Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: James T. Johnston - William R. Johnston - Dorothy J. Whitlock Interview
Narrators: James T. Johnston, William R. Johnston, Dorothy J. Whitlock
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Sedona, Arizona
Date: April 16, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-jjames_g-01-0010

<Begin Segment 10>

WJ: We've got a picture in there somewhere...

JJ: There was an annual that they put out.

DW: Yeah, the annual shows a lot of that. Yeah, it's sort of like... you were too young to get in any of it. Bill and I got into the upper elementary, but it would have been very interesting to have been a teenager. Maybe bad, but the teenagers...

WJ: I think this whole experience, say, from twelve to seventeen or eighteen, it would have certainly...

DW: We'd have a lot better memories.

WJ: We'd have a lot better memories. And then maybe we would have learned a little more or understood a little more. I think, thinking about it since we have, since we were [inaudible], my wife and have a little, I won't say a friend, but an acquaintance at Pocahontas that wrote her doctoral thesis on the school at Rohwer. I think I lost the name of the paper right, but I'll get that to you if you want it. But she was really critical of the school system. And when they started out, I think the chairs were, as she said, sawed off sections of tree stumps, you know, for kids.

DW: Well, yeah.

WJ: Nothing came with any furniture. People moved into houses and they got four walls.

DW: I remember reading Dad's report and then him talking about it, too, they brought in the first Japanese to that camp on railroad cars, and they had what they could carry in a suitcase, and they sat on the side of the road and the barracks weren't even finished. The people had to help, they kind of, I guess, makeshift, some way to feed everybody, but they had to practically build their own housing. It was not... it was done in haste. [Laughs]

KL: And the same was true of the schools, you said?

DW: Yeah, I mean, things just wouldn't have been equipped, really.

WJ: But the lady -- and I talked to her one night -- before she published the book, I'm sure it was already written and through. But I told her, I said, "You just don't understand how primitive the schools were in that part of rural Arkansas." Because we talked about having to start fourth grade for me and...

DW: Sixth for me.

WJ: ...sixth for you, part of the year in Kelso, a little town.

DW: Little town that had a two-room school.

WJ: Two-room school. If you wanted a drink of water, you had to bring a jug of water from home because the pump was broke. The bathroom was an outhouse. You had zero teaching aids, I mean, lucky to have a table and chairs.

DW: We had desks, I can remember that.

WJ: But she was complaining that -- the lady that wrote the book -- was complaining that the school was underperforming, and underequipped and everything else. The school was rated as high a rating as you could get in Arkansas.

KL: I know your dad included that, and I think I said in the questions that I had listened to some interviews who went to school in Rohwer, and they repeated that, that they felt like it was a better education.

WJ: You didn't get, unless you were maybe one of...

DW: In a private school in Arkansas in those days.

WJ: Private school, or Park Hill where we...

DW: Well, Park Hill was pretty good, yeah.

WJ: We didn't have a very good equipped school, but McGehee didn't have the things we had in Rohwer.

DW: Well, we had some creative teachers, I remember that.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.