Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Fred Nagai Interview
Narrator: Fred Nagai
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: May 10, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-nfred-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. This morning we're interviewing Fred Nagai, and our interview is taking place at 2718 Hyperion Street in Los Angeles, California. The date of the interview is May 10, 2011. The videographer for our interview is Kirk Peterson and the interviewer is Richard Potashin. And also in attendance this morning is Fred's son, Dan, and also his daughter, Sherry. And let's see, who else, Lillian, Sumiko might be also sitting in as well. Our interview will be archived in the Park's library. And, Fred, do I have permission to go ahead and record our interview?

FN: Yes.

RP: Thank you very much for your time this morning. We're gonna be talking a little about your family background first.

FN: Uh-huh.

RP: So maybe you can give me your birth date and where you were born.

FN: I was born June 25, 1918, in Selleck, Washington.

RP: Okay. And where is Selleck, Washington?

FN: Well, it's out in the country but it's near Seattle. I mean, we used to go to Seattle all the time.

RP: And your father, what was his name?

FN: Masaichi Nagai.

RP: And where did your father come from in Japan?

FN: Hiroshima I think.

RP: And did he ever share with you why he came to America?

FN: Oh, I really couldn't tell you. But he came to America and never went back to Japan so he just loved it here.

RP: Do you know roughly how old he was when he came to the United States?

FN: No, I don't. My grandfather was a Canadian citizen. Because my Dad can't get the citizenship in United States so I think he was a Canadian citizen also. So my grandfather and my dad was both out in Canada, I mean, Vancouver I think.

RP: So they first came to, to Canada.

FN: Canada.

RP: And then your father came over to Washington.

FN: To Washington. Uh-huh.

RP: Oh, okay. And his father stayed in Canada? Do you know?

FN: I really don't know.

RP: Okay.

FN: I think. 'Cause I haven't heard too... I never met him. Well, maybe I did when I was small but I don't remember him.

RP: And your mother's name?

FN: Tsuneko Nagai.

RP: Do you remember --

FN: Oh, no, Nakatsuka.

RP: Nakatsuka. Can you spell that for me?

FN: N-A-K-A-T-S-U-K-A.

RP: Okay. And was she also from the Hiroshima area?

FN: No, she's from Ehime-ken.

RP: Okay. And where is that in Japan, do you know?

FN: I really don't know.

RP: Okay. Do you, do you know if your parents married in Japan or did they marry in the United States?

FN: I couldn't tell you that but I think it's one of those marries, fixed marriage.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

RP: And where did your, you said that your father settled in Selleck, Washington?

FN: Selleck, uh-huh.

RP: And what was he doing for work?

FN: Well, I don't know what kind of job he had but he worked in a sawmill.

RP: And was Selleck a company town?

FN: Yeah. Uh-huh.

RP: You worked, you lived in housing that was supplied by the company?

FN: Uh-huh.

RP: What are some of your earliest memories of growing in Selleck, Washington?

FN: Oh, I don't know. We used to walk to school and whether it rained, shined, or snowed. It's, where I lived was a little, oh, a little camp-like with a lot of Japanese that worked in the sawmill. So I grew up with a lot of those kids. And we went to school together and I don't know, we were just close friends.

RP: Were there other ethnic groups as well in the town other than Japanese?

FN: Yeah, more Caucasians but they lived in another part of the town. So I mean, they were just in different groups.

RP: So, all the Japanese lived in one little segregated area?

FN: Uh-huh, yeah, uh-huh. And Caucasians lived... but we mingled together so, uh-huh.

RP: You had a pretty large family. How many kids besides you?

FN: Well there were six and myself, so there's seven.

RP: Can you, can you give us the names of your siblings? You were the first, right?

FN: I'm first.

RP: You're the oldest.

FN: And my sister was second.

RP: And what was her name?

FN: Mieko.

RP: Okay.

FN: And brother, Shigeru. And a sister, Hisako, and Kazuko. How many is that?

RP: Let's see, one, two, three, four, that's four plus yourself.

FN: Five.

RP: You got, you got two more to go.

FN: Two more. Yoshiko.

RP: Yoshiko.

FN: And Dick.

RP: Dick, okay. So being the oldest of the children you, did you have some responsibilities for everybody else?

FN: Very much. Uh-huh. Yeah.

RP: How far of a walk to school was it for you?

FN: About couple a miles.

RP: Now, were you brought up with a Japanese type of upbringing?

FN: Well, no, not exactly. It's, folks get Americanized quick so I mean there's nothing real strict about Japanese things, so, I mean, we were free. My folks never did pin us down to anything but they taught us to be honest and be kind to other people and be good to them like they want them to be good to you. I mean that's the bringing up that my folks brought me up as to be honest and that was one of the things they really pressed on. And we were loyal Americans. We had nothing to do with Japan. My folks, once they came back out, they never went back to Japan so they were just happy with the way things are here.

RP: So, none of the, none of the children were ever sent back to Japan either.

FN: No, my mother and dad was gonna take me to Japan once to see my grandfolks but we refused to go. I don't know. We said, "Well, if you want to go to Japan you two go. I'll stay with my friends." So they never did go.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

RP: Did you or any of your brothers and sisters go to Japanese language school when you were growing up?

FN: To what?

RP: Japanese language school.

FN: Oh yeah, uh-huh. We went a year or two. But we never learned anything. We just went there because the folks sent us there. And to tell you the truth, I cheated. You know Japanese character words, they give you a test. I used to write on my fingernail and as soon as I, we used to rub it off so to this day I can't read Japanese at all. Because we were supposed to go... what I mean is they had to pay so we went, but it was an hour after our school so we just went for one hour or so and you never learned anything then. After you're forced to go and you cheat...


RP: Was this a language school in Selleck, Washington?

FN: Yeah, uh-huh.

RP: And do you remember where the school was?

FN: Oh, yeah. That was right in the camp there.

RP: What else was in the camp? Did you have other, did you have a store in the camp where you could buy rice or other products?

FN: Well, we had the general merchandise store right in the outskirt there and then there used to be a couple of peddlers coming from Seattle to sell fish and Japanese items which the other merchandise store didn't carry. So, the rice and things like that we had some of the Japanese foods and American foods but it wasn't strictly Japanese food is what we ate. So, we just, my folks were Americanized.

RP: Did either of your parents ever pick up much English? Did they...

FN: Well, broken English, yeah. But when you're in a camp like that when they're all Japanese they didn't ever have a facility to talk English so we, I learned quite a bit how to talk Japanese because most of those people in the camp spoke Japanese. And, we more or less had to speak Japanese to our folks so they have communication so we were bilinguals. But I never did know, as I said before, how to write or read Japanese.

RP: Just to speak it.

FN: But just speak it, yeah.

RP: Did you, did you attend a church or...

FN: Yeah, uh-huh.

