Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Akiko Okuno Interview
Narrator: Akiko Okuno
Interviewers: Kristen Luetkemeier, Alisa Lynch
Location: Saratoga, California
Date: January 31, 2013
Densho ID: denshovh-oakiko-01-0025

<Begin Segment 25>

KL: Was your sister who was the secretary for the medical director, was that Toshi?

AO: Uh-huh.

KL: What did she say about that job?

AO: She enjoyed it because she got to really use her shorthand and typing, all our secretarial skills.

KL: Where did she go to work?

AO: There in the administration building. There was the administration part set aside. There was administration, and there was the hospital, and then all the barracks. My father got a job as night watchman, so he wasn't home all night. And then I guess he'd sleep during the day. And then, of course, he was in conversation with the men, and then... so we didn't see too much of him.

KL: What were his duties as a night watchman?

AO: I guess at the warehouse where they kept all the stuff. Probably didn't really need it, but...

KL: Did he work with a crew, was he by himself?

AO: I really don't know, because what had happened is then he had tuberculosis, and he had been ill with it before, and I think he got this job so as to keep his distance from us and not expose us.

KL: When had he been ill before?

AO: In Gilroy. But he was diagnosed with it, and had been going to the doctor two or three years before.

KL: How did that diagnosis affect your family?

AO: Well, for one thing, I said that there was this screen room, and that became his room.

KL: The porch, the sun porch?

AO: Yeah, so that he was not exposing us, and all of his dishes were boiled, my mother took care of her.

KL: Did that affect your finances or your social life?

AO: No, because he was still, worked on the farm until the war, and then he couldn't farm.

KL: One of the -- oh, go ahead.

AO: I guess my mother's teaching kept us fed.

KL: One of the sociologists who was writing at Manzanar said that she perceived that a lot of people in Manzanar believed that tuberculosis was hereditary and it was a shameful thing. Did you have any, did that...

AO: No, we weren't... because he didn't have it before, I mean, there's nobody in the family who had it.

KL: Yeah, it seems like you were aware it was contagious.

AO: Yeah. So the way it was found is they did tuberculin tests on all the children, and I came home with an arm like this.

KL: Was that at school, the test?

AO: Yeah. And so the whole family was x-rayed. And although I broke out, I mean, I reacted, I had no sign of it. But then that's when they discovered my father's. And so my mother was well-read, and so she took questions and kept everything that he ate with separate, kept him pretty much...

AL: I've heard stories of families where, like a gentleman we interviewed yesterday, his sister was separated from them and kept... how come your father was not segregated from the family in camp? Some people, the TB...

AO: I don't know. Unless he didn't tell them, you know. And then... because then he was working. And probably then, I don't know, maybe he was getting weaker. He seemed fine to me. Of course, we didn't see the ravages.

AL: So they didn't test for TB when people went into camp?

AO: No, no.


KL: This is jumping around a little bit, but on health care, did your sister say that there were any themes or any issues that were big in health care in camp?

AO: No, she didn't really talk about things like that. No. I guess there wasn't a lot of that kind of conversation, I guess, between us. We were busy doing our own things. And then when school started, of course, I had my studies.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.