Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: George Maeda Interview
Narrator: George Maeda
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Santa Ana, California
Date: October 13, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-mgeorge_6-01

<Begin Segment 1>

KL: Today is October the 13th, it's 2014. I'm Kristen Luetkemeier, a park ranger at Manzanar, and I'm here with George Maeda today for an oral history interview. And we're here in Video Resources, who opens up their studio to us to do these oral history interviews. So, Jeff, what is your last name?

JK: Killian, K-I-L-L-I-A-N.

KL: Jeff Killian and others from Video Resources may come and go. But before we start, George, I want to just confirm that I have your permission to record this interview and to make this conversation available to the public.

GM: Yes.

KL: Thank you for doing this. I want to start off asking you about your parents so we can get a little bit of background on what their lives were like before you came along and the families they grew up in. So would you start with your father and just give us his name and when and where he was born, and a little background information on his family and his growing up years?

GM: My father was born in 1884. One of two sons and three daughters, and they lived in a farm in the hills of Hiroshima. When my father was about sixteen, he and his older brother came to this country to make some money and work for ten years and their plan was to return to Japan and take care of their parents. Well, after ten years, they hadn't accumulated enough, so my father sent his brother back and said he'll join 'em in ten more years. And during that last ten year span, he met my aunt, who thought what a wonderful husband he would make for her sister. So my mother essentially became a "picture bride," and through communications, she came to this country never having met my father, but with the agreement that they would marry. Met in San Francisco and got married.

KL: What do you know about her background?

GM: She was from the city, my mother's birthplace was Hiroshima, from the city. Her parents were merchants, and she came from a middle class, upper middle class family, pretty well-off. Went to a very prestigious school in Hiroshima. As a matter of fact, my mother's grandfather was a samurai warrior. And so she lived a different life than my father, she was a city girl, brought up properly. [Laughs]

KL: What was her name?

GM: Kimiko Yamasaki.

KL: And I don't think I asked you your father's name.

GM: Yozo, Y-O-Z-O, Maeda.

KL: And what was his family's work or class?

GM: They grew rice in the hills of... there's a name for that area, but I can't think of it now. But they were rice farmers, poor, not well-off. But the end of the story, when he sent his brother back him with his share of the money. And after he married my mother, he mailed his brother and said he wasn't going home, so he can have his share of the money. He became a very wealthy rice farmer. He couldn't have children, so he adopted a boy from the village who inherited his farm. But he was one of the wealthier rice farmers in that area.

KL: Do you know that uncle's name?

GM: You know, I don't. Last name is Maeda, that's all I know.

KL: Did your mother ever talk about her motives for agreeing to be a "picture bride" or what it was like for her to...

GM: No, they didn't speak. They didn't talk about it much. I heard this story that I just told from my mother. My father never spoke about it, except kiddingly he said when he saw her coming off the boat, this big fat woman was waddling down. She wasn't fat, but he used to kid her. No, they didn't talk too much about it, I knew that she was... I guess that was called a "picture bride" in those days.

KL: Do you know where each of them came in, what worked?

GM: It was in San Francisco. My father came in, I think it was in Seattle.

KL: You mentioned that they were from different backgrounds, your dad from the countryside and a farming background and your mom from a middle class urban background. How did they reconcile those backgrounds with each other, what was their relationship like?

GM: You know, when she came to this country, I'm guessing that her whole lifestyle changed. She became a farmer's wife, and so she never worked until about 1946 was the first time she ever worked as a seamstress. She never worked when she was raising us. So if anyone had to make adjustments, it was my mother.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

KL: And what was your father engaged in when she joined him in this country?

GM: My father, best I can describe him, he was an entrepreneur. He was not afraid to start up a business, he owned a soda manufacturing company that he had to sell because it almost went under. He owned a pool hall, he wasn't very proud of that. Later on I'd like to tell you a story about my father catching me in a pool hall one day. [Laughs]

KL: I will definitely make a note of that.

GM: And he... I always admired him because he told me a story once that when he came here, there were a whole batch of immigrants, Japanese immigrants that hired themselves out as farming help. And he said if you learned how to speak English, he could be the boss of these people, to negotiate with them, with the farmers. So my father, for his time that he came to this country, spoke very good English, and he told me that story. So he was very adventurous. One of the things that my mother always said was whenever he tried anything, he went on such a big scale that oftentimes it failed. Like when he grew cantaloupes in Saugus it was like a 150 to 170 acres of cantaloupes. And Saugus melons were pretty famous in those days, I used to see them in the markets all over the place. Anyway, that was the life of my father. I respected him very much. He was fifty years old when I was born. So I remember the proud look on his face when I turned twenty-one, 'cause someone told him that he'll never see me at my twenty-first, when I turned twenty-one. But he passed away when he was ninety-six, so I was actually, I think, forty-seven when he passed away.

KL: Where all did you live before you were born?

GM: I was born in Chatsworth, California. Chatsworth is near Simi, California. And then we moved twice before being sent to the internment camp.

KL: Let me back up a little bit and ask, you said your father came in through Seattle?

GM: Yes.

KL: Where was he living before he married your mother?

GM: I think he was in the San Gabriel Valley area because my aunt owned a store in Azusa, California. And she used to invite, she and her husband used to invite him over for dinner a lot. So he lived more as a transient, but he had a crew of farmworkers that used to negotiate with the farmers.

KL: I should ask you your aunt's and uncle's names, too, your mother's sister...

GM: Yes. I don't recall my uncle's first name, but his last name was Oki, O-K-I. My aunt, who was my mother's sister's name was Asa Oki, A-S-A Oki. And they owned one of the first general merchandise stores in Azusa, so they lived there all their lives, practically.

KL: Do you know if they married in Japan or if they married in the U.S.?

GM: You know, I don't know that.

KL: It's kind of interesting that two daughters from this comfortable family in the city both came to the U.S.

GM: There was a third sister also that lived in Los Angeles. And the three sisters were only like six years apart and very close. The other sister's name was... I can't recall her first name, Mrs. Ito, I-T-O.

KL: And she was married, too?

GM: Yes, and had three daughters. Mrs. Oki had one son who just passed away at age ninety-seven last year.

KL: How were the sisters in age? What was the order?

GM: Mrs. Oki was the oldest, Mrs. Ito was next, and my mother was the youngest.

KL: And then after your parents married, were they living in San Fernando right away?

GM: I think they lived either in San Fernando or Chatsworth, in that area, San Fernando Valley, near Simi Valley. Because my older sister went to Canoga Park grammar school which is in that area.

KL: And what... I guess, I know you're the youngest of three. Would you introduce to the tape your, the family that you grew up in, the names and years of birth of your siblings?

GM: Yes. My mother's name was Kimiko Maeda, my father's name Yozo Maeda. My older sister, before her marriage, her name was Shizuko Maeda. The next youngest sister still living is Takeko Maeda. She's the one that's married to Archie Miyatake presently, and then I came along, George Maeda. And interesting question, I asked my mother, my sister's names were Shizuko and Takeko, and my legal name is George, I never had a Japanese name. So I asked my mother, "Why didn't I ever have a Japanese name?" And she said, "Well, George is a name in Japan, and it's pronounced 'Joji.'" But my birth certificate only has one name, George.

KL: And what year were you born?

GM: 1932.

KL: What about Takeko and Shizuko? Do you have in your memory what years they were born?

GM: Takeko was five years prior to my birth. November 25th, I think, is her birthday. Shizuko was four years older than Takeko, and her birthday was July 25th, I think.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

KL: What are some of your very earliest memories?

GM: The only things I could remember are little incidents, what might have happened. I had a little cart that I used to ride in a lot when I was three or four. We lived sort of on a hill, and I used to ride down the hill with it. But other than that, I don't remember too much.

KL: This was in Chatsworth?

GM: Yes.

KL: Would you give us a description of Chatsworth? What characterized it? Who lived there, what did they do for work? What was the community like?

GM: My father was a farmer all his life. He lived in this flatland, I'll say the bottom of it, of the hills. The nearest hill, there lived a movie actor named Paul Kelly, he was sort of famous in those days. But as a hobby he used to milk his cows in the morning and deliver milk to all the people down in the valley. And so my father got to know him pretty well. But I remember Paul Kelly in a lot of movies. But other than that it was just an open area.

KL: Was it kind of mixed farming? You mentioned dairy and melons.

GM: Well, he didn't farm in a huge scale in those days. I don't even remember where he farmed. It was only after we moved from there to Reseda, and then from Reseda to Northridge. And when we lived in Northridge was when he grew the 150, 70 acres of cantaloupes in Saugus, California.

KL: How old were you when you moved to Reseda?

GM: My guess... fourth grade. Probably first or second grade.

KL: And back in Chatsworth, were there, was it a mix of ethnicities and citizenship, or was it mostly Japanese American people?