RP: Selleck. So what, was it a Buddhist or a Christian denomination?

FN: Well, there were both. I went to Christian, I went to Buddhist. And whenever the Christian comes, tries to get us involved then I say, "Oh, I'm a Buddhist." And when the Buddhist come to... I didn't want to get involved in the church things so when the Buddhist, Christian I said, "I'm a Buddhist," and when the Buddhist come I say, "I'm a Christian." So they left me out of the church affairs quite a bit. I guess I was smart enough.

RP: Kind of stay neutral?

FN: Huh?

RP: Kind of be neutral?

FN: Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

RP: What were some of your social activities at that time in your life, when you were growing up in the lumber camp there?

FN: Well, us kids used to play baseball and football and, oh, I don't know. We just everyday kids play, you know.

RP: Did you do any fishing? Did you get into fishing?

FN: Oh yeah. Uh-huh. We did a lot of trout fishing. In the camp there's a lot of creeks.

RP: Now you were, you were in Washington 'til about the, almost the age of sixteen.

FN: Yeah.

RP: Did you have a job later on? Were you working in Selleck?

FN: No. No, I didn't have any kind of work at all. We just all played.

RP: School and play.

FN: Yeah.

RP: Now did you have an ofuro, a bathhouse ...

FN: Yeah.

RP: part of the...

FN: They used to have a big community bath and my dad had our own bath. It had a wooden bath with a fire underneath. So we had our own bath but, like us kids, we all would like to go to the big Japanese community bath and used to swim in there. Used to catch hell too because we splashed water all over the place.

RP: Everybody trying to soak and you're splashing around.

FN: Yeah. Yeah, we were kids.

RP: Did you get into any type of trouble as a kid growin' up?

FN: No.

RP: No.

FN: Well, but if there was my parents would disown us so, as I said, they were strict for us to behave.

RP: Can you describe to us the house that you lived in at the lumber mill?

FN: Well, we had couple bedrooms and parlor and kitchen and a...

RP: Did you have a bathroom in there?

FN: Bathroom, yeah, indoors. The water was free so my dad built a toilet. It wasn't a toilet like this but like a regular outhouse like but you wash it away. And she had a big hole dug and then covered so the water used to rush in there so, kind of half-modernized. It wasn't an outdoor.

RP: Did you have electricity in your...

FN: Yes. Finally the company get it but before then we used to burn a kerosene lamp. Then we finally got electricity, yes.

RP: So what were some of your interests growing up as a kid, a teenager? Were you into any of the culture, movies, music, did you like to collect things?

FN: No. We did like to go to movies and went fishing. We used to play baseball, football. I don't know. And we just used to play around.

RP: So who was your, your best friends? Who did you like to hang out with?

FN: Well, I have two, three from different families. And one of 'em from Selleck, they move out here too and there was a fellow named Mits Ishibashi, he lived couple, three doors below me and there's... I don't know, once we came out here, we find different friends. So those other people, they went elsewhere too so we kind of got distance away. 'Cause when I used to go to school you make new friends.

RP: So what were, what were some of your responsibilities as the oldest child in the family in terms of the other kids?

FN: Well, you mean...

RP: Did you have to take care of some of your brothers and sisters or...

FN: Yeah, we used to all, we all have to watch out for each other too. I mean, when you had a big family like that it's, well, we had our fights too as kids, but you know, we kind of looked after one another. So, my parents were just left it up to us to get along. And we helped each other. When you're in a big family like that you're close, brothers and sisters, you're real close so you look out for one another.

RP: Did life change for you at all during the Depression years, from about 1930 on?

FN: Oh, yeah. It's, when we moved out to Santa Monica I had to help with my cousin's store and then go to store and come back and used to deliver and things weren't that... and then finally my dad and I got my cousin's fruit stand store so we used to do that but when you have a big family like that what, with competition and just selling fruits and vegetables wasn't enough so we closed our business and I got a job at Roberts Market.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

RP: Why did your parents decide to move down to Santa Monica?

FN: Because that lumber mill was gettin' kind of depression and was kind of, wasn't running full force. So that's enough to support the family. So my cousin told us to move down to Los Angeles, Santa Monica.

RP: And what was your cousin's name?

FN: George Nakatsuka. That's my mother's brother's son.

RP: So you kind of had an interesting trip down to, to Santa Monica. You, you had an old Essex?

FN: Yeah.

RP: And how did that work out? There was nine of you. Did you all fit in there?

FN: We did. We had to fit in there. Yeah, then we had the big stuff packed in the back and on top and Depression, like in Grapes of Wrath. I mean, that's how I always, what I thought. And our big, big family like that the kids they want to, they want to stop over here and there so it took us a week to get down to Santa Monica from Washington.

RP: And you said that you lived, you worked for your cousin for a while.

FN: Yeah.

RP: And did you live at his house?

FN: Yeah, uh-huh.

RP: What kind of a change was it for you from going from Washington, a little wetter, a little cooler, down to Santa Monica?

FN: Oh, I don't know. It's sort of a country to a big town. It's, it was nice.

RP: Fred, did you do the driving on the way down from Selleck?

FN: Yeah.

RP: And can you, did you have a license?

FN: No, but, well, I had a license before we were leaving Washington I was close to sixteen, but we went to Olympia to get the license, but they say you have to be sixteen before they can give you a license. But I say I found a good guy that says, "You lie to me that you're sixteen and I'll give you a license." So I don't think you'll find good guys like that anymore. So I was sixteen and my mother and the kids didn't trust my dad's driving so I did all the driving myself.

RP: Wow, a lot of driving. That's about...

FN: Huh?

RP: That's about a thousand-mile trip.

FN: Yeah.

RP: And so you, you attended Santa Monica High School?

FN: Uh-huh.

RP: And what kind of student were you?

FN: Oh, I think I was smart. I think I was one of top two, one or two people. I think they all looked up to me being one of the smartest so I don't think I was a dumbbell.

RP: Did you participate in sports in high school too?

FN: No. I had to come back and help with the...

RP: The market.

FN:, yeah.

RP: And where was the market located in Santa Monica?

FN: On Pier Avenue?

RP: Pier Avenue?

FN: Uh-huh.

RP: Was there a, was there a significant Japanese American community in Santa Monica at the time that you were here?

FN: No.

RP: How about Venice?

FN: Well, there was a Japanese next door. There was about two or three families in our vicinities but, as I say, they all mind their own business so we never did associate too much. We all too busy working or...

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

<Begin Segment 6>

RP: So you would work after school at your, at your cousin's stand.

FN: Yeah.

RP: And what did you do at the, at the produce stand? Did you sell?

FN: Yeah, then I used to deliver for him.

RP: Oh, you delivered around the Santa Monica area?

FN: Yeah, uh-huh.

RP: So you were driving some more.

