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

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

<Begin Segment 1>

WP: So today is July 23, 2013. This is Whitney Peterson for Manzanar National Historic Site. We're also here with Kristen Luetkemeier from Manzanar as well, and we're doing an oral history with Sue Yamauchi? Is that how you say that?

SY: Uh-huh.

WP: And also present in the room is Sue's son Victor. And, Sue, do you consent to having this interview recorded and available to the public?

SY: Yes.

WP: So start with an easy question. Can you tell me your birth date?

SY: My birth date is January 11, 1927.

WP: And where were you born?

SY: In Los Angeles.

WP: Were you born in a hospital?

SY: No, no, it was a midwife.

WP: Okay. And can you please state your name for us as well as your maiden name?

SY: My name is Sumiko... Sumiko Nemoto, and I married a Yamauchi.

WP: Okay. And how do you spell your maiden name?

SY: N-E-M-O-T-O.

WP: And how do you spell your married name?

SY: Y-A-M-A-U-C-H-I.

WP: Okay. And can you tell us your father's name?

SY: My father's name is Yajuro Nemoto, and it's spelled Y-A-J-U-R-O.

WP: And do you know what his birth date was or when he was born?

SY: I think his birthday was in March. I can't remember the date. And he was born in Japan in 1898.

WP: Okay. And what was your mother's name?

SY: My mother's name was Rui, R-U-I, Nemoto. And she just died not too long ago, 2005, I think it was. She was a hundred and three when she died.

WP: Wow. So when was her birth date?

SY: Hers was March. I can't remember what day it was. But she was a hundred and three when she died.

WP: Uh-huh, okay. And what part of Japan was your father from?

SY: Fukushima. That's where they had that big tsunami, where they... what was it? The nuclear plants was...

WP: Yeah, just not too long ago.

SY: Yeah, not too long ago.

WP: And was your mother from Japan as well, was she from the same area?

SY: Yes, they were both from the same area.

WP: And what do you know about their lives in Japan, or your grandparents' lives in Japan?

SY: Well, my father's father, during the gold rush, came to America because, I guess, like he says, gold was easy to pick off the street. Of course, it wasn't that way, but he came to America. But in those days, in the late 1800s, you couldn't, America wasn't open for foreigners. And the Japanese just couldn't come into America, so my great grandfather -- and I tell my son this -- was one of the original "wetback." You know what that is. Because he came in from Mexico and came over the border, and that's how he got here into America. And my father came to America to find his father because they hadn't heard from him for a while. And that's how they came to America.

WP: Okay. So your great grandfather just came by himself.

SY: Yeah, he came by himself.

WP: And what about your mother's family in Japan?

SY: My mother -- my father wanted a wife, so he went back home. And he knew my mother's family, so he married her and brought her back to America.

WP: Okay. And so when your father came the first time to find his father, was he successful in that?

SY: Was he what?

WP: Was he successful in that? Did he find his father?

SY: He did find, after... it took him quite a while. Because when my father arrived in America, he arrived in northern part of... was it California? Or maybe it could be Arizona, I mean, Oregon. But he had to come down all the way and work his way down from north because he knew his father would be somewhere here in Los Angeles. And so when he came, finally went to Los Angeles, he went to different places finally, in the meantime working. And I think he was, in those days, they used to have... what do they call? Migrant workers, you know. Like fruit picking, I think that's what he was. He used to pick fruit, so he had to travel wherever the, there were work. And he did finally find my father, his father, I mean. And once he found his father, then he went back to Japan, got my mother, got married, came back. And I think Grandfather got sick, and he lived with us for a while. I was still a little girl, I can't remember that well. I do remember he was there.

WP: So he stayed in the United States?

SY: He never went back.

WP: He never went back?

SY: He never went back.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

WP: So your parents, did they meet for the first time when he went back to Japan?

SY: No, when he went back to Japan, he knew... he had already written, I think, and they said -- I don't know whether this is true or not, but he could have said, "Find me a wife," and the family was there and found him a wife. And they knew each other, and they grew up together in the same town.

WP: Okay. And do you know what year around they came to the United States?

SY: No. I have a sister that is fifty-eight, and I had... and my mother had a miscarriage before that. So you got to figure out it had to be in the very early 1900s, maybe 1920-something. Because I was born in '27, so my sister was born in '25. So it could be '25 or it could have been somewhere in that area.

WP: And where did they settle down?

SY: They found a job in San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles working for, growing flowers. And they were there for quite a while. I think I must have been about five or six years old when we actually moved from San Fernando Valley to the town of Los Angeles.

WP: And did your father have experience in growing flowers, that sort of work, from his family in Japan, or how he get involved in doing that?

SY: I don't think so. I think he just picked it up. It's a way of making a living, you do what you have to do in those days, you know. And then being a foreigner and not being able to speak English, that hindered their way of finding a job. So farming was the best thing for him and my mother.

WP: And so did your mother do farming as well?

SY: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, everybody worked.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

WP: And can you tell me about each of your siblings in order of when they were born?

SY: My sister, like I said, was two years older than I am. And then I had two brothers, younger, Willie and Jimmy. And they were three or four years, Willie was about three or four years younger than I was. So I think my brother Willie had passed away, he lived in Fresno, and he passed away. I still have Jimmy, and Jimmy lives up in Encinitas, he's retired. My sister lives in Encinitas, she's still working.

WP: Wow. What's your sister's name?

SY: Fumi, F-U-M-I-K-O.

WP: And what's your sister like, or what was she like growing up?

SY: Bossy. [Laughs] She got married very young. She got married right away, I'd say about nineteen, eighteen, nineteen years old.

WP: Uh-huh.

SY: I didn't get married until I was twenty-three, so I was able to go out and work. My sister did work a little bit when she was in Chicago, and then she went to Cleveland. But she got married very young and had children. But then later on, they did do some farming, and they grew carnations and chrysanthemums up in Encinitas, and now she's... then she started working at the school district and she's still there.

WP: Can you tell me about your brother Willie and what he was like growing up?

SY: Willie has passed on. He was... I don't know, that was when the computer was just coming in. He's been dead for quite a while. And he used to travel around for a company pertaining to something in that computer thing. Like I said, it was still new yet. And I don't know just what he did at that time. But Jimmy was a farmer, that's my other youngest brother, and he retired. He worked with my mother and father and took over the land and was doing, growing commercial flowers. There's a picture right over there that shows you. I can't get up.

WP: We can look at it later.

SY: Okay. And he worked there growing carnations, and now he's retired and getting fat and sassy. [Laughs]

WP: And what was your relationship with your siblings like before World War II and growing up?

SY: Well, we... like I said, my sister's bossy. And, but we really weren't... we always were kept busy. There was always something that we had to do, and had to be done. And if we didn't do it, then we can go to the movie on Saturdays, you know, that type of thing. Or we couldn't go here, or we couldn't do this or we couldn't do that, you know. And they'd always find something we didn't do. We were constantly busy. I think that was one of the reasons why, when I went to camp, I enjoyed myself. [Laughs] Because my mother went up, in camp she was working in the mess hall, my father was working as, in the mess hall also. And it was, I had more time to myself, and there wasn't that much to do in the house because it was a just little four, five, four room, and there wasn't that much to do. So yeah, I think that's why I enjoyed myself in camp. So camp isn't bad to me. [Laughs]

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

WP: So you said, were you five years old when your family moved?

SY: I was five from San Fernando Valley up into Los Angeles.

WP: And so what did your parents do when they moved to Los Angeles?

SY: They had a flower shop, and they worked in the flower shop.

WP: And so all of... you and your siblings worked out with working in the flower shop?

SY: We helped in the flowers. After we finished school, we came home, there was always things that had to be done. I don't remember time to do nothing. In fact, chores were more important than doing homework. In those days, we didn't have that much homework. I mean, when I see my grandkids, they have homework, jillions of homework, but we didn't have much homework.

WP: And in your household growing up, were you taught Japanese? Did you speak that in the household?

SY: Well, because my mother and father was from Japan, they spoke predominately Japanese. But my mother had to learn English because she had a flower shop, and she had to be able to converse with the customers. So my mother knew more English than my father did. Because my father did most of the work where he didn't do anything pertaining to customers. And my mother used to answer telephone, and she'd, it was amazing, she'd take orders from the telephone and she'd write it in Japanese, you know. [Laughs] And so when we got it, we couldn't read it because it was written in Japanese, so she'd have to translate it to tell us this is what it says on there. I remember that. But my mother did learn English fairly well, because she became an American citizen when she came here to San Diego. And I think I told you, if I had to learn what she had to learn, I wouldn't be able to get my citizenship. [Laughs] It's quite... it's not easy. You have to learn the Congress and the Senate and how many there is and all this stuff. And then the Preamble and all that, and I think, "Oh, god." [Laughs]

WP: So did she teach herself English when she moved to...

SY: No, they had a school. You went to school, it was a person who could understand Japanese, but predominately she spoke English so that that's the way to learn, you know. You don't speak Japanese in order for you to learn English, and I think that's what the problem is today, things are written in Spanish so that those who can't understand, they'll never learn that way. And my mother learned quite a bit of English.

WP: And your father?

SY: My father understood, but he used to say, "Go see Mama." [Laughs] She was the businesswoman in the family.

WP: And so all of the kids, you guys spoke Japanese as well?

SY: No. Once I moved away from my mother, I didn't need Japanese anymore, so you lose it. And then when I got married, I married a Japanese man, but he was not a... he was, I was second generation, my husband was the third generation. So if you see my son, he doesn't know any Japanese other than order something at the Japanese restaurant. [Laughs]

WP: Was that ever difficult for you to communicate with your parents?

SY: No, because my mother understood English. And so I would speak, I guess you could say broken English, or how can I say that? I could speak English and she understood. She was very... how can I say? My mother was pretty smart. If she went to school, she'd probably go way beyond me. But she was very smart, and she was businesswoman-wise, money-wise, she caught on. And she had her own language as to certain words that she couldn't... but she understood. She understood... I can't tell you how much she understood. [Speaking to son] Victor. Vic, how can you say Baachaan? No, no, no. As smart as she is. She was so, she was so smart that it was, it flabbergasted us, because she understood everything.

And she went to -- my father, when the war broke out, and I think I... I don't know if anybody told you, but they froze the bank account that they had. So my father, and this is when the war broke out, he didn't trust banks anymore. So all this time, he didn't want to put any money into the bank account because he felt that, "The government could come and just take it away from me," so he didn't trust the bank. But my mother decided, "In order for me to make money, I've got to invest the money in the bank. And how can I do it?" And she learned this all by herself, by, okay, "In order for me to be able to buy me some property, I have to become an American citizen." So that's why she became an American citizen. And when she came to Encinitas, she had saved enough money to make a down payment on property in Encinitas. And so she was, had to know how to handle the money when you do those kinds of things, you know. And I think to myself, as old as she was, and as little English that she did know, she sure knew a lot.

WP: When you were kids, did you find that you had... sometimes to communicate with your father that you had to go through your mother ever?

SY: Well, a lot of times we didn't go to my father, because his name was "go ask Mama," you know. And so actually, when he said anything, whether it was right or wrong, you had to do what he said. So his... there was no... I didn't have too much communication with my father. It was strictly through my mother.

WP: And did they have contact with their family members in Japan very much?

SY: Yeah, they did after the war more so than before the war. But actually, no, not before the war. They used to write to each other, you know, and my mother used to always write to her mother because she had a mother still living then. And when the war ended and she came back to the United States, she said that first thing she had to do when she got to San Diego, she wanted to go back to Japan to visit with her mother, but she came back home. She said Japan was... at that time, Japan had not recovered from the war, and they were very devastated over there. Well, Japan is an island, they don't have any economy, everything has to be shipped in, oil has to be, steel, aluminum, everything has to come in. And the people that had land was about the only thing they had, so she really felt sorry for her mother, and she used to send a lot of things to her mother.

WP: Did they ever talk about... do you think they missed Japan before the war? Did they talk about going back to Japan or visiting?

SY: My father did. He used to always say, "When I get back to Japan..." and I think... but my mother said, I remember when my mother said, "Japan is gonna lose the war," I think my father just blew his stack. Because he was still wanting, just knew that Japan was gonna win. But my mother said no, Japan wouldn't win.

WP: Was there any discussion between your parents about sending you or any of your siblings back to Japan for schooling at all?

SY: No.

WP: No?

SY: No, never.

WP: They were okay with you guys staying in the United States?

SY: Whether they were or not, I don't... my father was not a person who you could discuss. It was, "No, you can't do it," or, "We are going to do this." So my mother was, went along with that. But when we went to New Jersey, my father had, took care of all the money and the financing and everything. When we went to New Jersey and we were all working in a factory, my mother got a paycheck, and that was the first time she ever was able to handle the money. And from there, she saved her own money and became where she was when she came back. And I think money was... my father was never, he used to wear his money around his stomach. [Laughs] You've heard of the money belt? Yeah, well, that's where he had thousands of dollars. My mother said, "You're crazy." He said, "No, I don't trust the bank." So my mother, in those days, I don't know if you remember, but if you had a savings account, they gave you pretty good interest. If you had it in savings, you didn't touch it. But nowadays they don't do that. And so she knew that you can get money from the little money that I put in, that was money that she didn't have to work for, you know, because the money was making money. And that was the reason why she became an American citizen, because she wanted to buy property so that she can make money.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

WP: Can you tell me about the community that you grew up in in Los Angeles?

