Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: June T. Watanabe Interview
Narrator: June T. Watanabe
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Anaheim, California
Date: October 15, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-wjune-01

<Begin Segment 1>

KL: Thank you. So this is tape one, I'm Kristen Luetkemeier, I'm with the Manzanar oral history project, and I'm here in the Anaheim home of June Watanabe for an oral history interview about her life including her time spent in Rohwer, Arkansas. And June, before we start talking, I just want to confirm that I have your permission to be talking to you today and that it's okay if we make this available to the public.

JW: Definitely, yes.

KL: Thank you for that. You were starting to tell me a story that you had heard from your husband, Richard Watanabe, about his dad's immigration to the U.S.

JW: His, oh, gosh, Jugoro, his name was Jugoro Watanabe. But Richard always told me, and I thought it was kind of funny, but he said that his dad worked for Pancho Villa as a cook, I think it was Pancho Villa. And so one day he decided he wanted to come over to the States, and so he said he swam, but I can't believe that he swam, I don't know which channel, but that's how he got to America, coming over, swimming. [Laughs] That's really funny.

KL: That's really memorable.

JW: Yeah.

KL: Pancho Villa's cook.

JW: At least it's a story, you know, but I never believed him, but I don't know, he kept repeating that a number of times, every time we talked about his dad, he said, "Remember, Dad came over from Mexico and he swam?" I said, "Swam?" He said, "Yeah." That's funny.

KL: Yeah, could be. Some people cross the river sometimes now. Would you introduce me to your parents, tell me their names and what you know about their background?

JW: Okay. My real father, his name was Naosako Yamasaki, and we lived in Venice, at Venice, California, of course, and my mother was Asa, and her maiden name was Sakakibara. And she told me that when he went back there and got her, brought her here, but then she spent a month or so over at... what's that island?

KL: Angel Island?

JW: Angel Island? Yeah. I guess she must have had some kind of a bug. But anyway, they had her here for a couple weeks, I think she said, until she got out.

KL: Did she tell you details of what that was like?

JW: No, she never did. But anyway, so I had my brother, my brother George was born, and myself, and then my other two siblings, Harry and Tom. Their names were Hareji and Tomiji, and my older brother was Takeji, and they seemed to want a "ji" on the end of their names. But anyway, when I was about five, my dad passed away, and, of course, my mother had four of us to care for, and that was really hard. So she remarried a man named Shozaburo Ishii. And from Venice we moved -- and she had a florist, she had a little flower shop in Venice on Washington Boulevard, and so we came to Lawndale, a little town called Lawndale, that was near Gardena, and she married, like I say, Shozaburo Ishii.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

KL: Do you know how your parents' marriage was arranged or how they decided to meet?

JW: Definitely it was arranged, uh-huh. Mr. Ishii, I think this was his third marriage, I guess he lost his wives.

KL: Oh, Mr. Ishii's third marriage, your stepfather?

JW: Uh-huh, I think so, yeah. So anyway, we lived on a farm, and that was a little different for me especially. We had, we moved at night, and all the frogs were croaking, it was really strange. And we had a reservoir right next to the house, and that kind of scared me, like it might be the ocean or something. (...) We lived there until the outbreak.

KL: How... you said it was very different than Venice. Would you give us just kind of a description of both Venice and Lawndale, and what kind of work did people do?

JW: Venice at that time was, you know, we lived on Washington Boulevard which was a very busy street. And then we'd go into this country where everything is dark, it was at night when we moved. And it was just different. It was dark, like a foreign country to me, it was... 'cause I'm used to all the lights and everything like that, and moving to the country. So thereon it was country life, 1930, I think it was, that we moved.

KL: What year were you born?

JW: '24. 1924, '30, '29, yeah, that's, my dad died when I was five.

KL: What can you tell me about the community in Lawndale? Who were your neighbors?

