Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Willie K. Ito Interview
Narrator: Willie K. Ito
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: December 5, 2013
Densho ID: denshovh-iwillie-01-0013

<Begin Segment 13>

KL: This is a little weird to ask these question because I know parts of the answers, but did your folks work in camp?

WI: Yeah. My father was the, took up barbering. So he became barber in camp. And then about maybe three months before we were allowed to go, we left camp, my dad left early. And remember I told you --

KL: When was that that you left?

WI: In 1945, let me see. I would say January or February.

KL: Okay. I probably have it written down somewhere but not easy to access. Okay, early 1945.

WI: Yeah. And because he made all those arts and crafty brooches and things, so he gathered all his supply and went back to Chicago. And around Lake Michigan, all the fancy hotels, he approached the gift shops there and sold the little brooches and stuff and then made a few bucks. And then he returned to San Francisco and enrolled in barber college.

KL: Did he barber in Topaz?

WI: That's where he started up, yeah. But, of course, to be commercial you have to get a license, so he needed to go to barber college, which he did.

KL: Where was his shop in Topaz, where did he cut hair or beards...

WI: I think it was like a community center place where we had... well, basically community center, yeah.

KL: What about your mom? How did she fill her days?

WI: Oh, she was, had her hands full keeping the dust out of the barracks. But she was very domestic and did all that. Of course, one of the things that wives didn't have to worry about was cooking, because we all went to the common mess hall. But my mom did, took care of us.

KL: Your sister was pretty little, still, too.

WI: Yeah, she was five at that time.

KL: Did you ever go to a library in Topaz? I was amazed, I read in the Densho encyclopedia that there were four hundred and fifty visitors daily to one of the libraries in Topaz.

WI: Oh. Well, I don't really recall physically going to a library and sitting there and all that. I may have, because I remember before going to camp, I used to find books on animation and cartooning, so I very much may have gone to the library to see if I could find anything of this nature.

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