Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Sumiko Yamauchi Interview
Narrator: Sumiko Yamauchi
Interviewer: Whitney Peterson
Location: Chula Vista, California
Date: July 23, 2013
Densho ID: denshovh-ysumiko_2-01-0011

<Begin Segment 11>

WP: What was your address at Manzanar?

SY: It's on there, I forgot.

WP: So 17-12-4.

SY: Yeah, that's it.

WP: Block 17, Barracks 12, Apartment 4. And who lived in your barracks apartment?

SY: Just my family in this one room.

WP: And can you describe your room?

SY: It was very small. But we did need a kitchen. We didn't have any furniture. People went up and salvaged some wood that was left behind and made a table for a bench. And some people who had money was able to say, "We don't have a bench or we don't have a table or anything," and some of 'em did bring, I mean, into camp. But we didn't have anybody, so whatever we had was made by scrap.

WP: Did your family build furniture?

SY: Well, if you want to call it furniture. It was more of a bench or a stool. You go out there and dig a tree and you cut the top off, and that becomes somewhere to sit on. And you didn't have any material other than the clothes you had. And then when you live in Manzanar, clothes don't last. I don't know about you guys, but clothes don't last very long because of the wind. We didn't have a dryer, so everything was hung up in the sun, the sun would bleach it out and weaken the material. And lot of times people would use that material and they would make quilt out of it or rugs. Nothing was wasted in Manzanar. It just seems like everything was used, because we didn't have it. Because if we wanted it, it needed, we had to have money. So you made do with whatever you could get. Like I said, when we first got, we used to run to say, oh, Block 17 is, they're building or whatever. So you run down there and you scan for nails and bits of tarpaper, and you just made good out of what you had.

WP: Did your apartment change over time then?

SY: No.

WP: No?

SY: No. Because there wasn't that much to change. It was too small.

WP: Did you ever have materials that you could use to have more privacy or separate your beds from one another?

SY: They used to go to the mess hall and get these apple box. And the vegetables that I was telling you about, the frame of the picture? Those all came from these boxes where the vegetables came in. And we used to go over there, and they would just put it out on the back step of the mess hall, and we'd run there and try to get as much as we can. And we were able to make a few things from that. But today I've got a leg, tomorrow maybe I can get another leg, you know, that kind of a thing. And then you went up in the mountains and got wood and created your own chair by cutting a stump.

WP: Do you remember your neighbors that lived around you?

SY: Yes, my neighbor's the one that I was telling you about, where the husband was taken away into camp, they lived right next door to us. In fact, she still lives here in Point Loma, which isn't too far from here.

WP: Do you remember any of the other neighbors that lived near you or in your barracks?

SY: Yeah, you do, because you eat together, you lived together, you use the bathroom together, you use the laundry room together, you bump into each other constantly. So yeah, you get to know everybody in your camp. And you get tattled on, too, if you did something bad. [Laughs]

WP: What was your block like, Block 17?

SY: Just like... what can I say? Well, not much. I mean, they were, they didn't have anything more than you did, and everybody had to do what they had to do money-wise. About the only thing at my age was a guy in room 8, he's cute, you know? Something like that, or she's cute, or so-and-so's going around with so-and-so, but that's about it. There wasn't too much you could do as far as, within the neighbors and such.

WP: As a community, as a block, would you say that Block 17 was different than other blocks?

SY: No.

WP: Were there other blocks that had a very distinct group of people that lived in that area?

SY: Yeah, because we were all, like, San Pedro people lived in Block 9. The people that I lived in were Pasadena, Glendale, Los Angeles section. So we noticed that the people from Terminal Island, San Pedro, they talked different from us. Because they spoke more Japanese than we did, and so their accents were a little, accent was a little bit more different than us. But other than that, we got along.

WP: Was it difficult to identify with some of the other people that were in camp, especially since you didn't grow up in a predominately Japanese American community?

SY: Yeah, because of the way they spoke. They would speak more Japanese English together, whereas where we lived, we spoke mostly English. And they spoke with a sort of a singsong way, their language was, had a little Japanese and English mixed together. In my days, we would say that it was more of a Japanese slang way of speaking, and it was kind of unusual when we first met them.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.