Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Mas Okabe Interview
Narrator: Mas Okabe
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: San Jose, California
Date: January 30, 2013
Densho ID: denshovh-omas_2-01-0013

<Begin Segment 13>

KL: What was your, do you remember your barracks number in Amache?

MO: Yeah, it was 7-E-8-B.

KL: And who was in there with you?

MO: Five of us, my mother and four boys.

KL: We were talking about cots and stuff while we were taking a break. What was inside the barracks?

MO: Yeah, I think in Amache we had, we had spring beds, but I think in Merced we had those canvas cots.

KL: Did you have anything else in your... what was the interior?

MO: Well, in Colorado we had this potbelly stove where we put coal in during the winter, keep it warm. That I do recall. And we had, they used to drop coal off in the middle of the block, and you have to go there with a bucket and bring it back to the house... house, barrack. That I do remember.

KL: Did you do anything to decorate?

MO: I don't remember. Just put curtains up, maybe, my mother might have done that.

KL: Did she have a sewing machine with her?

MO: No, no, can't take those kind of things.

KL: Did you order things ever from catalogs?

MO: Yes, Montgomery Ward. I ordered a pair of shoes, I got that. I still remember what shoe looked like. That's about the only thing we ordered from outside of camp.

KL: Did you say it was in Amache that you heard from your father again for the first time?

MO: Yes. I think my oldest brother corresponded with the Justice Department to see if he could be released to come to Amache. They had that kind of correspondence, we got that from the Justice Department, disclosure act, and we got all those literatures, so we had that. And they wouldn't release him. So we asked them if we could go to Crystal City so we could be together. I didn't know about Crystal City at the time.

KL: What did your dad say to you in letters? What were his letters like? Were they upbeat or were they straightforward?

MO: He used to write to my mother in Japanese. She never told us what was in the letter.

KL: How was her mood by this time, or her demeanor?

MO: She was quiet. How do you say it? Defeated? It was sad. It was sad to see her like that, to be separated, yeah.

KL: Was there anything that could make her happy for a short time or any comfort, source of comfort she found?

MO: No. Only thing we had going then was, for the kids, was school. I guess if you got good grades, she'd be happy. But that was rare. [Laughs]

KL: Were any of your siblings good students?

MO: Well my brother was already finished with high school. I was the only one going to high school there. And like I said, I was kind of a rascal, so I never studied too hard. Just enough to get by.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.