FN: Oh, yeah. I used to deliver to Malibu and used to, those movie actress or actors calling down there. They used to call us and we used to deliver it to them.

RP: Did you get some good tips?

FN: Huh?

RP: Did you get any good tips?

FN: No. We never got, we just delivered from the back and leave it there so I never did see them, but their cooks or whatever used to call and we used to deliver to them.

RP: Your cousin George...

FN: Uh-huh.

RP: ...he was involved in the Japanese rice business in California? Did you...

FN: He had a Japanese wholesale in Los Angeles and then he used to import pineapple. He was known as a pineapple king. I don't know, right now you see pineapple all over the place but before he was the only one that was importing pineapple from Hawaiian islands. So he was called the pineapple king and that's where he made his money. Pineapples all over the...

RP: You don't remember him involved with the rice business at all?

FN: Well, he used to have a wholesale Japanese mercantile called Japan Foods.

RP: Uh-huh, Japan Food Corporation?

FN: Yeah.

RP: Uh-huh. And there was a rice called Botan Rice?

FN: I don't remember.

RP: So he was pretty well-established.

FN: Oh, he was a good businessman. I mean...

RP: He was a good guy to get on with, huh?

FN: Oh yeah. He, he looked after us. I mean financially, too, he kind of looked after the family. He was a, looked after our family, I mean he's a, he's my big brother. And he looked after our folks and financially he helped them out, so he wasn't selfish at all. I mean he was... financially he was helping my folks too because big family, you know, Depression time so and he was, he had money so he wasn't selfish at all. He helped the family.

RP: You said you later worked for Roberts Market?

FN: Yeah, uh-huh. Well, it got to the point where we weren't making enough money in our fruit stand so I just went and got a job at Roberts Market and my sister was working too so she and I and my brother, we pooled our money together to support the family.

RP: What was your father doing for work?

FN: He wasn't working because it was pretty hard for him to get a job. And then later on he got a job with my cousin George at his wholesale place. He was working there.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

RP: Were there any experiences you had here in Santa Monica where you felt discriminated against because of your Japanese ancestry?

FN: Oh, when we first moved down, I think it was kind of hard to get a job. When I, kind of, a little discrimination but once you got to know the people, they know how you were, so they were... friendship that and our, when I got the job at Roberts I made a lot of friends with Caucasian people. And when the war came and they fired us, those people, they just got so mad. See, the war started on Sunday, December 7th, and on Monday, noon, the company had the check for us and fired us all. And in the Roberts was mostly Japanese people that worked in the produce place. So all the Caucasian people, they boycotted, so the Roberts, they just folded up. Then Ralph's wasn't such a big thing then but after Roberts folded up, Ralph's got big. But Roberts was, failed due to the fact they fired all the Japanese people working there. And all our friends, they boycotted the place and that really hurt. So they went, they folded up.

RP: So you had a, you had considerable support --

FN: Oh yes.

RP: -- from the Caucasian community.

FN: It's not everybody that hated us. We had friends. And once you associate with them, they knew how we were, so they liked us. I mean, we were, they were real true friends. And well, we were nice to them and they were nice to us so we really got along good. And that shows you they supported us. That's why the Roberts folded up, due to the fact that they fired all of us.

RP: How many, how many Japanese Americans worked at, at your store who were fired?

FN: Oh, let's see, about four of us. But most of Robert's produce side were all Japanese Americans. And I don't know why we were in the produce. Well, we were... even if you had a college education, you didn't have a chance at that time. It was more discriminated, so I'm the only guy that's out of high school and I had three guys that was graduated college working under me. But they never knew I went to college. So I was a boss and they just worked. Yeah, it's, even the people at that time even had a college education, they just weren't able to get jobs. That's, it was kind of discrimination there. So, it's, that's the time that experience counts and I had the experience helping my folks and I got the job and got manager of the Robert's so the other people's working under me, and they're all college graduates.

RP: So how did you feel when you, when you were fired and you got that last check?

FN: Oh, I don't know. It's... it was hard so I went to get a job at the flower market. And it wasn't very long before I worked myself up pretty good in the flower business. And, as I say, I was with the company for thirty-four years.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

RP: Let's just go back to the, to December 7, 1941.

FN: Uh-huh.

RP: That was Sunday. And do you recall how you heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor?

FN: Well, I was eating. That was my day off. So I was eating breakfast at our home and then heard on the radio that the Pearl Harbor... oh, I was sick. I mean, you know, I was American. I said, Japan doing things like that, I just didn't think too much of them. And I was eating breakfast and I heard it and no, I was really sick.

RP: Did you have any inclination at all to, to enlist at that point, in the military?

FN: Well, the friend of mine and I before the December, we, when the army... so my friend, I said, "Hey, Fred, we don't want to go in the army and march." So he and I we went to apply to join the navy in Santa Monica. And they looked at the two of us and they, they knew I think that war was going to start or something because they looked at us and we said, "No, we can't take you two." He said, "You two can sink a battleship." So, I mean, right there and then we were discriminated because we had Japanese ancestry and they must have known that something was cooking. So to me it wasn't exactly a sneak attack on Japan's part because they knew but they didn't know when or where or what. But they knew something was gonna come up because they, they won't take us in the navy. But they'll take us in the army. But they didn't send us. The people that was already in the army they got sent back east some place and all in one group.

RP: And you weren't drafted before the war either.

FN: I was drafted, well, yeah, but I was too light so they, I was 4-F.

RP: When were you drafted?

FN: When?

RP: Was, it was before the war?

FN: Before the war, yeah. And I went and they, I was too light. I think I must have weighed over a hundred and two. Well, even that picture shows how skinning I was. And they say, "You're too light." And I didn't... before the war they was real strict about the weight and everything. And my eyesight was bad too, so I was a 4-Fer.

RP: So after you were fired from the produce job, manager job at Roberts...

FN: Uh-huh.

RP: Is that when you got involved with the flower business, right after that?

FN: Yeah, uh-huh.

RP: And who did you work for?

FN: San Lorenzo.

RP: You started with San Lorenzo.

FN: Uh-huh.

RP: Okay.

FN: I was with them for thirty-four years.

RP: Wow. And do you recall some of the restrictions that were placed on Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor? The curfew...

FN: Oh, we can curfew, we couldn't go over five miles and we can't go, I mean we weren't able to go see our friends because they're over five miles away, so my sister and I we used to sneak out and then go see the friends and they, they lived in Culver City and we were in Santa Monica. You know, some park there. We used to sneak out and go see them now and then.

RP: Right. So there was a travel restriction.

FN: Yeah.

RP: A curfew.

FN: Curfew.

RP: And did, and they also wanted you to hand over cameras or rifles, any...

FN: Oh yeah, uh-huh.

RP: Did you have any of that that you had to bring into the police station?

FN: Camera and stuff, yeah. I think all I had was camera or something that was restricted.