GM: No. We lived sort of on the outskirts of this vacant area. We knew one other Japanese family, but no, there was not an influx of Japanese in Chatsworth. But all the families knew each other because on Saturdays in San Fernando they had a Japanese language reading and writing school that we all went to. So the families, Chatsworth, Canoga Park, Reseda, Northridge, Burbank... not Burbank, but Van Nuys, all went to this Japanese school on Saturdays, so all the families knew each other.

KL: What was the school's name?

GM: I don't recall.

KL: What community was it located in?

GM: It was... I don't even remember where it was, but it was in San Fernando.

KL: That sounds like it was the only one.

GM: It was the only one, yes.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

KL: So when you moved to Reseda, how was it different than Chatsworth?

GM: You know, I don't remember the change that much because... I hardly remember Chatsworth. And I don't remember too much of Reseda either. My memories are pretty strong when I lived in Northridge, because I was in the third and fourth grade then, sixth, seven, eight, nine years old.

KL: Tell us some of your memories, what stands out to you about your time there?

GM: My father was in partnership with another family, Mr. and Mrs. Kaku. That's one of the reasons he farmed on a large scale, so there were two houses there. It seems like there never was too much of a dull moment, there were two families during the cantaloupe harvest time. The two families, my father and his partner, all two and a half ton trucks in Saugus where they grew the melons were eighteen, it was eighteen miles away. So every day there would be a whole slew of workers that picked the cantaloupes in Saugus, threw 'em in the crates, and loaded the two trunks, and they drove the trucks back to Northridge. And probably eight to twelve local housewives were hired to pack the cantaloupes, and about ten o'clock at night a huge truck would come by and they'd load the cantaloupes into the truck and he'd drive it to the wholesale market. I remember that distinctly because we used to play, we used to run around on top of the ramp that held the cantaloupes, in fact, we started on top, we could slide all the way to the bottom. But again, I was six, seven, eight, nine years old. I don't remember too much of the incidences. We had two dogs, chickens, two horses. But I did learn how to drive when I was six years old. My father used to wire this block of wood on the brake and clutch so my foot would reach it, and he let me drive out in the field, so I knew how to drive when I was six. That much I remember.

KL: Who were your playmates?

GM: I had one boy that lived down the street, and I don't recall his name, but I still remember what he looked like. We also grew some hay on the other side of the road, and we used to dig tunnels in the big haystacks and play around. In those days it was all outdoor playing. I don't even think we owned bikes at the time. And I had friends at school, but I only saw them in school.

KL: What school did you attend?

GM: In San Fernando, I don't know the name of it. It's the fourth grade.

KL: What was the atmosphere like there? Was it demanding or fun?

GM: it was more fun, but I was very quiet in those days because I was different. I remember at the outbreak of the war, the first thing the teacher said was, "I don't want you to treat George any differently because he's one of us." And I remember that talk so well, but everyone there treated me so well. I had nothing but fond memories of fourth grade, third grade. And my father occasionally would bring crates of cantaloupe, and we'd have cantaloupes, take a break and eat cantaloupes.

KL: So you were a minority in the school?

GM: I was the only Japanese American in my grade.

KL: What were the other people's backgrounds?

GM: All Caucasian. I don't even remember a Hispanic or African American.

KL: You were pretty young, but do you have a sense for whether their parents were also immigrants?

GM: I don't know anything. I didn't know anything about their backgrounds.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

KL: You were part of a Buddhist church, I think, growing up?

GM: Yes.

KL: Would you tell us your memories attached to that church community?

GM: My parents were Buddhists, and I grew up a Buddhist. As a matter of fact, when I went in the service, I had to put my religion down, so I did put Buddhist down, and I asked my cousin if she would send me some books on Buddha, and I read, read, read, and I really didn't understand the meaning of Buddhism. I was married as a, I married as a Methodist, but one of my college courses that I took, World Religion, for my term paper, I wrote a paper on Christianity versus Buddhism, and I still have that paper today. And that's when I discovered more the meaning of Buddhism and Christianity both. And both Jesus and Sacnamura, I think was his name, born in India and one went westward, one went eastward, that's how the Asian countries became primarily Buddhist countries. But it was a very interesting project.

KL: Were you part of a congregation in the San Fernando Valley, or was your religious identity more at home?

GM: I think most of the Japanese people in San Fernando were Buddhist, most. I know there were some that weren't.

KL: Did you guys attend services in a temple?

GM: Not regularly, because the temple was in Los Angeles, but I do remember going to the temple with my parents.

KL: Would you tell us some of your memories of, first of all, which temple did you attend, and if there are special occasions or holidays or particular memories you have of it before going to Manzanar?

GM: The church still stands on First Street a little east of downtown Little Tokyo. I think there are two or three different branches of Buddhism. I knew the name of ours once, but I don't know now.

KL: Are there other things you wanted to mention about your life in the San Fernando Valley before going into Manzanar?

GM: Not really. It was fun, we had a good time.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

KL: Well, I wanted to ask you about Japanese language school. Did you like it, what was it like?

GM: I had to like it, I had no choice. None of us had a choice. I went through the second grade, or second year, and there was a time that I could read most of the newspapers that were written in Japanese. I couldn't now, but it wasn't a matter of going to school because you liked it. We went to school no questions asked, every Saturday for all eight hours or whatever. But we had fun.

KL: Why was that, you went to school every Saturday, no questions asked?

GM: Because our parents said we were going to Japanese school. I mean, it was to learn how to read and write and speak the language, so I could understand their point. I don't know, everybody seemed to enjoy the Saturdays because that's when they got together, people from Van Nuys, Chatsworth, Northridge, all got together and went to school on Saturdays. So in that respect, it was a good time. And I did learn how to speak Japanese pretty well because of that, and I'm thankful that I did go.

KL: What was a typical day like? What was the course of studies? Was it all language or did you have literature or history or math?

GM: No, we didn't have math, it was from a book, probably more history, but mainly the text, reading the text and speaking it properly. And we had little skits and plays that we had that we participated in. We all spoke the Japanese language, it was a different atmosphere on Saturdays. We went there to learn how to speak and write the Japanese language, so only the Japanese language was spoken. And then when we went to school during the week, it was just English. When I conversed with my sisters, it was always in English. Oh, by the way, I grew up speaking Japanese language to my parents. But my sisters and I never spoke Japanese, we always spoke English to each other. So we got away with a lot of things that my parents couldn't understand. [Laughs]

KL: Can you give us examples?

GM: Not examples, but I mean, if we wanted to say something and we didn't want them to understand, we'd sort of use English slang, and I know my mother would scold us. But I remember that, it was sort of fun in those days.

KL: What were your sisters' personalities like, or what was important to them?

GM: My two sisters were so different, my oldest sister was more... what's the word? Not old fashioned, but... tell me what the word is.

KL: I don't know, like responsible or straight-laced or serious?

GM: Serious, yes. But my younger sister was a little more Americanized. But they were different, but both loving sisters.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

KL: What do you recall... well, first of all, I guess I should ask if your parents were, or if you and your sisters were in touch with any relatives in Japan, or if your family had any awareness of sort of the collision course that the two countries were on?

GM: No, I was not aware, they never told us. I don't even know if my parents were aware when Pearl Harbor was attacked. I just heard that for the first time, everyone was shocked that I know of.

KL: How did you hear the news?

GM: You know, I don't remember except that I must have been told by my parents. But you know, my two aunts were in this country, my father's two sisters and my mother's two sisters, they were all in this country. But you know, what I remember the most, it's going ahead in years, but when we were allowed to leave Manzanar, between the time we left and the time the war ended, our family lived with my aunt's family in Azusa. And that's when the news came over the radio that the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, and my mother's parents were, I think, four blocks from the center of the blast. So one relative was out of town visiting someone, but the rest perished in the bomb. But I remember the looks on my mother, my aunt's faces when they heard over the radio, that was something horrible. I still remember the look on their faces when they heard it over the radio because if the bomb dropped in the center of Hiroshima, for sure, they lived in the center of Hiroshima, so their home was just destroyed.

KL: Were you able to have any kind of a letter-writing relationship or anything with those grandparents?

GM: No. I never knew them, I never spoke to them.

KL: How did life change for you after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor?

GM: Drastically, but more drastically for my parents. His farming came to a halt, he was arrested because he was an officer of the Japanese school. Myself as a nine year old, we just sort of went along with the tide. And even when we were interned in Manzanar, it was no big deal. It was a lot of fun, we just woke up and played every day. But my parents suffered a lot, both monetarily and emotionally. When we got our retribution, the $20,000 retribution from the government, my parents had passed away and I just wished that they were alive to have received that. Because they were the ones that suffered the most.

KL: Can you walk us through some details of those months? You said your father had to stop farming. How and why did that happen?

GM: Well, as far as I know, rather immediately, all families of Japanese descent were put on a restricted area, it was either five or fifteen miles you couldn't drive out of. So his farming came to a stop. I don't know, they didn't say too much, but I know a lot happened.

KL: Do you know what happened to the land? I assume he was leasing.

GM: Yes, he was leasing because in those days, the Japanese families, I'm pretty sure this is a fact, they could not own property to farm. So all the farmlands where you could lease or rent it or something.

