... all one, one...

RP: And you were so looking forward to that graduation at San-Mo.

KY: Yeah, you know later...

RP: Did you think about that?

KY: ...later on, after I moved here, this woman, I don't know how I got to know her, but she approached me and said, "How would you like to talk about your experience in Manzanar with some of the Japanese people that I know?" I said, "Sure, I'll be glad to do it."

<End Segment 14> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

RP: I'm gonna, I'm gonna go ahead and offer up another question to you here. You went out on an agricultural furlough.

KY: Yeah.

RP: How did that come about?

KY: Well, they would have these things every year in the fall I guess when harvesting approached. And I got wind of it and so this guy that I really didn't know that well, but he lived in the next block, he was a fellow that was quite a bit older than I and as a matter of fact, he had a wife and a child, he lived next block, 18. I don't know how we got together but he says, "How would you like to be in my group and go to Idaho?" I said, "Sure, I'll go. I want to make some money and buy some clothes." And so that's how I got to know him. And he was a, he was a real nice guy. I think he just passed away. But he was from Venice area. And he and this other guy was... you had to work in pairs in potato picking. And the guy that I ended up with was a big guy, real husky, he was a weightlifter and so he was built like a horse. Big guy. And here I am, a small guy, smallest in the group. So he and I became partners. And it turned out to be real good. We worked real good together. And there was two, four... I think there was six in our group. And that's what made our group. But later on, after we came back, there was another offer made for work in a defense plant. And all they made was kitchen wares. And that happened in 1944. Yeah, 1944. And you paid your way out there and they paid your way back to camp. That was, that was how it was arranged. And so I jumped at that too. And the same guy that I went Idaho with, he was in our group. We used to regard him as the leader of our group. And we went to Chicago again for that particular reason, for the defense plant was right next to the Chicago White Sox ball team. We were, our building was practically in the backyard of that, the defense plant. And we made anything that was, had to do with kitchen wares, ovens and then I was on a punch press making these little can openers. You know when you go in the army you get a K-ration. And in the K-ration you get a can opener. All it is a piece of metal about this big, small think like that, and like a hinge. And it'd open up like this and you just go like this and it opens the can. It tears into the can. And that was with every K-ration, you'd get one of these can openers. I made, I don't know, millions of 'em.

RP: So you were a punch press operator?

KY: No, I wasn't punch press. It was, it was already... I don't know how it was, became to, how they made it, but all I remember was... I guess there was a punch press for some, for some reason. And we had to put these together and it made it so you can, you can open these cans with it. It was real convenient. I should have saved that as a souvenir. But, that's what I did. I made millions of those things. And then later on I graduated to another item that we, that they were making. Probably another punch press. But I remember one incident where I was on this platform and there was this escalator that came down from upstairs to downstairs, and it, and the thing was, here was this that comes down and every once in a while, every few feet, there was this metal thing that came so that you can, you can put these packages on this thing and these retainers were a few feet away from each other and it would come down and then go up again and then come down again like this [Motions up and down with hand]. And I stuck my foot out a little bit too far and the thing that's on there came and hit my shoe and almost tore my nail off. That hurt me quite a bit. But I had to go, go to work with slippers on practically. But it healed quick enough. I was able to survive.

RP: So, Kaz, how did you get this job in the first place?

KY: I don't know. That, the camp arranged it. You paid your way out there and they paid your way back.

RP: Were there a number of Japanese Americans working in the plant?

KY: There was when we got there. There was a lot of Japanese girls that worked there, like secretaries or clerks. I remember when, when we got to the defense plant I saw these girls working there and they were all Japanese. A lot of 'em were. But, we worked in a separate area because we were part of the, not the office but the production part of the group. But it wasn't such a bad job.

RP: Where did you live in Chicago while you were working there?

KY: We lived right off of Thirty-fifth Street, which is near the ballpark. It's in a black area. It was a poor area. But that's the only place that would, that we could find a place to live. And the owner of that apartment was two Caucasian sisters. And they were the owners of the, of this apartment. And they loved us because we always, always paid our rent on time. I guess she wasn't used to that living, because it was in a black neighborhood and I guess people didn't pay their bills quickly enough. But we paid our bills every time on time when the time came. So they really treated us nice. They would make our beds for us when we left to go to work. And they really treated us like kings. Yeah. I remember one of 'em, her name was Mrs. Bishop, and when I came back to Chicago after going back to camp, I met her on the street, right near where I lived. It was far away from where, where she had her apartment but I met Mrs. Bishop on the road one time. It was, it was so nice to see her again. But most of the occupants of that apartment were Japanese guys. I guess one would tell the other, "Hey, why don't you move over here?" And so there was a lot of Japanese guys that lived in that apartment and we were one of 'em.

RP: So, how many other guys did you live with?

KY: Well, I think there was six of us.

RP: All from Manzanar?

KY: Yeah, I think so. And then there was other, other groups that live in that same apartment too but they came from someplace else I think. But it was nice. We didn't mind it. And the two sisters treated us very well because we always paid our bills.

RP: So how did you feel about being out of camp and in sort of more normal life?

KY: Mainstream, huh?

RP: Yeah, Mainstream.