SY: Yes. When I went to... when we moved into Los Angeles from San Fernando Valley, the first school I went to was Chevy Chase, and it was predominately Mexican children. And it was... we lived on Los Feliz Boulevard, on one side, and I had to cross Los Feliz Boulevard to go to Chevy Chase elementary school, predominately Mexican. I enjoyed that. But then, the people started moving in, and so they had to divide the people because it was getting too many people in the Mexican elementary school. So they said from Los Feliz Boulevard on this side would have to go to this school. You couldn't, so we couldn't go over to Chevy Chase. And I went to the new school, and I wasn't very happy because I don't know if you know Griffith Park, you've heard of it? Okay. In those days, in 1939, '40s, in that area, that's where all the rich people lived. And it's the rich people that was going to this elementary school, which I felt out of place. I did finish elementary school there, there was no other Japanese people that went to that school. And even when I went to junior high school, there were maybe one or two Japanese families that went to that school, but not very many. So I wasn't really growing -- I didn't grow up with the Japanese. But when I went in the camp, that's when all of a sudden I realized I'm Japanese, you know.

WP: Did you have any best friends or a friend group that you hung out with outside of your family?

SY: Yeah, I did. I went... when I used to go to the junior high school, Washington Irving junior high school, there was a girl named Alice Perez. And we used to always look for each other, we used to have classes together, we used to eat lunch together, we used to, you know, just about do anything. And when the war broke out, we used to eat together before, you see. And so the pressure from school, she said to me, "I can't eat with you anymore. I can't be with you anymore." I think that's when I decided maybe camp is going to be better because I lost my best friend. I still remember her, and I still could remember what she looked like. She was Mexican, and like I said, I always got along real good with them. I often wonder whatever happened to her. That's about the only... that was before the war. Now, after the war, of course, I had a lot of friends then, too.

WP: What kind of activities were you a part of in that community? Were you a part of activities?

SY: No, I was never active. I was one of the followers, never a leader. I had friends, quite a few friends there, but nothing...

WP: Was your family religious at all?

SY: They used to say they were Buddhist, but they never made me go to any Buddhist services because there was none. But I remember we did used to go to, in Glendale we used to go to a Christian church. But religious, no.

WP: And what about your siblings? Were they active in anything in the community?

SY: No.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

WP: So what do you remember about December 7, 1941?

SY: I remember it was Sunday morning, and there were a lot of commotions outside. And there was a newspaper man there hollering, "Extra, extra, read all about it." And I don't think the war affected me as much as when I went to school. To me, the war was over there, it didn't affect me. Like I said, at my age at that time, I was fourteen, fifteen, but we weren't sophisticated like you guys are now. I think kids nowadays know a lot more than I did at that time, because we were held back. We didn't have the television and the computer and all that that you guys have. And the little that we had, we heard from the radio, and that was only if we did all our work, that we could listen to the radio.

WP: What did your parents say about Pearl Harbor? What was their reaction?

SY: My mother was devastated because the neighbor who lived three blocks away, her husband was taken away into prison camp or whatever. Not the camp like we went. The FBI came and just took 'em away. And so my mother was afraid that my father was gonna be taken away, but they never... so we, I think the wife, the lady who her husband was taken right away, she called my mother and told her her husband was taken away. And so my mother said, well, if Papa was going to be taken away, the other mother said that he didn't have anything, he was taken away without any clothes or anything, just what he had in his hand. And so we, my mother was packing a suitcase just in case they came after him. And my remember my mother said, "Hmm, I guess you're not important enough for them to come after you," you know, sort of a joking like. But that was true, they didn't come after my father. I think that was about the only thing that... and then when I went to school and the children ignored me...

WP: Tell me about your first day when you went back to school after Pearl Harbor. What was that like?

SY: Well, I went to school, and everybody walked the other way. Everybody didn't talk to me, I was just kind of isolated. Even the teachers didn't ask me a question. I mean, usually, you know, they'd say, "Raise your hand," she'd say a question and you're supposed to raise your hand if you know the answers. And even if I did raise it, she never even asked me. You know, I was just completely ignored and isolated, and you feel very devastated. I didn't care about the war, I think losing my friend was more devastating than the war was to me at that time.

WP: How did your life change in other ways, do you remember, after Pearl Harbor? Were there any restrictions put on your family, what you were able to do?

SY: No, because we never did travel anywhere. They limited us that you couldn't go beyond certain, away from your house. You couldn't go anywhere because you didn't have any money, because they were already, the bank was closed, and you couldn't touch any of the money. You had to make do with what you had. And so I don't think... I was ready for camp, to tell you the truth. I think I was ready. And they said, well, you don't know what's going to happen once we got there, and that's true, we didn't know. We didn't know whether we were gonna all be together, whether we were going to, what kind of clothes we had. And I remember my mother saying we had to wear our Sunday clothes and put new good shoes on, and then we go up to Manzanar. By the way, do you still have those terrible windstorms?

WP: Oh, yes.

SY: Oh, and I used to think, when the wind was blowing and we had to go all the way up to our mess hall to go eat and walk in that windstorm where the rocks would hit your leg. And in those days, we didn't wear pants, we wore skirts, you know. And then you get dust in your eyes and dust in your nose, oh, you still have that?

WP: Yeah, terrible dust storms.

SY: I guess there's no way you can get away with that out there.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

WP: Do you remember the moment you found out that you were gonna have to leave home and leave the exclusion zone? Or do you remember being told that you were gonna have to leave home?

SY: Well, like I said, I was ready to go. I mean, when they said, well, you were going to... they never came and told us, nobody handcuffed us, nobody came and told us anything. It was all written in the newspaper or mailed to you. So you just talked to the neighbors if they were Japanese and see what are you gonna do or what do you think is gonna happen, and we just went with that. We didn't know what our future was, and they said on certain-certain day your family would wear this little tag with a number on it, and the, I think it was a Greyhound bus, dozens and dozens of them, and you had to go walk down and see where your number matched this bus that you were on. And we were all, fortunately we were all in the same bus. And we were, we kind of knew where Manzanar was, but we didn't know what it was like. And so it was scary in a way, but it was, I was so dumb, it was an adventurous day. We were looking forward to something different.

WP: Were your parents as ready to go as you were, or how did they feel about the situation?

SY: Well, they had no choice, because they were not an American citizen. So they felt that they had, they'd just go along with what the rest of 'em were going to do, and like I said, they were on the telephone talking to each other. And they said, well, what can we do? We just have to go. And, of course, we were underage so we went with my mother and father. And to me, I just felt... wonder what Manzanar's going to be like. And when we got there, we had one of those storms. Oh, god, that was horrible.

WP: Did your family own property?

SY: No. They couldn't because they were not American citizens, and we were all underage so we couldn't own.

WP: What did you do with the things that you did own?

SY: The man, there was a man that came from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and he said that he was, wanted to buy the flower shop. And my mother and father said, whatever is here, the vases, the stand, and all the scissors and all the papers and the refrigerator and all this, you could have it, but let me stay until we go to camp. And if on the day that we go into camp, if you will drive us to the station, Greyhound station or the park or wherever it was. And so that's how we were able to do what we did. We didn't own it, we were just renting, we couldn't take anything. We only have, they said that we can only take one suitcase per person.

WP: Was there any money exchanged between your parents and this man?

SY: I don't think they were. We did run the flower shop, and the man's name was Mr. Waters. And he was there to kind of... I don't think there was any money. We were just lucky that he was going to let us stay there until the very last, because he was already, it was understood by the owner of the building that he was gonna take over and that it was his flower shop, but he let us stay there until the very last. So I think it was sort of an understanding.

WP: I think you mentioned a car that your family owned, right?

SY: My father had just bought an old truck, and I think he did make a few dollars out of that. But in those days you could buy a car for five hundred dollars, you know, or was it even less than that maybe?

WP: Did you have to leave anything behind that you were sad to lose?

SY: Uh-uh.

WP: Was it difficult to decide what to bring and what not to bring?

SY: Yeah, because we only had one suitcase. You didn't know what... you didn't know what the condition was in Manzanar. At the same time, you only had one suitcase, so they did tell us we couldn't take any tools, no guns, no knives, no camera, none of that kind of thing. But that's... in those days, suitcase is not fancy like that. It's a cardboard box, you know. And it didn't have anything... and it was just a cardboard box, you know, nothing fancy, and you couldn't get too much into it. And that's what you took, that's what we took, just the clothes we had.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

WP: I know you talked about this a little bit already, but can you tell me about the day that you left for Manzanar and what that was like?

SY: I think once we got to the Greyhound and we found our Greyhound bus, and then once everything was settled and they started rolling up. Is that what you mean?

WP: Yeah. So Mr. Waters drove you to the...

SY: Mr. Waters drove us over to where the Greyhound buses were. And then from there...

KL: Where was that? Do remember the intersection or was there like a police station?

SY: I can't remember. I can't even remember... I know it was a park. It was lawns and trees and benches and things. But the buses were all lined up there, and I do know that they did mail us this little card, I'm sure you were... and had a number on it, and we had to, with that number, we had to go find our bus, and we walked until we found our bus and then we got on. And we were just lucky that we were all able to get on one bus, I mean, all together. Which was... I think nobody really knew what was going to happen once we got on the bus. We had no idea how Manzanar was. You do know that they had already recruited all the young boys to go to camp before the camp was ready, to prepare us for coming. Did they tell you that?

WP: Uh-huh.

SY: Yeah, okay.

WP: Did you know any of those people?

SY: No, no, we didn't. But they were the ones that organized all the paperwork and probably maybe helping with the building, I have no idea.

WP: Did you know anybody on the bus when you got there?

SY: Yeah, because we were... oh. I think when I was in junior high school, we used to have to go to Japanese school after elementary school, or regular school for a couple of hours. And there were quite a few of those people there at the bus that were on our bus. So when we were on the bus, they had already put... the people who lived around my area were, it was Burbank, Glendale, Los Angeles. I can't remember if there were any more. They were the ones who we were on the bus with in that district, that whole area. And there were quite a few people that I knew family-wise that was on the bus. So when we got into camp, we were kind of neighbors all in that one area.

WP: And what was the bus ride like?

SY: [Laughs] Oh, the buses weren't as luxurious as it is now. If you think it's luxurious, it isn't. It isn't anything fancy right now even, but it was, the seats were hard, and they didn't have any facilities, no bathroom. If you had to use the bathroom, the bus would stop in the bushes and everybody ran out there in the bushes. And I think we were worried about lunch, and they had box lunch which was nice on the way because in those days, you don't go eighty miles. I think it was forty-five, fifty miles going up there, and then I don't know how long it took you, but it took us twice as long. And it was... if it was hard for me, and I was fourteen, you can imagine how it was for the older people. Our seats were hard and no comfort, and the seats didn't go back or forth, you just sat there like this, you know. And the windows wouldn't open, and it was just horrible.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

WP: What was your first impression of Manzanar when you got there?

SY: Dust storm, okay? Does that tell you everything? I remember we said, "We can't see where we are." They said, well you just go, just follow the line, and then you'll go into the building where they sign you up and all this stuff. And it was so dusty you could hardly see. And I thought, wow. Anyway, after they had paper, went through the line doing the paperwork, and then they fed us and we had, I think it was hotdog and piece of bread, and I remember we kind of threw it together. And after that, they said that, "Your suitcase is in the firebreak." Well, you couldn't see the firebreak, the wind was blowing. And they said, "Well, it's in this firebreak between this block." But they said, "You can't go out there and find it because the dust is blowing so hard, but you have to go find your room, and that's more important." But this is the bag that you get, canvas bag, and behind the latrine is the haystack. That was funny. You couldn't keep the bag open long enough to get the hay in. And once you got the hay in your hand, by the time you got it in the bag, the wind was blowing and you just couldn't get much hay in there. You try to get as much as you can.

And then when we got, finally got... and then we had to walk from way down the highway all the way up to Block 17, the wind was blowing, we didn't know where we were going. Everybody was telling, "I think it's this way," and, "I think it's this way." And we finally found it, and then we have to get the bag with the straw in it. And you go into the room and there's nothing but an army cot. And you have to lay this canvas with the hay in it, and that's your mattress. Fortunately they did give us a couple of wool blanket which was nice and warm. We used the one to cover the bed, and used the other to cover ourselves. And we had to actually cover our heads because the wind was blowing so hard, the barrack wasn't finished yet, the wind was blowing in and the dust was coming in. And you walked on the floor, and the floor had openings and the wind was blowing through there, and it was whistling all night. You had the lights going, and searchlights going back and forth in the window, through the window, and you had to hear the jeeps going up and back. It was really a nightmare that first night, and I thought to myself, "Oh my gosh, what are we into?" I think that was the most scary thing there was, was trying to, that first night, everything is very strange anyway. And I think that dust was coming in, and when we got up, our blanket on top was just thick with dust. I don't know, I think... we thought nothing could get any worse than this.