KL: And this was midwinter, so nothing was planted at that time?

GM: I don't even recall that. My father never said too much. I don't know if this story attaches to what we're talking about, but...

KL: That's okay, we might come back to it.

GM: My father's two hobbies were shotguns and cameras. So immediately they put a restriction on all shotguns, that all firearms and cameras must be turned in to the authorities. Well, I'm just guessing, but my father must have had thirty or forty cameras, and likewise so many shotguns. And so he turned, this is my guess, that he turned maybe four or five in, and he woke me up one night, and he had a wheelbarrow full of cameras and shotguns and he asked me to go help him dig a hole. So we went to a corner of the field and we dug this huge hole where he dumped all the cameras and shotguns. And I remember this so well, I said, "Why are you throwing all of these away?" And his answer was very short, he said, "I don't want to be caught with them." but those things I remember. But he never really talked about it except after the war ended and we went back to where we used to farm. I recall he turned around and he said, "Do you remember digging that hole where we buried the shotguns and cameras next to the shopping center?" And he said, "Can you imagine the look on the workers' faces when they excavated the land and all these shotguns and cameras came popping out of the ground?" But I remember him asking me that.

KL: Do you have a memory of whether you tried to kind of protect them? Was there a thought of trying to reclaim them potentially later?

GM: Reclaim what?

KL: The cameras?

GM: No, no. I think he was afraid more than anything, to even own that many. Although it was innocent, it was just a hobby with them. No, no interest in reclaiming any of that.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

KL: So when we were talking earlier, you mentioned two other things that I wanted to ask about, a trip to Azusa to see members of your mother's family and also your father's arrest. I don't know which of those happened first.

GM: Well, my father's arrest was first. I remember that vividly, and I got off the school bus, and usually I'd run up the driveway, run in the house, and grab something to eat, open the refrigerator and grab something to eat. But on this day, there was a green car, green sedan, three men in suits, plus my father in a suit, they were all standing beside the car. And I walked up and I asked my father where he was going, and he gave me a little hug and he said, "Don't worry, I'll be back." I didn't realize he was being arrested by the FBI for his part in being an officer of the Japanese language school. So I ran into the house and my sisters and mother were crying and I said, "What's wrong?" And they said, "They arrested Dad." I said, "Why? He didn't do anything." Everybody was crying. So when he left, my mother, who never took care of business, now had to be the head of the household. So not knowing what was going to happen, whether she was going to be sent to Japan, she had no idea what was going to happen. They hadn't even talked about evacuation.

First thing she did was go to the bank and withdraw all the money. Then she made a big decision that she was going to see her sister in Azusa. Now, remember, we were restricted to this 5 or 15 mile radius, and Azusa was probably sixty, seventy miles away. So at midnight, my sixteen year old sister, who I don't think had any driver's license, we all jumped in our 1939 Chevy car with my mother in the middle and my sister on one side, me on the other side in the backseat, my older sister driving, and I remember her telling us that if something ever happened to (her), or us, all the money that we have is tied around (her) waist and a money belt that she made. So when she withdrew the money, she took it with us when we visited my aunt in Azusa. And all I remember were a lot of hugs, and we didn't stay there long. Crying and hugging and goodbyes and all that. And then we drove back without an incident, and I'm sure we shouldn't have done that, but we didn't get caught and no one got in trouble. But that was one of the big decisions my mother made. She had no idea if she was ever gonna see her sister again. And that was exciting, I remember that so well.

KL: I don't know if this is the right time for this either, this question, but it's on my mind and I do want to ask you what changes you saw in your mother as she had to move into this new role being the decision-maker.

GM: She wasn't wishy-washy, she made decisions, right or wrong. I mean, she didn't get any advice from anyone to go to the bank and withdraw the money, that was a big decision, do I leave the money in the bank or take it out? She decided to take it out, again, she hadn't the faintest idea of what was going to happen to our family, so that was one of the first things she did. No, she took over like a champ. [Laughs] To this day I was very proud of her, but she did.

KL: Did it change your... Shizuko also at all, having your father's arrest?

GM: Shizuko, my older sister, was always a very responsible type person, so I didn't see any change in her. She took the role as assistant, head of the household, I guess. And as a matter of fact, when we were in Manzanar, I forgot what year, but they allowed people to leave Manzanar if they were going to go back east. And so my sister was one of the first ones to sign up for it and she went to Chicago and worked there, I don't know what year, but she was probably there a year and a half or so until the end of the war.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

KL: Anything else that is a significant memory of yours from before the trip to Manzanar? Well, yeah, your visits to your father, what happened next?

GM: My father was imprisoned in a makeshift prison at Tujunga, and we had visiting rights there. Except we had to speak and see each other through a huge chain-link fence, so I remember our goodbyes were just sort of touching fingers through the chain-link fence. And again, when we visited him, we had no idea if he was going to be there for the rest of his life or one month, two months, three months. So while we vacated Northridge to go to Manzanar, he was in prison, so my mother handled most of it. I remember there were things like a bugle and a bicycle. I didn't know what to do with them, so we put 'em in the living room. The bugle I remember was on top of the table, and we just left it there, we didn't know what to do with it.

And we met at the Burbank train station with only the luggage we can carry. And my mother and my two sisters, and we boarded this bus that had drawn window shades, and we took this seven-hour drive to Manzanar. We had no idea where we were going, except we were going north. And we stopped at Manzanar and it was so windy we could hardly see more than 10, 20 yards. I don't know, could I tell you a little bit about the first day?

KL: I'd like to hear that, but before we do, I wondered if you could give me a description, a visual description of what you saw in Tujunga on those visits? You said there was a fence, what else?

GM: That's about how... I don't remember the buildings they were in, it was a huge, tall fence. And they had to come, the prisoners had to come to the fence and we were able to talk to them through a chain link fence. It was a makeshift prison, so it wasn't a formal...

KL: Did you have contact with any personnel there, any army or other staff?

GM: I don't remember any of them.

KL: What was your dad's demeanor?

GM: He's always been sort of quiet, so in that respect, I didn't see any change in him except the Japanese immigrants were not that... not that they didn't love you as much, but there wasn't a lot of hugging and kissing going on in those days anyway. So I didn't notice that much difference in my father except when we said goodbye, I do remember when we said goodbye, we could only stick our finger through the chain link fence and sort of click fingers together.

KL: How many times did you see him there?

GM: I remember twice, but my guess is maybe three times. We weren't there much. After he was arrested, between the time he was arrested and we were evacuated, there wasn't that much time.

KL: Do you remember your emotions when you saw him there or over those visits?

GM: Sort of subdued. I mean, there was no crying. My guess today -- and I'm speaking for my mother -- there was more of a disbelief. I imagine she just couldn't believe what was going on. And my poor father, he didn't know what was going on, except he was being questioned a lot. He had no idea if he was gonna stay there or be released or what, but after some interrogation and questioning and so forth, he joined us in Manzanar about, my guess about three or four months after we went to Manzanar.

KL: Did he give you a description of what questions people were asking him or how they acted toward him or anything?

GM: No. Those postcards that I'm donating to you, those are the letters that he wrote to me from Tujunga prison.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

KL: You said you wanted to give a description of your first day at Manzanar.

GM: Yes. It was very windy, and I had a hard time breathing because of the sandstorms. And we just followed the crowd, we got off and we each had a hay mattress that we carried to our barracks. And the walls and the floor had knotholes all over or you can see through 'em. So after we made the bed, my mother sent us, my two sisters and I, out to hunt for can lids to seal the holes, I remember that. But for the first, I don't know, maybe six months or so, the only thing separating the outside from the inside was a one by twelve piece of wood with knotholes in it. And it wasn't until... my guess again, maybe six months or so after we got there, that they put drywall on the inside and vinyl on the floors.

KL: What was your address in Manzanar?

GM: Block 15, Building 4, Apartment 4. I don't know how I remember that.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

KL: It's amazing to me how many people do.

GM: There were fifteen... sixteen buildings, I think. And the last building was a mess hall. In between the two rows there was a communal men's bath and toilet, and the women's, and a separate washroom. And the first building, the first apartment of the first building, each block was either assigned or picked a block manager who attended meetings and he would come back and tell the whole block what was going on.

KL: Who was Block 15s, do you remember?

GM: Who?

KL: Who was the block manager in Block 15?

GM: I don't recall.

KL: Do you remember any kind of feeling that you had toward him or what his reputation was among other people?

GM: No, except that he must have been important to be selected as a block manager. My cousin, for instance, Stanford grad medical school and so forth, he went to Heart Mountain, Wyoming, and he was one of the block managers. So I imagine their selection process was... according to education, background, and so forth.

KL: This person that I talked to this morning was in Minidoka and she said that her block was kind of defined as having the most kids in it. And I know Manzanar blocks kind of had reputations, this one was loud, this one was where the bachelors lived, this was Venice, this was Terminal Island.

GM: Yeah, right.

KL: What defined Block 15?