KY: Yeah, well, it was nice to be back in America again, so to speak. And being able to go to the movies when you wanted to. Things like that. Normal living, which we missed in camp. And... I remember while I was there this, this girl that, I think she was in my class in Japanese school in Santa Monica before the war, but then she moved away. And, but I remembered her and her brother, I met her brother when my sister came from camp to Chicago. He was one of the guys that met them at the bus depot or train station, I forget what. And I met him and it surprised me who he was. And I asked him, "Where's your sister?" And he told me where his sister was. It was a town called Naperville, near Chicago. And so I says, "Give me her address. I'd like to go see her." So, he gave me her address. So later on when I had a chance I looked her up. I had to take a bus or a train, I'm not sure. I went to see her. And her father was with a sanatorium, where they, where sick people were living there and he was the cook, or somethin' like that. And she was going to the high school there. And so I met her. And we became good friends. She was my girlfriend after that. [Laughs] Yeah. And I used to see her almost every weekend and so we had a nice, I had a nice time finding her and being her boyfriend. And then when it was time for me to go back to camp my sister knew her real well too but she wanted to see me off at the station. And my sister, my sister told her, "I'll take you there." And somehow they got lost and I never, they never did reach the bus station or the train station where we were gonna take off to go back to camp. So I never got to see her after that. I saw her again way after the war back here. She moved up to the Bay Area. Married a, married a minister who became very popular in the Bay Area. She married him. But it was nice seeing her again.

RP: How did, how did it feel to come back to Manzanar after being out in America for six months and working and now you're going back to camp?

KY: Going back to camp?

RP: Yeah.

KY: Well...

RP: How did that feel?

KY: Well, camp was like home to us because we were there for so long. And we felt strange going to a place like Chicago, a busy metropolitan city. But once you got used to it, it was nothin'. I liked going to Chicago. There wasn't any prejudice. And we made that our home after a while. My friend went to Cleveland. And I thought about going to Cleveland because of him but I decided that Chicago was the place. I liked Chicago.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

RP: I wanted to step back a little and talk a little bit more about your experience in Idaho with picking potatoes. Where did you go in Idaho, Kaz?

KY: Well, it was close to a town called Pocatello. Pocatello, Idaho.

RP: And how did you travel up there?

KY: We... how did we get there? We must have gone by bus or... from from Manzanar we had to go to Reno. That was the closest, the closest big, big town. And you could take a bus to there to different parts of the country. And that's the way I think we went to Pocatello. But...

RP: Where did you end up staying when you got there?

KY: Well, like I say, there was this camp just like Manzanar and yeah, only it was just this big, big building and everybody stayed there. That's where we slept. And that's... I don't know how we got to know about this camp, but that's what we did. We ended up there. And from there, the farmers from all over that city would come and say, "I need some men to come work on my farm." And that's how he got to pick the workers that he wanted. But there was one incident while we were there, they had expected us to come to the camp and... but there was some farmers that said, "Oh, we're not gonna wait for these Japs. We'll wait for the other, other people like Mexicans or whatever it was to come. And we'll hire them. We're not gonna, we're not gonna hire these Japs." And so they didn't, they didn't come to our camp there to hire anybody. Well, what happened was that the, this other people, they didn't get there. They couldn't make it or something. And so here they were, they were left without any workers. So they finally had to come to us and beg for us to work for them. So we got, they got paid back. Some of us said, "Well, hell with you guys." So, that's what happened.

RP: So you'd go out every day...

KY: Uh-huh.

RP: ...with, with the same farmer or different farmer?

KY: No, different farmers.

RP: Uh-huh. And what was your experience like on the, on these farms?

KY: Oh, it was nice. It was... all you see is rows and rows of potatoes. See the end of the row? That's how far we gotta go. And you look at that. And the farmer had what they call, I guess these are milk cans where, like on a dairy farm. I don't... you can just imagine these big old cans, what they kept milk in. Well, one of the guys, that was my partner, he was the big husky guy, but he was kind of simple. And our leader would tell him, "Hey, Joe, go get that thing with water in it and bring it so we can drink water." And so he would go over there and pick it up and we had water for the day.

RP: Describe how you picked, the process of picking the potatoes.

KY: Well, there were these, it's metal, and they're about this high, wire, like a wire basket so that no dirt can go in there, just the potato. And you'd have to be on your haunch and you'd put the basket in between you and you shovel the potato into that basket. And then, and so you worked in pair, okays. Whoever gets the, this bucket full would pick up the canvas bag that was laying on the field there -- the farmer would come and distribute all these baskets on, on the ground, see. So the first one that gets a basket full, he picked up the gunny sack and would hold it and his partner would get the basket and dump the potatoes in there. So we, what we learned is every time we'd collect about half a sack of potatoes -- that's what we're paid by, half a sack -- and we'd fill the basket, the bunny sack full of potatoes, lay them on the side and go to the next one. And that's what we did all day long.

RP: Do you remember how much you got for that?

KY: I can't remember. We left that up to the leader of our, our group. He'd take care of...

RP: He negotiated the...

KY: Yeah, he was the one that took care of the, our, our group.

RP: What was his name?

KY: Dan Sugimoto. He was married and much older than us.

RP: Now as a kid you were raised in Santa Monica. You never grew up on a farm.

KY: No.

RP: And so what was, what was it like for you to be out there harvesting potatoes?

