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-01-0022

<Begin Segment 22>

KL: Where was the piano in Topaz?

HK: Well, that was in a recreation hall too, and then they used it for dance band practice and programs and everything.

KL: Did the churches meet sometimes, then, in a recreation hall, where the piano was?

HK: Yes, usually they met on Sundays, for worship service.

KL: Was it more members than just that block?

HK: I think it was for the whole camp, whoever wanted to come for worship.

KL: Church came to you guys, with the piano.

HK: Yeah, 'cause then they were able to have real church service, 'cause otherwise they just had (what) they called prayer meetings. But then with the piano, then they were able to have real worship services, I think.

KL: You had mentioned your grandfather and his dancing. Was, do you remember dancing having a role in Tule Lake or Topaz?

HK: Well, our, my grandfather Igarashi didn't go with us to Topaz.

KL: Right, he wasn't with you. But even for you, or for, on holidays, either privately or as part of a community event, was dance a force in the camps?

HK: Well, I know the dance band was active. But we were there for just a short time, only six months, so we don't really know if they did the Bon Odori. I think probably they might've had Bon Odori. I think I vaguely remember them doing that.

KL: Do you, was there a funeral service for your stillborn sister? This is jumping back some, but...

HK: I don't recall that. I think maybe we might've had a private service, just our family.

KL: And her body was buried there.

HK: Yes.

KL: Was it ever removed after the, after you guys left?

HK: I don't know any more details about that. 'Cause (...) when we went to the Tule Lake pilgrimage, I tried to see if there were any markings or -- 'cause there are, there is a grave, we saw the gravesite. There were a lot of, quite a few infants and children buried there.

KL: Did you ever go into the town of Delta, or have any connection with local people from outside of the camp in Topaz?

HK: No, I don't think so. Not that I recall.

KL: What about a military presence or any kind of safety concerns in Topaz? Do you remember any similar warnings to...

HK: Well, they had the watchtower and the barbed wire fence and the soldiers, so it looked the same as Tule Lake to us.

KL: Mark, do you have any questions about Topaz?

MH: No, but I have --

KL: Oh, I wanted to hear, actually the same question Mark had about your barrack in Tule Lake, I wondered if you would describe your unit, your apartment in Topaz? Was it any different?

HK: It was about the same, just one room. And then the thing was that Topaz was cold, and I heard later that when they constructed the barracks they used green wood and then the wood shrank, so then there were cracks between the wood, so they just covered (it) with tarpaper, and so of course the wind and dust would come into your room, so there was always dust around. And then it was cold, especially when we had a blizzard or snowstorm, and so it was freezing cold is all I remember. It was very cold. Then we had to walk to the bathroom and walk to the mess hall for our meals. And then one time I think I had, well, I ended up in the infirmary with an ear infection, and I remember that was a very traumatic time for me. But I remember, I don't know (who), somebody was poking around and I saw all this blood comin' out of my ear, and to this day I have trouble with my ears. But anyway, I had a fever and everything, so -- and I think I also had my tonsils removed, too -- but anyway, I was supposed to stay in the room because I couldn't go out to get my meal.

KL: In the infirmary?

HK: No. Well, I was in the infirmary for a while, but then I came back to our room. Then my mother said that unless she went she couldn't get any food, so she said she was going to get my food. And then, of course all my siblings were all hungry, everybody went to get their food, and so she told me, "You stay here, and I'll get your food." But I had never stayed by myself, and I was scared and I thought, "Oh, I know where the mess hall is. I'm going to go," after they had left. But it was a blizzard, and I tried to walk to the mess hall and I got lost in a snowdrift or something, in the blizzard, and I guess I was crying in a snow pile and a neighbor -- I think it might've been that neighbor that we knew in Oregon -- knew who I was and so she took me to my mother. But I remember that was the scariest thing, 'cause I couldn't see, I couldn't see where I was going, I got lost, nothing but snow. And so to this day, I don't like snow and ice. [Laughs]

KL: I cut you off, and I will get back to you, but I wondered what your memories of the infirmary at Topaz are. Who cared for you? I mean, you mentioned the blood, so...

HK: It was, as I said, one of the barracks (...) they tried to make it into an infirmary. But I just remember somebody poking in my ears and I just remember all the pain. So I don't know who it was that was poking in my ears, but somebody poked in my ears and I remember just seeing all this blood coming out. I thought, "What are they doing to me?"

KL: Were you in there with other people? Was it kind of like your barrack where it was very dense with beds and patients?

HK: I don't remember other people there, but I remember crying and being scared. 'Cause it was very traumatic to me, 'cause I didn't know, I don't think my parents were even there. But it was very scary, to go through that type of experience. I don't remember anybody else being there, but I just remember crying. [Laughs]

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.