JW: Oh, I'll tell you what, Lawndale was just a little community. We had a dirt road, and on both sides of the (roads) were homes. And then on the back of the homes were the fields. Some had fifteen acres, some had twenty acres, I think my dad had fifteen acres. It was just country, you know, the road was just not paved or anything. Every time a truck went by or a car went by, then the dust followed, that type of thing. It was really different.

KL: Who was the market for the crops?

JW: We had... there were quite a number of truckers who came by, the Yamashitas and Aokis. Yeah, they came by and picked, every afternoon or every evening they'd come by, pick up our crops, load 'em on and take 'em to the market. This (was) our livelihood, it was nice.

KL: Did you help on --

JW: Yeah, oh gosh, yes. When we were little, we went to the Baptist church with our pennies, my folks would give us pennies, and the bus would come by and we'd go to the Gardena Baptist Church. Well, once we were able to work, then Sundays were no more. We worked on the farm on Sundays, and Saturdays were our day off. So we worked, yes.

KL: Pretty long hours?

JW: Pretty long hours, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

KL: What about school? Where did you go to school?

JW: Well, we went to this little school, a couple miles away from us, it was called Chapman Avenue School. That's where we went until... I don't know what made them decide we were not in that district or something, but then we started, when I was in the sixth grade, we all moved and went to... not moved, the family, but our school was changed and we went to Lawndale Central. That was a little closer, I think, and that was Lawndale. So that was nice. When we were going to Chapman Avenue School, after school a lot of us Japanese kids went to Moneta Gakuen, that was the Japanese school.

KL: How do you spell Moneta?

JW: M-O-N-E-T-A, Moneta. And that was quite a trek, quite a walk to that school, but we'd go there and then we'd go, walk home, and that was a long ways, too.

KL: How did the two schools compare, the Japanese language school and the public school?

JW: Entirely different. You know, I don't know, they were all Japanese kids in Moneta Japanese school. I don't remember much of that, but I remember having to go walk through a grove of walnut trees, you know, when we'd go to the Japanese school. That's all I remember, I don't know that I remember the Japanese school per se. But it was, I had a nice... I enjoyed going to school. Then after we moved to Lawndale, then it was another story. We would not go to Moneta Japanese school anymore, but we went to this school called Lawndale Japanese school. That was from about four to six o'clock, and then we'd walk home, it wasn't that far, we'd walk home from there.

KL: It was different than Moneta, you said it was a different story?

JW: No, American and Japanese schools were two different... no, they were kind of the same. I laugh when I think about those days. We had a nice teacher, Mr.... I forgot his name. Kawaichi was his name. Those were nice days because we had picnics, every summer we'd have a picnic out at White Point or Balboa or somewhere out that way. And very interesting, I enjoyed those days.

KL: Was the community in Lawndale Central School or even in Chapman Avenue School, were there people other than Japanese Americans that were your classmates?

JW: At Chapman? Oh gosh, yes.

KL: What were other people's backgrounds?

JW: Well, there were Caucasians, all kinds of Caucasians. I mean, they probably were from Ireland or Norway, wherever. No, we were a mixed group at Chapman Avenue School and Lawndale Central. But when we went to Japanese school, they're all Japanese.

KL: How did you choose your friends in the public school? Was it based on each other's personalities or did people kind of stick to the... did the Japanese American kids hang together, and the Caucasian kids...

JW: I think we mixed. No, we did have a little club when we were in Lawndale. There used to be a Dutch cleanser, I don't know if they have it now, but there was a cleanser, and they had a, they sponsored a nurse's club, kind of, corresponding. So every, after school, not every after school, but once a week, we'd go to Susie Joe, was her name, Susie Joe, we'd go to her house and have these little meetings, and they were all Japanese. Yeah, but we did have American friends, Caucasian friends in our schools. Got very close. But mostly it seemed like because we lived together, walked to school, came home from school together, we kind of bunched up.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

KL: Did you ever experience any negative treatment from people outside of the Japanese American community before the war?