RP: The other experience that a number of people recall is the FBI coming in and --

FN: Oh, yeah.

RP: -- picking up Issei leaders.

FN: Yeah, I mean, they came and they searched our house and everything. I mean, to me, if you're an American citizen why should you, they go... but as I say, U.S. government didn't trust us so they searched our house and my brother had a little can posted onto the house there that he was using a tennis ball to practice basketball, and the FBI guy looks at it and he says, "Is that a shortwave radio?" I mean, they were stupid. I mean, they, a lot of them, they came out and they didn't know what, what we were. They were just treating us like "enemy aliens." And, I didn't appreciate that at all. I mean I didn't feel anything like that. They made you feel like you're not a citizen anymore. They, they mistrusted... it seemed like the government mistrusted us. So I guess that's why they sent us to relocation center. Because most of the... they didn't trust the Japanese Americans at all.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

RP: Do you remember when, when you found out that you would be having to leave your home, the evacuation order?

FN: Oh, we didn't have very much time. I think six weeks or so to get out, so we had to give all of our furnitures and things to our friends. And, 'cause they say you can only take whatever you can carry so I think we sold our car, my car for fifty bucks.

RP: Your car?

FN: Yeah.

RP: What, what car did you have?

FN: I had a Plymouth. I don't know what year that was but it was car anyway. And most of our furnitures and everything we gave to our friends. They were all nice. I mean none of 'em... they were backing us up. They were sorry to see us go. But they can't do anything anyway. Yeah, we had a lot of friends. More so than the government anyway. They trusted us but the government didn't. They, to them we were "enemy aliens."

RP: So do you remember where you assembled to go to Manzanar?

FN: Where?

RP: Yeah, where.

FN: Yeah, it was at the corner of Lincoln and Venice. We assembled there and took the bus.

RP: Now, you were the oldest son.

FN: Yeah, uh-huh.

RP: And so did you have the primary responsibility for getting rid of things and...

FN: Oh, yeah.

RP: Did you also have to register the family before you went to camp?

FN: I don't remember. I guess they knew. They told us to leave.

RP: And do you recall what your feelings were about this whole removal experience? How were you feeling when you found out you had to leave?

FN: Well, we feel like the government kind of didn't trust us anymore and we were "enemy aliens." I mean, what else can you feel when you get put out in the camp?

RP: You described the bus trip to Manzanar as a long miserable trip.

FN: Oh yeah. It was long and it's not like a bus nowadays. They didn't have any toilets so every so often they have to go so we have to stop out on the side of the road and with sagebrush. One of the women goes, squatted down behind the sagebrush and a gust of wind came and blew the sagebrush away and we saw her bare ass and was she embarrassed. I don't blame her, I mean... 'cause they were afraid to stop in big bus at any restaurants or any place like that because well at that time we were just "enemy aliens." And you didn't, and every time they told us when we went through town to pull the shades down. Boy, you know you're not a citizen anymore. You're "enemy aliens."

RP: Do you remember a military policeman in the bus, a soldier?

FN: I think there was one soldier sitting out in the front.

RP: Did you know where you were going on the bus trip?

FN: Yeah, we were going to Manzanar but I didn't know where Manzanar was or anything.

RP: Did you know anything else about Manzanar?

FN: No. Just, it was just a relocation center, that's all.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

RP: And how about your first impressions of the camp when you arrived there?

FN: As I say, it was kind of cold and dusty and we felt like prisoner. In fact we were prisoners.

RP: And you were assigned to Block 14?

FN: Yeah. Block 14, Barrack 13. 14-13-3, Room 3.

RP: And so there was your parents, you, and six other brothers and sisters.

FN: All in that one room.

RP: In one room.

FN: Boy, I mean, we was just... no place to move. And my cousin had Room 4 and he had sisters and I mean, they were cramped in there too.

RP: Is that George?

FN: George, yeah.

RP: Uh-huh. And he had a large family?

FN: Yeah. Two or three plus the sisters, two sisters so he was pretty cramped too. I think there must have been about six or seven in that, his room too. But they relocated to Salt Lake so, so soon as they left we got his, so we divided up the family into the two so it wasn't too bad then.

RP: And did you start working right away when you got into camp?

FN: Oh, yeah, I think, unless you worked you don't get the... they paid you at first only twelve dollars but they raised it up to sixteen dollars and if you didn't work you didn't get sixteen dollars.

RP: Now, you mentioned to me when you came to Manzanar about a month or so ago, you said that you kind of appreciated Manzanar for the fact that it freed you from a lot of responsibilities.

FN: Yeah. Because when we're outside, my brother, my sister, and I we used, used to pool our money to support the family. But I was responsible to pay the electric bills and all the... so when I went to Manzanar, oh hell, you got the free food and a place to stay and no, no electrical bills to pay or and no gas bills or anything 'cause no automobile. Oh yeah, it was really great because that was a real responsibility gone and I was just, I felt like a free man. Yeah, I really enjoyed it. Because that was a big burden off my shoulders.

RP: You, you also mentioned it felt like paradise to you.

FN: Oh yeah. It was, yeah, Manzanar was a nice place. I mean, I loved it. You didn't have no responsibility. You got up, it was just... you had a job but I mean that job wasn't no, you got the eight to five you just, you just really relaxed. I mean it's, the job, it's the people you knew you got the good jobs, easy jobs so it's, it's who you knew in the camp that you got a... that's why I knew quite a good people and they got -- excuse me -- the fire department and camouflage, I was a time keeper. You got the easy jobs. You didn't work like the other people.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

RP: So what was your first job in camp?

FN: I don't remember but I did some ditch digging to get the water into the camp and had, cleared the sagebrush for the farm and...

RP: And was that done by hand?

FN: Oh, yeah. We didn't any equipment.

RP: Did you run into any snakes out there?

FN: No, I hate snakes. If I knew... yeah, I think there were a lot of rattle snakes out there but I never did... well, I might have couple, three times see people but we killed them all.

RP: So you worked, you worked for the fire department.

FN: Yeah, I worked at the fire department. I worked for the mess delivery and I, tofu factory.

RP: Let's talk about the fire department job. How were the shifts set up for the fire department?

FN: Oh, you worked twelve hours and, I mean, twenty-four hours and you're off twenty-four hours. So you work every other day. But it was no work. You slept there and we used to have fire drills once a week or twice a week and polish the fire truck and the rest of the time you just laid around.

RP: Play cards?

FN: Yeah. Play cards.

RP: Did you wear a uniform as a fireman?

FN: No. You just, everyday clothes.

RP: And did they, how many fire trucks did you have?

FN: Two.

RP: Two. Did you ever fight a fire in the camp?