GM: Sort of an in between. They weren't the ones picked on, but you're right, without naming where they came from, there were blocks that ran the camp. You never messed with those people who lived there, and there were blocks that got picked on. We sort of seemed to be in the middle. Oh, the Venice Barbell Club, they were pretty famous in those days. They were in our block, maybe that's why we didn't get picked on. But there were some world records made, and some of those people that were in our block, I think at one time or another held those records. But very serious barbell club. And we kids, we formed an unofficial club, and we used to lift weights and so forth with the supervision of the Venice Barbell Club.

KL: It was mostly kids from Block 15 who weightlifted with you?

GM: Yes, that's what we were. There were, let's see, one, two, three, four, five, six. There were six of us in our block that sort of hung out together.

KL: That's neat that they would mentor you, kind of, those older people.

GM: Yeah.

KL: Where did you gather for that? Where was that headquartered?

GM: Well, we lived in the fourth barrack. The first row was Building 1 through Building... I think it's 8, and then 9 through 16 on the other side. And they were around the twelfth, thirteenth, in that area, which really was just a few feet from us because it was separated by this little open space that had the communal.

KL: So the Barbell Club had kind of a headquarters, it was in a barrack building?

GM: Right.

KL: Was this a living space, too?

GM: Not in the building. What they did, I think they might have been one of the first group to build the cellar. I remember the cellar that they built, but most of the lifting were done outside, I remember that.

KL: Can you describe the cellar?

GM: A lot of people did dig cellars because it was very hot in the summertime, and that made the atmosphere a little cooler. We didn't have one because we didn't have the manpower to make one. But we kids were, got these empty cans, and we were digging, trying to dig one. And one of the boys dug this piece of dirt, and it was the home of a scorpion. By the way, there were a lot of scorpions in Manzanar. And anyway, he was bit by a baby scorpion. I remember his arm swelling up twice the size, and had to be rushed to the hospital. It wasn't lethal, but he got sick. There were a lot of scorpions when we first got there. It was nothing to... we were running around barefoot, and we'd run across the firebreak and then put on the brakes and let the scorpion go through. They were pretty fast. So there were a lot of scorpions caught and put on a little, like a trophy or mantle, a pin.

KL: Just in people's homes, or was there like a scorpion display?

GM: No, people... well, not inside the homes, probably outside. Another thing was within the first year, everyone became creative because other than Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward, we had no place to buy things. And they were the only two places we ordered things from. So people used to get orange peelings and dry them, and then burn them at night to repel the mosquitoes, and that was a very common thing to burn the dried orange peels. And also bought fans from Sears Roebuck, and they made, most families, including ours, made little, like a container with sacks on the outside, with water dripping down, and then we had the fan in front, shot the air to the inside, sort of as a cooler. We had to do that because it was very hot in the summer.

KL: Did you have it plumbed from the faucet outside?

GM: You know, I'm trying to remember, it had to be.

KL: It was automatic, it wasn't like you would wet it and hang it?

GM: No, no, it was (not) automatic, but I think it had to be plumbed, and then they turned the faucet on.

KL: Did burning the orange peels work to repel mosquitoes?

GM: Oh, yeah.

KL: I'm going to try it, because they're still bad.

GM: [Laughs] Haven't you heard of that before at Manzanar? Oh my god, every family. Nineteen out of twenty families, you'd walk by and then a piece of paper with all these orange peels dried.

KL: I've heard about the tomatillo man from people who lived in Block 8, kids, some guy would come with a sack of tomatillos, and you can inflate them and make sounds with them.

GM: Oh, I've never heard of that one.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

KL: We are back, this is tape number two, continuing an oral history interview with George Maeda on October the 13th, 2014. And we were talking about mosquito repellents at Manzanar. It occurs to me that I should ask you when your father came to join you, how soon after your arrival at Manzanar and what was that like?

GM: Oh, nothing but joy. I mean, when we heard he was coming back, we thought, "Finally." I really don't remember the day he showed up, but nothing that bad, we were all happy. And he became, he was in charge of a building that gave out peacoats. And I don't know if you're aware of the salary structure there, I think there were three different salaries, unskilled labor was either twelve or fourteen dollars a month. Semi-skilled, I would think like the mess hall chief cook, that type, sixteen dollars a month. And the professionals, the doctors, clergy, were nineteen dollars a month. So that was the salary structure.

KL: Yeah, it was low, extremely low compared to what people were making before.

GM: But we were fed, we didn't really need the money, except once a week, the PX would have ice cream, so my parents would give us whatever it costs for a pint of ice cream. But other than that, we (didn't) need to spend money.

KL: You seem like a good observer, sort of, of change over time. You mentioned that the barracks were timbers with knotholes at first, and then that that linoleum and stuff came in maybe six months later or so, which jives with what I have read and heard. Would you describe in your first months at Manzanar what I would see if I walked into your barrack apartment and who was living there, and just tell us more about it?

GM: Boy, we lived with another family of three. There were four of us, there were seven in this room. And I mentioned before that the size of the room was determined by the number of residents. And each person was awarded one beam, and each beam was, I think, five feet. So if there were seven of us, our room was thirty-five feet long by about twenty feet wide. And the people, the families that lived there did not have to necessarily be related. So we had to make makeshift rooms, and we separated that with bedsheets. So when you walked in, the first thing you saw were a lot of bedsheets hanging, and that were different rooms that we all slept in.

KL: Who was the other family that was with you?

GM: The last name was Tanaka, they lived in Chatsworth. Nice family, I remember. We knew them in San Fernando. I don't recall how long that lasted, it wasn't that long before each family had their own.

KL: Were they still with you when your dad came?

GM: No. I'm trying to remember, I think when my dad showed up, or maybe about that time, they each got different rooms.

KL: How did school in Manzanar compare to what you were used to?

GM: Well, only... I can't compare it to what it was before, because that was the fourth grade. But I had to marvel at all the non-Japanese volunteers that came into Manzanar to teach. I can't recall her name, she was a superintendent or principal, Dr...

KL: Carter?

GM: Carter. And well-known, everybody admired her. And within the first year, from the first to the twelfth grade, was established. They weren't easy on us, I mean, we studied.

KL: Did your mother's sisters' families come to Manzanar, too?

GM: No. Mrs. Oki, who lived in Azusa, went to, first she went to Santa Anita it's the holding camp that they built while the other, the permanent camps were being built. So they went to Santa Anita, and then they went to Heart Mountain, Wyoming. My other aunt, I don't recall the name. There were ten camps, but I don't remember. No, we were all separated into different camps.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

KL: You mentioned, or we were talking outside about the Nagatomi family. What do you remember about Reverend Nagatomi or other members of his family in Manzanar, even just like a personality sketch.

GM: He was very friendly, but very respected, naturally. I was not afraid of (him), but I remember he was a reverend, so we respected that. I don't know if the daughter, who's my age, is still around or not. He had a daughter my age, I remember that. I think her name was Fudeko. In fact, there was a book that I purchased in Manzanar when I went up there, it was a book that involved her. She lived...

KL: It's the oldest one. So her English name was Dee, and she was a teacher?

GM: Yes, yes.

KL: And in later years she connected with Joanne Busby who grew up in Independence, who's Caucasian.

GM: Something like that.

KL: Is that the one, it's a little pamphlet?

GM: Yeah, yeah.

KL: Yeah, so I know her, or of her. She died several years ago.

GM: Oh, okay.

KL: But I always heard her referred to as Dee.

GM: Okay.

KL: But she was a classmate of yours?

GM: No, not a classmate, but I just knew her because were family friends.

KL: What do you recall about what she was like?

GM: I have to admit, I had a crush on her. But we didn't speak much, we were real close family friends. But you're right, I do remember now one other sibling she had. I don't even remember Mrs. Nagatomi, what she looked like. I remember Reverend Nagatomi. In fact, I was looking through the pictures last night, I should have brought that, there was one picture of the Reverend. But other than that, my parents knew them well.

KL: Who else do you remember from Manzanar, that was either a good friend of yours or your folks, or kind of a leader? What other people stick out? I know you know Archie Miyatake.

GM: Well, he became a relative, yeah.

KL: What do you remember about him in Manzanar?

GM: You know, I never really saw him that much. Except for school, we'd get up in the morning and we were off and running, playing. But I do remember, I remember Archie, I remember his brother, Bobby, the other brother, and Mr. Miyatake.

KL: What about Toyo? What do you recall of him?

GM: I learned more about him after the war ended, you know, they started publishing his photos. I wasn't even aware that Ansel Adams visited Manzanar, except through this book, I read where he visited Manzanar and he knew Mr. Miyatake.

KL: You mentioned Dr. Carter, that she had a good reputation among people?

GM: Yes.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

KL: Do you recall either reputations or encounters that you had other members of the WRA? Like what people's impressions were of Ralph Merritt or of Roy Nash? And you were young...