KY: Well, it was just like anything else. You get used to it. And it was hard in the first time. For the, for the first week or so my back ached like hell because picking these potatoes was no easy job. But all of us had to go through the same experience and we got used to it, and we liked picking potatoes, better than, than picking up sugar beets. When you're picking sugar beets, this knife, it was about this high [Gestures about four inches with fingers] it was about this long with a handle on the end and then there was a hook on the end, end of the knife. And you'd the same thing as you do in picking potatoes. You go over there, the sugar beet was uprooted from the ground and was laying on the ground. And you go and you'd pick it up with the hook that's on the end of the knife, you'd hook it and you'd bring it up and in one motion you pick it up and then you'd grab the beet -- it's like a radish, you know -- and you grab the radish and then once you got the thing off the ground you'd take the knife off the, off the beet and you'd chop the greens off of it. And then you'd throw the sugar beet on the side and so that the farmer could pick those up. That's what topping the sugar beets was like. But that was harder work to us anyway. We didn't like it much. We liked picking the potatoes better.

RP: And how long did you work out in...

KY: Well, the season wasn't very long I don't think. A couple months or thereabouts. And then we'd have to go back to camp again.

RP: And this was during the fall?

KY: Yeah, it was in the fall. Yeah, I remember I went the first time in 1943 after graduating high school. I joined this guy, I don't know how I got to know this guy, Dan Sugimoto. But...

RP: Did you, while you were at this camp, I guess a labor camp, did you go into Pocatello at all for any social activities?

KY: No, just before we were to come back to camp we all went to Pocatello to shop. And then we came home.

RP: What did you shop for?

KY: I forgot what I was shopping for. I think probably a coat or something. I didn't have a sport coat. So I must have bought a sport coat. I don't know. It's so hard to remember all the things you did that many years ago.

RP: Sure is.

KY: How many years ago?

RP: That's too long to remember. But you're doing a great job. So you made one visit just before you came back.

KY: Uh-huh. Yeah.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

RP: Can you tell us a little bit more about the camp that you lived in? What was the eating arrangements like there?

KY: You mean from, at the farm?

RP: At the big, the big camp building that you lived in?

KY: Oh, you mean Manzanar?

RP: Oh, no, no.

KY: Farm?

RP: The labor camp, yeah.

KY: Yeah. Well, it was, it was simple beds that you slept on. And there was a central dining room so, where you went to eat dinner. And then in the morning we went there to pick up the lunch that they prepared for us. And you'd take your lunch and go to work. Yeah, it was a very simple thing. And...

RP: So who ran the camp? Do you know?

KY: I don't know who ran the camp. All I know is I got something to eat there. [Laughs]

RP: So you spent a little money in Pocatello, but you brought some money home with you?

KY: Yeah, uh-huh. Yeah. But I bought some clothes.

RP: Good.


RP: This tape three of a continuing interview with Kaz Yamamoto. And Kaz, we were just talking about your first experience on the farm, picking potatoes. And overall, was it, how was it for you?

KY: I enjoyed it. It was, it was a lot of hard labor but it was, it was great to be out there where you could on Sundays or Saturdays or Sundays have, being able to go to the movies. That was entertainment for us. But you know, an incident happened when we went to that place. We went to town and we usually have to hitchhike to town. It was a little ways from the camp we were in. And we hitchhiked into town so we can go see a movie. But before we went to the movies we stopped in this restaurant to have somethin', get a bite to eat. And when we came out of the movie house, here was this guy, he said he was the sheriff. He says, "Did you guys go to that restaurant to eat?" And we said, "Yeah, we sure did." He says, "Well, and you stopped at this restaurant to have something to eat," and he accused us of stealing knives. I'm sure he's talkin' about the knives, regular fork and knife. He accused us of stealing the knives there and my friend, who was with us, said, "I want to speak to the sheriff." And the guy peels off his... "I'm the sheriff." So here he was accusing us of stealing the knives and he couldn't prove it because we didn't have any knives. So he had to let us go. But that was a bad incident for us, accusing us of stealing knives. That and the fact that we went by a barbershop and the guy who was standing outside says, "No, we don't, we don't cut you guys hair." So he's warning us don't come into the, my shop, we won't give you a haircut. So those are the two ugly incidents that happened when we were out in Pocatello.

RP: Pocatello. Do you recall if there were women that went out on those furloughs, too?

KY: Huh?

RP: Were there women who also went out to pick...

KY: Potatoes?

RP: ...potatoes and...

KY: Not that I know of. But I know there were. Yeah. I met this couple and they worked on the farm too, they said. But I never met anybody where we were.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

RP: One of the other jobs that you had while you were in camp was you were a junior cook for a while?

KY: Yeah, yeah. Sure did.

RP: Tell us a little bit about that.

KY: I don't know how we did but my brother and I and this other guy -- his name was, we called him Soupy, Soupy. That wasn't his real name but we nicknamed him Soupy -- so Soupy and my brother and myself, we palled around together, the three of us. Of course my brother was still going to school a lot because he was younger than I. But I don't know, I don't know how it got started but we got a job and worked at the kitchen as a junior cook. They called us junior cooks. Because we weren't a full cook, but we were junior cook. In other words, we helped the cook, helped prepare the meals. And we enjoyed that very much because for instance on the weekends we'd make fancy pastries. We made these pastries that you normally wouldn't have, but someone started making these pastries and so we were, we would at night after dinner was finished we'd come back to the kitchen and make these pastries for the morning. We were preparing it for the morning. And after we got through we would take 'em home for ourselves. And we had, there's three sisters that lived in the next block. They were our, they also worked in this kitchen where we worked. And they were... they would prepare food for the youngsters, babies. What do they call them? But anyway, on the way home we'd bring it home and we'd share what we brought home we gave it to those girls that who works in our kitchen. So they would enjoy it too. But that was fun and almost every weekend we'd make something and we'd share it with our friends. Yeah.