JW: No, it was just after the war. No, I don't think I've ever experienced anybody calling me names or anything, but that happened after the war. I remember when... that was on the 7th of December, and that was on a Sunday, so the following day was a Monday. And my neighbor said, well, her dad said, "I don't have to school," and I said, "I don't feel like going either. And my dad, he says, "They're not fighting you, Teru" -- he called me Teru -- "so you go back." So we had to go to school, but it was hard.

KL: Why was it hard? Can you tell me what your...

JW: I had a history teacher, I'm not going to mention his name, he still might be alive. But I can tell by the way he... we weren't Japanese anymore, it was the "Japs," this type of thing. The Japanese on a whole then were, at my age, were kind of quiet. They never raised their hands when questions were asked. So this one teacher, she was really ridiculous. She would ask us questions and she'd look at these little Japanese people there, students, and she would say, "I know you know the answers, but no." This is what she said: "You little Jap kids, you don't raise your hands. I know you know the answers." She never said that before, she just took us for granted as being quiet. It wasn't fun, but we kept on going. That was okay.

KL: How did life... besides that teacher, how did life change for you in those months between the attack and having to go into Santa Anita?

JW: Well, frankly, I really don't remember too much about that, except we did have... you know, we had these farms, everybody had, their lands were loaded with vegetables ready to harvest. We weren't able to do that, we had to sell all that stuff. That was kind of hard, and I felt for my parents because they worked hard. Well, we did, too, I was seventeen. And then not being able to harvest then, get money for it. We poor, we were not rich at all.

KL: How did you dispose of... you said you had to sell things. What were the details of that?

JW: Well, the thing is, they would come, they knew we had to evacuate, but they'd come a couple weeks early and we'd say, "No, that's too cheap." But lo and behold, just about the day before, we had to sell things very cheaply. You know, like a washing machine for five dollars or something. I think that really hurt. It really hurt the parents.

KL: Did they have any outward signs of what they were feeling? Can you describe after the buyers left, how your parents responded?

JW: No, I remember several of the fathers in our little community there were taken because they were heads of this, heads of that. But basically... you know, I don't remember that much. I don't think my folks, they never mentioned too much, they never talked about how they were feeling.

KL: Did you worry that your parents would be taken?

JW: Pardon?

KL: Did you worry that your parents could be taken, or did they prepare for that?

JW: No. My parents, they were just farmers. Mr. Nishimura, they were heads of the various organizations, Japanese American committee of some type of thing. They were taken. But we had... one dumb thing I thought was just, I could just see that fire in front of our house. They said, "We got to get rid of all the Japanese books that we had." So Dad built a fire and he threw all our Japanese stuff there. It was just crazy. It was crazy.

KL: Can you tell me how it felt to have that fire and have to burn things?

JW: It was sad; it really was. I remember our brothers took judo, and they had these judo gi. And even that went into the fire, and I thought that was... that didn't seem right. What did that have to do with anything? That was hectic.

KL: How did you get information about, like do you know how your folks decided to burn things? Was someone advising you or did you take a newspaper?

JW: I think it was advised in... I think it was advised from the newspaper. They had several newspapers that we subscribed to. I don't know. It's like, I don't know... it just didn't make sense, having to get rid of all that stuff, but they did.

KL: Do you recall how you learned that you would have to leave home?

JW: Oh, we were given notices and distributed to the homes.

KL: How did you react to that? I've heard some people say they didn't... I mean, how did you react to that?

JW: Oh, my god, it just seemed like, unreal. Did seem... "Where are we going?" You got evacuated, and some people evacuated on their own. By that I mean they had big trucks, they had more money, so they went to Utah, Idaho, but we just waited for more instructions, what to do. Yeah, these people left earlier than we did.

KL: Did your family consider leaving at all?

JW: No, that would have cost too much. We didn't have a big truck like these well-to-do people. Ours was just a little truck. No, I don't think we considered that.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

KL: You were in Santa Anita for a time, is that right?