But later on, though, as we progressed, they put linoleum on the floor, and then the dust wouldn't come up anymore. We used to go to the mess hall and get the cans, we used to cut those and cover up the holes on the floor and try to make, do as much as we can with that. And it was a fight. And if you remember in those days, the vegetables and the fruits came in with wooden boxes. They weren't, nowadays it's all cardboard boxes. And so we used to run to the mess hall when the supplies came, because we wanted those boxes because those were the woods that we used to fix some of the barracks with it. And as they were fixing the barracks, they were so busy making barracks that if we lived in Block 17, and the Block 24, they were building it yet. Well, if you run over there, you could always pick up nails and boards and tarpaper and things like that, and you would pick that off the floor, and we used to use that inside our barrack to cover up things that needed to be fixed, you know. And we used rocks for hammer and things like this. It's amazing what a human being can do when you haven't got it. You take it for granted, a hammer, a chisel, a screwdriver, you know. You don't think of it, but you know it's there in your house.

WP: And how did your parents react to that first night being there? Did they talk about their experience?

SY: No. They were going through the same thing we were. They did not complain. It's a funny thing how they didn't complain how the living quarters were or how, what they had to do, what they had. I think we did the complaining and that's probably the reason why they didn't complain. But they didn't complain that much once they got into camp. I mean, you could tell that they were discomfort and all this stuff. But she said that after we got out of camp an everything, she said the best time was in camp. She says, "I didn't have to worry about making money and where my next food was coming from, or clothing, buying clothes for the kids or anything." She said it was one of the easiest living, and nobody had any more than she did, and the food was there, whenever it was, she said it wasn't too bad. In fact, my mother, when she wasn't working in the mess hall, she used to do a lot of needlework.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

WP: This is tape two, and you were going to tell us about this embroidery.

SY: In camp my mother took, when she wasn't working, she was able to learn how to do this embroidery. And she made this in 1944-ish, and the material was ordered from Sears & Roebuck catalog, and also the embroidery. And the panda is supposed to be white, but because of the age, it has darkened. And also the material has gotten darker, too. The picture frame is made from the crate that we used to get from the mess hall, and then we painted it black. My mother painted it black so as to preserve some of the wood. As you can see, it's very delicate, and I don't know how long it's gonna last, but I hope it's gonna last a lot longer so I can pass it on to my kids.


WP: Do you know of any other examples of things that you or your family made when you were at Manzanar?

SY: Yeah. My father... well, after a while, the back gate was open where the cemetery was. And so people used to go out there and dig in the mountain, in the desert, whatever you call it. And used to dig these roots up, I think they're manzanitas, and they used to create... I've got one right there.


SY: And then they polish it up. Have you seen these? They used to do that all over the...

WP: I'm not sure I've seen one from Manzanar.

SY: This is the branch, and this is the roots, and they... I don't know how, and they clean it up, and it kind of makes it, I don't know. And they used to do this, lot of 'em used to make things like this out of it.

WP: Did your father make that?

SY: My father made this.

WP: From Manzanar?

SY: Yeah.

WP: Wow.

SY: Have you ever dug out there and saw these roots like this?

WP: I have not.

SY: It's out there. [Laughs]

WP: It's amazing. Did he make a lot of those?

SY: Yeah. We had, oh, my mother had about four or five laying on the table there. And when she passed away, I cleaned her... I sorted out all of here things, and I thought, well, I'll just bring a few things. So I brought that picture and this one, and those are the two that I just brought.

WP: Did they make anything else?

SY: Well, my father didn't. My father was, used to make tofu in Manzanar. Which was very unusual because in those days, I knew tofu but nobody else did. And the Japanese people loved it because they were able to, soya beans, you could make soya sauce out of it, and you made tofu out of it. And we enjoyed that very much, a little Oriental food in those days was very rare.

KL: Where did he do that? Where did he make the tofu?

SY: They had a little building. You know, remember they used to have recreation hall in camp besides the barracks?

KL: The recreation hall?

SY: Yeah.

KL: Uh-huh.

SY: Well, one of those buildings, they just converted into...

KL: Tofu factory?

SY: Tofu factory. And they were able to make tofu for all the mess halls. Not all at once. And they were, we had a chicken farm, our eggs came from the chicken farm. We had chicken for our stir fry, and I think we had a pig farm. Did we have a pig farm? Somehow I think of a pig farm, yeah. And I remember that came out, and we were able to grow a lot of our vegetables out there. Food was never a problem that I know of.

WP: Do you think your family had more access to tofu than other families because your father worked in the tofu factory?

SY: No, because he... no. Because he made it, he didn't have control over it. Because no matter what you did, you were still under the government, you were in camp. And whatever you made like tofu, because they had to grow the soya beans, the farmers grew the soya beans and brought it over, too, to make the tofu. Not that we could eat that much tofu anyway.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 12>

WP: Do you remember the block manager's office?

SY: Yes.

WP: Did you go there?

SY: Always.

WP: Always?

SY: Well, we had to because our mail came from there. We had to pick up our mail. If you wanted to buy a newspaper, or the Sears & Roebuck, Sears & Roebuck, Montgomery Ward, Spiegel, there was another book that we could buy our things from. And before, at the very beginning, they used to, we could order, it would come to our house, but then there were too many people, so they just sent so many. And each block office had these catalogs, and if we wanted to buy something, we had to go to the catalog. Another thing, you're not going to believe this. Paper was very hard. Paper was hard to get. And at that time, at the very beginning, nobody had paper, because we didn't think paper... you kind of take things for granted. And we didn't have... and so if you wanted to write a letter to somebody, I didn't have any paper, but we used to go to the bathroom and used to write letters on toilet paper. After a while, there were no more toilet paper in the toilet, and people were saying, "Hey, we need more toilet paper in the toilet." And they said, "Well, we can't because we can't seem to keep it full. Everybody steals it." Well, we didn't have Kleenex, toilet paper works good. And so they decided, okay, we were assigned, if there are six people -- no, each person is entitled to so many toilet roll. [Laughs] So each month, the toilet supply, toilet paper supply would come to the block office and we'd have to go and go get it. And that's the story of my toilet paper. [Laughs] You know, it sounds kind of whatchacallit, but you know, you can't live without toilet paper.

WP: Did you ever send letters to anybody on the --

SY: Yes, I did. Oh, yeah.

WP: Did they know that they were getting letters on toilet paper?

SY: Oh, well, you know, toilet paper, I don't care where you go, they're all alike. Yeah, they knew. And in those days, you know our toilet paper now? It tears, and it's not... you can't write on it. But in those days, it was hard. It was like this only a little bit thinner. And so you could write on it, and the ink wouldn't run, or the pencil would tear, and it wrote good, so you could write on it. You can't do it nowadays, the toilet paper has changed. It's modernized, it's softer. [Laughs]

WP: Who did you write to from Manzanar?

SY: I used to write to, there was a lot of people in camp when you were eighteen and older, you could leave. Well, you could leave whenever you wanted to. But a lot of them would leave as soon as they were of age because they felt they didn't want to be in the camp. Nobody wanted to be in camp unless you had to stay there, and I had to stay there because I was still in school. But in those days, lot of 'em went, so if your friend, like my sister was in Chicago, because she graduated in '43 and she left camp in '44. So we used to write letters back and forth. And then our friends would move, family-wise, you know, they had some friends where they could go to, but yeah, I wrote. And some of 'em says, "What is this toilet paper?" [Laughs]

WP: Do you remember going to the block manager's office for any other reasons besides the mail or using the catalogs?

SY: No.

WP: Do you remember who your block manager was of Block 17?

SY: No. I mean, to this day, I can't remember. But he lived right behind his office, so I can't remember who it was.

WP: And so your father worked in the tofu factory...

SY: Well, he was, he worked in the mess hall first as a dishwasher. And then when the tofu opened up, he applied for it and got into it. And this, that DVD that I've had, it shows a picture of him making tofu. I don't know if you've ever seen that Manzanar...

WP: Is the film that we have...

SY: I have no idea. It's right there.

WP: Yeah, how about we look at it after?

SY: My DVD broke, so...

WP: So he worked in the mess hall and tofu factory. Did he have any other jobs at Manzanar?

SY: Well, then my mother worked in the mess hall, and she worked in the cleaning and the serving. And then when my sister was there, she was already graduated, and she worked as a... they call it dietician, but it isn't. She prepared food for the babies, the bottle, puree the food, you know, that kind of thing.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

WP: So did your family eat together, or it must have been difficult with your schedules.

SY: When we went into camp at the very first, we teenagers went wild. We'd run all over the place. You know how big Manzanar was. And so the mother got very, mother and fathers got very worried, because the kids were gone early in the morning. But you can go, no matter where you were, you can go to any mess hall to eat, you know. Or some of the kids would go to so-and-so block, because that chef can create food, whereas our chef prepared food and it was bland or it wasn't fancy or anything. So everybody was running every which way. Well the mess hall that had the better cook had more people in there, so therefore the people who lived in that block complained. Because when I got into getting my food, there wasn't anything left. So then the block manager got these complaints, mothers were complaining, "Our kids are running wild, we don't know where they are." And so they had come to the conclusion, you have to eat at your own mess hall, and you have to eat at a certain table that you're assigned to, so the family would eat together. And that took the fun out of everything.


SY: And so if you wanted to eat, for instance, if you were working out in the pig farm and you couldn't get to your own mess hall, then you could, you had to get an okay from this mess hall to say, "I'm going to eat at your mess hall," otherwise you couldn't eat there.

WP: Did you ever prepare food in your barracks apartment?

SY: We used to get the Sears & Roebuck in the back section, you know, where all the candies and everything were, and we used to get the candy, the flour, the sugar, we used to order those through the catalog, and we used to create this cake that we used to bake over the stove. Not the stove, the heater that we had. And yeah, we tried. We used to make these little cupcakes, we didn't have anything to put it into, but we put it on a metal... and it'd come out, this cupcake would turn out to be like a pancake, a small one, and it tasted good. [Laughs]

WP: So you made it on the oil stove?

SY: No. It's an oil stove, but we had this metal, like a pie plate type of a thing.

WP: Like a hotplate?

SY: It wasn't quite... it was a metal, and you just put it over that heater, and then, like I said, we didn't have any... so when you poured it, you poured it and it came out to be a pancake like, but it was good.

WP: Did you order anything else from the catalogs?

SY: Well, you know, four dollars a month don't go very far. [Laughs] Because there are certain things that you have to buy. Like my mother used to say, "Okay, you've got four dollars, you've got to buy your own toothpaste," you know, bobby pins, in those days you had to buy shampoo, whatever, those necessary things. So that four dollars didn't go very far, but we made do. It wasn't that bad.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

WP: So tell me about the job that you did during high school.

SY: I was, it says on the piece of paper, file clerk. No, clerk typist or something. Anyway, I was a file clerk. It was a welfare department, and the case workers would come and take their file out of the cabinet, and then they would place it on top of the file. And after school, then I would go in there and get those files and put it alphabetically back into the drawer, and that was my job for four dollars a month. Which was pretty good because it gave me money to spend.

WP: Do you remember any of the people you worked for or worked with in the office?

SY: No. Because being a welfare, they were in and out most of the time. Actually, there were no boss there, you know. They would complain, somebody would come in and say, "What happened to my so-and-so case? It's not alphabetically in there," or something of this sort, but there was nobody that really told me what to do.

WP: What was school like at Manzanar?

SY: Like any other school. Oh, have you heard about Mr. Greenley?

WP: I don't think I have, no.

SY: The blind man?

WP: Actually, I have heard about... there was a blind teacher, right?

SY: Yes.

WP: I haven't heard any specific stories about him, but I know of him.

SY: He was pretty smart, very alert. He could hear things that you couldn't hear, or we take for granted. He was well-liked. You couldn't sneak anything past him, he was pretty alert. But he knew that dictionary like... it's amazing how much knowledge he had without reading, you know. I had him for... I can't remember what I had him for, but I was in his class. And you'd think you can slip past him, but he was pretty alert. He was another person that, like Mr. Frizzell, you remember because he was so... and you know, we had a five-year reunion, and he was there at our reunion in Los Angeles, which I was surprised. And you know, it was amazing how many names he remembered. I mean, you're blind, but I guess he had quite a memory.

WP: And tell me about Mr. Frizzell.

