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-01-0025

<Begin Segment 25>

KL: Have you talked with your kids, or have they asked you about your time at Rohwer or at Dyess Colony for that matter?

JJ: My middle son got really interested in it. He got online, and he's dug up more history in about a year than I have in my whole life, thinking back about it. But he just really got into it.

DW: Yeah, he's really the one I know of, of all the kids...

JJ: Yeah, my other two kids, they were of casual interest to talk about it, but had no intent to get deeply into it like John has. And he's still online messing with it all the time.

KL: Is he in Arkansas?

JJ: Yes, he lives in Marion where I live.

WJ: My son has just kind of casual interest, and my grandson, maybe not even as casual as he is. They don't seem to attach much...

DW: You know, here's what happens. If you bring it up around... well, my grandkids, the older ones, are thirty-two this year. They will have a glimmer, but some of the other ones, they don't even really know much about the whole, that there was a relocation camp. But if they have a little glimmer, they like to hear about it, because it's like a foreign country or something.

WJ: One of the things that interests me a lot when Nita and I are traveling, we tend to have a fire and then we tend to have them come.

DW: Right, that becomes a...

WJ: We'll usually work around to mentioning the Rohwer camp, and I'd say -- and they're all retired people, you know, sixty years old -- and there's about half of 'em, "I didn't know we had any of those camps in the United States." Just totally unaware.

DW: Well, and then every once in a --

WJ: And I don't think I ever found anybody except one or two that knew they had some camps in Arkansas. I thought they were all out --

DW: Well, yeah, they miss the whole point.

WJ: Just off the West Coast, you know, in California, and as bad a place as they could find. [Laughs]

DW: Yeah, there's not a lot of knowledge about it, so what you're doing is probably valuable.

WJ: One thing that I think has happened, and it may be being corrected now, is for a long time, it was just almost verboten, I think, to mention it in schools. In history, they just skipped over that part.

DW: Well, okay. It's like discussing Wounded Knee, they're just things that we're not proud of.

WJ: Yeah, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't teach about it. In fact, it means you should mention it so we won't do it again.

DW: Well, yeah, but we keep repeating. We kicked all the Indians out and took their territory, kicked the Japanese out, we just keep repeating.

KL: But that, I think, is a recent change, that attitude, as you say, of thinking that this is something that should be talked about. In the museum world, at least, that's kind of a recent development, since the 1990s.

DW: Yeah. This whole thing, when I first heard about the Butler thing, and then your project, it's about time. Because it's sort of like --

KL: That was your reaction?

DW: Yeah. I mean, it's been there, how come this has just been all fear and hide behind the curtains?

WJ: How come we keep looking at this stuff Jim brought, and he keeps it all in a nice file box, and lots of nice pictures of the Rotary Clubs and things. But people just don't know about it.

KL: What's the response at Rotary?

JJ: It was all over the spectrum. There was a large part of the Rotary just like Bill. And this is a club of about, we've got maybe fifty members, and usually thirty-five or forty in attendance. Probably half of them did not even know, and these are adult men and women, know that we had relocation camps in Arkansas. And the group as a whole had no in-depth knowledge about the relocation effort at all. And just the little bit I showed 'em, there was a lot of interest. And there was even, they want me to do it once a year.

WJ: Kind of refresh everybody.

JJ: Keep everybody refreshed, yeah. The program was well-received, lots of questions. And like some of 'em were just totally blown away. "We didn't have it in this state, did we?"

DW: "Did they even do that, just take people and move 'em?"

JJ: One of the educational channels has put out a great video, I've got a copy of it, and I'm sure you all have access to it.

DW: Time of Fear?

JJ: It's Time of Fear.

DW: Yeah, you sent me one. It is primarily Jerome, but it mentions Rohwer. Time of Fear.

JJ: Well, it's all the camps. It starts on the West Coast with all the build up it created...

WJ: What they called assembly centers. That was not a good start for this. I'm surprised that they didn't come out of there ballistic.

DW: Well, I think we ended up with more members in our so-called "hard core" relocation camps because of that process. It's like you saying, "I would be, they'd put me in jail."

WJ: The big thing that got a lot of people put in Tule Lake that was...

DW: That was the big one in California.

WJ: Bad place, that if you weren't there, the set of questions they had in the loyalty oath deal, there were about sixty-five percent of the people were U.S. citizens, and thirty-five percent that weren't. And we have laws on the books that said you can never become a naturalized U.S. citizen, and we're asking them to put down there that they can renounce their citizenship in Japan, which means they don't have any.

DW: They had no citizenship anyway.

WJ: Well, that's kind of foolish to put that question in there, or stated the way it was. So that caused a lot of people to wind up in Tule Lake.

KL: Do you remember conversations, did your folks have conversations about that "loyalty questionnaire" as it gets called?

WJ: Not at the time we were at the camp.

DW: No, I don't remember it then.

WJ: Probably wouldn't, even if they had a talk, but that kind of talk would have been kept away from us.

DW: They were not... I look at my kids and grandkids and their families, and my, our parents had a great deal more sense of what was appropriate for children to hear and not, and they were much more careful about what they say in front of their children. So we didn't, yeah, if they had any serious discussions, they were not with us, yeah.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.