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

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

<Begin Segment 1>

RP: This is an oral history for the Manzanar National Historic Site. Today we're talking with Toshiko...

TA: Aiboshi.

RP: Aiboshi. And Toshiko is -- A-I-B-O-S-H-I -- and Tosh, as I'll refer to you on the, on the interview --

TA: Yes.

RP: -- lives at 5325 Etheldo in Culver City, California.

TA: That's Etheldo Avenue.

RP: Avenue, okay. And the date of our interview is January 20, 2011, and Kirk Peterson is behind the camera, and Richard Potashin is the interviewer. And we'll be talking with Tosh about her experiences at the Amache War Relocation Center as well as the Santa Anita Assembly Center today. Our interview will be archived in the Parks library. Do I have permission to go ahead and record our interview?

TA: Yes.

RP: Thank you very much, Tosh, to share some time and remembering some of your experiences for us today. Let's start with a little bit of biographical information. What year were you born and where were you born?

TA: I was born on July 8, 1928, in Boyle Heights, California.

RP: And tell us a little bit about your, what you recall about your father and mother.

TA: Okay. My father -- I learned that I was born in Boyle Heights by looking at my birth certificate -- my father, Torataro Sakamoto, and my mother, Oshima Sakamoto, apparently were cousins in Japan, in Wakayama-ken. And I don't know when they got married or really when they came to the United States, but I understood from friends of theirs that when, it took a, it was a long time before I was born, and so when I was born my parents were delighted. And then they were married and I think my father was working for a family in the, who had a produce market in Los Angeles, and at some point he changed from there to go into some business of his own. And when I was about four years old, I'm told, my mother developed tuberculosis and so she could not be at home, and my father could not take care of me all by himself while having a job. And at that time the people who had that produce section of the grocery store, who were Shigeto and Ishio Yoshimune, were members of this church and very, probably one of the leaders of the church, apparently volunteered or something to take care of me. And so I went to live with them, and they lived in the kind of Figueroa and Fifty-Second Street area, and their produce section of the market was about two blocks away, and so I started elementary school at the Fifty-Second Street school. And I don't remember ever seeing my mother for quite a while, and I think my father came by occasionally on Sundays. And I saw a picture of a church gathering, and my mother and my father are both in that picture and I am in that picture, but it's in one of the archives over here.

RP: And which church would that have been?

TA: That was called the Japanese Church of Christ, and it was on Thirty-Seventh Street, in between Normandie and Western. It was a two story building, and I think it was donated to the church by George Pepperdine, of Pepperdine University, because the minister of the church, who had come from Japan, and George Pepperdine had become friends when he, they were at college. And George Pepperdine had made his money with the Pep Boys and apparently gave him, was doing very well and gave them seed money to start this church. So that was the church that I went to.

RP: Is that church still around?

TA: And that church, during the war, many of us had to go to Amache, Colorado, and it so happened that when we went to Amache the only churches that were really allowed to hold services were a Buddhist church or a Christian service, and then I think the Catholics could have a service on Saturday evening. It just happened that the director of the Amache Center was a Church of Christ member, and so he allowed the Church of Christ people to meet separately, and so we continued to meet separately during that time. And so... I don't know what to tell you about the rest. [Laughs] But anyway, around the time I was about seven, my mother was deemed well enough to come home, and so -- excuse me. Okay, and so then I moved into kind of the Seinan area, and I was on Thirty-Sixth Place. And then I went, I had gone first to the Fifty-Second Street School, where I was in kindergarten and the first grade, and in the second grade is when I changed over to the Thirty-Seventh Street School, and at the Thirty-Seventh Street School there were, it was a different population mix, because at the Fifty-Second Street School everybody was Caucasian. At the Thirty-Seventh Street School it was a mixture of Japanese, Spanish-speaking people, black people. It was a very cosmopolitan, or if you use that term for a mixed culture, and so that was kind of interesting. We lived on the second floor of a two story house, and it was across the street from the Buddhist church, but we were not Buddhist so we didn't go there. But that was the time that my parents decided that I should go to Japanese school, and so I went to the, where the Methodist Church was having a Japanese school. And everybody my age had already been to Japanese school for about two years, and so I was very poor at studying or knowing anything about Japanese. And so the, it was very difficult for me when I was used to doing fairly well in school. But I did okay in the elementary school. Then I think we continued living that way for about three years. My father, at that time, was running a hotel on Main Street near the bus stop, the Greyhound Bus place, and so he came home on the, in the evenings sometimes, but sometimes he had to stay at the hotel. And so I stayed with my mother, who had to just stay in bed all the time, so I didn't really get to know her very well.

And then at, I finished elementary school at Thirty-Seventh, no, it was Thirty-Seventh Street School, and then I was going to go to Foshay Junior High School because that was the next place, but when I was eleven my, I was told that my father had died. And they said that he had fallen out of a window on the second floor of the hotel onto the sidewalk and was instantly killed. And I had adored my father because my mother was just always in bed, and he took me to many places, he took me to see the merry-go-round, he took me to see Catalina, he took me to see the fireworks at the Coliseum, and so it was a huge loss to me. And then, obviously my mother could not take care of me, and there was a woman downstairs who had sometimes prepared meals for me, but I think, as I reflect now, probably my father had paid her some money to take care of me and she said she could no longer do that for free. And so then I moved back with the Yoshimunes, who lived at 3737 Dalton, which was closer to Foshay to begin with. And so I moved again with them, and they had a daughter who was ten years older than I was, and so she became kind of like my big sister. I don't remember her before, when we were living, when I was living with them, but I do remember afterwards that we did. And so I continued going to that church. And then my mother's TB had also flared up, so she could not live, and so she was sent to a kind of a home.

RP: A sanitarium?

TA: It was not a sanitarium in that it was like a hospital kind of thing. She was, I think, in a kind of a homey situation or something, alright.

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

<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.

<Begin Segment 3>

RP: So what did you do at Santa Anita to pass the time? Because there was no schools.

TA: Then after a while, maybe a month or two, they said there's going to be a temporary school in the grandstand. And I liked school, so I said, "Oh, that's nice." So we went to that school and we sat on the grandstand seats, and they were teaching something like English grammar or something of that sort, by other people who are just internees who thought that the children should have at least some organized activity. And so this, I don't think we learned anything. There was no library. I was used to going to a library every weekend and getting seven books and reading one on the way home, so I was used to doing that, and there was nothing to read. Some of my friends from school did write, and so we did get, have some communication, so that was kind of nice.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

RP: Did most of the Seinan community end up in Santa Anita?

TA: Yes. So that was a community that stayed intact.

