Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Masako Yoshida Interview
Narrator: Masako Yoshida
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Monterey Park, California
Date: August 14, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-ymasako-01-0014

<Begin Segment 14>

KL: Did you work in Poston?

MY: Yes, I did.

KL: What was your job?

MY: I worked first... I had many jobs. First I was a waitress at the personnel mess hall, so I had very good food, because I was a waitress here in L.A. We had very good food, but the people did not, the other people did not have good food. But we served the Caucasian personnel there, and they were treated like gods, they had good food. So we got good food and we would have to cook for them, too, so I learned how to do a little chopping of vegetables and things like that there.

KL: What was a typical meal there? What was good food in Poston?

MY: The regular food?

KL: For the staff.

MY: For the staff? Whatever you can ask for. Whatever you would ask for in a restaurant, they got it. Good food all the time.

KL: So it was not a cafeteria line, it was kind of a short order like a restaurant?

MY: No, we waited on them. We waited on them one-on-one. And like we'd ask them what they wanted for breakfast, how they wanted their eggs and everything. Well, lunch and everything was more like lunch and dinner they had to eat what was served. But breakfast, and all the staff would do all the cooking, you know, the Japanese, because there were cooks, you know.

KL: Professional cooks.

MY: The reason I got to work there is that one of the girls in my block told me that they needed several waitresses because her father was the cook here, and so he was the cook there, too, for the staff. You know, they picked the best of everything, and so we went there and we would cook and it was fun there. Because we would eat the best meals. In between, we would have a jukebox that the American people had, the white people had, and so we would get to play the jukebox and we'd dance in between the meals. We had a ball.

KL: Can you tell me, did you ever have any conversations with the staffpeople?

MY: Oh, yes.

KL: What were those like? Did you ever talk about your conditions?

MY: Just friendly. No, we didn't. We just, "Hi," and that's it. They never asked us, or we didn't talk about conditions or anything. I guess we were too dumb to talk about those things, or to young. We just thought, well, that's life. I think that was it. And the reason I met my husband was that he was a timekeeper, and he would go around to all the mess halls and he would be the, I guess you'd call it a cashier for the personnel by checking them in so that they could be charged for their meals. And he used to watch us jitterbug, and we used to, in between the meals, after we did all the dishes and preparing for the next one, we used to make the salads and pies and cakes and cookies and everything. And after we finished that we would put the jukebox on and we would dance. And so he asked to be introduced to me and we started dancing together and that's how we met.

KL: He was a dancer, too, he liked that?

MY: He liked to jitterbug, too, uh-huh. And since my boyfriend went to Manzanar, I thought, "Why not?"

KY: You said you had other jobs at Poston?

MY: Yes. After that, everybody in college, who was in college, became a teacher. So being only seventeen, I didn't know how to do it, but I said I would be a PE teacher for a short time. So I was a PE teacher, then right after that they started doing the... oh, I forgot, camouflage nets, and you get paid a little bit more for doing camouflage nets. That's where I worked, in the camouflage factories. We got a little bit more than eight dollars an hour, eight dollars a month or something like that.

KL: At Manzanar, some people viewed the camouflage net factory as kind of political, and some people supported it and other people didn't. Was there any feeling about your work in the camouflage net factory?

MY: No, we just wanted more money, that's all. I don't know. If they did, they didn't tell us. It didn't bother... you know, we just did it to make more, we got more than the eight dollars a month that we were getting. I think that was how much we were getting.

KL: Who were your colleagues there?

MY: Oh, my friends from my block, and the other side were people from the Imperial Valley. You know, we worked together on each side of the net. There was a group from the Imperial Valley, and you know, we would be so stupid, we worked so hard and so fast, we thought, gosh, if you think of it now, we could have really sabotaged those nets by making mistakes. But, see, there was a pattern we had to follow, and the faster we went, nobody's going to beat us. It was that kind of attitude, that's the kind of attitude we had. Not that it was for the army or anything, it was just that we wanted more money, and that's why we did it.

KL: Was it mostly young people?

MY: Oh, yeah, very young. Because it had to be. You know the gunnysack stuff, it would get into your breath, I guess into your lungs and everything, we used to have to wear a mask. They were all young, we were all young. See, I was seventeen so my husband was nineteen, I guess. We were all seventeen, eighteen, nineteen year olds doing that.

KL: What were your students like when you were teaching? How was that?

MY: Well, it was just volleyball, I didn't do that too long. It wasn't like being a teacher we just played and I was the umpire. You know, serve was okay, fine, it was fun. It wasn't like being a teacher. Because now I was working at the Brightwood school across the street, and I haven't done that for thirty years as a teacher's aide after my children kind of grew up, but I still go and volunteer there.

KL: Was that your last job in Poston, the camouflage?

MY: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.