RP: So what type of, of things did you do in terms of preparation for the cooks?

KY: What?

RP: What type of jobs did you do in preparation for...

KY: Well, whenever we'd, whenever the cooks wanted a spell, a rest, we'd take over and help cook whatever they are doing. That's what we primarily were doing. We didn't make the main course. We just did the things that the cooks would get tired of doing because when you're cooking for hundreds of people, you make the same thing over and over and over again, right? So we'd help them cook. Once they start cooking we could follow suit and help them make the food that they would normally do. So it would help the cooks if they had some junior cooks like us helped them in the hot summer days. It's not easy cookin' over a hot stove. And what we did was we set up a ping-pong table. And we'd play each other. And the guy that loses has to go on and cook. So we became real good ping-pong players. [Laughs] If anything. Yeah. That was good. Yeah, we became real good at ping-pong. Yeah.

RP: So what shift did you have as a junior cook? Or did it...

KY: Usually the evening meal. My father, from the very moment we hit camp, he became a rice cook, a rice cook. Because you had to make rice in big, big containers. And my father at one time worked on a ship and apparently he was a cook on the ship. So was used to cooking large amounts of food, like making rice. And he was good at it. So, from the very start he was a rice cook for our block, our kitchen. And that's what he did all, all during the time that we were at camp. He was a rice cook. But we worked, my brother and I and my friend Soupy, we worked in the next block. We lived on 17 and we did the cooking on 18.

RP: Oh, you cooked on 18.

KY: But, there were a lot of fun things to do as a cook. You make these pastries and we played ping-pong during the time. And if you lost you'd have to cook. If you won you kept playing ping-pong. [Laughs]

RP: What are some of the, what are some of the dishes that you remember being served in the mess halls? You were saying that the same kind of food was prepared over and over and over again.

KY: Yeah, but you don't have the same diet every day. You have different meals every day. So they had a menu that they followed I guess. I don't know. But there was no lack of, of food to eat. Because you were a group of 100,000 people, the government had to supply us with, with food that I bet a lot of people on the outside couldn't get. Because it's an individual you have some food, but for with us it was a 100,000 people so they had to buy all the stuff. There was no lack of food that the kitchen wanted. They had access to any kind of food they wanted. So we were fed well.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

RP: Do you remember any shortages of sugar?

KY: Shortage?

RP: A shortage of sugar that... there were charges that sugar was being black-marketed.

KY: Uh-huh.

RP: And that some of, some of those issues led to the riot.

KY: No, I don't think that led to the riot.

RP: What was your opinion on that?

KY: It didn't, it didn't have anything to do with the riot I don't think. No.

RP: What was your opinion of what...

KY: The riot?

RP: Yeah.

KY: I'm not sure. Part of the stories that I heard was that one of the aspects of that whole thing was before we hit camp there was some stories of, they call 'em "dogs" I guess, I'm not sure, but that they ratted on the other Japanese people. And so they were regarded as "dogs," you know what I mean? And once we got into camp they were looked upon as traitors. And so they, I think they tried to get, get these guys and pay back. I think that had something to do with it. But, I don't think that's the whole story. I remember in camp, once we were in camp, the soldiers, they had their guns with them and then the crowd got together and they start threatening the police. And the, and the soldiers, they were scared stiff too because here all mass of people grouping together and charging the police. And so they had these guns that had bayonets on the end of it. And they stuck, they threatened the crowd as if they were gonna shoot 'em if they didn't back off. And, but the crowd got more aggressive. And they started backing the soldiers. As the soldiers backed off they would keep on going towards the soldiers. And so the soldiers were scared stiff themselves. And finally one of the soldiers started shootin' and killed some of the people there. And I think that started the riot.

RP: Where were you when that was happening?

KY: I was home in my barrack when I heard about it. And my mother says, "You'd better not go out there." You know, get into trouble. So I didn't go anywhere. I stayed home like a smart cookie. Yeah, I remember that incident and one of the guys that got shot at come running home and he told us about what's happening, what's happening. So, we were kind of scared about the whole incident. But it did happen. At least the Manzanar riot was. There was other riots in the other camps too, you know. I guess everyone has a different story to give as to how, how it happened. But the one I heard mostly was that these guys that tattletaled, that this, they ratted on the other Japanese people. And so to get revenge they were going after these guys. I don't know how they got to know who tattled on who. But that's another story that I heard. I don't know how much of it's true.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

RP: So, you came back from your defense job in Chicago and then your sister returned and got married in camp, right?

KY: Uh-huh, yeah.

RP: Uh-huh. Do you remember being there and what that was like?

KY: What, the wedding?

RP: The wedding.