GM: I don't know Roy Nash, I remember Mr. Merritt, but I had no encounter with him. I did have... the police department had some Japanese Americans in it and some Caucasians, and this one day, I think four of us decided that we were going to sneak out from camp, dig a hole and sneak out the fence, and we successfully did that and we traveled three, four miles up toward the mountains. And I remember a trout going upstream, so I took my t-shirt off, I ran into the creek, and I actually caught this fish. And it was a pretty good sized fish, and I said, "What do I do with?" And everybody said, "I don't know," so I let it go again. It was a great day until we got back and we were caught by the camp police. And we were taken in this jeep to the police station, that was the one and only time I ever saw the inside of that police station. We never got in trouble, but I was so scared, I remember one policeman that said, "Just scare the thing out of them." [Laughs] And they did. And we never did that again.

KL: Did they tell your parents?

GM: No. Oh, I would have been whipped. [Laughs] Although my father, thank god, he never laid a hand on me. But I used to be so scared of him, I did not want him to be angry at me. I guess someone asked me, "Did you respect him or fear him?" And I said, "I don't know which was worse, one or the other." But when he said jump, I say, "How far? How high?" I admired my father.

KL: The police force, did you have, what were your feelings about it aside from that one instance? Was it a part of your life there?

GM: That's the only time I had anything to do with them or really saw that. But I remember an interview that I saw recorded from an internee, and I don't know if it was Manzanar or somewhere else. Oh, it was this interview that I told you about, the high school students, and I don't even know if it was Manzanar, but a group of people went to complain to the camp director to ask if they could unarm the guards that were armed with machine guns. And the camp director said, "Well, they're armed to protect you." And his comment was, "If they're protecting us, why are they pointing at us?" But I remember seeing that on the same interview that I had, sort of comical, that's all.

KL: Did you ever get any... some people remember their parents warning them about the fence and the guards? Did you ever get... I guess two parts, did you ever get any, sort of, direction for how to stay safe or how to interact with the fence and the guards?

GM: I guess we were told just to stay away from it, except for that one day we decided to break the rules.

KL: How old were you that day?

GM: Well, I was there between nine and twelve, so I had to be in between, probably ten or eleven.

KL: And you said you guys dug a hole under the fence?

GM: Yeah.

KL: That's impressive.

GM: [Laughs] I thought so too, at the time we did it.

KL: How long did it take?

GM: I don't remember. I remember the fish that I caught. Later on they, after the first year or so, I don't know if the guard, they removed the guards, but (some people) channeled the creek and made a swimming pool outside the camp. So our camp swimming pool was really outside the camp.

KL: Did you spend time there?

GM: Yeah, we used to go there.

KL: What was it like?

GM: People would just jump in the water. That's the only... there was nothing like that within the camp, but there was water that was over your head.

KL: That was on the south side, in the creek? There was the reservoir that was northwest of Manzanar.

GM: If you enter Manzanar, I would say it's on the right side, a little past the fence. You know where the hospital used to be? It was past there.

KL: Okay, so that's the reservoir, it was concrete-lined and stuff?

GM: It wasn't concrete-lined, no. I don't remember that. It was just a huge hole.

KL: So you said you were kind of up with the sun and playing a lot, and you mentioned the barbell club and sort of the junior version. Where did you play? What other places do you remember?

GM: We were never short of ideas. Later on, in the middle of the block, they built a basketball court, and we used to play basketball there. Played baseball, and on weekends they had a movie in the fire block, we used to go see. We were never short of things to do.

KL: Did you stay in Block 15 the whole time you were in Manzanar?

GM: Yes.

KL: We've excavated a lot of the gardens at Manzanar. Do you remember any ponds or any small gardens that stick out in your mind?

GM: I never paid too much attention to it. But is it Bear Creek? I remember a couple places there that we used to go to once in a while. We didn't go around too much there. On the... is that the north? As you enter the complex, it's on the right side.

KL: That's the north.

GM: There used to be a garden there, very impressive garden, I remember that.

KL: When did Shizuko leave Manzanar?

GM: She was one of the first ones to leave when they allowed us to leave, and I don't remember when that was.

KL: Did she date at all in Manzanar? I know you said she married later.

GM: I don't remember her dating in Manzanar.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

KL: Do you have any recollections -- and you were young -- but the leave questionnaire, the selective service forms, most people call it the "loyalty questionnaire," the government distributed in 1943?

GM: My father came home from that meeting, and he explained to us what he had put down. I remember that he got us all together and explained it to us. But I have notes on that, but it was very controversial because of the two questions. If you said "no"... if you said, "yes," I will do whatever the government wants for the sake of this country, it meant that you were, it could mean that you were disloyal before or something. It was very controversial.

KL: How did your dad explain it to you, do you remember?

GM: He said something to the effect, "We're in this country so we're loyal to this country," or something to that effect. It was positive. My aunt, meanwhile, who lived a block away, she was a widow, didn't know what was going to happen. The fear that a lot of people had was that if they said "yes" they will be loyal, they would lose their Japanese citizenship because they chose to stay in this country. And the immigrants were not allowed to apply for citizenship, so they would have been, existed in a country without citizenship. That was one of the fears. So the people that wanted to go back to Japan, a lot of them... this I read about, was told, said whatever, no or yes so that at least they can go back to a country where they had a citizenship, if that made any sense.

KL: What was your aunt's name?

GM: Nishida.

KL: Who was she... how was she related to you?

GM: She was my father's younger sister. By the way, those who said "no" or whatever went to Tule Lake. And all the... and her offsprings were citizens, and they lost their citizenship. Soon as you went to Tule Lake, you lost your citizenship, is what I understand.

KL: Some people did. There was a second, there was an unprecedented law that some people renounced their citizenship in time of war, and a lot of people did that in Tule Lake.

GM: Now, my cousin, for instance, lost his, and one of the ways they could regain it was to volunteer for the military. So he volunteered for the military and got his citizenship back.

KL: Oh, wow. So he never got sent to Japan?

GM: No, no. Wait a minute. My aunt did for a short time, and then she came back, yes.

KL: And this was her son, you said, who volunteered?

GM: Yes. It was, yeah, very controversial, and people didn't know how to answer. And from what I hear, if you didn't answer, you were threatened.

KL: In Manzanar even?

GM: This is what I hear. If they didn't answer, it's because they didn't know what to answer. If they said one thing, they might lose their citizenship from both countries. They couldn't apply for one here, they would lose it from Japan.

KL: Do you remember people leaving for Tule Lake?

GM: You know, I don't. Yet it happened during my stay there, but I don't remember any parting meetings or anything.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

KL: What am I leaving out about Manzanar? Do you remembering the uprising, the so-called "riot"?

GM: I heard about it, and one of my relatives was one of the people who was shot.

KL: The Itos?

GM: No, it was my father's side. I won't mention his name. He's passed on. But yeah, there was an uprising. I didn't put much thought in it, but I remember when it happened.

KL: What was your dad's reaction?

GM: He didn't talk about it. My dad kept a lot of things to himself; he wasn't an easy person to understand. He did explain why -- I don't remember what he said -- but why he answered what he did, and that we were going to stay in Manzanar. I didn't even know, I told you he was an entrepreneur, he owned a pool hall. So if I could just branch off from this for a second and tell you a little story about when I was going to high school. This was after the war ended.

KL: Is this when you were in the pool hall?

GM: I was in the pool hall and he was walking down the sidewalk in Azusa and he peeked in, and here I was with my friends shooting pool. So he walked in and I just froze. Like I told you, I don't know whether I feared him or respected him, but I went to put the stick back and he says, "Go ahead and play, don't stop." [Laughs] And my friends kept egging him on, saying, "Come on, Mr. Maeda, let's play. Come on, let's play, let's play, let's play." Finally he grabbed the pool stick and he cued it, boom, boom, like this. I thought, "What's going on? He knows how to play pool." And we went home that day and he called me into his bedroom and he said, "I've never been proud of this, but in one of the businesses I was, I owned a pool hall, and I used to shoot pool or whatever for money to maintain the pool hall." [Laughs] But he said, "I was never proud of it."

KL: He still had his skills though, huh?

GM: Well, you can tell a pool player when he's shot pool before. He wasn't an amateur, I mean, when he shot I thought, "What's going on?" But that's why I remembered the incident so well.

KL: And that's how you knew he ran a pool hall?

GM: Well, he told me.

KL: Yeah, I didn't realize that. After the riot, there were people who were taken out of Manzanar into Death Valley and then also to Moab and Leupp. Did you have any experience with that?

GM: No. I don't think my relative, he was in Manzanar, he never left. I know he was shot, I mean, he was shot in the leg.

KL: And you didn't witness the riot.

GM: No, no, it was just one of those things I heard about.

KL: What do you remember about Take's graduation from high school?

GM: Not much.

KL: Or your other sister Shizuko's either? I guess she graduated there.

GM: I don't even remember her graduating, and I barely remember Take graduating. I never attended, I don't even know if she wore a cap and gown or not. She must have. That's right, because the first year we were out, we stayed with my aunt, and she was in junior college then. So she had to have been graduated in Manzanar. They were good schools, I mean, we learned, we weren't held back.

