Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Joyce Okazaki Interview II
Narrator: Joyce Okazaki
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Santa Ana, California
Date: December 12, 2013
Densho ID: denshovh-ojoyce-02-0013

<Begin Segment 13>

KL: So this is actually kind of related to that, and it's not surprising, but when I was flipping through Born Free and Equal the first time, I noticed that Ansel Adams talks a lot about the mountains and the valley, and he uses this really poetic imagery sort of to describe it. And I know you had a reaction, kind of strong reaction to the mountains when you were there as a girl, and I wonder if you would share what the mountains meant to you or what you thought about them.

JO: Well I really didn't pay too much attention to them other than they were huge, tall mountains, that we were surrounded by mountains on both sides, and that we couldn't escape. That's what I thought. And it wasn't until later on that I could appreciate the beauty of the Sierras and Mt. Williamson, but at that time, they just looked like mountains, two very tall mountains that we couldn't escape. I don't know why I was thinking of escaping when I was a little kid, but I really... that's what I thought. And then I remember being told on the other side of the other mountain was Death Valley, so that was not a good place to go to either. And the other thing, I don't know if I mentioned this before, that we were told what to be afraid of, what to look out for, is rattlesnakes and scorpions. Well, I knew what a rattlesnake looked like, or what snakes looked like, but I had no idea what a scorpion looked like. So when school time came around, what they had us do, what I remember is that they had us draw a scorpion and a snake. So that's how I learned what a scorpion looked like.

KL: Was there a model for you to follow?

JO: Well, they drew it, I think, the teacher drew it, or somebody drew it.

KL: I'm sad, I thought that there was gonna be this picture of this beast of what you imagined the scorpion to be. What did you think they were before you saw that picture?

JO: I don't know, some huge bug. And then it turned out to be this little thing. [Laughs]

KL: Did you have any interactions with snakes or scorpions?

JO: No.

KL: You mentioned the rabbits, were there any other animals that you recall from...

JO: Well, my grandfather had a dog. When he returned to Manzanar, I don't know how he did it, but he got his dog that lived, I think he had the friend bring up the dog, the next door neighbor, they were really good friends, and brought up his dog. So he had his dog there and his bicycle, and he rode the bicycle with the dog in the basket all around. Or the dog would sometimes just run behind the bicycle, but he went all over like that. And I'm thinking, "That's really strange."

KL: When do you think that was?

JO: Huh?

KL: When do you think the friend brought those things?

JO: I have no idea, but you know, pretty soon Grandpa had his dog. And it must have been right away, because my grandfather, looking at his records, he was able to negotiate roofing, new roofing on his property, he had property all over. Negotiate roofing on his property, and if he had flooding or something, he would be able to go and take care of that. So somehow or other, he was able to leave the camp. [Drops something] Whoops.

KL: Oh, this was your maternal grandfather who was arrested?

JO: Yeah.

KL: Was he any different when he came back to Manzanar than you remembered?

JO: No, I don't really remember, because... I don't really remember, but I think he was the same. I don't know, I would hate to think that he was beaten or anything like that. Oh, the other thing I never told people, and I don't really like to tell people is about the typhoid shots?

KL: Do you want us to stop recording?

JO: No, not really. No, because it shows what kind of stubborn person I am. [Laughs] I had my own mind. Everybody had to have typhoid shots, so we're all lined up. I said, "I'm not going to get a shot." I took off running around the barrack, and, of course, I got caught. I made my sister run with me, I said, "Come on, let's run." She got caught first, and then I got caught. So we both had to get our shots, but I made that effort.

KL: Did any other kids follow?

JO: No, just my sister and me.

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