KY: Well, it wasn't much of a wedding. Because it was held... see, we held, we had the meals in the, in the lunch room. The lunch room was two barracks put together, as you might know. And I don't remember too much about the wedding itself but I know they had the party over there. I don't remember going to the wedding. I don't remember at all. But I know they got married. And the following day, I guess the following day we decided to go to Chicago. Because that's all the purpose was, for them to come back to camp and get married in front of our folks. And after it was done, well, the only thing left to do was to go back to Chicago and I said, "Well, I want to go with you guys." And I found a, we walked, we walked all over the place. I remember it was right off of Fifty-fifth Street in Chicago, we first found an apartment for my sister and her husband. And it was the, it was a big apartment with a kitchen and everything like that. Because we had planned to have our folks come later on. And so it was a big apartment and what happened was before, before we start preparing for our folks to come, my sister got sick and she was laid up in bed all the time. She couldn't walk a straight line. And it happened to be a brain tumor that she had. And so you can imagine her balance, sense of balance was all shot. And so she couldn't go to work and she stayed in bed all day. I would come home first. My brother-in-law would come, come home later. And once I got home I would prepare dinner for my sister and I would feed her while she was in bed. And one day I was feeding her and something must have happened to her brain because her body stiffened up and as if it was attacking her head. And she collapsed and she fell unconscious. I thought she died on me right there. I was slapping her around trying to revive her. And she wouldn't come out of her unconscious state. And so I asked the manager of the apartment, "If you have a car, would you take my sister to the hospital?" Because of what happened. And he said, "Yeah, I'll be glad to take her." So he took her to the hospital. We didn't know what was going on. At that time, brain tumor was not a common disease. And in order to treat her they would have to go into the brain and the chances of recovery was very slim. Slim or none. And so we notified our parents in camp what was going on. We didn't know what was going on but we told my mother that she's in bed. So right away they prepared to come to Chicago, right away. And they came. And my brother-in-law was already out of camp and was living in Long Beach. And his brother and his father and his brother's wife, they got in their car and they drove non-stop from Long Beach to Chicago, non-stop, they just went. And after the, and they got to Chicago and she was still sick in bed. She wasn't dead yet. And they could see what was happening. So when she died my folks finally arrived in Chicago, and so we had a funeral right away. And my brother-in-law says he's gonna go back to Long Beach with, with his father and his brother. And so that's what happened. My sister was cremated and they took the ashes back to Long Beach and they buried her in Long Beach. Yeah. That was really a sad story. Eight months they had of married life. That's all.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

RP: Now you stayed in Chicago for another ten years.

KY: Yeah, I stayed. Yeah.

RP: What did you do in that time that you were in Chicago?

KY: Well, from the very beginning when I hit Chicago, I worked in this trailer, home trailers. You know, they make trailers that moves. You know, house trailers. I started working there making cabinets for the inside of trailers. And I was doing that. And I did that as long as we were working in this trailer, trailer company. I don't know how many years I worked there, but a long time. When my sister, I mean her, and my brother-in-law moved to Long Beach my folks, we had already rented an apartment for them. And after they moved in there they decided to move to another place and so that the whole family could be together. And that's what happened. We found, we found a cheap apartment on Forty-Seventh Street in Chicago. And the place that we moved to was a, it was, on the first floor there was a store that sold Japanese goods and another, other Japanese foods. And we got to know them very well. And we moved in the back, and the apartment was a crummy place but it was some place to live and we lived there until I got married. And they in turn moved to another place which was much nicer. But after I got married, my wife was a visiting nurse. Do you know what a visiting nurse is? They, she was a nurse, RN, but she'd go to the home of the patient and treat them at home. That's why they call them visiting nurses, nurse. And the place that she was working was in Oak Park. It's a suburb of Chicago. The first, first suburb of Chicago, west of Chicago. And she found an apartment and when we got married we moved into that apartment.

RP: Had she, had she been in camp too?

KY: Very short time. Very short time.

RP: Where was she from?

KY: Well, she was from, she was... first she was at Santa Anita. That wasn't a camp but just a temporary quarters. And then she moved to what was the name of the place... another camp way on, on the east side of... it's the east side of New York. It wasn't New York, but it was near New York and... Rohwer, Rohwer is the name of the.

RP: Oh, Rohwer?

KY: Yeah, Rohwer.

RP: Oh.

KY: That's on the East Coast almost.

RP: Arkansas.

KY: That's where she was in camp but she didn't stay long because she wanted to finish her apprenticeship as a nurse. And so she moved to Chicago and went to school there. And then, and her sister, her older sister, was already in Chicago working for Esquire Magazine. And so it ended up that she was living with her sister when I met her anyway. I met her in Chicago. This guy that I worked with, his wife was real close to my wife. They knew each other before they went to camp. And so one day her husband, the guy that I worked with, says, "Why don't you come over to our house? I want you to meet this girl," that's vacationing with them. So I sad okay and I went over there and the first time I saw her I told myself, "I'm gonna marry that girl." And so right away I went out and got a ring. This guy, he didn't have a shop or anything. He was making rings at home and selling it to anybody. Well, I learned about him and I bought, I bought this ring right away. That's how fast our romance was. But I fell in love with her the moment I saw her and so, and then once she was living in New York but after she, after the vacation with my friend, she went back to New York and told me, "Why don't you come during the Christmas holidays and come and see me in New York. " So I says, "Okay, I'll come." So I did. I went to New York and I presented her this ring. We got engaged right there. That's how fast our romance was.

RP: That's great.