FN: As I say, I was the engineer of one of the trucks and I drove the truck and worked the equipment but we got two or three people that does it. So, one day there was outdoor movies on the firebreak. I was there and Kitchen 13 mess hall, somebody must have been making sake out of the leftover rice, and the kitchen fire, so the fire truck went and I, it was right there. I think it was in the movie in Block 14 firebreak so Mess Hall 13, I hear and ran like hell. They had it under control so that's the first fire that there ever was and I wasn't there.

RP: You missed out on your big--

FN: Yeah, but...

RP: -- opportunity.

FN: They all covered up for you.


RP: This is tape two of a continuing interview with Fred Nagai. And, Fred, we were just talking about the fire that you, that you missed in Block 13. Were you actually supposed to be on duty during the time?

FN: Well we get break. It was my break but I mean, I wanted to be there when the fire... but, as I say, that's the only time that there was a time for the fire truck to go out of the fire station and I wasn't on there so it kind of broke my heart not to be on there. But they didn't miss me. I mean, they got a lot of people that's taking care of that. But they all laughing because I wasn't there. They know I was waiting to be getting on that truck to go.

RP: See some action.

FN: Yeah.

RP: Did you drive the fire trucks around the camp?

FN: Oh yeah. Uh-huh.

RP: And did you give people rides?

FN: Not on the fire truck. I mean, we had, I was working on that tofu factory I had a van with another friend and we used to pick up girls and take 'em to work and take 'em back. And, well, that's the only time. The other time was a food truck go out, as I say, we were strictly on business going from one mess hall to the other.

RP: Were you also responsible for going into each block and making sure that there were no fire hazards in the block?

FN: No. They had a special one or two guys going around doing that. It wasn't the fireman's responsibility to, excuse me, do that.

RP: Uh-huh.

FN: Firemen just stayed at the fire station.

RP: Can you describe the fire station to us? What kind of building was it? And what was in the building besides the engines?

FN: Well, we had the bunks there. I don't really remember.

RP: So you had bunks there and that's where you slept between your shift?

FN: Yeah, uh-huh.

RP: Okay. Was there an office too?

FN: Yeah, there was an office but I wasn't in the office. They had a girl in the office that took care, care of everything. We actually didn't have anything much to do but sit around, waiting. That was the easiest job.

RP: Do you remember who the fire chief was?

FN: Oh, I think it was Kay something, I don't know. He was, lived in my block so he got me into the fire station so I mean, he had to, different pools for easy jobs and I knew quite a few friends so that's why I got the job as timekeeper in the camouflage and mess, mess delivery and tofu thing....

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

<Begin Segment 12>

RP: Tell us about the tofu job. Did you actually help make the tofu?

FN: No. We, a fellow by the name of Keets Takahashi and I, we delivered the tofu to the mess halls. And, that's where I met my wife's uncle there. And he was making tofu, but at that time I didn't know my wife. But I met this fellow and we got along good. And I didn't know my wife at all in the camp. 'Cause I was twenty, twenty-one and she was only thirteen or fourteen and, as I say, you never look at a small young kids as a girlfriend. So, and in a ways, she never when she was thirteen, fourteen look at another guy around twenty-one. They're like an old man to her. I mean, she knew my brothers and sisters but we never met. But, as I say, later on I found that she, that a man in the tofu factory was my wife's uncle.

RP: Did you, did you deliver the tofu every day to the mess halls or just...

FN: Well, yeah. There's so many mess hall that you, you don't cover it every day same, you cover just a third of the mess hall every other day or something like that. It's about over seventy years ago so you don't remember everything, you know.

RP: Right.

Off Camera: Can I ask a question about the mess hall? When you delivered food to the mess hall, did you do that... how many mess halls could you deliver with one truckload of food?

FN: Oh, I don't remember but maybe couple three blocks, two, three mess halls.

Off Camera: Okay, thank you.

FN: I'm sure that there was more than one truck --

RP: Delivering tofu?

FN: -- delivery trucks for the fruits and vegetables. It's been so long ago. You don't remember all that.

RP: How about the job at the camouflage net factory? You were a timekeeper?

FN: Yeah.

RP: Uh-huh. And, so you actually worked at the net factory? I mean you just kept people's time as they, as they...

FN: They worked, yeah. We just kept people's time and we sat around our butt doing nothing.

RP: What was, what was it like in those net factories there? What do you remember about the weaving and...

FN: Oh, I don't know. They were weaving. But, as I say, it's not like a job outside. You work in a camp so it's an easy... they just took their sweet time. But there were so many people that, that even if each one took their time, the output was there.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

RP: Now, there was a situation where you actually went outside the camp. You went to the base of the mountains? And...

FN: Oh yeah. That's... we were digging the ditches for the water supply for the camp.

RP: Was that the original water line that came into the camp, do you know?

FN: No.

RP: It was later on.

FN: It's over at... it's a creek from the mountain there so it's pure water. So the camp, it wasn't, I don't think it was just, just plain water. Soft, it's a really soft water. You took a shower and boy, the soap came off good. It's nothing hard like out here. It's just pure mountain water. Ice cold.

RP: And you used to see trout in the water.

FN: Oh, yeah. We used to see trout and used to round up and catch 'em but we never did kill 'em or anything. We just had the fun of catching them because we had no way of cooking them or anything. So, I mean, you were having fun on the job.

RP: You, and you caught 'em by hand?

FN: Yeah. Oh, there's three or four of us guys. You cornered the trout. Poor guy, trout never had a chance. We'd catch him but we never killed him or anything. We just let him loose. But you kind of make fun on the job you got.

RP: Did you, did you have any contact with any of the military police who manned the guard towers or the...

FN: No, I never had contact with them but people that wanted to go outside just for a walk or something, they crawled under the fence but military guy, they didn't care. Hell, if you want to go try to escape, High Sierras on one side so they didn't care. I mean, they were just there. They didn't care if you wanted to sneak away from there, you have to climb the big Sierra mountains. Heck, nobody'll make it.

RP: How did you feel about seeing the guard towers and the barbed wire fence? You mentioned earlier that you felt the government mistrusted you.

FN: Oh, yeah.

RP: You were suspicious and you felt like an "enemy alien."

FN: Yeah.

RP: Was that feeling increased by the guard towers and in the sense of being a prisoner?

FN: No. You were having too much fun with the other guys player poker and you know, baseball and stuff like that so you never felt too cramped in when you're having fun like that.

RP: Yeah, you, I was trying to remember, I think you guys donated the glove that you used to play with, right?

FN: Oh, yeah.

RP: Yeah. Yeah, you played first base because you had a --

FN: Yeah, uh-huh.

RP: -- kind of trapper's glove.

FN: Yeah, uh-huh.

RP: So was that a team in your block that you played on?

FN: No, it's a pickup team but I was, I have that glove so I always was a first baseman.

RP: That was a group of guys your age roughly?

FN: Yeah. I guess so. Yeah.

RP: So, so softball, was it softball or...

