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-01-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

KL: We're continuing on with the interview with the Johnston family, tape two. And we were talking about some of the physical aspects of camp, remembering sandals that people would wear inside, and also the platform sandals that people would wear in the shower. And Bill mentioned you could hear those on wooden sidewalks through camp?

WJ: Of course, the area was bare...

DW: Gumbo mud.

WJ: ...gumbo mud farmland. And you couldn't walk around after it rained without some kind of sidewalk. So they built wooden sidewalks, wood's all we had to work with. Not many rocks around there...

DW: Well, around the roads.

WJ: Well, they hauled in that gravel.

DW: They hauled in the gravel for the roads.

WJ: The sidewalks down each barracks to the mess hall and to the laundry and everything, they built long runners with crosspieces of wood to make a boardwalk, and that was the sidewalks in the whole community.

DW: You go ahead and tell them the sound, that you remember the sound.

WJ: The sound was of the internees going to their several shower rooms, going down on those wooden planks, 'cause they wore thick, inch-high thick wooden clogs.

DW: [Holding up a photograph] Will this show?

WJ: They could walk down to the shower along that wooden board, clop-clop-clop-clop. Quite a distinctive sound.

DW: And then various cloth, or this one looks like it's woven out of grasses, but soft ones were worn in the house, so you just left your clogs outside.

KL: Did you guys have interior plumbing in your house?

WJ: Yes. One of the perks.

DW: Well, they had a lot of bathrooms, because every little block on that map had its central section which was the showers and the mess hall and the bathroom, so you didn't have a long walk, you didn't have to go six blocks.

WJ: But it did rain, and you still had to get --

DW: You still had the weather, yeah.

JJ: You know the book Camp 9?

KL: I've heard of it, I haven't read it.

JJ: There's a good recap of the daily activities in the...

DW: Relocation camps.

JJ: Relocation camps. But that was, the Japanese people as a whole were very, very private, and very personal in their hygiene. And it was a very big deal for these women to go to communal showers and communal bathrooms. That's what they had to do, but in Camp 9 it was explaining some of the, for a shower, intimidated women would wait 'til the ungodly hours before they would bathe or go to the bathroom, but they just couldn't do anything about them.

WJ: They could have solved a lot of that if they'd put up a few partitions. But it was kind of farming days, you had the row of commodes.

KL: Were there partitions installed ever?

WJ: No, not that I know of.

DW: Not that we know of.

WJ: I never did even go in one of 'em.

DW: Well, I was in like the laundry room, mess hall, I've been in the bathrooms, and it was just kind of open. I thought that they had some dividers in the shower rooms, but I've been in colleges where they didn't have shower room dividers, so probably didn't.

WJ: I suspect they didn't. You have men and women's dressing rooms.

DW: Yeah, men's and women's, of course.

WJ: Kind of like ours, just row of commodes, row of showers.

DW: Row of showers, exactly. Dorms in college.

WJ: But that probably would have made the experience a lot less stressful for the internees if they'd had the partitions installed. The other thing I'd like to comment on is just that they put up with it, with their treatment. I mean, on the West Coast and losing their property.

DW: Losing everything.

WJ: They put up with it with awful good grace.

DW: I never... I never met a rude Japanese. I'd have to qualify that, unless you're a kid and you want to tease somebody else, but that's not rudeness, that's kids. Grace, and always welcoming smiles. What they did in their homes, you're still barracks, and you had nothing. What they invented, they actually made attractive, beautiful environments for themselves inside and outside. They planted flowers and gardens.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.