KY: Yeah.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

RP: So you lived for ten years in Chicago?

KY: Huh?

RP: And then you came back here.

KY: Well, she lived there but once she got finished with her education. Well, she was going to, she was going to, she wanted a degree on top of her nursing degree. She went to... what's the name of that college in New York? So she got her bachelor's degree and then she had a nursing degree so. Anyway, so we got, after she got finished with her education, she came to Chicago and stayed with her friend who had, whose mother and father lived downstairs and they lived upstairs. But they lived upstairs with an extra bedroom. So they asked, told my wife, "You could stay here for a while." So that's what she did. And I used to, I used to go there almost every night to see my wife. And then we got married and then we moved to Oak Park where she was working. We found a nice little apartment there and we lived there for four years after we got married. On the fourth year, she got pregnant and so my wife says, "Let's get out of Chicago and go to California again. I can't stand this snow and the cold." So I says, "Okay." I had a job, a good job. Pay was good and everything. But I says, "I don't care. Let's go to California. I don't have a job but I'll find something to do." So we jumped in the car and came to California again.

RP: Where did you first settle when you came back here?

KY: What kind of what?

RP: Where did you settle when you came back?

KY: Oh, it was Crenshaw area. You know where Crenshaw area is? Yeah, we found, my buddy that I used to work with in Chicago lived a block away from us. So he helped, he helped me find apartment, a house in Crenshaw area. And we moved there right away.

RP: And then how, how did you end up coming here to Santa Monica again?

KY: Well, by that time we had already lived there in Crenshaw area for ten years. My oldest son was preparing to go to junior high school. But if he did, he'd have to go to this junior high school that had a lot of blacks living in and going to school. And it was known that the black kids really kids mistreated the Japanese kids coming to the junior high school. They are a very aggressive race. And so I says, "I don't want him to go to that school. Let's move to Santa Monica where I was born, where I was living before the war." And so we found this place here. While, while I was working my wife and this couple that lived on the same street that I lived, we lived in, knew a real estate broker living in Santa Monica, and with his help they were able to find this house here. This house was pretty well, pretty badly taken care of. They didn't take care of it very well. But it had possibilities so my wife says, "Let's buy this house." Anyway, it was in bad condition. The rugs were terrible. Everything was terrible. But being in the trade that I was in, I could fix it. So said, "Okay, let's buy it." So we moved here.

RP: So how did it feel to be back in Santa Monica where you grew up?

KY: Huh?

RP: How did it feel to be back in Santa Monica where you grew up?

KY: Oh, it was great. It was great. I knew it would be great because I had lived here all, most of my life. The education in Santa Monica is great, it was very good. Their reputation for schools was much better than the reputation in Crenshaw area. And he was able to go to junior high school at... it was real nice. It's real close. You could walk to the junior high school. And my daughter, who was next in line, her grade, elementary school was just a few blocks from here this way. So it was close to schools. The only thing that was far was the high school. But my, now my wife would take my kids to high school, drove 'em there every day.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

RP: Kaz, have you returned to Manzanar?

KY: Yeah.

RP: And visited?

KY: Uh-huh. When I go fishing I would stop by there.

RP: Yeah, so when did you start going fishing in that area?

KY: Oh, I knew after I moved here I started getting interested in going to Crawley and those other places. And so I would, besides, before, before we moved here my daughter's husband and her husband's father knew, loved fishing. And they liked to go up to Crawley and places like that. And so I joined them one time and I liked it so much that ever since then I started fishing, fresh water fishing. I never was a fresh water fisherman before. I didn't even have a pole for fresh water fishing. But my friend, who passed away, liked to go fresh water fishing and he says, "Oh yeah, there's nothing like it." So I says, well, I don't even have a pole for fresh water." So, he helped me find a pole and we started going fishing in the mountains. And I loved it because of the fresh air. And so... I used to do nothing but ocean fishing before. But after that it was nothing but fresh water fishing. Yeah, I loved it.

RP: So what was it like to go back to Manzanar so many years later?

KY: Well, I was curious of course. But it's so different now, where the camps used to be. Nothing like what it used to be. But I'm glad I'm not in that camp anymore.

RP: You were talking about how you got interested in fresh water fishing. Did you, did you ever sneak out of the camp at all at Manzanar?

KY: No.

RP: Did you know about guys who went to...

KY: I knew, I knew people who did do that but I didn't even want to think about it, about going out. But you know what? This guy that I grew up with, he was an upper classman, next grade up, he used to live in the Santa Monica canyon before the war. And so he knew about fishing. Oh, and before that he lived in the canyon and I would go surf fishing with him. I'd go from here to his house over in the Santa Monica canyon. And together we'd go to, go to this beach and surf fish. And that's what I, that's the only thing I did was surf fishing, before, until this fresh water fishing came up. And my friend who, who lives in the valley, he used to do nothing but fresh water fishing before the war. So he says, "How about, how about going fresh water fishing?" I says, "Gee, I don't, I don't have a pole or anything. I don't know anything about that." But he introduced me to fresh water fishing and that's all I did after that. I don't even think about going ocean fishing.

RP: So what are your, what's your overall feeling about your camp experience?