FN: Hardball.

RP: Hardball.

FN: Uh-huh.

RP: So that was a...

FN: And, oh and softball too I mean... So I played all. It didn't matter whether softball or hardball, you just, as long as you're playing baseball you just played.

RP: Did you play any other sports in Manzanar besides baseball?

FN: Well, we played touch football.

RP: Out in the firebreaks?

FN: Yeah. So, I mean, you touch football, you, we had no equipment or anything so we didn't do any tackling. But we had a handkerchief or something on the belt and they, they take that and then you're tackled or... then they touch you with two hands you're down.

RP: Uh-huh. Uh, there were, you were, you were Nisei and there were, there was another group of Japanese Americans, Kibeis --

FN: Kibeis, yes.

RP: -- at the camp. And how did you relate or not relate with them?

FN: Well, they had their own group and we had our own group and Kibeis, they thought they were pretty good. And we knew we were pretty good so we never got associated with one another.

RP: How about the, did you, were you aware of some of the tensions and issues between the Japanese Americans Citizens League and some of the other groups in camp?

FN: No, not that I know of. I never associated with them that much and they'd mind their own business we did ours too so we never had any... well, I don't know whether we or I never had any problems.

RP: Were you involved at all with the JACL before you went to Manzanar? Were you aware of the organization?

FN: Yeah, I think I was in the JACL for a short time. And, I don't know, I just quit.

RP: Before the, before you went to Manzanar?

FN: Oh, yeah.

RP: Uh-huh.

FN: Even before the war came out I think.

RP: What did you think of that organization?

FN: Oh, I don't know why I joined or anything. I don't know what it was all about. They supposed to look after Japanese people but, or something, I don't know. I don't really don't know what it was all about. But I just joined just to be with the friends.

RP: As a social group.

FN: Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

RP: Do you have any recollections, Fred, of the, it's often called the Manzanar riot?

FN: Yeah, I heard there was a couple, two or three people that was snitching to the FBI and everything trying to get some kind of trouble started. But I was in our barrack minding my own business. I heard a lot of people making a big noise right by the police station by the gate there. But I wasn't interested in anything like that. And they were trying to beat up somebody. And I think they got a couple people got shot there and they were running away and I was home. My mother says, "Hey Fred, you'd better go and mingle with them otherwise they'll think you're a dog too." She said, "They might come after you." So I just went there and I saw a couple people there and I went back to the house. I didn't want any of that. I heard that somebody got shot or something and everybody was running away. And that was in the big firebreak there. So I really don't know what happened and there was about three or four people hiding in the hospital there. And I think they were hidden someplace in the hospital. So the people couldn't get at 'em. There were about three or four people there calling inu, which is a dog, you know... so, but I had nothing to do with that. I don't care if they snitch or, I had nothing to do with anything. So, I was just minding my own business in the camp and I didn't join any of those kind of groups or anything.

RP: You weren't politically involved in any of that.

FN: No.

RP: How about there was another group that was kind of intimidating in camp and that was the Terminal Island guys?

FN: Oh, well they, yeah. But to tell the truth, two of 'em married my sisters. [Laughs]

RP: Really. Who, who was, who married your...

FN: Bob Muragami and Fumio Hara. They're both passed away but they were Terminal Island but they didn't bother you. I mean, when they're with a bunch of group people they're and everybody was scared of them so, but they're, if you take each one of 'em they're the nicest guys. But when they get in a group like that they think, oh, everybody's scared of us. So, but Bob Muragami used to, scared to even come near our barrack door so he used to pick my sister up. She used to work in the canteen and used to just walk up her up to the laundry place and he never came into my house.

RP: Which sister was that?

FN: Miye.

RP: Miye.

FN: Yes, my next, yeah. And Fumio married my youngest sister, Fumio Hara.

RP: Did they both, were they both married outside of camp? I mean after, after camp or did they marry at camp?

FN: Gee, I don't remember. Fumio married out. I think Bob married in the camp. I don't know. I don't remember.

RP: But they were reluctant to come to the, to the room.

FN: Oh, yeah. They know we all hated San Pedro people... they're the nicest guys but in group, but individually you can't beat 'em.

RP: So Mr. Ohara just passed away.

FN: Uh-huh.

RP: And, he fought in the Korean War and won a bronze star? Is that, do you know of that?

FN: I... like our family, we never gloat over anything so if it's something they just keep it to themselves. I don't... yeah, I think he was in the service and he got a medal for something but...

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

<Begin Segment 15>

RP: Let's talk a little bit about Block 14. Do you recall, do you know who your block manager was in the block?

FN: No, I don't.

RP: Did you have any dealings with the block manager?

FN: No.

RP: No.

FN: As I say, I was, I just was never was politically involved in anything so I mean...

RP: Now you also delivered food to the mess halls.

FN: Yeah.

RP: And did you get a chance to sample the meals at different mess halls?

FN: Oh, yeah. We... and they know us so we used to go see what mess halls got the best foods and they all knew us in the delivery so the cooks and the people that works in the mess hall eats first before, so I used to go get the best meals or eat two, three visits for meals. So, it was a really, that was a benefit you got from the... yeah.

RP: Right. How was Block 14 mess, chef?

FN: Oh, okay I guess. I didn't really get to know them real well. But the one time that I went to Manzanar and the mess hall, you saw that place where a little... we never had anything like that and I told you that. What it was, you know, you said it was to wash our hands and stuff but I said, "None of the mess hall had that." Do you still have that?

RP: Oh, yeah.

FN: You do, huh?

RP: Yeah.

FN: That isn't.

RP: But it's not right, it's not historically correct.

FN: Huh?

RP: It's not historically correct to have that.

FN: No, it's not. We never had anything like that.

RP: In your, in your, your memory of that helps support that idea.

FN: Oh, uh-huh.


FN: And my wife says in her mess hall she never had anything... so none of the mess hall that I know of had anything like that so when I first went to visit that mess hall when I saw that, that drew my attention. And I asked you what it was for. And you said, "That's where you wash your hands." And I said, "Oh no, we washed our own hands before we went to the mess hall."

RP: In the, in the latrine?

FN: Yeah.

RP: Oh, uh-huh. Did you, do you remember having any, in your barrack room, do you remember having any furniture or curtains? Any improvements in the, in the room?

FN: I don't know. Maybe my mother made curtains and the furniture my dad made out of the scrap woods he picked up here and there. 'Cause I don't remember. Usually, there's no room for such things so we sat on the bed.

RP: There wasn't much room to store things either.

FN: No.

RP: Did you store things under your bed?

FN: Yeah, I guess so, whatever we had. As I said, we just went there with what we could carry so everything else we just gave it away so we didn't have too much.

RP: You talked about the oil stoves in the rooms.

FN: Yeah.

RP: You used to boil water in there to increase the humidity in the room?