KL: Any other teachers stand out or instances in school?

GM: Yes. I don't remember her name, but she was not handicapped, but she had a severe humpback. Not mean, but you learned when you were in her class. I don't remember her name, but everybody knew her. And again, they weren't sure if they respected her or feared her, but when you were in her class, you learned. And the school system there was pretty strict. Because when I got out and I went in the eighth grade, I never felt that I was behind. I always felt I was a little ahead of the class. So I think half of the instructors were of Japanese descent, the other half were either volunteers or paid. Which I really, in later years, admired them for doing what they did.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

KL: When did you leave Manzanar?

GM: We were one of the first to leave when they allowed us to leave, 1944, I think.

KL: You went back to, I mean, you went back, you never relocated to the Midwest?

GM: No. Again, this is slightly out of phase, but my aunt, Mrs. Oki, Mr. and Mrs. Oki owned this general merchandise store since the early 1900s. And Mr. Oki swallowed a fish bone that somehow got located somewhere in his kidney or something and the doctors misdiagnosed him and he passed away before, I think slightly before the war started. So here was Mrs. Oki by herself, and so what she did was got rid of all the perishables in the store. And by perishables, I meant they had anything you can think of. I mean, chicken feed, meat, ice cream, it was truly a general merchandise store. And so she got rid of all the perishables, and they lived in an apartment type house in the back, so she just boarded it, left everything in the house, and she left for Santa Anita and later to Heart Mountain. So when we were allowed to come back, we had decided, or she had decided that we could stay with them until we were established. So my father came out ahead of time by himself to straighten out the apartment. And I wish to this day he had taken a picture, but one of the things he told me was when he walked upstairs and looked at the mattress, there were mushrooms six inches big growing out of the mattresses. And I guess the dampness and so forth, I often asked him, "Why didn't you take pictures?" Probably didn't have a camera. But I never forget that story he told me. But we came out and we lived with them, the Oki family, for probably a year, and then we moved to Glendora, the next town.

KL: How had the community changed in San Fernando when you came back?

GM: You know, I only remember that one visit there. I remember my father making a comment because the family that he turned the farm over to, we had a couple cars, 1940, the '39 Chevy, which was a nice car. They had Cadillacs parked, so they must have done very well during the war. But I remember my father saying something like we really missed out. I was going to say something, I forgot.

KL: Did your dad go back into farming?

GM: He wanted me to. He wanted me to, and he said, "Would you like to?" And I said, "No." Because all I remember was waking up at five in the morning and going with him to Saugus and the farms, and I'd play with the German family who owned the property. And then he'd throw me on top of the truck and we'd come back about, whatever, five, six. That's all I remember was waking up so early, so I said, "I don't want to go into farming." Speaking of that German family, we had no place to store our things. So they were German immigrants, so they stored our furniture, radios and things like that, in their shed. So after my father came back, he wrote a letter and asked if there was any way they could bring it up. So one day this huge truck pulled up, and it was just like Tobacco Road. The radiator had steam coming out, and the truck was just slowly going. And that was the German family that brought our furniture to us. And I guess we were forever grateful to them for keeping it for us and bringing it up to us. But yeah, I remember that well, because everybody came out of their barracks wondering what that truck was that had all the steam coming out. We didn't even know until it stopped at our place.

KL: Was that at Manzanar?

GM: Yes, in Manzanar. He drove all those things in this huge truck from Saugus, California, to Manzanar.

KL: Wow.

GM: We owe a lot to them.

KL: Did they stay with you at all?

GM: No, I remember they just dropped it off, had conversation, shook hands, and he left. I don't know if he paid him or what, I don't know the business end of it.

KL: Do you recall that family's name?

GM: No, I don't. But he had a very heavy accent, so he was a German immigrant. He had a son who spoke English very well.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

KL: So you didn't want to go into farming, what were your ideas about what you wanted to do with your adult life?

GM: [Laughs] At that time I just didn't want to go into farming because of waking up so early. When I graduated from high school, my parents wanted me to go to college, and I didn't think they could afford sending me through a four-year college. So I went to Trade Tech as an electrical, electrician's field. And as a class we all went, and passed the journeyman's test, it was a very good school. And then I worked part time as an electrical draftsman. The Rheem Manufacturing called the school and asked if there was someone who could make drawings. They said, "We can teach him how to draw, but he has to know the electrical part." So I was picked. And I got this part time job at Rheem Manufacturing Company until I was drafted in the service. And when I got out, my first job was as a draftsman, and I never got into the electrical field except I wired my own house when we built it and stuff. But I went to school for seventeen, eighteen years, finally got my degree. And I wouldn't do this again, I mean, I would go straight from high school.

KL: Where did you graduate from high school?

GM: Citrus Union High School in Glendora, Azusa-Glendora.

KL: And so what did your folks do to support themselves?

GM: My father, when he came out, worked for this one family who grew flowers. He did that for a few years, he never went into business. And then after he retired he was a part-time gardener for a while. My mother got her first job, I imagine, since she came to this country, she was a very good seamstress. So she worked for the Catalina Company as a sample seamstress, they were supposed to be one of the best because they make samples. And that's how they lived for their last years until they retired. The losses that they took from their farming equipment and so forth, I remember my father applying for a small claims, and he got twenty-five, he just listed some items and he got $2,500 through small claims and he shared that with his partner, which was probably one-hundredth of what he lost.

KL: This was his prewar partner? I'm looking for his name.

GM: Kaku, K-A-K-U.

KL: Were they in Manzanar also?

GM: Yes.

KL: What did they do? Did they go back into farming?

GM: No. Oh, I take it back. He did, but not that scale. I mean, it was smaller.

KL: So they had a huge loss.

GM: Yes, they both did. In fact, we weren't the only family, every family had a huge loss. But I think it was the state of California, allowed the returning families to sue the state. And you could sue for a larger amount, but then you had to go to court. So I remember my father telling me he didn't want to go through the trouble of going to court, so he just listed some items. And I remember he got back twenty-five hundred dollars.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

KL: You said you got drafted?

GM: Yes.

KL: You had military service? What were the circumstances of that? What was your work and where were you?

GM: It was during the Korean conflict, or Korean War. And I don't know why, but after eight weeks of basic training, some of us were pulled out and sent to the state of Washington to guard the Hanford Atomic Works. They made the plutonium for the atom (...). So we were in an artillery unit surrounding them, and to this day, I don't know what the ground rules were to be picked. But my good friend, who was in my wedding, that's when I met him. But he wasn't picked and he went to Korea. And he didn't see any action, but I think April was the ceasefire date. And we were... I think we were discharged December, or the year before, 1954. So my military life was sort of uneventful. I didn't leave the country. I guess it was important where we were.

KL: So you said it was artillery. Were you stationed next to an artillery piece, or where were you and what was your...

GM: We had batteries or companies scattered all around. These plants, there were about five plants, and ninety percent of the plants were underground. And only the chimney stuck out from the ground, and they were radioactive, so they only released the smoke when the wind went toward the ocean. But once in a while the wind would reverse and come towards us. Jeep drivers had to use Geiger counters, and we were told, "Don't worry, it's not life threatening," but people were getting toothaches and headaches and everything else. We were actually there to protect the manufacturing, Hanford Atomic Works, I think they may still be in existence, it's pretty famous. They were in Richland, Washington, and there still might be plants there for all I know.

KL: So your life continued intersecting with World War II even later.

GM: Well, we didn't know except that they made plutonium for the atom bombs, but other than that, we didn't know what else was going on.

KL: That's interesting. I used to live kind of near Oak Ridge, and of course you hear about New Mexico, but I don't hear Hanford mentioned all that often, it's interesting.

GM: Yeah, it was... in fact, it might have been a semi-secret location or something.

KL: Oak Ridge was very secret. So your career was in electrical engineering?

GM: Mechanical.

KL: Mechanical.

GM: Yes. I worked, I retired from a company named Aerojet, it was an aerospace company. I taught part-time in the evenings, junior college. And then I had a small consulting company that I had formed myself. Retired in 1994.

KL: What are some other significant milestones or parts of your adult life? I want to mention, if someone were to watch this and just try to get sort of a feel who you are, it's important.

GM: Well, I'm divorced from the mother of my two sons, but one of the saddest moments of my life was when I found out that I was sterile. I couldn't produce kids. Anyway, that was a pretty sad moment in my life. Slowly, with the help of my then wife, who left books around, we decided to adopt kids. So both my sons we got from the Los Angeles County Adoption Bureau. And those two events were probably the most happiest in my life. To this day, they're good kids. I told them when they were, whatever, fourteen, fifteen, if they ever want any help looking up their natural parents, I would help them. And they both answered they only had one set of parents. I get a little choked up talking about it, excuse me. But both good sons, they're fifty years old and forty-six. But that was, you know, the happiest time in my life and the saddest time in my life. I remember every moment of it. When the doctor announced to me that I was impotent... or not the word impotent, but I was sterile, and I don't know. I remember him saying, "Have you thought about artificial insemination?" He says, "Only three people in this world would know, that's you, your wife, and myself." I remember saying, "That's three people too many." I was ready to live the rest of my life childless when we walked out of the office. But within a year we had our first son. One of the proud things that happened in my life, the two other families that saw the way we were raising our kids, they couldn't have kids, so they asked me questions and they both adopted kids from the same Los Angeles County Adoption Bureau. They've grown to be great kids. Well, the one family I don't remember, but the other one I'm still friends with. A lot of families that have adopted children, you don't know until you have one. Then you run into people and say, "Oh, my kids were adopted." "Really? So were mine."

