Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Rose Tanaka Interview
Narrator: Rose Tanaka
Interviewer: Alisa Lynch
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Date: August 9, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-trose_2-01-0017

<Begin Segment 17>

RT: Of course, the first thing I did, or soon after I got there, the schools were opened, and they were deplorable. They were barracks, there was no furniture, there were no desks, we sat on the bare wooden floors, no books, no equipment. But it was shortly after that... and during that transition period, I felt the skills of the teachers who were there, I knew, I was aware, I think, that these teachers gave up something by coming to this community to work. And the journalism teacher, social studies teacher, the science teachers, and I'll always remember Clive Greenlee, he was a blind teacher, and he had to have a student who guided him to get anywhere, but he taught speech. And all these people gave their skills. And one study hall that I went in, one of the first study halls, I thought, well, what are we going to study? Well, we had a teacher who could practically recite whole books and stories, and teach us just by, just verbally. And I think I'll always remember these people who gave their skills in whatever way they could to this group of students who were probably not too happy to be there.

But soon afterwards we started receiving all the things we needed, desks were constructed and science labs were set up, and all the things we needed, all the equipment appeared. Made sports fields, baseball fields and volleyball fields and all kinds of things. So in a very short time, the whole community developed into a society that was livable and tolerable, and I think all our energies went into making that successful.

AL: For the teachers, I know when we talked last weekend, we were talking about Janet Goldberg, and you mentioned Rollin Fox, (the principal, and) some of the other people. Could you, by whomever, whichever names you remember, or positions, just describe a little bit about what you knew of their background and what your impressions were as a teacher? A number of people have mentioned Clive Greenlee as being a really, really good teacher, and people have mentioned Janet Goldberg. But you don't always have the specifics of what was it that, why is it that seventy years later, people still talk about...

RT: Well, you're impressed by people, then you realize that they probably gave up a lot in order to be there with us. I mean that the caring attitude for other people, and I often wondered about their backgrounds. They didn't talk about their backgrounds, so I can't tell you what their backgrounds were like. And we didn't feel like we should ask them, I mean, it just didn't occur to us that they had another life, too, which they probably did. All know is that Louis Frizzell, the music and speech... the music and, well, vocal music and drama, he went into television work. And I remember years and years later, we didn't have a television for a long time, I didn't watch television. But all of a sudden I saw him on television, he was an actor. [Laughs]

AL: You know he in Farewell to Manzanar? He's the only, in the made for TV movie, he's the only person who plays himself.

RT: Is that right?

AL: So he's this hefty middle-aged guy that shows up and says, "I'm Louis Frizzell." And it's... yeah, he played himself in that movie if you ever have a chance to see it. It's just a very small cameo, but it was him.

RT: Uh-huh.

AL: What do you remember, though, about some of the other teachers, though, as far as your interactions with them and their interactions with other students?

RT: Well, I thought they were all very good teachers. Miss Kramer, I think, who taught Latin, and I learned Latin from her. But Janet Goldberg was journalism... there were some other teachers that I can't remember specifics.

AL: Did you have any Japanese American teachers?

RT: Yes, we did, our science teachers were Japanese. There were two, one in physics, one was chemistry.

AL: Do you recall their names?

RT: I wish I could.

AL: They're probably in the yearbook.

RT: Oh, yes, they would be in the yearbook, in the front few pages.

AL: Who was your favorite teacher?

RT: Well, I guess I didn't really play favorites. I liked Louis Frizzell because... he didn't teach me anything, I didn't take music or drama, but he was just there for everything, he was just a personality that was present and I thought he was great. And, of course, Clive Greenlee, the speech teacher, I respected him for his willingness to share his skills despite his disabilities. And Janet Goldberg was always a warm person. Oh, Janet Goldberg, once there was going to be a party, or sort of like a prom, what would pass for a prom, and of course I didn't have anything decent to wear. And on one of her leaves going out to L.A., she said, "I'll bring you a dress." So she went out and bought me this dress. [Laughs] It was a little wild for me, but I was grateful to have a new dress to wear.

AL: What were some of the extracurricular activities in the school?

RT: Well, I found that I... I was studying the trombone when I was in, back in, outside. And all of a sudden there was a man in our, I think he was either on Block 30 or something. He was an instrumental teacher, and he started teaching classes in music and formed a band. And I have a picture of that. But anybody who was interested in playing music, he brought up to the music hall up there by the, was it up by the hospital, Block 18 or something like that. That was one building they were using for music. And he would get us together and we would play. After all these years, a lot of my memories are fading, but I do remember that. I don't know where that instrument came from, but all of a sudden we had instruments. And Mr. Nakama was the teacher and director of that. Another, well, school activities were mostly athletics, volleyball, basketball, and we had a man on our block who liked to teach baseball and he let us play, we would play baseball. The firebreaks became our playgrounds, you know.

AL: You were pretty close to the big baseball field.

RT: Not too far, yeah. It was very easy to get to, that was very centrally located. Everything was close. [Laughs] In one mile square, everything was close.

AL: You said before that... in one year and out the other. Oh, you said that, on the phone we were talking, you played basketball. Was that a team for the school, or was it an outside team?

RT: No, it was just an intramural, within the schools, we just played. Partly for gym, mostly for gym classes and then we just did that for recreational purposes.

AL: Do you remember anything about a basketball game that was scheduled with Bishop High School?

RT: No, I don't, and I know what you're talking about, because I heard about that last reunion we had.

AL: There's actually a letter of apology from the student body president.

RT: Is that right?

AL: And I can... I'll bring that page tonight. I have it all marked up because it's in a manuscript, but I can at least let you read it. He's basically saying, "Our parents teach us about fairness and democracy, and they won't even let us to go play this game." And the kids basically begged the Parent-Teachers Association or the school board, whoever it was, to let them play. And they said, no, they didn't want any protests. I think the Big Pine game may have been before that, where Manzanar just trounced Big Pine, that was the football team.

RT: Is that right?

AL: So maybe Bishop didn't want to lose to the camp.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.