Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Toshiko Aiboshi Interview
Narrator: Toshiko Aiboshi
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Culver City, California
Date: January 20, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-atoshiko-01-0002

<Begin Segment 2>

TA: So I went to Foshay for seventh grade and eighth grade, and it was in the eighth grade that Pearl Harbor happened. That was like, I can remember that, at that time. It was on a Sunday, and I can't remember if we had gone to church and heard this news and everybody went home, or whether everybody telephoned each other. And I can remember that people had incinerators in their backyard, and they took all their Japanese books and burned them, and they were busy on the telephone because they were wondering what was happening. They did not know what was going to happen. And some of the, they said some of the men had been taken away, and they didn't know where they were going to go. They were just, it was a frightening situation. But I was only, let's see, I think I was about thirteen or so, and so at that age I think we were much more naive than we are today, and we didn't know what was going to happen. And we went to school the next day because we, the parents said we have to go.

RP: What was that like the next day?

TA: So I went to Foshay Junior High School, and then some of the children seemed to be kind of, most of them were, continued to be friendly, but some were not, because I guess they felt like we were the enemy. It was an uncomfortable situation.

RP: Did anybody verbally --

TA: But nobody said anything directly to me. And there was a patriotic fervor about the whole thing, and I think I mentioned before that at some point, as naive as I was, everybody had to learn "The Star-Spangled Banner," and we, of course, did the Pledge of Allegiance, but I remember learning all three verses and all the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner" and thinking I would memorize that to show my patriotism to the United States. That was how naive I was, and I thought, "Surely they must know that my allegiance is to the United States, it is not to the, to Japan." And I said, "What is Japan doing to us? They're not even thinking about us here and what effect this is going to have on us." And that was my total relation to Japan, although I do remember in, I can't remember if I was in elementary school, that the Japanese were saving everything that was tin foil, and they were collecting them and sending it to Japan because they were at war or something. And I didn't really understand what that was, but they took, like cigarette cartons where they had the, yeah, they took those, or Hershey Kisses and saved it, those kinds of things. But that was my only relationship to Japan, and, other than the Japanese things, but I was kind of relieved I didn't have to go to Japanese school anymore. And so we, it was a state of uncertainty throughout that whole time, and lots of rumors.

RP: You remember some of the rumors?

TA: Yes, because some of the people, some of the men -- they didn't seem to take women, but all the men, leaders were all taken away and no one knew where they were. And so, and the bank accounts were often frozen, and so people didn't know what was going to happen. Rumors went haywire almost, and we didn't know. But I can remember that they said we're going to be put away someplace and we have to get vaccinated, and we had to have different kinds of shots because we were going to be put in some kind of camp. And they were offering it at a certain place; we had to go get shots and get numbers because we were all going to be numbered, be identified by numbers. And so I don't know how it was that we knew that we had to meet at, near the Methodist church to be taken by bus someplace, and so I think we, I can't remember what we took, but we didn't know where we were going and we didn't really have a whole lot of clothing anyway. But we were fortunate in that the, we had missionaries at our church who were Caucasian, and they offered to keep some of the possessions that we had. And I still have this piano, and this piano, my father gave me when I was seven years old.

RP: This piano right here behind you?

TA: This piano, and Errol Rhodes and Mrs. Rhodes kept that piano during the war, and when I, when we came out, she said, "We have this piano for you." And while I do not play it very often, I keep it because it's a sentimental thing. Because my father died so early, that's the only thing I have that my father gave me, that I remember.

RP: You mentioned the Rhodes.

TA: Yes, R-H-O-D-E-S.

RP: Now, would that be Esther Rhodes?

TA: No. I can't remember her name, but we do have a picture of them someplace.

RP: And they were the missionaries associated with your church?

TA: Yeah, and they, I think they had spent some time in Japan. Yeah, and they helped with the Japanese-speaking congregation, because at that time, and they also helped with the English-speaking congregation because they were quite separate. Our parents did not say, "You have to talk Japanese all the time." And they really wanted us to do well in school, and the only way to do that was to be able to be proficient in English, and so I think we did well in school. So we went off and we did not know where we're going -- at least I didn't know where we were going -- so we go to Santa Anita on the bus, and...

RP: Excuse me, did you, did you go with the...

TA: See, what happened was, because all Japanese had to go, they, I don't know who decided that my mother no longer had to be with, in this place for TB patients. They said she was well, and so I went with my mother. And I had not really seen her very often. We went to visit occasionally at her place, but... so the Yoshimunes, who were taking care of me, and my mother and I were at least together on the bus, and we went to Santa Anita. And I do not recall how the division of where you were going to live were, but because my mother and I were only two people they said, "You are going to be over in the stable area." And the Yoshimunes, who had the daughter so there was three of them, they were in the barracks area, which was quite a big difference. And we knew no one in the stable area, and then the circumstances, it was very hot at that time and they had the, they had just put asphalt on the floors. And so they gave us the cots and straw, bags that we had to collect the straw, and every morning they would put a bundle of new straw and we'd fill the mattress and take it to the bed. And then they said, "Every day, now, they might get bugs, and so you have to take the straw, carry it back to another area, and do not mix the new straw with the old straw because the bugs might be in the new straw." So we had to empty that out and then fill it up again and take it into, back to the stables.

RP: Every day you had to?

TA: Every day. And I think that lasted about two weeks, and then we got the, by then I think we got the mattresses that are kind of the army type, and so we, that ended the straw business.

RP: The straw travails. But you also mentioned, when that asphalt would get hot, what would happen?

TA: Yes, and because it was hot in Santa Anita and because the asphalt was very new, the legs of the beds would fall into the asphalt, and so if you were stuck close to the edge it was hard to make the bed because you couldn't, you had to either lift the bed up out of the, out of the holes to make the bed.

RP: Your bed kept getting shorter and shorter.

TA: [Laughs] Well, I don't think the asphalt was that deep, but it was very uncomfortable. And the only good thing about it was our mess hall was in the grandstand of Santa Anita, and so when, because we were assigned to the grandstand mess hall, the other, the Yoshimunes were in a different kind of a thing. But I often walked all the way, and it was a long ways on that parking lot, to their place, to go to the... sometimes I ate lunch, I think, over at that mess hall. They didn't seem to have a system to really systematically say what it is. And my mother was resting a lot of the time, and so --

RP: Was there any type of medical care or a hospital?

TA: I don't think she had any.

RP: But you didn't, she just stayed in the, in your stall.

TA: But she did, she had to walk to have breakfast and lunch and dinner.

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