RP: Even, even when you left Santa Anita and went to --

TA: And when we left, we, kind of en masse, moved, were moved to Amache, Colorado. And then in Amache, where we went by train, I think we just sat upright the whole time. And then when we, I think we had gone through Arizona some time, and there was supposed to be a big city or something, so they pulled all the shades down. They did not want us to look out. We had no idea where we were, and I don't know whether it was for our protection or for the protection of the other people, because certainly we were not violent people. We would not have shot at them or anything of that sort. And so we finally got to Colorado, and then I think we were trucked in or something, over to the camp area. And we were very fortunate in a way, that our community block that we were assigned to were from the Seinan area, for the most part. There were a few who were non Seinan people, but for the most part they were, and so at least we already knew some of the people and there was a kind of a community feeling about our block. We were one of the nice, nicer blocks in that respect, because I know that some people were moved to areas where they knew no one.

RP: Made a big difference.

TA: Yes.

RP: Tosh, before we go on, I wanted to just step back a little to talking about Santa Anita. When you talked earlier with me you mentioned that you were aware of the camouflage net factory at Santa Anita?

TA: The which?

RP: The camouflage net factory.

TA: Oh yes, because when we had the grandstand we were assigned to sit on the right side because all the left side was taken up by the nets. And people had to wear these things over their noses because that burlap was just frayed, and they were making all the camouflage nets. And I remember thinking it was incongruous that we who are "enemies" had to make camouflage nets for the U.S. Army, or whatever they were going to be. But I think, I don't know if they were paid or if they were ordered to do this, but it kept some people occupied. But we were thirteen, so in some ways we had no responsibility. We had to, just went to school. And at that point I didn't really know a whole lot of people. Being an only child and reading most of the time, I didn't know a whole lot of people, so I went to visit the Yoshimunes.

RP: The other thing you shared with me is that you felt, because you had grown up mostly with Caucasian folks, that you felt much more comfortable with Caucasians and suddenly you're put into Santa Anita and nothing but Japanese faces all the way.

TA: Yes, it was quite different. And it, I didn't notice it so much in Santa Anita, but I did notice it when we went to Amache because that was a totally different thing, because in the Santa Anita situation it was mostly people from our area and most of them children, if, those that we knew spoke English to one another. And I can remember playing jacks with people before the war and things like that, and we never spoke Japanese to one another. We always spoke English. And so when we went to Amache that was quite different in terms of school, but after we got there, as I say, we were very fortunate in that we were intact as a community. And so I was in block 8-K and assigned to 11-A with my mother, so there was the two of us. And right across the street, the little pathway, the next barrack on 12-A were the Yoshimunes, so it was like family being together. So that part was nice.

RP: Did you have any initial impressions about Amache when you first arrived there, just the look of it?

TA: It was so desolate. I had never, ever been in a country situation, and there was nothing but dirt. No, it just, I said, "Where are we?" If you're in Los Angeles, even in those days it was a city, and so I'd never, ever gone to the country. The only time we ever went to anyplace it was to the beach, and so we were not used to a rural community and we said, "Where are we? They have stuck us into, I don't know." [Laughs] And, "Are we going to stay here forever? Is this, how long is this going to last?" We had no idea. We had no idea whether we were gonna food, we had no idea where we're gonna sleep. It was, and if you, at least we got our suitcases. And I can't remember how we got delivered to the, to our area. It was bleak at the, at best. And so when we went to the barrack there was nothing in there except a stove, and we said, "What is that?" We had never, ever seen a stove like that. And I says, "How does it work?" And nobody knew. [Laughs] And they said, "Oh, you'll be getting charcoal." And we said, "What's charcoal?" [Laughs] To make fire, and we had no idea. It was, and I can't remember how they assigned us beds or whatever, so there were the two of us, my mother and me.

RP: Did you have another couple or family in the same room as you?

TA: No.

RP: Just you and your mom.

TA: Because it was, the two end rooms were for two people, and the middle rooms were for larger families, so they said, depending on the size of your family unit, you were assigned to that.


RP: So you eventually recovered from the shock of, of this --

TA: Yes. Then they said there were twelve barracks, six on each side, with the mess hall -- we never heard the term mess hall before. [Laughs] Apparently that was a military term for where you ate. And then there was the restroom area with the laundry, and the restrooms had no walls between the toilets and neither did the showers, and I'd never taken a shower before in my life because I'd always taken a bath. And all they had were showers, and that was really very embarrassing, to have to take a bath, or take a shower with other people looking. And so everybody tried not to look at each other, but it was very un-private, where we were very private as a culture, and I think anybody would feel uncomfortable in that circumstance. But then we had lined up for food and somehow, I don't remember how they managed to cook the food to begin with, but I'd never lined up for food before. And then, but I can remember one meal, and they had squid, and this, there was this one squid on this plate, and I said, "What in the world is that?" [Laughs] And some people said, "Oh, that's squid." And I said, "What is that?" But I must say that they always had, I think there was always apple butter on the table, so you could always eat, I don't know whether it was bread and apple butter, but I have never, ever eaten apple butter after the war. [Laughs] It just was not, it reminded me of camp. We had no idea what apple butter was to begin with.

RP: You're not alone. There's a lot of folks who never will touch that.

TA: I'm sure everybody says that.

RP: Just about everybody says, "I'll never touch it."

TA: But we were fortunate in that the head cook of our block was a very excellent cook, and he, so other people tried to come to our block to eat. But the sad thing for him was that he had four sons and I think three of them had volunteered to be in the army, and during that time they all died. And we knew who they were because they had the stars in the windows. And so the fourth one wanted to go to the army as well, volunteer, and they said, "No, you're the only son left." And he said, "No, I must go because I want to prove my patriotism." And it turned out that all four of them died, and that was very sad. So, but anyway, they started a school of sorts at the, after a while, and it was at one block and everybody walked. I don't, I guess we must've just managed to wear what we had all the time and use the laundry facilities, where we were used to having a washing machine, and had to wash all these clothes by hand, and that was not, that was totally alien to us, especially to do sheets and things like that. But with the scrap lumber the men put up clothes lines, and so they were able to do that. They also made beds. They made cupboards. And so I think the, Mr. Yoshimune had made it for us, my mother and me, because neither of us had any carpentry skills or anything of that sort.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

RP: Did, you said that your mother would spend a lot of time in bed at Amache.

TA: Yes, she just got up just to go to the...

RP: Mess hall?

TA: Mess hall, and go to use the restroom facilities. And then eventually they said her TB had reoccurred, which is not really surprising in that dusty area, and so they said she would have to be in an isolated area of the medical facility of the camp, but she could not go back to California. She could not, so they just, I don't know where she was. I don't think that I even really saw her after that.

RP: After she was put in the hospital?

TA: Yes, right. And so they said, "Well, you can't stay there all alone. We'll have to put you some place." And so they said, "Well, we'll put you back with the Yoshimunes." And they were across the street, so they had to make, I think, a new kind of bed for me, or moved it. I have no idea, or no recollection of why I was put back over there, but it must've been very difficult in a room that was built for two, to have three people in there. But I moved back there, and I do not know who went back into the unit that I was in.