KY: Well, I didn't mind it. I thought it was a good time to meet new friends and... well, I was gonna say something. This guy that I used to go surf fishing with, when he was in camp his brother and himself and his father, that's three of 'em, would do what you were talking about, sneaking out of camp and go fishing up in the mountains. Well, that's what they did one time. They snuck out of camp and they went fishing up in the mountains. Well, the father and the two sons got separated. They decided to go different, different ways. And so they went fishing that way and after they had enough fishing they wanted to go back to camp. So they snuck back into camp and before they got to camp they decided to meet someplace so they can all come back together. Well, the sons got to the spot where they were supposed to meet their father and he never showed up. So they said, well, we'd better go back to camp anyway and the father would probably come later on. So they went back to camp and they waited and waited and the father never came back. And so they finally had to tell the authorities that their father was out there in the mountains, he had never came back. So they had a search party searching for them. And they still couldn't find him until one time these guys that patrol the mountains, I don't know what they do but they regularly patrol the mountains, and they found him. He, what happened was that he was probably on the hillside and he stumbled down and killed himself and he was unable to move. And so that's what he died of, exposure. But they were able to collect some things of his and make, have a funeral with, with what they could collect from his body. And so that was one incident that involved my friends and Manzanar, how he, how he died. But he still lives over here, not far from my house.

RP: What's his name?

KY: Matsumura.

RP: Matsumura.

KY: Yeah.

RP: And the son, his first name?

KY: Huh?

RP: Do you remember his first name? The gentleman who lives just a little ways from here?

KY: Yeah, Matsumura.

RP: Is that his... that's his last name right?

KY: Yeah, that's his last name.

RP: Oh, okay.

KY: Mas Matsumura.

RP: Oh Mas, okay.

KY: Yeah, and then before the war he was a class ahead of me and he was a good football player. He was known for kicking field goals. And he was a, he was kind of a strange guy, very quiet. But he always lived in the canyon and the teacher from the school used to drive a school bus and pick up kids like that who live in the valley, in the canyon, to come to the school. And I think what happened was this, the teacher or the school says, why don't you kids -- they lived, the way you get in the canyon is on Seventh Street you come to the place where there's a road that goes down into the canyon -- and they told 'em, "Why don't you kids come up to, walk up to the top of the road where Santa Monica goes into the canyon? Why don't you guys walk up there so the teacher won't have to go down into the canyon?" Something like that and they took offense about that. And so they quit going to Japanese school. But he was in my class, in the Japanese school class. And so they never came back anymore. But he wasn't able to go to school anymore and continue Japanese school. And yet his parents were responsible for starting a Japanese school, a Santa Monica Japanese school. They were the ones that were the initial people who started the Japanese school. Isn't that funny?

<End Segment 23> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

RP: Just a couple more questions, Kaz. Did you, did you have any military experiences?

KY: No. No, I was 4-F. I was too skinny. I didn't weigh enough. Probably weighed every bit of a hundred and ten pounds. [Laughs] So when I went from camp I had to go to L.A. to get a physical. I got turned down, 4-F. So I didn't go to the army. I was a skinny guy, you know. Barely a hundred and ten pounds if I weighed that much.

RP: Do you remember what year you went down to L.A.? Was that...

KY: Well, see, my birthday is in March.

RP: It would have been after you turned eighteen.

KY: So it must have been somewhere around March. Yeah.

RP: How did you get down there? Did you, did somebody escort you down there or...

KY: Let's see, how in the hell did I go there? There must have been a bus or something that took me from camp to L.A. Just as there was a bus from camp to Reno where the people that wanted to go east. They'd end up in Reno and then take a train from there to go east. So there must have been a bus or something that went from camp to Los Angeles. I forgot exactly how I got there.

RP: And after you just spent a short time, you got your physical and then you came right back up?

KY: Yeah, I came back to camp again. Uh-huh.

RP: Did your, did your brother serve in the military?

KY: Uh-huh, my brother did. Yeah, he was in Camp Ord, O-R-D, Camp Ord, I think that was where he was. Fort, Fort Ord or whatever it was. He was stationed there. And you know he, that's what, that was the end of his military career. He played tennis almost every day. He didn't get, he didn't get to basic training I don't think. Or maybe that was basic training right there.

RP: He never went overseas?

KY: No, he didn't go. But he was thinking of volunteering for another couple more years. And he wrote to me from Fort Ord when I was living in Chicago. He says, "Do you think I should volunteer a couple more years so I could go to Japan?" Because most of the guys that went into, when the war was over already... because he graduated in 1945. I wrote back to him. I says, "Don't you dare volunteer another two more years. It's better to get your education first." So I says, "Come on home and then get your basic training in a college of your liking." So he came home and he went to... it's a famous school, art school that he went to. He's a commercial artist. And so that's what he did. He didn't go back to the army anymore. And I think I think he made the right move. Don't you think so? Instead of just, just want to go back to army just so he could go visit Japan or somethin' like that. It might have been fun, but I thought his education was more important. And so that's what he did.

RP: Now, that was something that was always stressed to all the kids, wasn't it? Education was very important. Wasn't that one of the values that your parents...

KY: Not especially. I thought it was more important. That's what, that's what made him change his mind about volunteering anymore. I thought, I thought it was more important for him to do that than, than re-enlisting again.

RP: What about your parents, they, did they come back from Chicago before you did?

KY: No, I did.

RP: And what... did your parents come back to California at some point?