JW: Yeah, we were able to take our car, you know, those who wanted to, drove their cars up to Santa Anita and from there they... I don't know what they did with it. Yeah, and some people who could not have that, did not have cars, or couldn't make it, were loaded on trucks, I think. That's how we got to Santa Anita. Yeah, and then from Santa Anita, we had to take this train.

KL: So did anyone help you during those months? Did you have any neighbors or any organizations that offered assistance at all?

JW: No, I think we all did our own.

KL: And what grade were you in?

JW: I was in the twelfth, that year I was supposed to graduate in June. I think we were evacuated in March or April. But they did have a little graduation ceremony in the bleachers over there at Santa Anita, for those whose schools (sent) diplomas to Santa Anita. And Leuzinger High School is where I attended, and they were good enough to send all the... we had quite a few Japanese who were graduating. So our diplomas were sent there, and we had a nice ceremony.

KL: Would you describe the ceremony?

JW: Well, it was... we had no gowns or anything like that, and we sat on, I think the bleachers were where, I think those graduating were down below the bleachers, and we were given our... we don't have any pictures of it either. As a matter of fact, I don't think anybody had a camera. I can't remember too well, but I remember it was nice, anyway, to have been able to get your diploma.

KL: Did anyone from Leuzinger High School come?

JW: I don't think so. No, there were quite a few high school students that had gotten their diplomas. Later on I understand there were a lot of them that never did. But they did get 'em later on, years and years later.

KL: Do you remember your last day of school or what it was like to leave school so close to graduating?

JW: Well, that's one thing. No, I don't remember. I think it was just, not like even a goodbye. Years later when we were out here, I remember we had a reunion, and this young man who I knew very well, he was not there, and I asked him, "You weren't there at the reunion, our fiftieth?" And he says, "Nah." I says, "Why?" And he says, "You know, I had quite a few Caucasian friends in high school." He says, "Not oneof 'em ever said, "So long, good luck,' or anything like that." I've heard the opposite, I've heard where their Caucasian friends had come and bid 'em goodbye and came to the station to say goodbye and all that. But he said, no, he was still upset about that. Couldn't see why they couldn't have said, "Good luck." But I didn't have that feeling somehow or the other. Maybe it's because most of my friends were Japanese Americans.

KL: So did most of your friends then come to Santa Anita also?

JW: A few. But a few of 'em, my next door neighbor had a nice truck, they went to... several friends on that strip, on our road, went to Utah on their own.

KL: What else can you tell me about Santa Anita? Would you describe where you lived there and what a typical day was like?

JW: Yeah. You know what? We were in the stables at first, and that was kind of hilarious because the beds weren't very nice and all that. And then you know, in the stables they have, the upper part is bare. So you kind of heard the people on the other side, and that was funny. No privacy, that type of thing. But eventually we were moved into the barracks, which was much nicer. At least it was a nice room. Anyway, the stalls weren't very good, they kind smelled, too, I thought. And you didn't have [inaudible] but some people had to live there six months or whatever, while we were there.

KL: Can you describe your reaction when you saw where you were gonna be living?

JW: Yeah, that's... "Oh my," that's my thought. "Oh my goodness. We're gonna live here?" We had how many? There were four brothers and myself and my parents. I wonder now if we just had that one stall, or did we have two? Because when we were moved to Rohwer, we had two units. One for us and the other for the boys. And they had various mess halls, too, depending on where you lived. They had the blue, the orange... we first went to the blue and then we went over to the orange. Under the bleachers was the mess hall at first, at the beginning.

KL: This is backing up a little bit, but Shig mentioned, and you mentioned on the phone, I guess, that you sometimes had other people living with your family, that your parents would kind of host... like didn't Richard live with you for a while?

JW: Oh, that was when Richard came from Japan. That was before the war, yeah. Yeah, he needed a sponsor, and, of course, Richard's father and my dad were good friends. And so his father asked if he could come live with us and that's what he did. That's how I met Richard.

KL: Were there other people that your family sponsored?