RP: That you were in.

TA: Yeah.

RP: What about the Yoshimunes' daughter?

TA: Yes, by then she was married and she was living also in the same block, and so they had a daughter and I had kind of done some babysitting for them while I was living with them in the Seinan area before.

RP: So you did that there too?

TA: Uh-huh. And so then I did know them, and again, that was fortunate that, I think they were in block, barrack 10, so we were still very close together. So I did know some people.

RP: They were really your, your family.

TA: I consider them my foster parents.

RP: Foster parents. And Mr. Yoshimune, tell me a little bit more about him as a person.

TA: Well, he was in the grocery, I mean, the produce section. He used to get up -- before the war, this is -- very early, around four o'clock, in order to pick up produce to bring to the market, and then he'd take a nap in the afternoon. And then after the war, I don't recall what he did during the time, but I think he did some wood carving and stuff, because I think their daughter kept one of the things and gave it to the museum that he had carved out at the time, because I don't think he, I don't know if he had a position, a job or anything during the, during the internment.

RP: During the time he spent at Amache.

TA: Yes.

RP: Now, did Mrs...

TA: She worked at the hospital area as an aide of some sort. And I just went to school most of the time, but if there was a plus for me of school it was that I developed a whole lot of friends that I really had not had before but didn't realize that. And so, but the most jarring thing about the whole school thing was to find these kids who were talking Japanese to one another. That had never, ever happened in my whole school life experience, and we said, "What's with these people? Don't they talk English to one another?" But that was, that was how they communicated. And we found out that they were from either Colusa or some places that we had never heard of in central California. And we even learned that there was one school district in California that was segregated. It was Walnut Grove, and where the, only Japanese were all segregated to go to that school. But we thought, "Oh my, these are country hicks. They are, they're so backward. They don't know English, they don't speak properly." We thought we were so superior, and we thought, "We'll never associate with them."

RP: But then, on the other hand, what did they think of you?

TA: And they thought, "These are kind of like," I don't think they called us city slickers, but I think they thought that we thought we were so superior. We thought, "They think they're so superior." They did not like it. And some of our, at that time, I think part of the clothing identified you, and some of the boys had pants that were like zoot suits, where the pants were wide and they came, tucked in. So they thought they were the zoot-suiters, and so they said, they did not like those people. [Laughs] And so there was not very much association at the beginning. In fact, it was really kind of division. But then once you got to school, they didn't say, "Alright, if you are from Los Angeles you can be in this classroom, and if you're from Merced you can be in this classroom." They had us mixed up, and so then you had to kind of associate with each other, and then we got to realize that we were in the same situation together. There was no library. The teachers were, seemed, some of them seemed to be okay with this; some seemed to be as uncomfortable as we were in the whole situation.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

RP: Let's talk a little bit more about the teachers, because you had some observations about, about those teachers and their motivation for coming to the camp in the first place. Share that with us.

TA: Yeah, I, my feeling is that some of the teachers were there because this was going to be a new experience for them and they wanted to see what this was like. And I think kind of a social experiment of some sort, and they would benefit from it, or they were curious about it, so they volunteered to teach there because it was a certainly, not like a military base school, it may be, but in more prison-like a situation. They had no idea how the Japanese were, and they were there. We also had some teachers who I know could not get a job anyplace else. They were kind of the leftovers of teachers who were non-placed when school started, and so this at least was a job for them. And so we, I think we had either excellent teachers, in some respects, or some very poor teachers who could not have gotten a job anyplace else and, but were glad to have a job. One teacher that I recall was one who lived in Colorado but had moved to Oregon in order to get a job, and then when she was told that she would be hired in Colorado she drove all the way back, and it took her two weeks to drive back. And so she said that she was so surprised when she came back that the children were still sitting in their rows, and she expected them to have spitball fights or something, but she said they were sitting all so nicely that she could not believe that any classroom would have such orderly children. But she ended up being one of the people who helped students get into college, which would've been very, very difficult. I found one letter from her that I have, which I'd be glad to share with you, after the war. So she was very instrumental in making sure that people were going to continue their education afterwards. And so where most of the Japanese stayed in their own area, if they went to college, that was a very unusual circumstance anyway, and if so they would've gone probably either to UCLA or USC, both of which were not even on the horizon for us before the war. So the, in that respect, having gone to camp opened up the United States for the Japanese.

RP: A couple of questions. What was the name of the teacher?

TA: Her name was Katherine Stegner.

RP: And what did she teach at Amache?

TA: And she taught social studies. And I can remember, the first time -- there was another teacher who, I think, was interested because of the social thing, and his name was Robert George, and then I can remember the first time it snowed and we had all gone outside. We had never, ever seen snow before because in Los Angeles it doesn't snow. And so we went to the school and we went outside and had a snowball fight. It was so exciting. And then afterwards, he was standing outside just kind of watching, and then he says, "I think it's time for you to come in." And so we went into the classroom and he says, "You are going to have to stay thirty-five minutes extra." And we were, said, "How come?" He said, "Because you played outside for thirty-five minutes, you have lost all that class time. You must stay after school." We said, "But we were having so much fun having this snow fight." He says, "Doesn't matter. You have to have your education." And so we had to stay after school, so we never had a snow fight during school hours again. [Laughs]

RP: Since we're on the subject of Mr. George, he also had his opinions and thoughts about this whole experience, Japanese American experience, the removal and the detention. Can you share with us his thoughts?

TA: Well, yeah, I think that he really wanted to see what was happening, and he was telling us during class time that a lot of this would not have happened, our being put in camp, had we been more part of the community that we lived in, meaning not all Japanese. Because that was really our main social outlet, we just associated with Japanese. We saw kids at school, but we didn't go to their homes. We, if we went to a home at all it would've been to a Japanese home. And he said that, "You really, if you are going to live in the United States, you are going to have to become more like the rest of America. You are going to have to be part of the community and just be an American, which means that everybody is not just a certain race." And so he said, "When this war is over and you get -- we know that you are not going to be kept here -- you are going to have to change your culture and you are going to have to assimilate." "Assimilate" was a big word in camp toward the end. And so at that point he was trying to say that, "You are going to have to broaden your horizons." So I think in that respect that was very helpful advice.

RP: Which the camp experience was providing that framework, in your opinion.

TA: Yes.

RP: That it was, had broadened your horizons.

TA: Yes. But it, I mean, it narrowed it, certainly, during the war, but we saw the result of that, which kept us so isolated. Had we been so different, because I know that there were Chinese people before the war who were, had little badges that said, "I'm not Japanese," or something of that sort. And so we could see the danger of being ostracized because of race or something, and so even today, I think when certain races are targeted you will find many Japanese who say, "That is not patriotic. That is not the correct thing to do."

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

<Begin Segment 7>

RP: You shared with us earlier about how one of the benefits of your camp experience at Amache that were, you got to really get to know these people that became your friends.