KL: So were three of my cousins.

GM: But you know, you don't go around... I will tell you this one true story, and it was not embarrassing, it was funny. But my oldest son, when he was, I don't know how old, but he was a baby, we always told them, they advised to, "Just tell them, 'You're adopted,' tell 'em, 'You're adopted,' and they'll ask you one day, 'What does adopted mean?'" And my oldest son tugged on this lady behind him, and she looked at him and says, "Hello, Sweetheart." He looked up at her and he says, "I'm adopted." [Laughs] We said, "Okay, Keith, you don't have to tell the world." But that's how they grew up, I don't know how to say it, not ashamed, happy. (...)

KL: What about your sisters? You said that Shizuko went to Chicago, what was the rest of her life like after Manzanar?

GM: Then when we relocated back to Azusa, she came back from Chicago and she worked with my mother in this sewing factory for a few years. And then she met my brother-in-law and married him and they had two children, a daughter and a son. And when she was fifty-eight years old, she contracted a disease called "scleroderma," it's a disease of the skin, and it turns the skin into a, like a rock. And her skin was shaped like this, but she was a battler, she was a fighter, and what nobody realized was it was moving inside her system until it reached her heart. And one night she was uncomfortable after she went to dinner at six o'clock, and eight o'clock she asked my brother-in-law to take her to the hospital, and by ten o'clock she was gone. Have you heard of the scleroderma? I think that's how you pronounce it.

KL: Wallace Stegner is one of my favorite writers, and there's a character in one of his novels that has something that sounds similar.

GM: Yeah. There's no cure for it because it's sort of rare, and I guess they don't put enough funding in to research it. But my father passed away in 1978 and my sister followed him in 1980 when she got it. She was a trouper.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

KL: Did your folks ever seek U.S. citizenship?

GM: Oh, that's another thing. I don't know when they passed the bill saying that they can allow, they can apply for citizenship, I'll say about 1946 or so.

K: It was in the '50s, I don't know the year.

GM: You sure it was in the '50s? Because I graduated high school in '50 and I swear I ran home from high school one day. Maybe it wasn't. Anyway, I remember running home from somewhere, just when I heard about it, and assuming my father was going to apply. Then I came running home and I said, "When are you going to apply?" And his favorite act was when he wanted to explain something, he said, "Sit down." So he says something like, "I've been in this country since 1900, and I was not a good enough human being to be a citizen. And how they sign a piece of paper and I'm supposed to go running to be a citizen?" And I said, "Oh, okay." Not a question was asked after that. My mother didn't say anything, my father never applied. But the ending, happy ending was my father passed away in 1978. And everybody, we respected him for that decision. It wasn't being anti-loyal or anything. In 1980 my mother, shortly after my sister passed away, my mother at eighty years old applied for citizenship, passed the test, voted in her first and only voting, 1982, and she passed away in 1986, having had her citizenship papers. As a matter of fact, I was going to bring her citizenship paper, but I thought, well, this has nothing to do with Manzanar. But she always wanted to be a citizen, but she respected my father's thinking, and never said a word until he passed on. So that's the story of their citizenship. My father died as an alien.

KL: Did he ever return to Japan?

GM: No, he never visited or anything. My mother went once or twice. I've never either. One of my goals before I pass on is that at least I go to Hiroshima and see where my (grandparents are buried).

KL: Yeah, I wonder, did your mom go to Hiroshima?

GM: Yes.

KL: Did she talk about what that was like?

GM: Well, she said she visited the gravesites of her father, and she didn't say too much except I know the purpose. She took my sister, my two sisters took her. And my older sister had the scleroderma at that time, so she really suffered during the trip, but they made it. There were a lot of things my parents went through that they never talked too much about. But I know one of the things my mother always wanted to do was, before she passed on, she wanted to go back to Japan and least see where her parents were buried, and she was able to do that. Another little side story, she trusted everyone, nobody would do anything to her. So two, three days before she left, she walked up and down the block telling everybody, "Goodbye, I'm going to Japan." And she asked my son, my younger son, if he would come over and water the lawn and all that. It wasn't more than two or three days after she left, my son called me at work and said, "Dad, somebody broke into the house," and stole her jewelry and television. [Laughs] Well, she was going around the block telling everybody, "Goodbye." You know, you wanted to tell her, "Don't advertise the fact that you're leaving." But somebody took her up on it, ransacked the house. It's funny now, but it wasn't, not at the time.

KL: Did that change her thinking or make her more trustworthy?

GM: I don't know, I don't know.

KL: It's both, to me, really sad and also kind of powerful that she still would have those feelings toward people, trust.

GM: Yeah, my mother was, she was a trouper. She never wanted to leave her house. She lived alone, she even broke a hip and tripped over her dog, and finally my sister, Take, built a room behind her, an extra room in her house to house my mother. But Take worked at the studio every day, and so I would visit my mother two or three times a week, and every time I went to visit her she was crying just out of loneliness. All day long, nobody there, she can't drive. So after I'd say three, four, five months, my sister said, "Do you want to live with her?" And I said, "I can't." I was single at the time, and I said, "I'd like to, but I just can't." And so she said, "Why don't we put her in Keiro?" Keiro is the assisted living home in Los Angeles. And she said, "Let's try that for a few months." If she didn't like it, we'll think of something else. So we put my mother there, she didn't argue that much. But I had an arrangement with my boss that every day I would take two hours off for lunch, but I'd come to work on Saturday to make it up, but not two hours, maybe an hour and a half. But I would visit her every day at lunch, and then my sister would visit her on the way every day, so she had two visitors every day. And I didn't know, for instance, that she played the piano. And she was playing the piano over there for people. And I remember asking, "My mother? She knows how to play the piano?" She was sort of an educated woman, she came from an upper middle class family, so there were a lot of things that she did that we weren't even aware of, because as far as we knew, she was a farm mother. That's where she spent her last days. I don't think she was too happy, but she made the best of it.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

KL: This is tape number three, we're just wrapping up an interview on October the 13th, 2014, with George Maeda. And I know you've been involved with a couple of speaking engagements and just other ways that you've told some of your recollections of Manzanar. And so I just wondered if you would tell us about some of those experiences where you shared with others what your life was like at Manzanar.

GM: Well, the first one I participated in was a golfing friend that I worked with. And every time we golfed, I'd tell him little bits of stories of my Manzanar experience. And unbeknownst to me, his wife was the vice principal of (...) Wilson High School, which is pretty large. And so she asked and she made arrangements that I speak there for the history class. Well, it turned out they closed the school, and the whole school showed up in the auditorium. But before that, I said, "I'll do one better, I'll bring my brother-in-law and he'll bring the camera that his (father) took pictures of." This is Archie. And some other person that's a speaker, so the three of us spoke. And I have a newspaper that I had in my briefcase that I threw out thinking that it had nothing to do with Manzanar. But that was my first speaking engagement, and it was surprisingly enjoyable. I mean, as much as I didn't talk about it to my sons, I talked about it to my friends and I was able to talk to a class. And I had been to various smaller groups, but I think three years ago or so, Alicia, I think she called... I forgot, something like that. There's a lady in East Redlands High School, a teacher, that takes her class annually to Manzanar and shows them around just for educational purposes. And she asked if there was anybody that can go to her school and speak. So Alicia emailed or called one day and asked if I would get a hold of her. Two or three years ago, I went to speak at her high school class, and shockingly, it just went over so well because people were really, really hungry for that information. So I went again last year, and it's one of my better speaking engagements, I mean, more enjoyable. This last one, I got a pamphlet full of letters from each student thanking me and the perseverance that I went through. And again, this letter was also part of the package that I removed thinking that it had nothing to do with Manzanar, but I treasure those letters. I'll probably get called again this year. But she takes the class up annually, and quite commendable that she's into this that deeply. She gets permission from the school to take the kids over and so forth.

KL: You mentioned also a couple, two students who were working on, maybe, a History Day project? Could you share that story?

GM: Oh, again, I don't know where this connection came from. But there was a Latin American student and an African American student got together on their project for this history contest (involving) the internment, and they turned this into a poem presentation. It was done so professionally, and they won the district, and they wanted to go all the way to the nationals, and the one I participated in was the state, and I think they came in second or something. It was pretty close. But he came over and interviewed me and asked me some questions. The fact that they just chose the subject impressed me, and I was more than wanting to help. But they sent me a website with that story.

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

<Begin Segment 22>

KL: Another sort of commemorative or reflective thing you were telling me about earlier was a reenactment of one of the Korematsu trials?