KY: Yeah, after my... my mother worked at this hotel. What's the name of that place? This hotel... what was the name of it? I should know what I'm talkin' about because I worked in that hotel.

RP: This was in Chicago?

KY: No. Here.

RP: Oh, okay.

KY: Yeah. And, but their headquarters was located in Chicago. And my mother worked there as a cook. She... my mother was more aggressive than, than the other Japanese mothers that lived in Chicago. She was, she was more aggressive and she could speak English better than they could. And so that made a difference for her to be the head cook. Because she was, she wasn't more educated but she knew how to speak English better than the other ladies. And so they elevated her position and so she made more money I guess than they did. And she retired from that hotel and once she retired, I was already here. And when I was living in the Crenshaw area. And so they decided that they wanted to leave Chicago too because it was cold and everything. And so they moved to near to where I lived in the Crenshaw area. And my father died soon afterwards. He got ill and he died. But my mother was happy to come back to California again.

RP: Do you have any additional questions?

KY: And she lived to be ninety-six.

RP: Now did she, did she ever become a naturalized citizen?

KY: No. She didn't. She should have. But, she was happy the way she was doing. She loved to go to Vegas. Yeah, she was living in this apartment where my daughter's husband, my daughter's husband's aunt used to own this apartment on the north side of town. And I asked, I asked her if she has a room vacant for my mother to stay there. They did and what I did was I helped paint the apartment completely inside and that swayed them, his sister to rent, rent the apartment for my mother. So I did 'em a favor and they returned the favor by renting one of the apartments to my mother. Yeah. Hers was the nicest apartment of that whole building. It was on the second floor and it oversees right down the yard and she liked it there. But after all it was upstairs. She had to climb this stairway. And so one day, it was when, when my brother's second boy, they had... my brother had two sons. And the younger one was about to get married and so I told my mother, "Let's go visit Chicago for the wedding. And then you could stay there longer if you want to." And she said, "Okay, let's do that." So we went to Chicago and I came before she did. And later on she decided to come to California and she moved real close to where I lived. We had rented an apartment for her before she came. And she finally came and moved to California that way. But she loved to go to Vegas. She loved to go to Vegas. She wouldn't tell me. Sometimes she'd sneak off with her friend and then, and then they knew that there was a bus that takes them to Vegas. So she would go over... then I would find out that she went to Vegas. She never told me anything about it. Or I find out that she's not home and oh, my suspicions were Vegas. So oh, I bet she went to Vegas. So, I knew when the bus was coming back and I went to where the bus stopped in downtown. Sure enough, there's my mother. [Laughs] She loved to go to Vegas. She only played the nickel machine or whatever it is. But she had a grand time. She loved to go there.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

RP: Well, do you have any other stories about camp that you want to share with us or that we haven't touched on?

KY: Well, let me see... you know, I did, I told you that I was a junior cook. But the other time, for a brief, brief time, I worked in the relocation office. They called it the relocation office. And that was where all these jobs from the outside came into camp for people that wanted work outside of camp. And I moved into that relocation office to work as a, like a secretary. I got a hold of all these jobs that came in and I was like a file clerk. That's what I was doing as a file clerk. And my brother, who was an artist, commercial artist, he was working there and he was making these posters, posters about outside work. He'd make, he was very clever. He'd make a drawing of, of some work outside of camp to display to the people: "You can do this kind of work." And that's what he was doing. He was an artist in the relocation office. And I was filing all these jobs that came in. And it was a simple job but it was something that I could do. And I made the same amount of money as anybody else. You know, you could only make sixteen dollars a month. You know that, don't you? So what's the difference? If I do some menial job like that and still get sixteen dollars, you're not gonna make anymore. That's what I did.

RP: Do, do you remember who you worked under?

KY: No. It's just a... you know, all these jobs in camp were run kind of loosely if you know what I mean. And that was, there were some girls, like my sister for instance, she was trained as a secretary. She graduated from the secretary school in Santa Monica. And because she was Japanese she was going to the school and she graduated but all during that time, if the job comes in and if a student was well enough advanced in the trade, secretary, they'd get, find a job for them. But none came in for my sister because she was Japanese. There was prejudice there and so she went the whole route in that school, and so when she, when she graduated the work came and she was sent to camp. So she was well trained. She was perfect for gettin' the job as a secretary and she made a fine secretary in her trade, as a secretary. She was bright anyway, but she was even better. She was very smart.

RP: You mentioned that your brother designed these posters...

KY: Uh-huh, yeah.

RP: encourage people to leave the camp and were those put up around the camp? Do you know where they were?

KY: No, No I don't think so.

RP: Were they at the relocation office?

KY: Yeah, no, yeah, it was near the relocation office. He had 'em outside, poster about these jobs. And that's all he did. I guess people walked around there and noticed. Anyway, some of the people probably came to the office, relocation office, to find work when they wanted to go out. If you're prepared of a job that's advertised, it's easy to go there and get a job right away, you know what I mean? Because jobs were not scarce. There was plenty of jobs if you wanted to work. And people like my brother can advertise these jobs. And so it made it easier for the people that wanted to go outside. Yeah.

RP: Well, thank you, Kaz. We're gonna finish our interview on that note.

KY: Okay.

RP: Thank you so much for lots of great stories and memories.

KY: Yeah.

RP: Thanks from Kirk and myself and the National Park Service. Great interview.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.