FN: Yeah, uh-huh, yeah. But, I don't know. Some people used to cook on that but it's just a little round stove like that.

RP: Were the, were the stoves effective at all in keeping your room warm?

FN: No. You just have to hug it to get warm.

RP: Another, another improvement to the rooms was the addition of the plasterboard and the linoleum.

FN: Yeah, uh-huh. And the linoleum on the floor. Before it was nothing but big knotholes and cracks in the floorboards that when the winds came it just drew it, blew the dust in the room. But when they put the linoleum and the plasterboard, it made it more livable.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

RP: Now you also went out on a couple of, they used to call them agricultural furloughs.

FN: Yeah.

RP: And, tell us about, tell us about those.

FN: Well, that, I first went out, we thinned beets and that's you make the beet, you thin the beets. And man, that's hard work. And then that fall I went out again to top the sugar beets and that's work too. Oh man, that was the toughest work in my life.

RP: Can you describe to us how you topped the...

FN: Well, you got a big knife with a hook on the end and you poke the beets and you top the beets. And in the morning the ground is frozen but during the day that, the beets are thaws out and boy you were just all wet. And it's so cold that your, when you get to the big long rows and when you finished your row, when you get to the end you can't stand up. You just cramped so you keep walking around like this. That's work. That's a laborer.

RP: Why did you choose to go out on those furloughs, Fred?

FN: Just to get out of the camp.

RP: And how long were you out of camp?

FN: Oh, just for the season of beet thinning and beet topping. And I was out with another fellow for about six months on the farm itself doing the farm work, different farm works.

RP: Where was that?

FN: In Rupert, Idaho.

RP: So you worked for one individual farmer?

FN: Yeah.

RP: Uh-huh. And how were you treated?

FN: Oh, very nice. The meat was rationed but the farmers, they raised their own hogs and cattle and man, I mean, at the dinner table we ate just, I mean, the meats you never ate in the camp or anything. The food was really good.

RP: Now the beet topping and the beet thinning, were those also in Idaho too?

FN: Yeah, uh-huh.

RP: And did, what was your living situation like? Did you live in a camp?

FN: No, they had, yeah we had, it was in a little camp like and then I lived with the farmer for about six months but we had our own place. But we used to, it was about a mile away from the camp so to take a shower we had to go to the camp to take a shower. The farmer let us use the car now and then to, otherwise we walked to go take a shower every day.

RP: And how did you get to the furloughs? Did you take the bus up to Idaho?

FN: Or what?

RP: How did you get up to Idaho from Manzanar?

FN: Oh, I think we took the train. But it was train that was hooked onto a freight train so every time the passenger train went by we, they side-tracked us so we side-tracked for about three or four hours. That's why it took us about a week from Reno to Idaho. 'Cause we didn't go like a passenger train. We were hooked onto the freight train. So we just side-tracked for hours.

RP: Did you, did you visit some of the local towns and communities when you were out on the furloughs? Did you go into town, any of the towns?

FN: No, I didn't know anybody...

RP: And, on these furloughs, did you go out with other friends or people you knew?

FN: Just the one friend that we were together and then, and another time there were about five of us that... there was one guy that we used to stay at... he finally when he came out he started his own bakery shop called Grace's Pastry.

RP: Oh, you were out with --

FN: George Izumi.

RP: -- George Izumi.

FN: Yeah.

RP: Oh wow.

FN: Oh, you knew George?

RP: I sure do, yeah.

FN: Oh, yeah. He was in, five of us in one barrack there and he cooked. We took turns in cooking. When we washed dishes, the people that cooked didn't have to do the dishes so we took turns and yeah, I was with George Izumi.

RP: Oh, neat.

FN: Yeah. And Kosh Ando. Yeah. And Harry Okamoto. There's five of us.

RP: So how did it feel to be out of camp for a while?

FN: Oh, it was great. But I didn't mind the camp after a while because I had a lot of friends and I was too busy to feel sorry for myself. You just made the best of everything. In fact you had to.

RP: Did you, did you bring back anything from your furloughs?

FN: Oh, yeah. You didn't make too much money on those furloughs but made enough to, so my folks have some spending money at the canteen at the camp, so that was the only thing out of... and I snuck in a bottle of whiskey for my dad in the duffle bag and he enjoyed it, I mean, you didn't get any liquor in the camp. And the people in the camp knew that anybody that came home from furlough bring a bottle of whiskey, so they all come and visit you. My dad wasn't much of a drinker but there, whenever you know you can't have it that's when you want it. So, he used to enjoy it and to me that was enough to see him enjoy it. He'd just drink a little bit like that and he'd get red as a beet.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

RP: Did your father work in camp?

FN: I don't know. I don't think so, I think he liked to play go and shogi so he was, to him he, he used to go to the place and he was pretty good at it so a lot of people want to take lessons from him.

RP: Oh, go and shogi?

FN: Yeah. But he never got money for that, I mean, he enjoyed whether he's teaching or playing. To him, that was his life.

RP: So, a number of people talk about their camp experience and how it split up their family or broke up the family. What was the situation with your family? Do you feel it broke it, broke up your family or brought your family closer together?

FN: I think it brought the family closer together.

RP: How? How did it do that?

FN: Well, you think more of each other than... I don't know, I think it just brought us closer together. But in the camp, I mean, everybody had their own friends and my mother used to have a shamisen so she had her group and my dad went to shogi and go and all that so I mean, everybody had their doings.

RP: Their little past times.

FN: Yeah, yeah.

RP: Did you, did you date any, any girls in camp?

FN: No. I did once and that, that parents said, "Be sure and bring her home by ten o'clock." and the dance and stuff don't start 'til after eight so about an hour's time I took her back and then I went back to the dance. That's the only time I dated a girl and said bring her back by ten o'clock. I thought, hell. But I just didn't want to be tied down in the camp so I never had any girlfriends or anything.

RP: Can you describe the men's latrine to us? How the, how the latrine was set up?

FN: Well, it was just wide open and the men's urinal was just one long... and then no privacy but once, then they finally put a partition between the two toilets. And where you wash your, brush your teeth was one long...

RP: Another long trough?

FN: Trough, yeah.

RP: With the spigots?

FN: Yeah.

RP: And the shower area...

FN: It's just wide open.

RP: Just wide open.

FN: Yeah.

RP: No...

FN: But I was used to that 'cause in the high school, men's shower was just like that so, I mean, I was used to that. I think a lot of women, they waited 'til midnight or something to go take a shower because then nobody'd be around. One thing is in a camp you never had to worry about girls being attacked or anything like that, I mean, it was safe. No matter what hours of the day nobody worried about people being attacked by other people. So even the women and girls, they go out at night and they don't have to worry about it.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

RP: There was another job that you had for a short time at Manzanar and that was working to help build a garden in the camp.

FN: Yeah, uh-huh.