SY: Mr. Frizzell, he was one of us. He was... he spent more time in camp than he did with the other teachers that he worked with. He got involved with people who played instrument, music instrument, he got them all together and got a little band going. He used to get glee clubs and he used to do a lot of the programming. I remember when we had, when President Roosevelt had died, we had a memorial service. And as I understand that, he had, was there to get the program going, you know, with the music and all this stuff. He was there at the baseball games, he was there at the dances, and he not only was there at the dance, he used to dance with the kids. And he was very well-liked. And he's, to this day, if you mention Louis Frizzell, everybody has a big smile, and I'm sure you heard a lot of stories about him. He came to visit us in Seabrook Farms because he knew there were quite a few Japanese from Manzanar was there, and he spent the day there. We had a lot of fun just hashing over the good times there. That was when he was playing in New York on a Broadway show, I don't know which one it was, but that's what he said.

WP: Do you remember any other teachers that you had?

SY: I think those two are the ones that -- oh, yes, the vice principal. [Laughs] She was Mrs. Potts, Potter or Potts, something like that. And you could not put anything past her because she was teaching in Japan, I don't know what she was teaching. She was teaching in Japan, and they said that they were told, they told her that if she wanted not to get caught in a war, that she should come back to the United States. And she took the job as a vice principal at our school. And let's say you got sick and you had to have a written, from the home saying that you were sick, she says, "If your mother and father cannot write English, it can be done in Japanese because I could read it." You couldn't put anything... so if you skipped the class, you were not there, and you had to go see her, she was there to discipline you. She was another... she didn't teach class, but I remember... and then I remember when I was in Philadelphia and we ran into her. And she pointed, she tapped me on the shoulder and she says, "Weren't you in Manzanar?" and I looked at her and I thought, "Oh my god." [Laughs] I'm in the same town as her. But I remember her, yes, she was very... everybody will remember her because you couldn't put nothing past her. And then if you had a, if you were extra bad, and she had to go talk to the parents, she could talk Japanese. So there was no way you can get away.

WP: What were your classrooms like?

SY: It was in the barrack, hot in the summer, hotter than Hades, oh, I remember that. And there were no two chairs alike. I think what they did was they probably went to a warehouse and took any chairs that were there, and they would put it in the classroom. So there were certain chairs that when you went into the class, unless you were assigned a certain place to sit, you always looked for the good seat, you know, which was always taken ahead of time. Most of the boys would take care of it. And that's about the only thing I could tell you about the room.

WP: Were you involved in other school activities?

SY: Uh-uh.

WP: Were you involved in just other social activities that were going on in Manzanar?

SY: I think I belonged to a club. I was looking through my box there, and I came across a picture of about eight or ten of us, with a picture. And it said in the back, we were called "Funster" or something like this. So evidently I did, but nothing to pinpoint.

WP: Were you involved in any of the music that was going on with Louis Frizzell?

SY: No, no.

WP: And you mentioned that sometimes people go to the recreation halls and play music there?

SY: Oh, yeah. Each block had a recreation hall. During the day, weekdays, it would be a elementary school or whatever. And then in the weekend, it would turn to be a recreation hall, and you could go in there and play, there was a ping pong table, you could play ping pong, you could play backgammon. One of the things that was real popular was Monopoly, and everybody loved Monopoly. You couldn't get to play Monopoly, because that was the first game that was taken. But there were times when we would, somebody would bring the turntable, and we would play our music, and that's where a lot of us learned to do jitterbug, you know. That was a lot of fun, because lot of activities. And then they would have a certain, like, for instance, my mother learned how to do the, they called it shishu, I call it embroidery, and they would have it in the recreation hall. So that recreation hall was very well-used.

WP: Did you play any sports?

SY: No.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

WP: And what was your social life like there?

SY: Not much, other than going to the recreation hall on weekends. During the summer we had outdoor movies, that was fun. Going to the baseball games, when it really got to become quite a bit... at the beginning it started out, this group of people got together and starting hitting balls, then next thing you knew, they made a baseball team. And then another team would come up, and before you know it, near the end, we had quite a league. They would pass out bulletin as to when certain game was playing, and we would go out and root for them. Buddhist church would have their annual Bon Odori as they called the festival, and that was always fun. That was about the size of recreation.

WP: Did you go to dances?

SY: When I could. [Laughs] I used to enjoy dancing. So I think jitterbug was the thing, you know, and that was... because it had a lot of movement, you know, and that was really fun. And as far as slow music, it wasn't, not too many people went for it. Well, yeah, they did. There were more people who could do slow dancing, not too many could do jitterbug. But I used to enjoy doing jitterbug because, I don't know, little bit more movement, and that was fun.

WP: Was there a group of people your age that you hung out with a lot, or did you have some specific friends that you spent a lot of time with?

SY: Well, I used to have a girlfriend that was in the same block as where I lived. But nothing... well, no, I had another girlfriend who also graduated school with me, and I used to go visit with her even after we left camp. She used to... I don't know if you know Toyo Miyatake, she married the son, and he had a studio in Los Angeles, and I used to go visit them once in a while.

WP: What was your friend's name?

SY: Take. Oh, do you know who she is?

WP: Archie?

SY: Archie, yeah. Father was Toyo Miyatake. Take and I graduated together.

WP: So do you remember him taking photographs?

SY: Well, he took a picture of my senior picture, and he took quite a bit of the other pictures, too, because he was the photographer. In fact, he was the one, the father, I should say, Toyo Miyatake, not Archie. Toyo Miyatake is the one that was, showed the photographer in the annual.

WP: Ansel Adams?

SY: Yeah. He was the one that showed him around the camp. And Toyo Miyatake, in turn, is a very well-known in his day, but Archie had two sons who was equally, I don't know if you've ever heard...

WP: Alan and Gary?

SY: I can't remember what the name was, but one of 'em worked for the Life Magazine. You know which one that is, Life Magazine?

WP: Yeah, I know Life Magazine. So two of Archie's, or one of Archie's sons?

SY: I don't know if they're both, but they're all photographers.

WP: Yeah, and the studio's still in Los Angeles.

SY: Yes, it is. Archie still has it, I don't know if the son's taken over. I think it's, by now, I think it would be the son.

WP: I think Alan does a lot of work with the studio currently in Los Angeles. Did you go to any religious services, or did your family?

SY: The guy who taught me... well, no. When we used to have at the recreation hall, this one guy was real good jitterbugger, and he was the one that taught me a lot of the steps. But he was also a piano player, and so he... there weren't that many pianos there, and the only way he could practice on piano was to go up to the Buddhist church. Or Block 17 and Buddhist church is not too far from there, and he had to walk up towards... and so he used to stop by, because not every place would, knew how to jitterbug, and he had the rhythm because he knew how to play piano, I think that's what it is. And so everybody liked to have him come over to the recreation hall and teach, so I learned from him. And so I decided, okay, my mother's Buddhist, my father's Buddhist, I think I'll go to the Buddhist church. And I did go to Buddhist church, but not because of the religion.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

WP: And you mentioned that your mom took some classes at Manzanar.

SY: Yeah, that one there.

WP: Uh-huh. Did she take any other kinds of classes, or do other activities?

SY: I think... well, she didn't have that many time on her hands. I think that was about the only thing that she did in camp, most of the time she did that.

WP: And what about your father?

SY: My father used to go up in the mountain and go get those woods, dig up those woods. But then there were a group of men that did that, you know, they'd go out to the, out of camp after, and go dig for wood, they'd bring it back.

WP: How did he get out of camp?

SY: The gate was open. At the beginning, you know, listen, you know those watchtowers? The mothers got together and they said, they went to the block, "You've got to do something with those towers. Nobody in there, and we found out the kids are up there messing up." You've got to take something, tear it down or something. I think it was about six months after we got into camp, we noticed there's nobody up there. The searchlights weren't going up there. And at the beginning, the jeep used to go all around the camp. First they were in and out of the camp, you know, they quit that. They were driving around the camp, you didn't see that. The weeds were growing up, so you know the jeeps weren't going. And we were all by ourselves there and nobody... and then they put the cemetery out there, and that's outside the gate. You can go out the gate. I remember when my girlfriend and I said, "Let's go climb up the mountain." And so we said, "Okay." So we said, well, we got to get lunch, so we went to the mess hall. And we told the cook we need a lunch for tomorrow because we're going to go up to the mountains. So the man says, After breakfast, come and get your lunch, we'll have it ready for you." So after breakfast my girlfriend and I started walking up the mountain. You know, when you're down there looking up, the foot of the mountain, it doesn't look very far. Ever try walking back? Yeah, well.

WP: Much too far, I think.

SY: It's further than you think. And so we started out. And you know, it's beautiful, you see these little animals and lizards and squirrels or rabbits, and creatures, the water running no matter where you go, you are always by water. You got hot, you can always drink water there. And there was lots to see, and you're walking. Nobody, in those days, people didn't have watches, only the rich people had watches, so we didn't have watches. So we walked and we walked, and we thought, oh, it must be lunchtime. And when you're up there, the sound travels, you know, it travels up. You can hear the bell ringing for the mess hall, oh, it must be lunchtime. We'd sit and we'd eat our lunch, and then we'd walk on. And so we thought, oh, gosh, let's go back. So we started walking. We didn't realize how long we walked up there, because by the time we got back into the camp, it was black, it was dark. And as we were walking by, I had to walk by the mess hall, I saw all these people out there. And we were wondering, oh, something must have happened here. So I'd go inside the house and my mother, madder than hell, said, "Where have you been? We heard you went up to the mountain? How come?" And I got bawled out, and they said to go back to the mess hall. They're getting the search party ready. [Laughs] Boy, did I get it that day. Anyway, and everybody knew about that we were gone, but we didn't know what time it was. And when we decided to come back, it must have about two or three o'clock, because we were hiking up there. We couldn't even get up halfway, you could still the see the foot of the mountains, you know, halfway there.

WP: So you didn't tell your parents that you were gonna plan on doing that?

SY: No, we didn't. We thought we'd be back by dinnertime. But we didn't know, like I said, we didn't have a watch so we didn't know.

WP: Were you nervous at all about going that far beyond Manzanar?

SY: No, because you're up there, you could still see camp, so you're never lost.

WP: And you didn't need any sort of permit or something to leave?

SY: No. You had to let the chef know that you're gonna be gone for lunch, and they would pack you a lunch, that's all we knew, that's all we did.

WP: Did you do any other excursions around the area?

SY: No, after that we did there. [Laughs] Because the whole block knew we were gone. And you had to stand in line every morning, noon and night for, to eat, and everybody knew what you had done the day before, you know. It just, oh, god, what have I done? And that was a big sin, you know, that I did. But other men have gone up, and they would pack, they would go overnight. So there was no restriction as far as getting out of camp. Nobody tried to run, nobody tried to escape.

WP: Did your father ever, was he gone a long time when he went out?

SY: No, he was always back when it was dinnertime.

WP: Did your parents have any sort of rules for you and your siblings at Manzanar?

SY: Oh, plenty. [Laughs]

WP: Uh-huh, what were those?

SY: Well, you have to do all your... it was, before camp we had to do the laundry, the house had to be clean. The laundry, if there was ironing to do, all these stuff, the sheets have to be changed, you know, all these things, they had to be done. And if you didn't, you couldn't go to the dance, or you couldn't go to see the outdoor movie, or you couldn't do this or you couldn't do that. You always wanted to have everything done so that if somebody came and said, "Let's go," you were able to go, is my motto.

WP: Did you ever get in trouble with your parents besides that one excursion you made?

SY: Oh, I'm pretty sure I did. Nothing major, though.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

WP: And so you graduated from high school at Manzanar?

SY: Yeah. I graduated in June, and then we left in June, the latter part of June the same year. But then they already told us they were going to close camp, and that was the last, we were the last class that was gonna graduate, and then school was gonna close.

WP: Did you have ideas of what you wanted to do after high school? No interests or any subjects that...

SY: I was, I think I was looking forward to seeing what New Jersey was going to look like you know, which was a shock.

WP: Did you have a lot of contacts with the administrative staff? What about he military police who worked at Manzanar or manned the guard towers there?

SY: We very seldom saw each other. Never saw them, I mean, from a distance. And near the end of the camp, you never saw them unless you went all the way to the front gate where that tower was, and there's always one, somebody in the patrol. And then if you looked that way, you could see the soldiers marching or walking around. That's about it, and they never came in. Everything was run by ourselves; the whole came was run by ourselves, governed by ourselves. And the only representative we had was the block manager who used to, I guess, have a meeting here one a month or once a week, I have no idea, you know, they hashed these things over, what needs to be done or what different problems. If there was any problem in our block, it was always the block manager we went to. So it was up to him to decide what to do at the general meeting or whatever. And that was with Mr. Ralph P. Merritt.

WP: What do you remember about Ralph Merritt?

SY: Very seldom that I would see him, very seldom. Not that I wanted to see him, I had nothing to do with him, but we just never saw him.

WP: Was there tension in camp?

SY: No.

WP: No?

SY: Well, what kind of tension?

WP: Was there political tension between different organizations?

SY: No. If there was, I wasn't aware of it. I don't think there was.

WP: Do you remember the Manzanar Riot is what many people call that?

SY: Okay. You know, yes, I remember the riot, and it wasn't where I lived, it was down further near... and it started out with... okay, let's really get... when they had the riot, it was in the Los Angeles Times saying that we were trying to break out and all this bad stuff. And then, because I didn't know anything about it, and I only knew what I heard, so I assume, okay, maybe somebody tried and they were trying... and then later on, there was a piece of... Manzanar had a newspaper, Free Press or something like this, I can't remember what it was.