TA: Yes.

RP: And that in a situation like that where, sort of dire circumstances, you become even more connected with the group.

TA: Yes.

RP: And you share this common experience.

TA: Yeah, our block was such a good block in terms of the age group, because I think we had about eighteen kids who were all high school age. And so one, I know one girl who was so good at dancing. She taught all the boys how to dance, she taught the girls how to dance. So there was kind of a social -- they did have movies at the camp, and what they did was, for instance, 8-K and 9-K, which were right next to each other, one block would start a movie at, say, seven o'clock, and then when that reel was over somebody had to run to the next block and take it to the next block to show that one, and that other place started at 7:30. And that way two blocks could see the same movie. And then we alternated which block started the movie earlier, 9-K would start the next week earlier and so forth. And we did have dances, and then we found out that those country hicks weren't so bad, and we have made many friends, probably because we were all in the same circumstance. And you didn't, and we didn't have any responsibility about cooking food, we didn't have much responsibility about cleaning your house. You did have to do that, but you didn't go grocery shopping. The parents did not like this because the kids wanted to sit and eat together at the mess hall, and in a family situation you would not do that. And so the parents were very, kind of upset that the family balance was being changed and that the children may lose their standards and values that they wanted to instill into their children, because they were very particular about how people acted and so forth, and they thought, "They are going, these children are going to just become, not delinquents but they certainly are not going to be, have this culture of being obedient and orderly and polite and that kind of thing." But I don't think that really happened.

RP: So who did you eat...

TA: I think I did eat with the Yoshimunes. I think I was one of those obedient children. [Laughs]

RP: All the time?

TA: Almost all the time, but had I had a choice I might have chosen to eat some of the other people. But I was really kind of an obedient child.

RP: To get back to the, to your block, and you were talking about how cohesive, where you mentioned that folks from other parts of the camp would come to join your block 'cause it...

TA: Yes. You know Min Tonai, he lived in 9-L and he would come down, and he says, "I'm an honorary member of 8-K," because 8-K is the block where we were. And I think we had about eighteen kids that were all practically within three years of each other, and so we were very close. And so we have had reunions of 8-K people.

RP: Just 8-K people?

TA: Just 8-K people.

RP: Where do you hold those?

TA: We haven't done that for a long time, but... and I can remember one where we did one, and one woman got married while she was in camp and she was telling us about how she had, they had gone to the town of Granada to get married, and she had, I don't know, I think she got some, she made a suit or something and was married in that. I didn't realize that at the time, but she had lived in Barrack 11 before the war and then got married. And some of the people, women, got married to people, the men who were gonna go off to war, and some did lose their husbands, which was kind of sad.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

RP: This is a continuation of an oral history interview with Tosh Aiboshi.

TA: Right.

RP: And Tosh, we were talking about school at Amache, in particular some of the teachers that really made a formidable impression on you.

TA: Yes, one teacher who taught shorthand at that time was very particular. She was a hard teacher. But I think that she made such, because she taught and was so particular, that later, when I went to City College after the war, in Los Angeles, and I took a shorthand class, and so I ended up being very, much more proficient in shorthand than most of the other students. I think we had an excellent experience, and as a result, when I finished the secretarial course at City College I was able to work at the California Teachers Association, which was considered a safe place to work after the war.

RP: Safe place in terms of your, your ethnicity?

TA: I don't, that was the term that was used, because after I finished that two year course there was a placement office at LACC, and they knew that I had finished a secretarial course and she, the counselor said, "Well, I'm going to send you off to go to an interview at the California Teachers Association, which I think will be a safe place for you to work," is what she said to me. And I did not understand what that meant, but I thought, well, okay. And I, so I went on the interview and then I talked to Anna Garner, for whom I was, apparently, supposed to work. And I also talked to the executive director, and then I, they said, "Well, we will let you know whether you have this job or not." I later learned that they had, that they really wanted to hire me, but they called a special meeting of the board of directors to say that they were considering hiring a Japanese person, and was there going to be any objection by any member of the board of directors to having a Japanese person on the staff, even in a clerical position, and that there was none. And so after that I got the call saying, "Would you please come to work?" And so I did not know any, all of this going on. I had no idea that there would be any prejudice, and I'm sure that that was what the person meant when she said, "This is going to be a safe place for you to work." So then I worked for the California Teachers Association and ended up in a managerial position at the end.

RP: One of the, one of the things that really caught on in camp were clubs.

TA: Yes.

RP: And you were part of a club.

TA: Yeah, Cookie Minai, Cookie, my friend, reminds me that we were members of what we called the Wee Teeners, and it was not a Girl Scout or anything, but they were girls of the same age of high school, and we thought we were the in group and very exclusive. We, even in those circumstances, we thought that we were sociable, felt we did well in school, you know. And so as I think about it, we probably were not very nice to some of the other people who were not our in group. [Laughs] But it, being in high school in this situation was probably the best age to be in a camp situation, where you have no responsibilities for taking care of a family, you are old enough to be kind of independent and very sociable.

RP: You don't have to go into the military or get a job.

TA: Yes. We were in, we were not expected to feed a family, we're not gonna be conscripted to be, choose whether we're gonna go to, answer "yes-yes," "no-no" on the questionnaire. It was a fun time for us, and so for our age, we always say, "You know, in looking back, that was not a good situation, but it sure was fun for us." And we, it's probably just a certain age group that we happen to be in that we had such a good experience. And we listened to the Hit Parade on the radio, we went to dances; it was really, we got to know each other a whole lot better without much, kind of to the chagrin of the parents, I think.

RP: Do you, it sounds like you felt pretty independent too. I mean, and your father was gone, your mom was...

TA: I think I was much more independent as a result of my father's dying at such an early age. And when he -- this is totally irrelevant to the camp experience -- but I remember that he used to leave some money in a box, and he said, "Sometimes they might be collecting money at school and you have to give money or something. I want you to take that money and do whatever is appropriate and let me know afterwards, because I won't be here, perhaps, to tell you." And so I felt financially responsible. I never, ever used that money. But I think because I walked to the library by myself, I did, studied by myself, I didn't really have people tutoring me for school, I became much more independent, and had no sisters or brothers to help or, help me or for me to be responsible for. So in that respect, I think...

RP: Did you feel academically challenged at Amache?

TA: No. [Laughs]

RP: How about by your peers?

TA: Well, yes. There was, the Japanese who had always done well at school, or told by their parents, "You have to do well. A C is not acceptable. A is okay. B, well, how come you didn't get an A?" kind of thing. And so it was very competitive, so I think at that point we knew that, "Those two guys are really smart. If you want to get an A, you've got to be smarter than them." So the competition at that level was pretty stiff, and that kept us, I think, on our toes. At least it was for me. So I think as a result, the level of the educational quality improved really because we were up against people who were also just very competitive, and so when anybody applied for college I don't think anybody was rejected.

