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-02-0005

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KL: How did the barrack apartment change over time? People, some people talk about ordering things or having things delivered, other people say we didn't have the wherewithal to do much to change it.

JO: Well, in the beginning there was no changes made in the beginning, and it took a while. We had no wallboard in the beginning, I don't know when the wallboards were put up, but we had that open framework thing, really looked very rustic. And the floor with the knotholes and everything, and sand creeping in all over the place. I don't really remember too much about, but all I know is pretty soon it got to be more livable. And what my mother did was she went and took sewing classes, because they were, this one fellow... and I think Ansel Adams took his picture, he was... oh, and there was a sewing instructor also, I can't remember her name. But anyway, she must have taught my mother how to sew, and my mother then was able to sew curtains and things like that, and she would buy things from the coop, or order things from Sears, whatever they needed. She sewed our clothes, so that's why when my father bought the two little dresses, it was so nice and different, because it was store-bought. But she sewed our clothes.

KL: Had she sewn before she went to Manzanar, or was that new?

JO: I don't really know. I think she had a sewing machine.

KL: I know you said she was real stylish.

JO: Yeah. She's real stylish because my mother came from a wealthy family. You should see her, we looked at her pictures, her albums when she was young and going to college, she dressed with fur coats and stylish flapper looking things, she drove a Nash, she had a car when she was sixteen. She always, my sister says, "My gosh, she really dressed in the latest fashions for that day," she was always well dressed. But in camp it wasn't that way, but she still, I noticed that she still had a skirt on and a sweater when Ansel Adams took her picture.

KL: People look so polished in so many of the pictures, you know, those hairstyles and stuff, I mean, we wonder how people pulled it off, because my hair doesn't look like that. [Laughs]

JO: Well, my mother did the, our curls, she did rag curls for us. But the other things, like my aunt would do her own hair for the yearbook picture. Her picture's right next to Ralph Lazo's picture. Irene Kusayanagi, Ralph Lazo, class of '44. So they had the, pulled back, and the pompadour.

KL: Do you have memories of him, or did she ever tell you stories about him or anything?

JO: No, I didn't know him at all. She knew him but she didn't know him that well, and I think they asked her questions at the time, they had the high school graduation, Manzanar people were there and asked, and I don't know what she told them, I think she said she didn't really know him that well.

KL: So did you say you started off in 12-9-4?

JO: Yes.

KL: Okay, but did you move then?

JO: No, we stayed there the entire time.

KL: Okay.

JO: My aunt... no, no, my grandmother moved, they moved to Block 29 to be closer to the hospital, and my aunt Masako was living in Block 29.

KL: Did your grandmother live alone there?

JO: No, with her three children, two daughters and the son who came to Manzanar.

KL: So then it was just the four of you who remained in your original apartment. Do you recall any neighbors?

JO: Oh, yes, neighbors were relatives. So it must have been that our relatives all came on April 2nd, because they came from different areas, but we were all in the one barrack, two barracks, 12-8 and 12-9. And I thought... I didn't think of anything at that time, but after I'm an adult and talking about all of this, how did we ever manage that, to have all of the relatives? And it's not, it's my grandmother's brothers, and my grandfather's brothers who were in these units. So it was something, because I got to see them all the time.

KL: Yeah, what was that like? That proximity was different?

JO: Yeah, that was nice, because I always liked to go visit them. I was always treated like a young kid, and they would play with me, so I had a lot of people to play with. And my most favorite great aunt lived next door to us, and she was the wife of my grandmother's brother. And her two kids were also living there, I think, because they weren't married. And I used to just love all of them, they were all close by. It was really nice.

KL: What was her name?

JO: Her name was Hoshizaki, Tsuyu Hoshizaki, and her daughters were Mae and Alice and Roy. I think they're all gone now. Roy actually wrote articles for the Manzanar Free Press.

KL: Oh right, yeah.

JO: Roy Hoshizaki.

KL: Oh, okay.

JO: I didn't know about it, but when I bought the copies that the store sells, I read all that, and I wanted to talk to him and tell him, "Oh, I read your articles, but I never got a chance to, then he died.

KL: Did he ever talk to you before you found those articles about what it was like to be part of the Manzanar Free Press?

JO: I didn't even know. I didn't even know. So that was kind of funny, unusual, interesting.

KL: What do you recall of the garden in Block 12?

JO: Oh, I thought it was the most beautiful place. I know we didn't go there very... oh, the garden at Block 12, oh, that was very nice, it was small. But I liked Merritt Park, because I thought it was beautiful there. But I didn't get to go there very often, because that was too far away.

KL: When did you get to go there?

JO: Not very often, because it was too far away. I don't recall walking there by myself, where Block 12, we saw it all the time, because we had to line up for the mess hall.

KL: Do you remember it being constructed or anything about who built it?

JO: No, I don't. All I know is that I remember they were building the garden, because you know, we had to go every day to eat. And the interesting thing about that is there's a picture in the book called Manzanar that the interpretive center put out, and there's a picture of a garden there that Ansel Adams took, he's not credited with it, but he took it, because he took it of my back. And I told him, "I want to face the camera," and he said, "No, you're going to face where I told you." And I said, "But my sister's facing the camera." "No." So there I am with my back to the camera, but my sister was looking down, too, so maybe that's how he posed us. [Laughs]

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.