WP: The Manzanar Free Press.

SY: Yeah. It used to come out, what, once a month or or once a week or something. And there was a little cartoon picture, and it showed two guys, editorial, it was a little editorial, and it said this guy is beating this other guy, this other friend is over there, he's beaten up. This one friend says, "What are we fighting for?" and that's what it was. Somebody had... by the way, do you still have the apple orchard out there?

WP: Yeah, we do.

SY: Okay. The apple orchard, what we did was a bunch of bachelors went out there and picked the pear, there were pear orchard, too, right? They used to pick the pear orchard and the apple orchard and take it to their barrack and make wine. Somebody heard about it, and they wanted some of that, and they weren't gonna give it away, and so that's where the riot went. And actually, once the riot started, like, oh, so-and-so's fighting, let's go over there and see what's going on, and they get into it. So when you see that cartoon, it is true, what are we fighting for? They didn't know what they were doing. So the newspaper said that we were trying to break out and cause trouble and all this stuff, and they took some of the men out of camp, I can't remember what it was. So I have no idea whatever came of the story. What do they say right now?

WP: So two men were killed in the Manzanar Riot that happened in December of 1942.

SY: Something like that.

WP: And similar, in the Los Angeles Times newspaper, it was told to many people that it was on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, there's been a lot of debate that that wasn't really the case. And there's been a lot of debate as to why the riot happened, the reasoning for it happening. A lot of people talk about conflict over sugar rations...

SY: We didn't have any sugar ration. [Laughs] Well, now wait, yes, we did. Okay, go ahead.

WP: Or, no, feel free... what were you going to say about sugar?

SY: Well, I remember sugar. the only way you can get sugar was drinking coffee with your milk. And so I used to always say, "Could I have my sugar in my little cup?" and I would save that sugar. Because you're allowed one teaspoon for your coffee. But instead of my coffee, I used to get it in my... and I would save it. And then I would order a cake mix out of the catalog, and I'd use that sugar to make my cake. And so, yes, there was sort of a ration, I guess, but I don't remember ever having a riot over that. They told me that it was because of the apple being, they were making wine.

WP: And I know another aspect people talk about is the conflict between political organizations that were organized around the Kibei and Nisei and how there were a lot of these divides between generational...

SY: Well, the Kibeis were, as you know, born here and raised in Japan, and came back. And there were quite a few of 'em, but they were bachelors, most of 'em were bachelors. I think that's where the argument really started. I do know... the Isseis, they were all married and had kids, so I don't remember them having any animosity towards politics other than my father, he said, "I'm going back to Japan." But he wasn't going to stand there and reach over the head because you weren't gonna go, or whatever. But I don't remember... of course there were a lot of people who were diehard, they were... Japan was gonna win and all this stuff, which is, they're right. I don't know if you ever saw Allegiance. Did you hear about it?

WP: I haven't seen it. I heard a little bit about it.

SY: Well, they came to San Diego, and they were very good. And the thing that I liked about it was they told both sides. Not about the Japanese that were American, but the Japanese that was for Japan, and the Kibeis and all this. And it kind of explains to you what the problem was, which I was very glad that they told both sides of it, because I don't want ugly stuff covered with fancy frosting, you know, to make it look good. The truth came out, and I enjoyed that very much. And I guess that's the reason why it did very well here in San Diego. It was sold out play, musical, that's what it was. But, so at my age, I didn't think politics entered into it. You know, be misplaced here and there, but in a way, it wasn't that bad. I didn't like back east, but I didn't go, and I'm glad I didn't.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

WP: Do you remember any discussion about the draft when you were at Manzanar? I know you had...

SY: Oh, they were drafting in camp.

WP: Uh-huh, could you tell me about that?

SY: And then there was a lot of 'em near the end, a lot of my classmates, the menfolks, were drafted, yeah. Which was not... I mean, it wasn't unusual, they were doing it from the very beginning, and they were all sent to 442nd Battalion in, where was it, in the south somewhere.

WP: And you had mentioned earlier that your sister might have a very different perspective of what life was like at Manzanar, and did she have friends that were drafted or that went into the 442?

SY: Oh, I'm sure she did, yeah.

WP: And what were your feelings on the draft?

SY: You know, there was no... there was no ugliness going into camp. I mean, it was uncomfortable, I could complain about my bed here, just like I did when I was in camp. Politically and everything else, we just never did express our opinion as far as politically. We hated the wind and the dust, but that has nothing to do with... I didn't hate the United States. I didn't... I think if I had to go to Japan, I know my girlfriend did, one of my friends, not my girlfriend. She was in the same block as I was, and her mother and father decided that they didn't want to stay here in America, so they went to Tule Lake. Tule Lake, she went back to Japan. And she did write me right after the war. And she told me how miserable it was because of the living conditions, what they didn't have or what they couldn't have, how they were discriminated because, "You came back and now we have to divide the little that we have with you." She said it was not, it was not good. But I never did want to go anywhere anyway. I mean, where can I go? I can't speak, I'm afraid that they'll ship me somewhere because I don't know how the Constitution works. [Laughs]

WP: What was your family's experience with the "loyalty questionnaire"?

SY: Well, my father said... my mother said, "I am going to stay with my kids." My father said, "I want to go back to Japan." So my mother said, "Okay, you can go, you're free to do what you want." Because he was always saying, "I want to go back to Japan." He used to always say when we were growing up, "When we go back to Japan," you know. And I used to hate to hear that because I didn't think I'd be comfortable there. But my mother said, if you want to go, so near the end, he thought, "Well, I don't want to go by myself," so he did stay. But that's where our loyalty is.

WP: I'm trying to... were you old enough to fill out the "loyalty questionnaire," did you answer that?

SY: Yes, yes.

WP: And so you answered yes.

SY: I said "yes-yes."

WP: And what about your sister, did she feel differently?

SY: Well, see, she was an American citizen, so, you know, we were all American citizens, so regardless... it was only if because you were underage that you couldn't, you couldn't say no, because, and go to Japan if the parents weren't there to... I mean, she couldn't stay here without her parent because she was of the age. But she was already in Chicago. It was me and my two brothers, and we decided no.

WP: Do you remember the process of actually filling out the "loyalty questionnaire"?

SY: No. It was very simple.

WP: Uh-huh. Did you have to have an interview with anybody?

SY: No.

WP: No?

SY: I mean, the neighbors, you know. "What are you gonna do?" kind of a thing. Or, "What did they do," kind of a thing.


WP: And so these conversations that the neighbors were having, was there conflict between people because of how they felt about how they should answer the questions?

SY: No, because it was your choice no matter... nobody tried to talk us out of it or into it or anything. It was your choice to choose whatever you thought was right.

WP: And so your parents debated about it a lot, or how did your mom convince...

SY: No, no. My father was a very definite, "We're going there," we went there. Everything was black and white, there was no discussion. So when my mother and my father said he was gonna say "no-no," my mother said, "Okay. I am staying with the children," that was it. So it was up to him. If he wanted to stay, if he wanted to go, there was no argument.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

WP: What were your impressions of the physical landscape?

SY: Physical... meaning I hated the walk. Especially when we, you were in school and you had to walk all the way up the hill to the mess hall. And that's bad enough as it is in the summer, but when that wind is blowing, you have to walk to and then back. That was miserable, you couldn't stop by the other mess halls to eat because you were assigned to a certain table. I don't think... at the beginning you hated the idea of having to use a community bathroom, but after a while, you get used to it. And at the beginning, I didn't like it because everything in the bathroom was open. There was no stall or a toilet seat, I think that was the... but you know, after you lived there, and like I said, if you fight it, it becomes irritating. But if you accept it, you know, that's the way it is. And they're not going to do anything about it, okay, so be it, is how most of the people were. There were some people that had these little things where they hammer it up and they hooked up the sheet that came down, you know. But after a while I thought, "How ridiculous." If you had to take a shower and put all these little curtains around you, everybody's standing naked, you get used to it. In fact, when I came here and I was taking swimming lessons over here at the Plunge, you know, it's an open stall, everybody takes a shower and nobody's trying to hide anything. Yours may be a little bigger than mine, but it's okay. [Laughs] You get along.

WP: So you were at Manzanar a fairly long time, 'til June of 1945. In what ways did Manzanar change over time physically, but also as a community?

SY: As a community, more active things were happening. You were more familiar with this, familiar with the different people you met, different people, you had different interests. When you were in school, there's always something going on. And I was never active in any of the... but I was there to participate. And actually, camp wasn't all that bad. I can't really complain. If somebody was getting more than me, I think I would have complained, but nobody got anything more than I did.

WP: Is there a certain event or memory or person that you haven't talked about from your experience at Manzanar that sticks out in your mind?

SY: Uh-uh.

WP: And so your sister left camp before the rest of your family. Where did she go?

SY: She went to Chicago.

WP: And what made her decide to go to Chicago?

SY: Because there were, all the young kids her age were going, you know. And if you had the money go to, you can go. You just couldn't go back to Los Angeles, because there was an area from the ocean to inland so many miles, you couldn't go back to. And beyond that you can go. You can always go to Chicago, you can go to Denver, you can go to Arizona. But certain, on the coast, I think, they had an area where you could not go at that time. But later on it opened up and anybody could go anywhere, if you could find somewhere to go. And in those days, Los Angeles was one of the bigger cities were a lot of people from the country went to the big cities to get bigger, better jobs. So therefore we had nowhere to go, unless you had a friend or you owned the property, and we didn't.

WP: What did your sister do in Chicago?

SY: She worked the candies. Remember Baby Ruth, Butterfinger, she worked in that company. She used to always say about sugar, all the sugar she could have, you know. [Laughs] Because we were so rationed in the camp.

WP: Yeah, that must have been a nice place to work after the war and no access to sugar.

SY: Well, I often wonder where they got the sugar because it was so rationed. They tell me that in Los Angeles you couldn't buy any canned food because, unless you had a ration ticket or stamp or something. So since we were, we didn't have that problem, we don't know what it feels like to have to buy a can of tomato, and you ran out of tickets, so then you couldn't buy any more.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

WP: And so when did the rest of your family, when did you leave?

SY: We, soon after I graduated high school that June, we left. But I just graduated high school, so the five of us left for New Jersey.

WP: And where exactly did you go?

SY: Seabrook Farms.

WP: And why did you choose to go there?

SY: Because Seabrook Farm would pay our way from Manzanar all the way to New Jersey, and they would have housing for us, which was horrible. We wanted to come back to camp.

WP: So what were your expectations?

SY: Well, when they say a bungalow, in those days, bungalow is not a bad word. If somebody said it looked like a shack, then you know it was really bad, but it was worse than a shack when we got there. The doors wouldn't close, we had to pick the door up and fit it in. The house was leaning, and you had to push against the wall in order to get the door in. The windows were all, the windows were, the glasses were broken, and it was just really...

WP: What were your feelings about leaving camp?

SY: Happy, adventurous. I'm gonna go get to see another part of the United States. Yeah, I was looking forward to it. My mother and father, my mother was looking forward to it because she said we have a place to sleep, we're gonna have food, and she was looking forward to it. Then we got there.

WP: Did you have, or did you or your parents have any concerns about leaving, hesitations?

SY: No, because there were a group of us going. We weren't the only ones going. It was a trainload full.

WP: Yeah, so what was your trip like to New Jersey?

SY: Well, the war was still on, and there were a lot of things that you couldn't get. And I remember when it came to the train, in order to get food, you had certain minutes to run into the snack bar to buy something. Because if you bought it on the train, it cost you twice as much, and things like that. But you know, you make do with what you have to do.

WP: How long did it take you, do you remember?

SY: I think it took us about five days. There were no airplanes then, I mean, there was no flight to New Jersey, it was all train. And we left New Jersey, I mean, we left camp and went to Los Angeles, caught a train, and went to Chicago and transferred into another train and got onto a train going to Philadelphia. And then from Philadelphia, Seabrook had a bus and took us to south Jersey.

WP: What was the experience like to be outside of Manzanar after being there for so long?

SY: Confusing, because I had never been on a... I had been on a bus, but I'd never been on a train, it's the first time for train. And then you see all these strange people coming in and out, in and out. And those days, train did not go through scenic route. Train went through the back alley, the dirty side of the city. That's where the warehouses were, the slums area, and all this stuff. So you didn't have a pretty scenic view. But nowadays, you know, you can take a train ride and have a beautiful vacation. But they didn't have it those says. And then the seat was all wood, there was no padding. And five days on a train with no padding.

WP: And you were traveling with other Japanese Americans?

SY: Well, yeah. Well, there were other people on the train. Because in those days, you didn't, you weren't assigned seats, first come, first serve.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

WP: What was your first impression of Seabrook Farms when you got there?

