Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Hope Omachi Kawashima Interview
Narrator: Hope Omachi Kawashima
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Fresno, California
Date: September 10, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-khope-01-0021

<Begin Segment 21>

KL: And what do you, what were your impressions of the landscape at Topaz, or the camp itself?

HK: Well, we moved in February, so all I remember, it was very cold. There was snow, a lot of snow on the ground, snow and ice. It was colder than Tule Lake. So we thought, "Oh no." [Laughs] Not much improvement. And the bathrooms were just as bad. The mess hall, the food was just as unpalatable, I guess you'd call it.

KL: What are your, can you share with us the memories of the food?

HK: I remember our main food that we (had) was beans and pork rind. That was our main (food), every day we'd go, "Beans again?" And usually, the food was not at all what we were used to. We didn't get rice and soy sauce and fish and vegetables. But I remember it wasn't very good food, but of course, when you're hungry you eat anything.

KL: And your dad was with you, right? You all went together to Topaz?

HK: In Topaz, when we were in Topaz.

KL: Where did you live in Topaz? Do you know the address?

HK: I don't remember the address in Topaz. I think I tried to look it up at the National Museum, but I don't know if I ever did find the address. 'Cause we were there only from February 1944 until August 1944. We were there only for six months.

KL: You talked some about the tensions between people and the lack of trust in Tule Lake. How did the climate compare -- I know you were a kid, but kids still sense things -- how did the climate compare in Topaz to Tule Lake?

HK: I think the neighbors were a little friendlier.

KL: In Topaz?

HK: In Topaz.

KL: Who were your neighbors, do you recall?

HK: Well actually, I found out this much later, when my husband and I moved to a church in Ontario, Oregon, then one woman asked me, "What was your maiden name?" And I told her Omachi, and she says, "Oh, I remember you. I remember your family," she says, 'cause we lived near, in the same block, in the same (barrack), she was one of our neighbors. And then she says, "And I think I remember you. You were the little girl that would cry and then pretty soon you would sing." And I said, "I did?" And I said I didn't remember that, so I asked my mom and my mom says, "Yes. I don't know why, but you had to cry every day, and then after you cried for a long time you'd start singing." And then, so my mom, when people would say, "What's wrong with her?" and then so my mom would tell them, "She's just practicing her singing." [Laughs] And this woman that we met in Oregon says she remembers me because of that, and I didn't remember doing that until my mom mentioned it. Then I remembered doing it, 'cause I remember I loved to sing "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah." I used to love singing that song.

KL: Would you, if you're comfortable singing any of it, would you sing some of it for us? [HK laughs] You don't have to if you don't want to.

HK: Well, if I clear my throat. I'm having a little tickle here.

KL: I'll have some water too.

HK: If I can get through it. [Sings hymn] But that was my favorite song.

KL: Even as a kid?

HK: Yeah.

KL: It's kind of comforting. I mean, it keeps you going.

HK: (Yes), but I just loved to sing that song because some way I think when I heard the church members singing it, they sounded happy when they sang it. 'Cause that's from "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," the Civil War song, but it's about war and so forth, the whole song. And I don't know if you want to hear this part of the story, about that song, because later on when I was in New York I was selected to be on the United Methodist Hymnal Committee, twenty-five people throughout the country, and that was one of the songs that we tried to eliminate, because it was a war song, and a Civil War song and we're saying it was outdated. So we tried to remove it to make room for the new hymns, and then somebody, the press picked it up, put it in the newspaper and then the hymnal office got flooded with phone calls and protests. They said, "You can't take out my favorite hymn." Then they even called our church in New York, and my husband answered the phone and they said, "Do you know 'Battle Hymn of the Republic' and 'Onward, Christian Soldiers'?" And then he says oh yes. He says, "Do you like those hymns?" And he says oh yes. And so then what happens, the (New York Daily News) picks this up and then says that "Wife Tries to Eliminate Husband's Favorite Hymns." It was that hymn. [Laughs]

KL: When was that? When was that committee?

HK: This was in 1985, 1986.

KL: Yeah, my parents are Methodist and I grew up in a Methodist church, so I'll think of you next time I have a Methodist hymnal. Yeah.

HK: You can look for my name in it.

KL: Oh, is your name in it? Neat. Yeah, that makes sense. So do you remember "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah" from your church in Loomis, or from singing in Tule Lake?

HK: I think we used to sing it in Loomis and we used to sing it in Tule Lake, because I think for the internees it was kind of a rousing song. "His truth is marching on," you know. So that was very important. I mean, they felt like they could overcome, that's the only way they could overcome the difficulties they were having.

KL: What else can you tell us about your memories of church services? If you, I don't know if you can differentiate, since you were so little, but first in Tule Lake and then, if you can, separately in Topaz? If you can't, that's okay.

HK: No, because church services are similar no matter where you go. Somebody preaches and then you sing hymns, then you have prayer together. So it's hard, at that age, to distinguish. I just enjoyed the hymn singing, always looked forward to singing the hymns.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.