RP: Block 34, tell me, how did that come about?

FN: I really don't remember too much but they had to make a mound so I drove a tractor to make the mound and I really don't remember too much. I mean, I never did the finishing job on it. But, yeah, in the camp you just jumped around from one job to the other.

RP: And did you use the tractor to do anything else?

FN: Huh?

RP: Did you use the tractor to do anything else?

FN: No.

RP: Just the, work the mound.

FN: Just that, yeah. That's about all I remember about the tractor.

RP: So you, you dug out the pond area and then put the dirt on the top of the mound? Something like that.

FN: I guess so. Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

RP: Fred, when did you leave the camp?

FN: Huh?

RP: When did you leave Manzanar?

FN: I don't remember. That was about a year or two before they closed.

RP: And where did you go?

FN: I went to Salt Lake. Stayed with my cousin.

RP: Oh, George.

FN: George, yeah. And I got a job in a fruit and vegetable place. An Italian guy had it. And I got a, I worked a job and he didn't know whether I knew anything or not so he'd say, "Hey Fred, here's an apron go, go to work." And he, as I say, I had the experience of fruit and vegetable so heck I had that thing in good shape. And he looked and he says, "Oh." I was hired right there and then.

RP: And so why did you choose to relocate out of Manzanar?

FN: Why?

RP: Yeah.

FN: To get out. To get freedom. Well, I didn't mind the camp that much but outside was better.

RP: Is there, let's see... so you worked in the, was it a market?

FN: Yeah, uh-huh.

RP: Okay. And how long did you work there for?

FN: 'Til the war ended. Then I quit and came back. My folks were already relocated to Los Angeles.

RP: And where, where in Los Angeles?

FN: Oh they, they were in different places.

RP: Were all the kids with them too?

FN: No. They all went their way here and there.

RP: Uh-huh. So other, other brothers and sisters also relocated out of Manzanar?

FN: Yeah. They were with my folks for a while but they can only afford a small place so they were cramped also. And then I really don't remember exactly what happened to everybody. Oh, some got married and the others... I really don't know, but the family dispersed various ways.

RP: And did you get, you got involved again with the, with the flower business?

FN: Yeah. So I mean, jobs were hard, still hard to... go to various places, they look at you and they shake their head, nothing doing. So the guy that owns San Lorenzo, I met him at my cousin George's place. They used to play poker every so often and I used to beat him. So he knew me. So I went to get a job and boy, he gave me a job right away and, like I say, I stayed there for, 'til I retired.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

RP: Now, how did you meet your wife Miyo?

FN: Oh, I was going to, when I was delivering the flowers and selling to her mother used to have a florist shop on Las Feliz there. And she wasn't working there. She was working in downtown someplace I guess. And I finally met her. I don't know how it started but I met her and start dating her. And at that time I didn't have much money either so her mother noticed that I had the same slacks on whether I went on a date or on a work. I had two pairs of slacks. I had to wash it and press it before I went on a date and her mother's sharp. She noticed it. "He doesn't have much clothes."

RP: Mothers always notice those kinds of things.

FN: Huh? I guess so. But she liked me. Otherwise I wouldn't have been able to stick around. And she and my sister were always running the shop. And her husband was still alive. And my wife was working downtown someplace. And then they had to move and they got to this place and my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, and her husband started a flower shop right here.

RP: You mentioned coming out of Manzanar that there were, it was the same situation in a way that it was before the war where employers didn't want to hire Japanese Americans.

FN: Yeah.

RP: Did you have any difficulties eventually in locating housing as far as discrimination in various communities?

FN: I don't know. My folks had a house so I mean I didn't have to do any house hunting like that.

RP: How about after you were married?

FN: My sister-in-law and her husband had a place out in Burbank so we had no place, got married and no place to go or stay so they let us have her place. And she moved in with my mother-in-law. Yeah, that's how it was.

RP: What did your youngest brother, Dick, do after camp?

FN: Oh, let's see... I don't remember what he did but he, he's the only one that went to college in our family.

RP: Do you know where he went? What school?

FN: Roosevelt. I don't know what he was doing.

RP: He received a scholarship from USC?

FN: Yeah. He got... oh, he played basketball. Yeah, that's right. And then he went to Salt Lake and he met his wife there at Salt Lake.

RP: And he was also the first Japanese American during the 1950s to pay collegiate basketball.

FN: Yeah, uh-huh. For USC.

RP: So he broke some barriers too.

FN: Yeah. Uh-huh. Well, when he was playing basketball there were no colored people at all playing for SC. There was one or two for UCLA. But after my brother graduated, then the black people... just about all black people after that playing basketball. But when he was playing there wasn't a single black people in the, on the team. So he was a little over six foot but he was tall then. And then when the black people came they're all around six-and-a-half-foot to seven-foot.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

RP: What was it like for you to, to revisit Manzanar this year?

FN: In a way I was sad to see, it was kind of, I kind of figured it to be block-like and when I saw all the trees and shrubs it kind of broke my heart to see it like that. 'Cause I expected it to be nice and clear and you can notice every block. I knew there was no barracks there but it was kind of disheartening to see it back to the desert. But I was glad to be in Manzanar though.

RP: And you, you visited Block 14 which is your former block.

FN: Yeah, uh-huh.

RP: And the National Park Service is reconstructing buildings there.

FN: Yeah, uh-huh.

RP: Were there, were there other families that you remember in Block Fourteen that you connected with?

FN: No, I don't remember. I think there was a Oki family.

RP: Oh, the Oki.

FN: Yeah. I think they were on our barracks too.

RP: Uh-huh. Yes. Susumu?

FN: Susumu, yeah. And his brother, Hiroshi, got killed in an accident and they had a flower farm some place.

RP: Do you remember a Nagano family at all?

FN: Nagano, that sounds familiar but, no, I don't remember. What's the first name?

RP: Joe Nagano?

FN: No.

RP: Okay. So what, Fred, do you remember most about your, your experience at the Manzanar camp?

FN: What do you mean?

RP: Well, did it impact you in a positive way? Did you feel like you grew up a little quicker?

FN: No, it just, staying there I didn't feel like I was imprisoned at all because I had a freedom going to any blocks or anyplace I wanted and nobody, no sentry or anybody... and, as I say, I was interest -- not interest, I liked fishing but like right now I like to go out there to fish but at that time I didn't have no fishing equipment or even if you catch the fish, nothing you can do about it so it's... the feeling is when you're out here you want to go back out there to go fishing. But when you're there, that didn't interest me at all. As I say, I liked to catch fish bare-handed and then once you catch 'em you let it go. But that satisfaction that you can catch fish with a bare hand was something that...

RP: So, when, when you look back on, on Manzanar you have no anger or bitterness about...

FN: No I don't, no. I love the place. I don't want to go back there to live now but at that time it was nice, I mean, I loved it.

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