SY: Horrible, horrible. I didn't know poor people. I thought I was the poor people. I couldn't believe the poor people. And people live that way, and it was really hard to understand that. Because I didn't realize that the South were as bad as it was, and I thought to myself we were poor, but we always had food on the table, we always were able to take a bath, we were able to get educated. We had our Sunday clothes, we had our school clothes. It just... we were flabbergasted. They had no manners, some of those people. There were... first, I think what I had to get used to was that if you were, in my days we called it Negro, and those, nowadays you call it African American. So if I say Negro, and I always get corrected by my family, it isn't Negro anymore. But the Negroes were treated so badly because I thought I was being treated bad because I was Japanese in Los Angeles. But when you have to live that way during the... where they had to go through the back door, they couldn't use the certain restaurant, you couldn't do this, you couldn't do that, okay, that was the Negroes. And then you get the white people from the mountains, and they had lived up there in the mountains, they had no sanitation, no education, no manners. It was, and they worked, and Seabrook hired them because he couldn't hire the good workers, because they had already gone to Chicago. And they had to hire these people to get work to pick the crops, to process the food. And to have to work with them, it was very hard. And they were not educated, they couldn't read, they couldn't write. They wrote X when they paid, got their paycheck, they would write an X instead of name. It was eye-opening, I guess you could say. And that's how all of a sudden I felt rich. It's hard. I don't think it's that way anymore, but in those days, that's how it was.

WP: What did Seabrook Farms do?

SY: They grew their own vegetables, they grew their, they packed it and they froze it, and they packed it for big companies like Birds Eye, Pickwick, and they also made the vegetables for, packed vegetables for Campbell's soup. It was a big, in New Jersey in the south, I swear, he owned more property there. And so the closest store you could go to once you were in Seabrook, you had to take a bus for forty-five minutes to an hour to go into town. So therefore, when you're stuck in New Jersey in the Seabrook Farm, you're stuck. Because you're working six days a week, and the only time you had a day off was Sunday, and that was if you got off work at... you worked eleven hours a day. And when you got off at night, you were dead tired. You were dirty, anyway, because you were working with food constantly. And you couldn't go into town because the bus didn't run at night. So you were really stuck in New Jersey. So when they said you could eat at the cafeteria and they have a dry goods store, and you could buy all your dry goods store, and you didn't have to pay for it because we would take it out of your paycheck. So when your paycheck came, if you had anything left, you learn not to eat dessert at the cafeteria because it cost you too much. And you didn't order two entrees, you ordered one entree. You know, when you're walking down all you can eat place, okay, a little of this. Well, when you're in Seabrook and you do that, it cost you a lot of money. So you learn how not to eat, and conserve. And you try not to buy things at the dry goods because it's twice, cost you twice as much.

And they have you coming and going in Seabrook, until he started losing... and then the war ended. And he had to send all these Southern, the people who lived up in the mountains, and all the Negroes who came from Jamaica, they had to ship 'em back. And so they were left with the Japanese, and they wanted to hold on to the Japanese because they were workers and they lived there, and they were always on time. And not only that, but Seabrook depended on the Japanese people to take over the office. The office was completely run by Japanese staff, because they could read, they could write. And not only that, but they became foremen and they became supervisors. But Seabrook found out that they were moving away to Philadelphia, things like that. And he found out that the reason why was he had us in prison there because everything was sky high. And so he decided he had to do something, so he started building homes and saying you could rent these homes. And he kept it fairly reasonable, because he didn't want to lose the Japanese. And so as of today, Seabrook Farm has a community of Japanese in Seabrook that did stay. And I guess they stayed with the farm 'til they closed. I hear it's not a farm anymore. But yeah, that's why my mother says, "You've got to get out of here, this is not where you're supposed to be."

So after I graduated in June, I worked when I first got there. And then in the wintertime, nothing is growing, and so you're laid off, and you're on unemployment and my mother says, "I have to stay here because I can't speak English very well. I can't go to Philadelphia and find a job." And so I went to Philly and I went to school, and later on I went to New York. And my mother stayed until 1950 when my oldest, my oldest brother graduated high school and then they moved back here.

WP: What was your housing like at Seabrook Farms?

SY: Terrible, terrible. Even a pig should live there, it was so horrible. The floor was, when it rained, there would be a crack, and the water would run down the hill, see, and it goes. And where you have a crack, the water would seep out. It was terrible, it was terrible.

WP: How would you compare it to the barracks in Manzanar?

SY: Oh, the barrack in Manzanar was like the Hilton hotel compared to... it was horrible.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

KP: Was housing and labor segregated at Seabrook Farms?

SY: It was at the beginning.

KP: And that changed?

SY: Oh, yes. They were... at first we were all, except for the Negroes, they had their own table because they couldn't work with the whites. They had their own table. But they mixed us in with the women that lived in Bridgeton, New Jersey, and they were mostly older women or handicapped women that used to work there, because most of the handicapped people, or people who were young, went for better jobs. So when we went in, we worked with the white people, so to speak. But they gave us two different wages. There was the Negro who had their own wage, and the Japanese had their own wage, and the white people had their own wages. The white, they got the most money, and we got the next one. And then, of course, the Negroes. Okay, so they had taken a survey saying the white people, they're older people, they're handicapped people, they're not young, but they're steady workers, okay. The Japanese people, they're young. "We need the young ones to run it." Of course, these are migrant workers. So if they left, there were no biggie. So the housing was so bad, nobody wanted to live in those houses. And if they didn't, wasn't gonna do anything, a lot of them, like my mother and father, they did stay.

But later on, after I left, they had a bungalow where the migrant workers lived, and they turned that into an apartment and my mother lived there. It had a little kitchen and two bedrooms. And so my brother lived in one section and my and father lived in the other. And they lived there, and it was, it had a little kitchen, so they were able to not have to eat in the cafeteria or have to buy. And so when, Sunday, Bridgeton, New Jersey, closed. So everything was dead there, the only thing was the church was going on, and you couldn't buy anything. And so nobody liked the idea of having to work on Sunday. So Saturday night after work, everybody caught the bus, and they would go to town. And you knew exactly when the bus was gonna come back, and catch the bus coming back. Well, that limited to your spending time, too, but that was okay.

Anyway, going back to Seabrook Farm, they had to get somebody into the office because the office was running by just a handful, and they were older women, and they were slower, whatever. So they started recruiting the Japanese in the office, the office started taking, they practically took over the whole office. In fact, it was just the whole office. And I thought, oh, maybe I should go in there. But I got into the office, and I didn't, they had me in as timekeeper, and I didn't like that. So I went back into the production, and by then they had one table strictly for Japanese. And that was the group that did the Birds Eye, because the Birds Eye were the most... oh, should I say, the most... they demanded the best. Not only quality-wise, it had to be packed right, it had to be exactly the same amount, weighed, everything had to be perfect as far as Seabrook. And if you lost your Seabrook, I mean, Birds Eye, that was like cutting your throat because that was where the money was coming in.

WP: What is the Birds Eye?

SY: Birds Eye frozen foods, okay. They were the best. They got the best money. And then came the Pickwick. So the Pickwick's, the other tables got it. And then they had trouble with the Negro table because they would be gone away from the table, and nobody was able to continue packing the food. And the machine is going constantly, and if you can't catch it, by the end, it doesn't weigh right, it's got leaves in it, you know, things like this. The box is broken. So then they tried to get the Negro people mixed in with the rest, and that didn't work out because the Japanese had to redo a lot of the packing because they were working on the Birds Eye, and they didn't want to lose the Birds Eye. And it was a chaotic mess. In fact, they had to put a time table, time machine, checkout machine, so that if you went out into the bathroom, you had to check out. And when you came out, you checked in again, and that's how bad it was.

WP: What was Pickwick?

SY: Pickwick.

WP: And what is that?

SY: That's a frozen food company.

WP: Okay, so Birds Eye and Pickwick are frozen food companies?

SY: Uh-huh. They had about four or five different companies. And it all depending on what company you were packing for, it was a paper that you had to change, because it was paper that said Pickwick, Birds Eye, Seabrook Farm.

WP: Did these different groups of people interact socially, outside of work ever?

SY: No, because you were so damn tired by the time you were... it's eleven hours' work every day for six days.

WP: So there was no social life?

SY: No, there is no social life.

WP: Were there any recreational activities or community...

SY: Well, kids did have recreation, I guess. I never did. You just didn't have time. You were dead tired when you finished working there. Because the production is constant. It's not... it's not... you had to keep going, because this machine goes, and you have to move with the machine. And they don't stop that machine unless the machine breaks. So you're constantly going and going, and so when you have one person going into the bathroom, you really have to work twice as hard to keep up with, to make up for that one last person. Because nothing stops until...

WP: What did your parents do there?

SY: She did the same thing, packing. Packing and sorting and things like this.

WP: And your father?

SY: My father was the one that did the loading of the food. There's a great big machine up there, and there's boxes full of, let's say, peas. And it's frozen because frozen peas works easier than a fresh pea because fresh peas would jam up the machine. Whereas a frozen one is hard, so it would freeze the machine and break it up. And once that machine breaks, then that whole table is sitting there doing nothing. So they don't like that, and they have a certain limit to how long it should take to get that order fixed or whatever it is.

WP: How did they feel about being there? What was their impression of Seabrook Farms?

SY: Of who?

WP: Your parents.

SY: My parents? They were very happy because they were getting paid. And they didn't have to worry about speaking English. But when the wintertime came, they didn't have any work, so therefore that's when my mother learned how to become an American citizen.

WP: And did your younger brothers go to school, was there a school there that they attended?

SY: My brother went to school there in Seabrook, uh-huh. They had a school there.

WP: One of your brothers would have been getting to the age he would have graduated, right? Or was he old enough to work at all at Seabrook Farms?

SY: No, he never worked at Seabrook. Because he graduated high school in 1950 and they came back here.

WP: How would you say you were treated by the company officials?

SY: As a whole, individually, I mean, I was a nobody to him, because he was a big company. As a whole, I was, we were very well respected by Seabrook company because we were good workers, and we were the strength behind the company. Because he couldn't survive, he couldn't survive without us, because it was going from bad to worse when we got there.

WP: And what was the transition like from life at Manzanar to life at Seabrook Farms? Was it a difficult adjustment?

SY: [Laughs] Well, when we were in camp, we didn't have to work very hard. But by golly, when we went to Seabrook, did we work. We worked, because you had to, you couldn't work on your speed, you had to work on their speed, because the machine was working, and you had to keep up with the machine. And it wasn't only you, but it was the whole assembly line that had to keep up with it. It was my first real job, other than the file clerk, and it was... it was a learning experience. But I don't think I noticed other people like I did when I lived in Seabrook Farms because I was not, I was not familiar. If you remember, in Los Angeles, there weren't any, in fact, colored folks there. There weren't. It was very unusual. When I went to, I mean, like I said, I grew up with Mexicans. But the Mexican people are very family-oriented, but not the people in the Deep South.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

WP: So when did you leave New Jersey?

SY: I left in that... '46, 1946.

WP: And what made you decide to leave?

SY: My mother said, "This is not where you're gonna stay, you've got to go. This is not for you."

WP: And where did you go?

SY: So a bunch, there were, other mothers were saying the same thing and they said, "Go to Philadelphia." So I went to Philadelphia, and I went to school there. I went to a beauty school there. I only went there because three other girls were going there, so I said, okay, I'll go along. I went to beauty school there, and then once we finished that school, which was nine months, then they said they were going to go to New York. And I said, okay, I'll go to New York, and I worked there until 1949. And I came back, and they came back to San Diego.

WP: What was the community like you lived in in Philadelphia?

SY: War had ended, and lot of the soldiers and the people were coming back from overseas, and houses were, apartments, or anything, anyplace where you... you couldn't find anyplace because they were all coming back. And if you were a ex-Navy or soldier, they had priority. So therefore when we got there, there was only one place I can go, and I said I would work for my room and board. And I lived with a Jewish family in Philadelphia. The husband was a lawyer, and I lived there all during the time I was going into beauty school. They had two children, and I took care of the children. They were old enough, they were in regular elementary school. I took care of their breakfast and see to it that they got off to school, and then I'd come home and they would come home, and I would take care, help them with their homework and see to it that they did their chores. And I did my chores, too, and then I'd read to them.

WP: Did you get along well with the family?

SY: Yeah, I got along very well. They were very business-like, he was, anyway, being a lawyer, I guess he was. Yeah, she was very friendly. I got to learn how the Jewish people live. See, people never did affect me like when I was growing up. And I think when I went back east, things were completely different. People are different.

WP: Did you ever experience any prejudice?