JW: Yeah, there was... yeah, two brothers, the Sakai brothers. Yeah, there were two brothers who came, but not at the same time. But that was funny because this one here, he was tall, big guy, and that's when he went to the Lawndale Central School and I was in the seventh grade then because we had seventh, eighth. And here he was with the first graders and I'd see 'em lined up ready to march in the classroom. He would stand up five feet taller than the others, and it was funny. And then the other younger brother, after he moved out, then his younger brother came and lived with us. Did he go to school? I can't remember. Then Richard came (...).

KL: I felt that was kind of interesting that your family would help people out.

JW: Yeah, he did come.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

KL: So back to Santa Anita, you'd mentioned the mess halls, and I asked you about your living quarters. Are there other places that you remember spending time in Santa Anita?

JW: Well, we worked... we had to work. Well, I don't know if you had to, but I worked in the camouflage nets. That was kind of weird, too, because here we were making camouflage nets, weaving 'em in and out, and they were being sent where needed overseas. And yet we were in camp. We were doing things for the United States Army, service, but we kind of laughed about it then.

KL: You did? At seventeen it struck you as...

JW: Yeah, and there were quite a few people from other parts of California that were working on the nets, and got to know them, got to become good friends, joked with each other, and that was kind of fun.

KL: How would you describe that... you kind of raised an interesting point about, kind of joking about that contrast of your being confined in Santa Anita and you're supporting the U.S. war effort. And it makes me wonder kind of what people's mood was in Santa Anita and also how they coped with this situation.

JW: I don't know. We joked about that, us girls, about four or five of us, we joked about that, said, "What are we doing here weaving these nets?" I don't know how the others felt, but we joked about that.

KL: How did your parents react to being in Santa Anita?

JW: Well, I don't know. They didn't have anything to do, for one thing. Of course, my dad, he loved to play the Japanese chess, the go and all that. So that's what he did all day in Santa Anita, is find someone to play with. He seemed to... I don't know, I guess I really don't know how they felt. You know, that's one thing, they never were outspoken, they never said much. They never seemed to gripe either, you know, I think they would have griped, but they never griped much.

KL: How did your mom spend her days in Santa Anita?

JW: She knitted a lot. She loved to knit and crochet. I think that's probably what she did. You know, I can't remember whether she had attended any classes, I'm sure they had... I'm sure they had some classes there, too.

KL: It was a library, and there were classes. I think it was even in Santa Anita where there were some art classes.

JW: Yeah, she wasn't much of painting or anything. I know there were a lot of classes in Rohwer, but I don't know if you say there were, but I don't know. I'm sure there were, art classes and stuff like that. That was so many years ago.

KL: Did people date in Santa Anita?

JW: Did they what?

KL: Did they date?

JW: Yeah, I had several boyfriends, yeah.

KL: What was that like?

JW: I don't know, you had your parents there. No, I just walked around, I guess that's what it was, or go to a movie or something. Or go to a baseball game. I think they had dances, but you know, I never did go to any of the dances. I'm sure they had in Santa Anita, but my dad was a big protector. I mean I remember one fellow would come to the house and we'd sit outdoors, and every once in a while the curtains would go this way and Frank would say, "Uh-oh, your dad's watching." And he says, "Oh boy, that's the third time, I think I'd better go home." [Laughs] It's kind of funny, yeah, so he'd go home. For us it was just being friends, having fun together.

KL: That was in Santa Anita or that was at your home?

JW: No, that was in Santa Anita.

KL: Did you have any visitors in Santa Anita from the outside?

JW: Yeah, we had the Jones'. We had a dear friend who lived in Sawtelle, and she was ready to have, to give birth. And so she couldn't travel to Manzanar, she lived in West L.A. So she came over to Santa Anita and had her baby there. And she had, the Jones' were very devoted people, a couple, and they came to visit us. Of course, I think they came to visit her because they were her best friends. But we knew them too, so we visited with them.

KL: Were they able to come inside?