RP: Did you have any, in attending high school there, did you have any aspirations of going to college?

TA: You know, no one ever mentioned it to me, and so I, in that respect I think I was shortchanged. But it just, it never occurred to me until much later, and I wished I had. But as a result, I had a good job, it turned out to be so, such a satisfying one.

RP: Did you have an opportunity, Tosh, to work at Amache?

TA: I was offered a position to help in the newspaper office, and I wanted very much to do it, but the Yoshimunes said, "No, we want you to concentrate on going to school and doing well there." And I was bitterly disappointed that she did not, they didn't want me to take the job, because I was sure that I could handle having a job and doing well at school. But if that was what they, what she said, I said okay, I won't work. So, and then, when we came back out of camp, because I graduated in the, we had a graduation in camp, and went to City College... I've lost my train of thought. [Laughs] I don't know what I was going to tell you.

RP: Let's switch over to another topic. Do you recall your graduation at Amache?

TA: Yes, it was kind of fun, but I don't remember exactly how we did it. I don't know if we had caps and gowns or whatever. But I remember one time when we did have a debate, and we were debating some school that was in the neighboring community, and I remember being one of the debaters. And we all, I can't even remember the topic, except it was something about conscientious objectors or something of that sort that we were debating. I cannot recall what it was, but I remember that I was one of the people who was a debater. I was also in a school play, and so we, so we...

RP: And what, do you remember what the play was about?

TA: No, but I remember that I was kind of the housecleaner in the play and I was not very good. I know that. [Laughs] So we did various things, yeah.

RP: When you say debating, you, so you didn't have any great fears about speaking in public?

TA: No, I did not.

RP: You had overcome that.

TA: Somehow I never, ever worried about speaking in public. So I don't know why that was, other than having had to have that experience, because they had what they call hanashikais at Japanese school. Hanashi means story, kai. And it's kind of a competition, and you were supposed to, everybody had to give a speech, and then I apparently spoke very loudly because they kept saying, "You have to speak, speak up." And so I did learn to do that. We also, in fourth grade I remember having to give news reports or book reports at school, so we had to speak to the class. So the circumstance of that early experience made it fairly easy for me to speak to people. A great fear for most people. [Laughs]

RP: That's, that's really good to be able to overcome that. Did you, was, were boys on your radar screen in Amache?

TA: Well actually, I, there was a, there was a boy who liked me better than I liked him. [Laughs] But there was also another boy, and he ended up being my husband. My husband Joe and I actually met in camp. We did not really live very far from each other before the war, but I did not know their family at all. And so after the war we carried on, while we wrote, came back to California at different times, and we still wrote letters. We had great correspondence going on after camp with lots of people and updating what was going on. And anyway, I was living at, in Laurel Canyon with the Yoshimunes, who had gotten jobs as domestic workers because they had no place to live. This was not at all any, in any way within their work experience, but fortunately they were able to get a job where she was the domestic helper and he was the gardener, and they had a separate room that I could just live there. And I walked down the hill to go to, go to City College on the, I think I walked down about a mile and a half or two and then took the bus, and everybody just took buses at that time. And Joe used to come and pick me up and we'd go out on Saturday night. And he was a gardener because he was living with his family and his father was getting, almost about seventy years old and unable to continue to do the gardening situation without help, and so Joe felt responsible for their family. So eventually we got married in 1951, and that was, that's about six years after we came out of camp. We were in the same block. And the people who were in our bridal party, at least three of them were in our same block in camp, so it was a close knit thing. And among the guests were a lot of people from 8-K. [Laughs]

RP: The 8-K crowd.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

RP: You mentioned earlier that you were kind of a carefree, fancy free group without responsibilities for raising a family or caring for a family, and not having to worry about military service and those kinds of things. You did also in that conversation mention the "loyalty questionnaire," which, I think it, I think the, it was seventeen or over who had to answer.

TA: That was the greatest discussion of the whole...

RP: Tell us what you recall about that in Amache.

TA: Amache, it got to be a great debate about the questionnaire because of the wording of the questionnaire. And the people in our block ended up saying, "Alright, even if it says we have, when we say yes, we're loyal to the United States and put aside any allegiance to the emperor," which we had none, "in the same wording we will just say that yes, we are loyal to the United States and that will be the response." And 8-K was that, that they were going to be "yes-yes." I do not know anybody who answered "no-no" in the 8-K situation.

RP: So that was a, that was an issue --

TA: But it was probably the most discussed situation in that whole camp experience. It was the thing, you know. And my recollection is that those people who said they were "no-no" were really ostracized. They, as I say, in our block we had the family that lost four boys, and he had said, and there was a letter that he wrote, and he said, "If I die," he says, "it will have been worth it." So yeah, we had a lot...

RP: So the entire block came together and made this decision?

TA: No, I don't know whether they had discussions, but certainly there were a lot of small groups talking. And you were just aware that this was going on. I don't think there was an open saying, "We're gonna have a forum," which might happen today. But being in an age grade, group which did not have any, where it was gonna have no impact on me, it was not, had I had a brother I certainly would've been much more involved in that.

RP: Involved in, influence in it, it affected...

TA: And I think it was the age group that I was in, and also being a girl. We didn't think about girls going to the army.

RP: You remember young men going off to physicals?

TA: Yeah, they were going off.

RP: Some of your friends, even, might've?

TA: Uh-huh, but not too many. But in the, next to the Yoshimunes was the family, the Bob Uragamis, and Mr. Uragami was instrumental in getting a Boy Scout troop going in camp, and he developed a drum and bugle corps. And so whenever anybody was going to go to war, then they usually went to the railroad station in Granada, I believe, and it usually was around, I guess, four o'clock or five o'clock in the morning that they were going, and Mr. Uragami made sure that that drum and bugle corps went to play "The Stars and Stripes" or whatever, to make sure that they played it very loudly so that the town people would know that somebody from camp was going to the U.S. Army. That was told to me by Bob Uragami.

RP: Going back to the school in Amache, was, and particularly with Katherine Stegner, you said she was social studies teacher?

TA: Yeah.

RP: Did the situation arise where, that you might end up debating the constitutionality of your own internment? What, did the teachers bring to light some of the issues that directly revolved --

TA: Not that I, not that I'm aware of.

RP: I guess a follow up question would be, did you ever, did you detect a sense of cynicism or irony from other students whenever the word democracy might be used in a classroom?

TA: I don't think so. Not that I recall. I don't recall any discussion of that. I think we were just obedient children, and whatever, I don't think we were free spirits in terms of thinking.

RP: I'm probably projecting my '60s mentality on you. [Laughs]

TA: That's right. [Laughs]

RP: You mean you didn't protest that?