SY: Oh, yeah. But you know, if you walk away, or not ignore, but kind of walk away, eventually, at the beginning it hurted, but after a while, you learn to just shrug your shoulder and say, okay. But later on it was sure... differently. I was telling my son today... when I went to New York, I was looking for a job, and I went from beauty shop to beauty shop. And, "Are you Japanese?" I said, "Yes." "Well, you know..." okay, and I'd walk out. And I'd go to another place, and I'd get the same thing. And I went into this one beauty shop. She was very nice, she wasn't... Betty was her name, Betty Rae. And she said, "Are you Japanese?" And I said, "You know, I've been walking," and I said, "Yes, I'm Japanese, and I guess that's the reason why I don't get hired." And I says, "I've been walking all over." I guess by then I was just practically on tears, like. And so there's a man who's standing on the corner in the same beauty shop, he was standing in the corner and he was kind of listening to me, big guy. And he said, "Betty, could I see you a minute?" So she got up and she went over there. And she came back a few minutes later and she said, "He told me I should hire you. But I want you to understand, if I get any problem in losing customer because you're Japanese, I am gonna have to let you go." I said, "I promise you I will do my best. Whatever you want me to do, I will try and do the best I can." And I left there and I thought to myself... and then when I started working there, I noticed the man she talked to, he was the one that said to her, "Hire her." Well, I found out he was German from Germany with a very strict German accent. And I guess he felt I'm being prejudiced because of the war, and she's going through the same thing, give her a chance. And I stayed there until I quit working there. Yeah, I think he did that. He spoke with a very German accent, that was the reason why I knew. But I think that was the reason why I got the job.

WP: Do you remember his name?

SY: Werner Schleigel.

WP: That's a very German name.

SY: It's a very German name, right.

WP: Did you get to know him well?

SY: No, he was a guy who you never talked. You never... "good morning," "goodbye," he didn't say too much.

WP: And what was he doing at the beauty parlor?

SY: I think... well, I think they weren't married, but they were a couple. I think he's the one that set her up as a beauty operator, I mean, at the beauty shop, I think. But you don't ask, because I think it was personal, so I never did ask.

WP: And did you ever have any experiences when working there about you being Japanese or confrontations with people?

SY: No. There were eight of us working there. And so, and there were... there was another German man working there, but he was an American. There were two Italians, one was sort of Swedish or whatever, and we all got along real good.

WP: The other women that you went to New York with, were they Japanese American as well?

SY: Uh-huh.

WP: Did they have similar experiences?

SY: I don't know. I image they would. When you look this way, there's no way you can hide it at that time, anyway.

WP: And did you all live together?

SY: No. They all found room and board work, because they couldn't find room, and they had to stay somewhere. So we all found... and it was nice because we lived in the servants quarter, we had our own bathroom, and all you did was do what you had to do if you were at home, wash the dishes, take care of the kids, pick up. I didn't get paid, I just lived there and took care of the kids. And then on Saturdays I did do some cleaning in the children's house, room, putting things away.

WP: Was this in New York?

SY: This was in Philadelphia. And also I went to New York and I also did the same thing there.

WP: What was the community like when you lived in New York?

SY: [Laughs] Very expensive, dressy, after all, he was a lawyer. They lived in a nice home. And then when I lived in New York, I worked for another couple who had two children. And he was a pathologist and she was a doctor and lived on Park Avenue. You know what a Park Avenue is, right? It's like La Jolla, very fancy, very nice. So I lived in a very, in a very protected area, you know. Because there's a lot of... big cities have more bad crimes than they do in smaller cities.

WP: During this period after World War II, did your parents or your family have contact with family in Japan?

SY: Yeah. Like I said, she went to Japan because her mother was still alive. She did come in contact with them, she used to always prepare, I guess you call it care package. Aspirin was one of the things they wanted so badly. Shoes was another thing they couldn't buy, and things like this that she used to send. But other than that...

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

WP: So you eventually moved back to the West Coast. What year was that?

SY: '49.

WP: And what brought you back there?

SY: Because I didn't like back east.

WP: What didn't you like about it?

SY: I didn't like... I didn't like the weather. I didn't like the... when I finally found a place to live, it was in a ghetto area. And you had to be very careful when you lived there, you didn't go out at night, you didn't come home at night. During the day, you had to be very careful even in the daytime. And it's... when you live in a big city like that, the crime is big. It was more so... when I came to San Diego, there were crimes, but not, and I wasn't living in the best area, but it was a neighborhood, you know, and we got together with neighbors and got to know people and things like this. It was more of a homey thing. But back there, you didn't even know your neighbor if you lived in an apartment.

WP: And so you settled in San Diego when you came back?

SY: I've lived here ever since.

WP: In this neighborhood?

SY: No. I lived in... well, it's called Logan Heights where right now it is not a good area. But my children were raised and graduated from high school from there.

WP: And what made you decide to move here?

SY: Because I was robbed a couple of times in my house, broken in. And he made me.

WP: And why did you choose San Diego of all the places in the West Coast?

SY: Because my mother was gonna come back here, my parents was gonna come back here.

WP: And when did they come back?

SY: They came back in 1950. I came back in '49.

WP: And your sister, was your sister here, too, at the time?

SY: She lived in Chicago, and then she went to Cleveland, and then she came back here first, found a job for my mother and father, and that's the reason why. But I came because my sister was here.

WP: And how did your parents get here?

SY: My brother had graduated high school, they bought a car and drove back here.

WP: Had Seabrook Farms changed since you left?

SY: It's not there anymore.

WP: Or when your parents were still there, did their experiences improve at all?

SY: It has improved living quarters-wise. And no, she said that she liked her job once they got a better living quarter and they could depend on... now they had a car, so they could go to Bridgeton without having to wait for the bus, which makes it a lot of difference. 'Cause you get over there in half hour, whereas on the bus it took you forty-five to an hour.

WP: And what did you do when you came to San Diego?

SY: I got a job here right away.

WP: What was your job?

SY: Hairdresser.

WP: And have you done that...

SY: I did that for twenty-five years. And the lady that I was working for, which was right here, not too far on Broadway here, I worked there for over ten years. And her husband had died, and he owned a nursery, plant nursery, and she was putting it up for sale. So my husband and I bought it, but I was still working for her. But my husband said that he needed somebody to help him at the nursery, but he couldn't pay anybody to do it. So I quit my job as a beauty operator and went to work for over there. And I was in the nursery business for over twenty-five years.

WP: And when did you meet your husband?

SY: When I came to San Diego. The Buddhist church had a dance, yeah, that's it, and I went to it.

WP: And when were you married?

SY: The year after.

WP: And how would, what did your parents do when they came to San Diego?

SY: Well, they had a job working, growing carnations and chrysanthemum, because that's what they were doing before the war, when they were living in San Fernando Valley.

WP: And did they do that later into their life?

SY: Yeah, and then like I said, my mother, she started buying property. And Encinitas was known for growing flowers, and so they went, she bought property and grew flowers until she retired.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

WP: So did your parents go back and visit Japan?

SY: Yes, yes.

WP: When did they do that?

SY: I can't... my mother went back about two or three times. Because she went the first time, and then she went back the second time because she thought maybe she was, might not be able to see her again if she wasted any more time, so she did go back. And then she went back a couple more times after that.

WP: And did you ever meet your family, any family you had in Japan?

SY: No. Well, some of them did come to visit, but I wouldn't know them if they walked into my room and said hello, I wouldn't know them. I know only the ones that I have here in San Diego.

WP: And can you tell me more about your mother later in life and her getting her citizenship?

SY: My mother lived a very comfortable life. I think she lived... she did these things, and this was her hobby, her, the thing she enjoyed doing the most. And my mother was getting of age where you get to a certain age, you can't buy anything for an old lady. I'm getting there. And so I thought to myself, okay, I am going to enter some of these pictures at the Delmar Fair, which is going on now. And I entered it, and she got a best of show. This one is one of the best of show. This one I think she got a blue ribbon.

WP: This embroidery here of the rooster, she won for that?

SY: She won best of show on this one. And she's won about four or five best of show, which is very unusual. In fact, the year, the last year, which she was one hundred, her eyes were bad, she couldn't... her hands were arthritis, and so she decided she wasn't going to do it anymore, and not only that, it was bothering her shoulders, her arms, so she quit doing that. And the Delmar Fair people called my mother and said, "You didn't enter anything in the fair this year." And I got to thinking, isn't that amazing? Because I used to put her things in every year for about twenty years. And the year she quit, they called my mother, and my mother says she was so delighted that they called her, she was tickled pink at that. But she won her last best of show at the age of a hundred, and my son's got it. I don't know if you know what a kabuki is. It's a... they have a story. It's a story that is like Mikado or Shakespeare, it's been around for a long time, and it's this man who is dressed like a lion. And she made this picture because it is so... and she won a blue ribbon on that one. Not only blue ribbon, she won a best of show. And I think she was very happy because she figured at a hundred, to get something like that, was very... she enjoyed life very much. I think a lot more because she didn't let things get, bother her like I thought it did. He probably is still saying, "God damn," because everything was not right, you know. But my mother just kind of said, okay, if that's not the way it's supposed to be, I'll do it this way. And I think you live, not only longer, but you live happier that way.

WP: What made her decide to get her citizenship?

SY: Because she knew that if she got her American citizenship, she can go out and buy property, and that's what she did. She had quite a bit of property up in Encinitas. She had one, two, three... three or four, something like that.

WP: How did she get involved with real estate or buying property?

SY: Well, see, he's in real estate. If you saw her, you would think no way would she understand, but she did. But you know what? When she died, well, before she died, she said, "There is no place in the whole world that you could live in a country like me and survive as well as I did." That's how much she had more faith in America, that this is a wonderful... there is no other place she could survive as well, and it is.

WP: How did your father feel about that?

SY: No, I think he still, like I said, "God damn." [Laughs] No, he's always been very negative, I think. So he could. Maybe he's not there, I don't know. His outlook in life was very not good, very angry. I don't know why he was that way.

WP: And do you think he ever regretted not having your family in Japan, not going back there?

SY: I don't think so. He would probably choke himself if he said that, because he was always right. Because he doesn't make mistakes.

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

<Begin Segment 26>

WP: And so they were living during the redress.

SY: Yes.

WP: What did they feel, what did they think about that?

SY: Well, like I said, my mother said, "No, I'm going to stay with my children." And my father said he wanted to go back to Japan. So my mother said, "If you want to go, go." He didn't; he stayed here. But nobody questioned him as to why he changed his mind.

WP: And so the redress in the late 1980s where there was the official apology that was given to everybody --

SY: I got mine. I got mine.

WP: What was your response to that?

SY: Well, you know, I went to a Kiwanis meeting, and they wanted to, they wanted me to talk about Manzanar. So when it came to question and answer, somebody came up and stood up and said, "As I understand that, you got some money from the government," and how did I feel about it? And I said, "If somebody gives me, no, if the government sends me twenty thousand dollars tax free, what would you do?" There was no more question on that. [Laughs] Yeah. It's a funny thing, though, my mother and father didn't get it because they were not American citizens. It was just the American citizens, I'm pretty sure. I don't remember my mother saying she got one.

WP: Yeah, my understanding was that it was everybody who was directly affected.

SY: I can't remember my mother ever saying whether she got twenty thousand. All I know is I got mine.

WP: Do you remember their response to you...

SY: Yes. I can't remember who it was. Was it George Bush?

WP: Reagan.

SY: Oh, was it Reagan? I have the letter and the apology.

WP: What was that?

KL: The apology came from George Herbert Walker Bush.

WP: Oh, okay.

SY: It was during that era, yeah.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

WP: And so looking back, how did your experiences at Manzanar, how did your experiences at Manzanar, how do you think that shaped the rest of your life?

SY: It didn't make me ugly; I have no bad feelings. I don't... I just, it was a life in, something that happened in my life, and life is not a bowl of cherries. You've got ups and downs, and I look at it that way. It doesn't upset me, it doesn't make me angry. I have no animosity. I think of it as I had fun, I do.

WP: What was it like to go back to Manzanar?

SY: Brought me good memories; it brought me good memories. I had fun there, even when I got bawled out for climbing the mountain. [Laughs]

WP: Sounds like a fun adventure.

SY: Yes, even though I got bawled out, still, it was fun. I had fun going up there anyway, you know. Until I got home and I got bawled out. [Laughs]

WP: Have you talked about, it sounds like you've talked about your experiences at Manzanar with your children and grandchildren?

SY: It's amazing that they were interested and they were teaching it in school. And I went to my grandson, my very first grandson, and I went to my second grandson and my granddaughter when they were in elementary school to talk about Manzanar there. And I was surprised that they were teaching such... because I don't think I even talked to him about Manzanar until the kids got involved. And we started going fishing and what else? Going to Lake Tahoe for skiing. I went because, not skiing, but I went because I was looking after my granddaughter because she was still small, and the rest of them went skiing. So I went up there, and then we stopped by Manzanar. And I always remember Independence, isn't there a place where they sell beef jerky?

WP: There is... not in Independence, or there could have been at some point in time.

SY: We used to always stop. "Oh, there it is, stop, stop, stop."

WP: Yeah, I think south of Independence and south of Lone Pine, I think there's a beef jerky stand that sells beef jerky. And I've never stopped, I've always wanted to.

SY: I remember that. "Oh, look, look, look, here it is." [Laughs]

WP: Yeah, I'll have to stop on our way back.

SY: Tell 'em that I remembered 'em.