JW: Yeah. No, they came inside, they had special passes. They mainly came to see Yaeno, so they got in. And she would always bring some goodies or something like that. But other than that, no, we never had any visitors, not that I can remember.

KL: I'm trying to move us along so you can make your engagement tonight, but are there things that you recall about, other things that you recall about Santa Anita that you think are important to record?

JW: No, I don't. I remember we enjoyed the games that they had, sports-wise. Yeah, we did have those, and we'd go out there and cheer. That was nice.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

KL: What happened next then from Santa Anita?

JW: That was in September that we moved. Yeah, then they said that this is the West Coast, we've got to get you back inland. So we got on a train, they took us to Rohwer, Arkansas. That was about a couple days on that train, it was one of those trains, you know, and every time we'd come to a big city we'd have to put our curtains, the shades down, and so people, I don't know why people put it down, but anyway, they asked us to put our shades down.

KL: Who asked you?

JW: The military. You know, we had military people going back and forth on the train.

KL: What were the interactions with the military people like?

JW: I don't know, I had no... I don't think they were mean or anything, I really don't, because I don't remember anything bad, except it was stuffy and hot in the trains. It was very hot. Yeah, it's still hot in September.

KL: Did you know where you were going? Or I guess I should rephrase that, what did you know about where you were going?

JW: You know, maybe I did at that time, but now that you ask me, I don't know that I remember. At that time I'm sure... well, maybe they didn't let us know, I don't know. I bet they didn't let us know. I bet they didn't, I don't remember.

KL: Had you ever really traveled outside of California before?

JW: The furthest I'd been from Lawndale was Big Pine. We went up to the mountains to go snow, play in the snow, is that Pine? Somewhere around here.

KL: I don't know, there's Big Bear. I don't know Southern California very well.

JW: It's not too far, and that was just on maybe New Year's Day or something, special day, all the youth, the young people would hop on cars, go up to the mountains where we had snow fights. That was the furthest, I tell you. So when we were in grammar school and high school when summer came along, Edna would say, "Well, I'm going to go see my grandma," you know. "Where?" Mississippi, or they would travel, but we had to work on the farms.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

KL: So what can you tell me about arriving at Rohwer?

JW: It was sort of a madhouse, getting off the train and searching for our... oh no, I think they delivered it to the house, or did they? I bet they did. What department did they call that?

KL: The motor pool or something?

JW: Motor pool, that's it, the motor pool gang would drop 'em off to your unit.

KL: How did you find your unit?

JW: You know, that's another answer I don't know. I remember being in Block 1, and that would be the very first block, and here's the main road and main train, the railroad crossing. So maybe one was easy, but it would have been hard for... it went, one, two, three, four, yeah, because it started at fifteen, our next one up that way. Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, yeah. Or was it... I don't know. [Laughs]

KL: Were you among the first to come to Rohwer or were there already a lot of people there?

JW: It seemed like there were people already there. You know, I don't remember, but being that we were in Block 1, doesn't it sound like...

KL: It did make me wonder that.

JW: ...that we might have been the first ones there.

KL: But I don't know the order that it was constructed in, or if people were, moved in.

JW: It just stretched out, and in the background were the forest.

KL: What were your impressions of the landscape at Rohwer? Arkansas is pretty different.

JW: It was different. It was sort of a sad feeling, I thought. Yeah, I wasn't too happy, I don't think. It was sort of a sad feeling when I got to... because it seemed like it was so far from the West Coast, you know. It was quite a distance. Yeah, I think I felt kind of sad. But then I, my neighbor, the next door neighbor was a dear friend of mine and her family, so I liked that.

KL: Oh, from here?

JW: From here, yeah. People across the street I didn't know, the people here I didn't know. But here and there, in the barracks in Block 1, were people that I knew, people from our neighborhood.

KL: Yeah, I was gonna ask, I mean, it seems like blocks have strong identities. This is the bachelor's block, this is where there are a lot of young kids, these are the people from Venice. Did Block 1 have kind of a reputation or an identity?