TA: But because I think we were taught to be very obedient, whatever the teacher said, we did. And so if they didn't bring up a topic of that sort, and, "Why are we here?" it was not, at least in my radar screen at all. I don't know, you have heard the term shikata ga nai, you can't, it can't be, if you can't do anything about it, that's the way it is. And don't bitch about it, kind of thing. [Laughs] And so some of those qualities that our parents instilled in us was probably very good for us, or to be able to cope. So I don't feel, I don't know of anybody who mentally was unable to cope with the situation. It must not have been very easy for the parents.

RP: Right. And the fact that you, based on the age you were at that time and how you felt, the experience was very positive for you, but could you also turn around and, like you said, have sympathy or compassion for other kids who maybe went through more difficult situations?

TA: Yeah.

RP: I was thinking of Min Tonai, having been from Terminal Island.

TA: Yes, because they were, when they... well, Min Tonai will tell you first that they could not get on the boat 'cause they had to, they were going, not to school in Terminal Island but being bused, boated over, I guess, and they were not able to do that. Their situation was that, he tells me that they could not go to school at all, and it was just a really bad situation. And I think financially they had been very successful before the war, and they lost it all. And so after the war, he was saying in his case he owes a lot to his sister, older sister, who ordinarily would've gone on to school, but they decided that probably one of the males should go to school, be able to go on to college, and that's how he got to go to college and she didn't. So he feels indebted to her for working and being, making it possible for him to go to school.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

RP: In your time at Amache, did you take any, for any reason at all, did you leave the camp to go to, into Granada?

TA: We did go, and I understand, I read in one of my -- when I went to City College I took an English class; it was, I think it was composition or something -- I later found out, found my papers and I had written something that we had gone to the town of Granada. And when we saw a sign and it said something, Navius Hardware Store or something of that sort, we said, "Oh, let's go in there because we used to have Mr. Navius at Foshay Junior High School." And apparently Mr. Navius's brother was the one at Foshay Junior High School, and I, until I had seen that paper way before that I had written, it was just a short piece of paper that, it was such a small world, that he had not seen his brother in a long time because Granada and Los Angeles are so far apart. When I went to City College and I had written one of the articles about, something about camp, I found out that the teacher loved these articles because he was one of these who was interested in what was happening at this thing, so I said, "Here's an easy A." So I kept writing about different little aspects of the, of camp. [Laughs] And so that was one of the experiences that I had written about, so I knew that I had gone out to camp.

RP: By that letter.

TA: And I think we also had a ditch day for high school, and we had, apparently there was some kind of river or something close by, and we were able to go out and have a picnic. And that was our ditch day.

RP: Now, do you recall guard towers and a barbed wire fence around the camp?

TA: Yeah.

RP: And how, how did you relate to that?

TA: Well, I think it was a fact of life, but we always talk after the war about how we were supposed to be there for our protection and having the guard towers' guns pointed inward. And so I don't know who was guarding who against. [Laughs]

RP: Right. Now, years later, you're back in Los Angeles and you took a drive to Arcadia and ended up seeing Santa Anita again.

TA: Yes, it was many, many years ago, and I don't know I happened to come upon Santa Anita. I said, "There is Santa Anita." And all of a sudden I started to cry. It still makes me cry. It was, I'd never been so emotionally struck by... I can't explain it.

RP: A couple of other questions about Amache, Tosh. Did you leave after the war ended with Japan, or before, do you remember?

TA: You know, I can't remember when VJ Day was.

RP: I believe sometime, what, August 15th or...

TA: I can't remember whether I was in camp or whether I had left before.

RP: Do you recall the day? Do you remember the end of the war?

TA: You know, I would only have to guess that after graduation of high school, which I think was in June or so, is when we left. But I don't recall that. I think I was in L.A. for VJ Day, I think. Because I can remember VJ Day, whereas a lot of people would not know what that term meant. So I think we were relieved that it was all over.

RP: What about the atomic bombs, the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

TA: You know, that seemed kind of remote to me. I have since talked to people who were in Japan at that time, but I don't know, it was just kind of a horrible thing, but it was not within my circle of reality. But I thought if that would've ended everything that would've probably been the right thing to do, maybe. I don't know. But I have talked to one woman who's since, she said she was, I think, I don't know if she was in Hiroshima itself, but she was trapped for three days and unable to get out after that bomb. She is over our, at our Venice Japanese Community Center. She said she knows a lot of people who died at that time. So from a human standpoint, I don't know that, to take so many lives at one time seems kind of inhuman.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

RP: So you left Amache, you were involved with this great community within your block and your high school.

TA: So we've had, we've had many reunions. I have worked on some of them. We met in San Francisco, we met, I think, in Los Angeles, and our attendance has always been very good because people, especially from our block are all together, but we've made so many other friends as well.

RP: Have you attended some of the Amache reunions, the camp reunions?

TA: Yes. I've also gone to Denver, where we took a bus and went to the Amache site.

RP: When did you do that? 2008?

TA: No, earlier than that.

RP: Earlier.

TA: Earlier than that, yes.

RP: And so how did...

TA: It looked very bleak, and we said, "This is where we were?" [Laughs]

RP: So what did it bring up for you when you walked back on that ground that you formerly lived at?

TA: Well, I didn't know where our block was, and I thought, "I would never want to come back here again." Not only was the experience, in spite of all my friends, a good experience, that, it doesn't, there is nothing there that would say, "Come back here because this was home for you." It was not home.

RP: What happened with your, with your mother? Did she travel back with you from Amache?

TA: I don't know. I have no recollection. But she ended up having to go to a sanitarium here, and she remained there until she died. So I did stay with the Yoshimunes the whole time.

RP: You traveled back with them?

TA: Uh-huh, I think that was what it was. I don't know how, nobody's ever asked me that, and even if, no matter how much you probed, I would not know. So when I say I really don't know my mother very well, it really is like a stranger to me. And people don't understand that. I can relate more to my father, even that short period of time. Which I feel kind of sad. I do have two little things that she made for me while she was in one of the sanitariums. It was kind of a little crafty kind of a little pin, and that's the only thing I have that's, connects me to my mother.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

RP: Speaking of crafts, did you have any time to kind of creatively express yourself in camp?

TA: Oh yeah, well, we had one woman in our block who was very creative, and somehow we, our block had a Christmas tree, and she would have all the kids come to the mess hall and we would make decorations to put on that tree. And so we had one of the best decorated trees in all the camp, we thought.

RP: What do you recall about celebrating Christmas there? Besides the tree, were there gifts?

TA: I don't think we, I don't know what we did about that, but I do remember that any time I hear "White Christmas," it reminds me of camp because that was the year that that came out. It probably represents more of camp than any other song, other than maybe "Stardust" or something. But, and because he sang, "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas," right, so I could relate to that.

RP: Do you remember celebrating other holidays in camp? Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Halloween?

TA: I don't think we had turkey. [Laughs]

KP: Spam.