WP: So did your grandchildren or children find out about Manzanar without knowing that you had been there, or how did that come to light?

SY: I have no idea. I don't know whether... I do know that they studied it at school. I can't answer that, which is which. All I know is they did study it at school.

KL: Do you remember what their response was they learned that you had been involved?

SY: How did I respond?

KL: How did your children respond when they learned that --

SY: Oh, they thought it was wonderful that I knew about it, I guess. Because they were the one that eagerly got me going over there. Either that, or my son and daughter-in-law. But they're the one that, I mean, the schoolteacher didn't know I was in there. I don't know if the kids did or not.

WP: And so if somebody were to listen to this interview a hundred years from now, what would you want them to remember about your life?

SY: Well, that something like this will never happen to them. But it's all in how you accept it when it's happening, whether it could be a tragedy or not. I mean, it's not a fun thing that we had to go into camp, but it's not, it's how you accept it, is what I feel, that's why I enjoyed it. I feel, that's why I enjoyed it. I think my father didn't enjoy it because he made it so, and I made myself enjoy it. And I think my mother, even to this day, if she was alive, she said, "Yeah, I'll go back to camp." She says, "That was the easiest thing I ever did in my life. I didn't have to care about anything."

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

WP: Do you have anything to add?

KL: I have short ones, they're like what were the names of... well, the first one, actually, I wondered, your father's father came to this country during the gold rush, you said, and he stayed. I wonder what happened to his, to your father's mother. Was she still living when...

SY: She lived in Japan and died. She probably was... I have no idea. I didn't know my great grandfather... no, that would be my grandfather. I didn't know him, because when I did see him, he was sick, and my mother was taking care of him. And I can't remember... all I know is we were, had to be quiet and not go into his room to disturb him. And so even more so, I didn't get to know him because of that.

KL: Where was your parents' flower shop in Los Angeles and what was it called?

SY: It was called... hmm. Country Florist. Country Florist, that's it. It was in the corner, I mean, it was on Los Feliz Boulevard, it's a very busy street. And the reason why is because the bus stopped right in front of our flower shop. And when they were selling newspaper, it was always that corner. It wasn't across the street corner, it was a corner where flower shop was.

KL: Was it close to your house?

SY: We lived in the back.

KL: What was the street address, do you remember? Or the intersection with another major street?

SY: No, I can't remember that. I remember there was a Van de Kamp bakery, store across the street, but that doesn't give you anything. You know what a Van de Kamp is?

KL: I've heard of it as a canning operation, but not as a bakery.

SY: No, Van de Kamp -- yeah, that's right, there is a pork and beans Van de Kamp. Van de Kamp is a bakery owned by, I guess, Swedish or Danish, they used to sell Danish pastries.

KL: You had some neighbors in Los Angeles whose, the father, the husband was arrested by the FBI? What was that family's name?

SY: Takechi, T-A-K-E-C-H-I.

KL: Do you remember the parents or the children's first names?

SY: I know the children. The children was, Harry was the son, Teruko was the next one, T-E-R-U-K-O, and what was the last one? I can't think of that one.

KL: Your father's financial assets were frozen in a bank. When did that occur and how did you find out about it?

SY: When you go to the bank and you can't... well, rumors, too. If it happened to you, it happened to me, if you were Japanese. You'd get on the phone and say, "I can't get no money out of the bank, it's frozen. What about you?" you know, that kind of thing. And then, too, lot of people, if you were eighteen, you could put your asset into the eighteen person's. But if you were underage, you couldn't. And so that was where my mother and father, my oldest sister was sixteen or something like that. So she wasn't, they couldn't put anything into her name. And so this was discussed over phones, too, you know. "Oh, we'll put it in Harry's name because he's eighteen years old." But we didn't have that. And property, too, what are you gonna do with your property?

KL: So did your dad actually lose his bank accounts or was he able to draw...

SY: Oh, no, he got it back when it was unfrozen. But it wasn't unfrozen until after the war.

KL: So it was gone for several years, he couldn't access that.

SY: Well, all during the time they were in camp until '46, I guess. I have no idea when it was unfrozen.

KL: Do you have any idea where his account was, what bank he banked with?

SY: Oh, no.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

KL: Oh, you said that when you arrived at Manzanar you remember you remember your apartment was unfinished.

SY: All the buildings were unfinished.

KL: Could you describe unfinished? Like was there a roof, or was there...

SY: Oh, okay, okay. [Laughs] Yes, there were roof, there was a floor, there were windows. And but the windows were hammered into the wall, because they were not on the sliding thing, okay. So the wind was so strong that it loosened the nails, it got that strong. And it would rattle real bad. The ceiling had no... we had the roof, of course, it was just that black tarp. And if you poked a hole in, you had a hole. There was no way you could seal that. The wall was all black tar with the main post that was holding it, and the tar. And so if you poked a hole into that black tar, it was outside. So it took a while for them, because people were coming as quick as they could. They had to get the building at least partially built, like the roof, the floor, the walls, and then they would move on to the next to build that. Then we came and we lived in there, and slowly they started fixing the apartment, like putting linoleum on and fixing the windows so it could slide, putting the, what do you call that, that white stuff?

KL: Not plaster, but that sheet rock?

SY: Yeah, and they put that on the sides, so therefore we were insulated to a certain point. And then later on, they put in a big potbelly stove, and we all had a stove in there to keep us warm. 'Cause, you know, it gets pretty cold there at night.

KL: Do you remember the name of your mother's embroidery teacher who taught her?

SY: No. They had so many classes there. After a while it was... once they got going, there was no end to it.

KL: You said you worked in the welfare department. I wonder if you ever ran into a woman named Viola Martinez who was an Owens Valley Paiute woman who was in her early twenties?

SY: No.

KL: What about any other Paiute people?

SY: I don't even know if there were any Paiute...

KL: Or Indian people?

SY: No, not that I know of.

KL: What did the welfare department do?

SY: Well, we had an orphanage, you know. I guess you knew that. The Catholic church took care of that, I think, the nuns.

KL: And the welfare department had a relationship --

SY: Well, that was connected to the welfare department where I worked, and each one had their own little pile or whatever, linoleum. Linoleum, file case.

KL: Did it help people who were trying to get counseling to leave the camp, too? Was that part of what...

SY: No, I don't think so. I don't think so.

KL: So it was more like watching out for neglect or...

SY: It was the welfare of what was going on inside the camp. I think when they said the camp was going to close, they did have a big bulletin, one ad looking for a couple to take care of the service in the house and the landscape or whatever. There was a lot of that. And then there were a lot of... but they would only take a certain, you and your husband, they didn't want any children. We had three, there were three of us, so Seabrook was the only one that we noticed. They would pay our way and feed us, and it sounded good.

KL: Did the welfare department post those ads?

SY: No, no. It could have been a completely different section.

KL: Do you remember... this was a woman who taught physical education, and I think she was also the advisor for the Funsters, someone named Elaine Cleary? She was a Caucasian woman, twenty-two or three.

SY: No. Would she be in my annual?

KL: Maybe. We can look later. I heard that name, the Funsters, and I that was her club, but I'm not sure.

SY: I was wondering that, Funster. That name... was that our name of our club or not? Wee Funster, does that ring a bell?

KL: There was a club called the Funsters, a girl's club.

SY: Okay, all right.

KL: The Miyatake family is important to the history of Manzanar, so I wondered if you would just speak for a couple more minutes about your memories of both Archie and Take, like what their personalities were like, what you remember of them, you were friends with Take, so kind of what you thought of Archie at first.

SY: But, see, they weren't going around. We knew him, they knew us, the Miyatakes, but they weren't going around at that time. She was in my class, he was, Archie was a class above us. But we knew each other, but they weren't going around. And it was after camp that I found out she was going around with him.

KL: Did you think it was a good call?

SY: I thought it was a good call, yeah. Of course, we all thought that he was a good pick. [Laughs] You know, because it was a well-established family, and well-known and well-liked. I don't know, everybody respected him, everybody knew him.

KL: What about, you know, you mentioned it was exciting to be around so many boys. Were there any particular crushes that you had in Manzanar?

SY: No, it wasn't so much the crush, as a boy, it was, "I want to go to that. I want to go to senior prom." I can't go with just anybody because my mother wouldn't let me go with just anybody, they had to know the family. So there was this guy who I told you that we used to teach, to go to the Buddhist church. His mother worked with my mother, so I figured if I can get him to ask me to go to the senior prom, I'm going to go to senior prom. And the funny thing was, I was looking through my annual, my book, and I came across all my little high school things. And I saved, not that he went and bought it, but in those days we didn't have a florist. When we went to the senior prom, all the girls got gardenias, and I pressed it, and I still have it. And I looked at it, it's in this little cellophane bag, and I picked it up and I gently put... and you know, it still smells, the gardenia. I was surprised that it's going to fall apart, and I thought it's going to smell stinky. It had a beautiful gardenia smell, and you know how old that is? Oh god, '45 to now? Yeah, that's a long time.

KL: So he was your prom date?

SY: He was my prom date, yeah. He, "No, I haven't asked anybody." "Well, no one's asked me either," or I can't remember. Anyway, I thought, and we were friends because we were, he was the one that taught us how to jitterbug.

KL: What was his name?

SY: Tsutomu Toma. He passed away.

KL: T-O-M-A? You mentioned the Los Angeles Times discussion of the Manzanar riot. Did you subscribe to the Times?

SY: No, we didn't have the money to subscribe. But we went to the block office and they were, there was always a newspaper there, you could read it there, but you couldn't take it out, but you could read it there.

KL: What other newspapers do you remember?

SY: I can't remember. I think the San Francisco one came, too, but I can't remember. I think L.A. had two papers.

KL: At least.

SY: Yeah. Oh, my gosh, she wrote a lot.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

KL: Do you remember the name of the beauty school in Philadelphia?

SY: Morcella or something like that. You know, Philadelphia is known for Benjamin Franklin standing on that top? Well, the building that I went to school with, you can look out the window and see Benjamin Franklin on top. And I remember that time that we were living there, the pigeons were sitting there, and they were doing their kakas, and they were trying to, they were trying to do something so that... because the pigeon poop was doing something to the statue. It was eating it up, I don't know what... and I remember when we were there, and they were going to put a fan and sort it out. [Laughs] And they tried everything, I don't know what they finally did with it. I couldn't remember. That was the thing, whenever I see it on television, and Benjamin Franklin there, and I see this little fan. It wasn't there, but I remember that was the thing that they were gonna try and do.

KL: The National Park Service administers the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Did you ever visit?

SY: I didn't go see that, no. I should have, I should have.

KL: Do you recall the names of the family that you lived with in Philadelphia and also in New York?

SY: One was Isaacs. That was in Philadelphia. And the other one in New York -- I didn't stay with them too long, so I can't remember. They were both, he was a pathologist and taught at the Columbia University as far as I know. They had two children. And she was a doctor; they were both doctors. And then when I came back here, I also did the same thing, but I didn't stay there too long. But living in homes like that, you always lived in the best place.

KL: Well, it's interesting, too, who was choosing to provide housing and opportunities for Japanese Americans to live in these eastern cities. Were they connected, like that he was connected to Columbia, I think their seminary helped people find housing.

SY: Well, we were in big demand. I mean, all the Japanese, they had a... not a motel, what do you call, hostel. Is that what they call... and if you were in the transition of looking somewhere, you could go to the hostel until you find, you were limited to how long you could stay there. And you can always go there, and you can find a lot of places where you can work for your room and board, just very good. Too bad the kids can't learn to do that now.

KL: Yeah, it's hard.

SY: You know how high rent is, to rent apartment or anything. Any of you married? Well, so much for that.

KL: Do you remember Mr. and Mrs. Isaac's first names?

SY: No, no.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

KL: This is my last kind of big question. You mentioned a high school reunion five years after...

SY: Oh, we had it for three years.

KL: And it was like in 1949 or '8 or so?

SY: It was in 1950, I think '55, and '60. I have some pictures there.

KL: Tell us just for the tape a little bit about what those events were like, what it was like to see people again.

SY: It was fun because you got to see them again. The very first year, you know, I think I was married, and somebody said they were, she was pregnant or something, and remember saying, "Oh, do you know if it's a boy or a girl? I got a boy. Maybe you and I can get together twenty years from now," something like that, to make it fun. But it was fun because you never knew what was gonna happen to them, and they didn't know what was happening to me. So we really got together and talked about what you did after you left camp.

KL: Where were they held?

SY: Quite a few of 'em were in Los Angeles. I was surprised how many there were. I mean, most of them were in Los Angeles. I think they were, from San Diego there were three of us, because I do know, because we drove together up there.

KL: And the reunions happened in Los Angeles?

SY: In the L.A.

KL: And some of the teachers came?

SY: I have a picture of that, too, yeah. And I was surprised when Mr. Greenley was there, because for a guy who's blind, he gets around quite a bit.

KL: Those were my only kind of detailey questions, so yeah, thanks.

WP: That's it.

SY: That's it?

KL: Yeah. Just, thank you very much for all your time and all your memories, we really value it.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.