GM: Oh, that one was through a series of coincidences. The inaugural reenactment case that the Riverside Appeals Court presented was the Fred Korematsu case where (...) he defied the executive order to evacuate and he hid out and was put in prison, went to the Supreme Court, and they found him guilty. And in 1983, just a quick recall, some lawyers talked him into reopening the case and so they reopened the case in 1983 and they reversed the decision from Guilty to Not Guilty. And in 2003 or '4, President Clinton awarded the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian medal you can get. Anyway, the Riverside Appeals Court decided to make this their inaugural presentation, and you had to have reservations through this newspaper, so I called. And I've become very good friends with Paula Garcia, the county clerk, or the court clerk. She said something like, "Oh, you must have been too young," or said something, "Your last name, is it a Japanese last name?" "Yes." "But you must have been too young to have known anything about this." And I said something like, "I beg your pardon? In fact, I'm ninety years old. And I'll tell you what, I've just written a bio, it's not a formal bio maybe, for my kids. I'll send you a copy of that, that'll answer some questions." So I sent her this -- I'm trying to make the story short -- but somehow she gave it to the presiding justice, Manuel Ramirez, who read it and asked if he could meet me. So within a week I went over to meet him and he took me through a tour of the whole court system, met every justice there. And how ignorant I was at the time, I didn't know who to call a judge, who to call a justice, I mean, that's now little I knew. But he went through the room where they make decisions and all this, and towards the end, he turned around and he said, "Would you do us the honor of being one of the speakers at this reenactment?" And I said, "Oh, I'd be honored, except mine won't be formal." I said, "I'll make it something like the way I wrote it." He said, "That's exactly what I want." So that's how I became one of the speakers.

KL: Who else spoke or what else do you remember?

GM: Well, Karen Korematsu was the featured speaker. (Also a) Superior Court Judge (...), I've got the name in my notes, but he was a year younger than me. He went to Poston, Arizona, he was the second speaker and I was the third. And we all had a different approach, and of course, Karen's was her life story, of she didn't know anything about what happened to her father until she heard it (...) in high school.

KL: I'd forgotten that.

GM: Yeah. And one of the students gave a report on Fred Korematsu, and she said, "Oh, this is a familiar last name," found out that it was her father. And it was quite a speech, and I believe this might have been her first speech, (to) talk about her father, I think. This was in 2009. And then this judge whose name I don't remember from San Bernardino, a Superior Court judge, he's sort of serious, he told the story about meeting his then present wife in camp, and I think he went to Poston, and he was a year younger than me. And Karen wasn't born when all this happened, by the way. But this judge's talk was real meaningful because he was there. Then I got up and mine was kind of informal, and I guess it went over pretty well. But we were the three speakers. And I didn't think that much of it until I was sent (an) Appellate California Supreme Court Appellate book 175. And I turn over the page and here's my picture and my speech and everything else in it. So I was telling you before that both my sons don't seem to really have that much interest in it, and I asked the justice if I could buy two more books and he wouldn't charge me, sent me two more books. I sent them, took it over to my sons and I said, "Here, I want you to read this by your famous dad," half kidding. I don't know if they read it to this day, but that's how I got involved in it.

And I told you the second presentation they had was of Rosa Parks, so we were able to sit in the front row next to her relatives, and it was quite an honor to just be remembered to invite us, my wife and I over. But anyway, that's how I got involved in it.

KL: That's really neat that the court does that.

GM: I know. Well, they had... it was probably before you got to Manzanar, but Maggie remembered the justice, well, they took various trips up there and interviewed people. You know, there's an artist there that passed away a few years ago.

KL: Henry Fukuhara?

GM: Yes, he was alive in 2009, and he was at a convalescent home nearby. So the justice went to visit him and had it arranged where he came to the presentation. And another member of the 442nd unit, he might have been a Medal of Honor winner, he was there. Could I talk about the 442nd unit for a minute? It was the 442nd unit of the 100th Battalion that when the government opened up the draft or volunteers -- these were all volunteers out of camps and from Hawaii -- they formed the 442nd group. And naturally they weren't able to fight in Japan, so they sent them to Germany. And they were awarded the most medals of any group in the history of the military, I guess. But one of the fiercest battles they were in was the Battle of the Lost Battalion, where a battalion was trapped between the enemy lines, and they were picked to save this battalion. So I don't know, I'll just pick some numbers, they saved eighteen people, but in doing so, they lost fifty, sixty lives doing this. But anyway, they saved the battalion. And this became famous; in fact, there was a movie about it where Van Johnson starred in it, and I remember seeing this years ago. But the reason I'm telling the story is I went to the Santa Monica... what's that place where they have the Holocaust...

KL: Oh, the Museum of Tolerance?

GM: Museum of Tolerance, yes. And I walked in there, and this is a few years back, and this elderly gentleman walks up to me and he says, "Are you Japanese?" And I said, "Yes." I might choke a little bit on this. And he said, "May I shake your hand?" "Sure," and I extended it. And he looked at me and he said, "I was a member of the Lost Battalion." I said, "You know, I was only nine years old, I didn't know that much about it." And I'm telling him, "You're thanking the wrong person." He said, "I don't care," and he wouldn't let go of my hand. And I just choked up. Finally he let go and he said, "Thank you," and he walked away. But he was a member of the Lost Battalion the 442nd unit saved. God, I'll never forget that. Just a cold chill just ran through me. Anyway, that's a true story. I think that's in my bio also.

KL: It's amazing, decades later.

GM: Yeah. Well, thinking back in his shoes...

KL: He wouldn't be here.

GM: That's right. And anybody that looked Japanese, he was thankful for, so he picked me. I didn't feel I deserved it, but I didn't argue with him.

KL: Yeah, that was a gift to him, I think, to be able to thank someone.

GM: That's quite a place to visit, the Museum of Tolerance.

KL: I'd like to go, I've heard about it from some of my colleagues, but I haven't been there yet. I'm slowly making my way to the...

GM: There's one in Palm Springs, a museum, what's the name of the African American pilots?

KL: Oh, Tuskegee Airmen?

GM: Yes.

KL: In Palm Springs?

GM: Yes, right off the 10. We went to see that also. But there was quite a few of 'em, if you look it up.

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

<Begin Segment 23>

KL: I just have kind of one wrap up question, and then anything that I haven't asked that you want to share, I'd like to hear. My question, I guess, is you've been to Manzanar National Historic Site before, and I wonder what you hope that the National Park Service will do with Manzanar, you know, in fifty or a hundred years, if someone comes there to visit, what do you want them to know about Manzanar?

GM: My god, I don't think I could ask for any more than what's being done. I said, I'm thankful and not shocked, but I'm grateful and thankful that what's going on is going on. I mean, just to keep the memory going, I think it's very important because of all the conflicts that's going now, and so forth, and people wanting to put people in prison and all that. If you are an American citizen, you can't say, "I'm a Japanese American, I'm a Mexican American," you're an American. And as such, you have to be treated like any other American citizen, and that is one of the reasons why I looked forward to speaking with you because I don't want this to die. And I told you, I think I'm the last of the generation of people that were interned, and if I don't speak, then no one else will. After I pass on, that'll be it, there won't be anybody left. I think that's important that it never happens again. And thinking back, I don't think there was any incident of any subversive acts by the people who were interned. They overreacted, and in my personal opinion, I understand why they did it, Pearl Harbor was attacked, you didn't really know what was going on, whether the West Coast was going to be next or what. So I understand why it happened, but we should definitely learn from that and make sure that it doesn't happen again.

KL: Well, we think it's important, too, to record these stories, so I really appreciate your agreeing to it and spending this afternoon.

GM: Thank you very much. I enjoyed it and I hope it's of some value.

KL: It is. It already had been to me, and when I give ranger programs, a lot of the time I tell stories that I've heard from people in these interviews, so thank you personally and thank you from the National Park Service. What have I not asked you about? Are there things you wanted to bring up today?

GM: Not really, this was about as thorough an interview as I've ever gone through.

KL: Things you told the high school students?

GM: Everything. Well, that was just a one-way conversation. I had notes, and I told what I wanted to tell, and the reception was different, they were high school kids, and half of them were not aware of anything. So whatever I told them, their mouths were open. In fact, every speaking engagement (...) was different. And then when I went to high school where this friend of mine's wife was the assistant principal, that was so different, and it was supposed to be primarily for the history class and the whole school shut down. And my brother-in-law brought his camera and all this. Oh, by the way, on this reenactment trial that I participated in, I asked my nephew, Alan, who owns and runs the Toyo Miyatake Studio, if he would bring the camera and pictures. So as you entered the courthouse, the camera and all the pictures were displayed, so that went over well, too. But that was a positive experience for me because, to tell you the truth, I'd never been into a superior court, appeals court before in my life. So other than that, I think it's pretty complete.

KL: Well, if you think of other things, you know how to find me.

GM: I will. Thank you for asking.

KL: Thank you, George.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.