TA: But I don't remember celebrating much of turkey before the war either. [Laughs]

RP: How about the landscapes around the barracks in Amache? Do you recall gardens around your barrack or in the block that you lived in?

TA: There were trees, but I don't recall vegetable gardens or other things that has been attributed to some of the blocks, that people grew. But I don't think we did. All I remember are clotheslines that were there.

RP: Clotheslines grew pretty well.

TA: Yeah. But, and it turned out that in our block there was one family that had kind of a newborn child in terms of the baby was about maybe six months old, and they had gotten a washing machine through Sears and Roebuck or something, and somehow it got delivered. We thought, that was just, like, unheard of, that someone would have a washing machine in camp. But she didn't let anybody else use it. [Laughs]

RP: Did you wash clothes while you were there?

TA: Yeah, a washboard, which we never did before the war. And we used to have those hand wringers like this. It was nothing like that; it was like this. And when there was a dust storm it was awful because you had to rewash all the stuff over, and they did have dust storms quite often. We'd never, ever seen so much dust in all our lives. [Laughs]

RP: And the temperatures got down pretty low.

TA: Yeah, I think at one point it was sixteen degrees, and I don't recall, I was trying to think what we wore in clothing, but I think the boys had peacoats, but I can't remember what we wore in such terrible weather. But I don't think we ever missed a day of school unless we were really sick, and everybody made it.

RP: Did you have to attend the hospital for any reason or seek medical care?

TA: I did once because I had a ganglion, and they tried to remove it in camp and apparently that was successful. But other than that, I don't think so, although I did get, I think I got chicken pox once in camp and so I didn't go to school then. But that was kind of strange because I was told I had chicken pox earlier in my childhood and people didn't get it twice, but I did. [Laughs]

RP: Did they eventually have a library in the camp?

TA: Yes, they did, and it was a library of sorts, and one would say everybody's castoff books was the composition of the library. But such as it was, but I can't remember using it very often. There was a canteen, you know. I can't remember how much money we got when we were not working, but we got some kind of clothing allowance, I think, and you could tell, you'd say, "Oh, So-and-So is wearing that one. That must've come from the Montgomery Ward catalog 'cause I saw it in there, or I saw it in the Sears Roebuck catalog." And we had never, ever known what a catalog was in Los Angeles because we always went to a store to get something. I had no idea what a catalog was until we went to camp.

RP: Did you order anything from those catalogs in camp?

TA: Yeah.

RP: What did you order, just clothing?

TA: It was mostly clothing. And I don't think they had a store with clothing at the camp. I think they were just kind of, I don't, there were just candy bars or some little...

RP: Since you stayed with the, was it Yonemuras?

TA: Yoshimunes.

RP: Yoshimunes. Do you remember, what did they have in their room? Was, did it change over time, from the time that you guys first got there? Were there improvements made?

TA: Yeah, there were some cupboards, but certainly not drawers. I don't, I don't recall where we put the clothing or how we hung the clothes up, but I do know we had a radio because we used to listen to the Hit Parade. But that's all I recall.

RP: Did you have a space that was partitioned for, just specifically for you that you had some privacy?

TA: I don't recall that whatsoever. But I did have some place where I could study, so there must've been some kind of a flat area that I had books or something. But it must've been very, very crowded. But we had, we had to go get charcoal every day and we didn't, we learned, the people had these buckets because if they had to use the bathroom they didn't want to walk at night. 'Cause I don't know if we even had flashlights, how we got to the bathroom. Certainly not in the snow.

RP: Right. You had no sidewalks or paths. It was just...

TA: No.

RP: When it got wet it stayed wet. And school --

TA: I think it was better that we were in high school at the time and didn't know much better.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

RP: And you had, at Amache you had regular schools, right?

TA: Yes.

RP: You didn't go to school in a barrack, did you?

TA: One whole block was designated as the school, and so they did have, I don't know if they used barracks as classrooms or what. I don't recall. But there was an auditorium. And if it were a block, it would make sense that perhaps instead of a mess hall they would've used that as an auditorium, I don't know.

RP: And the auditorium was used, was it used for the entire camp as well as the school?

TA: I don't recall any meeting of, I know that the managers of each block met occasionally, but I don't know where they met, whether it was with the administration or what. But the block managers were called block heads. [Laughs]

RP: That was pretty universal.

TA: Yes.

RP: Do you remember your block manager in 8-K?

TA: For a while it was Mr. Oiye, and then it was Mr. Hayashi after a while, after that. But then, I don't think there was much communication about what was happening. Our block was certainly not a hotbed of activity other than what was going on, so we didn't need to know what was going on at other blocks.

RP: Do you recall any recreation equipment, or did your, a lot of blocks at Manzanar had a little basketball court nailed onto...

TA: Yeah, we had, yeah, and my husband remembers playing football, 'cause he was very athletic. And he was saying one time there was a fight, and he said he was, he had to tackle somebody because they were going to get away. [Laughs] So he remembers that, but I wasn't watching at that time. But he was athletic. He also played baseball. And I was a klutz.

RP: No sports?

TA: No. But there was a ping pong table in our recreation area, and then there was also, we were very lucky that one of the younger guys had a turntable and he had a great collection of records that he would play for dances and things. And I think he said he still had some of those records from that, and I don't know where he got the money to do that. I think he worked in the mess hall and used the money to buy records. So that was an unusual thing for somebody to have that in the block, but that was because we had so many kids. So certain songs that I hear I associate with camp.

RP: Remind you of...

TA: Or right after the war. 'Cause in high school years, I think people relate to music and it identifies different eras, so we were in that era, that particular one. And so if you hear some of Glenn Miller, I think of camp.

RP: Right. Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman.

TA: Right.

RP: So did you have any difficulty resettling into, quote, "mainstream life" after camp?

TA: Well, because I was with the Yoshimunes, and then they very quickly got that position, and started school in September, so I don't know what happened between June and September, where we lived, although I think we may have stayed at the church for a couple of days or something, before they got that other job. But the church continued after...

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

<Begin Segment 14>

RP: Let's just talk about how, how involved were you in the church at Amache? You said there were activities and things.

TA: I think we went to the service and I don't recall whether it was conducted in English or in Japanese, but I'm sure that we had services, and I don't recall going to the big Christian thing. And being Buddhist was not within my experience whatsoever, nor being a Catholic. In fact, I think there is a picture that we have of, someone had taken of a small group of us at camp, and I don't recall who took it or what. And my photographs are probably going to be the last of my de-cluttering thing. [Laughs]

RP: Do you remember other clubs in the camp, besides your own?

TA: I think that there were clubs, but I don't remember other than the Wee Teeners, and there was another club that we were in. But there were glee clubs, there were... I don't remember.

RP: You mentioned earlier about this, there was a group of kids that kind of dressed up like zoot suiters.

TA: [Laughs] Yes.

RP: Were they a little more...

TA: Well actually, there was a term for them like yogores, which means dirty. So I think they thought they were pretty, I can't recall if this is right after the war, whether they thought they were so with it, with the long chains and things of that sort, but I think high schoolers tend to be, kind of go with fads, and that probably was what that was at that time. Some of them were very good, I think, in football and so they could be big man on campus kind of thing.

RP: Tough guys.

TA: But basketball was very competitive in camp. There were very good players. We used to go watch. Because it was a thing that the farm areas could do, and so they already had that background. They were good at it. But I think that when the camp place football team played one of the outlying things, I think one of the Romers, R-O-M-E-R, was on the other team, and I think he came to Los Angeles as part of the school district and I think he was from there.

RP: So the --

TA: But the, I think the outsiders thought it was unfair because they always lost, and they did not have as big a population to draw from as we did, because we had a population of ten thousand people and they had small places. And some of the people said, they were very resentful of the camp because we had a hospital, they could smell food growing, they did not know that anything grew in that area except sugar beets. They had never, ever smelled celery, they had never smelled other kinds of produce that some of the people in the camp were growing. They, because all they knew was sugar beets. And some of the barracks, I think, I understand the people in that area afterwards bought because they thought some of the construction, poor as it was, was better than what they had.

RP: Do you ever recall, kind of in that same idea of community attitudes about the camp, that Japanese Americans in Amache were being fed better than people outside camp, that was a common...

TA: I read a study where they said in, it turned out to be in thirds. For a third of the people the food was better than they had, for a third it was about the same, and for a third it was worse than they had. I think for me it was worse than I had before. And having also being with the Yoshimunes, who had been in the produce business, and being part of a market, our food was fresher, it was better. And being in a city, it was better, except that I cannot know if whether you lived on a farm, whether you'd have better food or not. But I was introduced to some things that I had never, ever eaten before.

RP: Apple butter.

TA: Yeah, apple butter, squid. [Laughs]

RP: Were you introduced to mutton too?

TA: What?

RP: Mutton?

TA: I don't remember what that was. But the boys in our camp, in our block, so many of them worked as dishwashers in camp, and so they had some money and so that was very helpful for them. They probably would not have been able to earn that kind of money had the war not happened. They would have had to work to help their parents if their parents were gardeners or something of that sort, but they would certainly not expect to get money for it. It would be, help sustain the family.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

RP: This is tape three of a continuing interview with Toshio Ebiashi.

TA: No, Aiboishi.

RP: Aiboshi. I keep practicing. Aiboshi.

TA: You can't ever mispronounce a Japanese name. [Laughs]

RP: I just did. [Laughs] I did pretty good on the phone, though.

TA: I know. After all these, all this time, you should... I don't know why no, anyone has not explained that to you. [Laughs]

RP: Right, right. Let's see, tell me about how, how has it been sharing your story with the kids, the camp story?

TA: I don't think they're very interested. But they have all gone to the Japanese American National Museum. I said, "That is a must." So they know that, but they have not expressed much interest in what has happened, nor do I keep talking about it. They do know that, "Oh, there, that's Mom's camp friend." [Laughs] But that's about the extent of it. I don't think they feel any outrage over the situation. I don't think, I just think they're apathetic. It's just, it happened in history.

RP: Were you involved, directly or indirectly, with the process to get redress or reparations? And what were your feelings about that movement?

TA: I thought, well, they certainly waited long enough until enough people died that they didn't have to give out very much money, is how I felt. And that the people who needed it the most were our parents, who suffered the most.

RP: And most of the people who got it were Niseis.

TA: Right. But they waited until they died, is how I feel. But I do feel that our circumstance as a result of all that probably put us in a better position economically, because it widened our horizons in terms of education and opportunity, and had that not happened, it's hard to project what would've happened to the Japanese community. But I do also know that when we get down to, like the fourth generation, third and fourth, that there are so many intermarriages racially that it's, I don't know whether the Japanese American community will remain the same as it had been, say, prior to the war, or just postwar. I don't see that happening very much now.

RP: What do you, or do you feel that Americans learned anything, any lessons from experience that you went through or experience that was subjected on Japanese Americans? Do you see, has the country learned anything since that time in terms of dealing with other groups, minority groups or organizations?

TA: Sometimes, but not very much. I think they've just taken it as an isolated situation. I don't, I don't see a big JA community saying, "We are going to take up the, take up the cause for some other group" too much. I think they've remained kind of unto themselves, generally speaking. You know, there is a group, there is, but it is not widespread that there is an outrage over the whole the thing. It just happened. And certainly if they wanted to do that again today, I don't think we would just say, "Oh, shikata ga nai." I think we would fight.

RP: Japanese Americans would, or Americans in general?

TA: Yeah, I think so. I don't think they would just be as passive as they were then, as a result of that. But I don't know whether that would translate into feeling the same outrage if that happened to somebody else. They might. But that has not occurred again, so maybe America has learned something.

RP: So generally, how did the camp experience shape your life?

TA: It expanded, in terms of my making many lifelong friends... I don't, I don't know. I haven't really reflected what, I haven't said, "Gee, if that didn't happen, where would I be today?" It's hard to imagine, whether I would be where, in a home that's fairly comfortable and whatnot. I certainly think that our parents would, the ambition that they tried to instill in us to be good students, good citizens, would've translated into part of it, but it's hard to know what would've happened. One does not know what would occur. Say, "There was, if there was no war, what would've happened?" That kind of thing.

RP: Like we were talking about earlier, that the war really defines --

TA: Yes, because for all of us, everything is prewar or war or postwar, and we are talking about World War II. We are not talking about any other war because that was the defining point of a change in our life totally. And so when we came out of camp the question was, "Where were, what camp, or where were you put?" And we always knew that that was where it related to a camp. We also, another change that... I remember another question, that was, "Is that a safe place to live? Is a house up for sale?" Okay, "Is that a good place to go?" That meant, "Are they going to accept Japanese in that community? Do you know that?" That was that question. Because we knew that, okay, if you were on this side of Crenshaw before, it was okay, but if you were trying to get on the other side they wouldn't sell to you, and so we thought maybe, the question is, "Is that a safe place to go?" or, "Is that a good place?" That meant, "Are they, can Japanese be, buy a house there?" Now people don't think about that too much, except there are some communities where if you were "different" you probably would stand out and might feel ostracized or looked upon as different.

RP: Is there any other story or experience that we haven't touched on that you feel inclined to share with us?

TA: I haven't thought about it too much. [Laughs] I probably will afterwards.

RP: It'll be a lot afterwards.

TA: But I think one of the best things is that when we do have our reunions, so to speak, that we have this commonality that I think probably, maybe high schoolers do, but this, ours is much deeper than just going to school and having gone to high school dances and things. Ours was hardship.

RP: Tosh, thank you so, so much. This was a very touching interview.

TA: Hopefully that's helpful, I don't know.

RP: Thanks from Kirk and myself.

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