JW: We had a couple... had about one, two, three, about three units that were bachelors, you know. The others were families, a lot of families I did not know, but they were in from that area, Redondo, and Gardena. Yeah, familiar names and places. Nobody from, like, Stockton or next. But isn't it funny that, yeah, some of my neighbors lived in another block, yeah. I don't know how they did that.

KL: What were the first couple of days like? What activities... did you have to accomplish certain things like vaccinations or setting up your living space?

JW: We had vaccinations, but they didn't... I bet we did have vaccinations, I don't remember. Got acquainted with our neighbors.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

KL: Did you work while you were in Rohwer?

JW: Yeah, you know, at first, I worked in the mess hall, in our block mess hall. That was a learning experience. I enjoyed it, we got to meet a lot of people.

KL: What were your tasks in the mess hall?

JW: In the mess hall? Set the table and serve 'em. The men were up there dishing out the stuff. My dad worked in the mess hall. So I kind of enjoyed that and then they wanted a secretary to work in the office, manager's office. Each block had a manager's office, so I took over that, did do that.

KL: Who was the block manager?

JW: Who was he? First it was Mr. Baba, he spoke... and then it was another, a neighbor, Kats Tamura, yeah. He was a good manager. They all spoke Japanese, American, and they had to, they had to speak Japanese, because some of the people in our block were, you know, non-English-speaking. But that was nice, I liked working in the block, that's where all the mail came in, and then we had to distribute it. I think we did, or did they come and pick it up? I think maybe we... oh, we had a messenger deal, yeah, we had a messenger. He might have gotten the job where you delivered the mail, I can't remember that. We had a young man who played the bugle, so at the beginning of our internment there, he would, Taps, is that it? "Da, da, da," you know.

KL: Reveille.

JW: Reveille, seven o'clock.

KL: How did that go over?

JW: Not too well. Some people asked, made complaints. He did it for a while, but not too long.

KL: What was Mr. Baba's first name, do you recall?

JW: Whose father?

KL: Mr. Baba, is that his name?

JW: His first name was Toshiyuki. He was a good, very friendly, very nice guy, Toshiyuki, yeah, Baba.

KL: Were they Nisei, the block managers?

JW: Kats is a Nisei, he's like myself. Mr. Baba, he spoke... I don't know if he was an Issei or a Kibei, you've heard of Kibei. I think he might have been a Kibei, because he was from Japan.

KL: Why the change? Do you know why the block manager...

JW: You know, I don't know. Yeah, at first it was Mr. Baba, or was it the opposite? No, it was Mr. Baba and then Kats, 'cause I remember being Kats's secretary. You know, I don't know why they changed. Maybe Mr. Baba left camp, could have been, because he was an older, not that old. Probably thirties, in his thirties, maybe. Yeah, I don't know why.

KL: You've mentioned the mail, sorting and delivering the mail. What else happened in the block manager's office?

JW: What did I do? Sit there and gaze out of the window. I don't know... what did I do? Oh, I had to sort the mail, of course. Write letters, the manager would want letters sent to different managers. But I did a lot of typing, I wonder what that was for.

KL: Did you have to attend meetings and take minutes or anything?

JW: No, no, I didn't. I didn't.

KL: There were typically weekly reports at Manzanar, at least, the block managers made to the administration.

JW: You know, I don't remember. I don't remember. I enjoyed whatever I did.

KL: Were there any challenges associated with working in the block manager's office?

JW: Challenges? People would come in and I'd visit. But how much were we getting there, eight dollars a month? Sixteen dollars a month? I forgot, sixteen was it?

KL: That sounds likely.

JW: Sixteen, yeah.

KL: Sometimes it was a tough position to be in, to have to kind of be the go-between between the WRA and the residents in the block.

JW: Yeah, I don't think we had much... we didn't have many complaints, we really didn't. I remember one time this couple and their daughter, they had a cat. And somehow people didn't like them having that cat in their house. I don't know how in the world it got into the room, but the cat disappeared, and that was sad because I understand her, I like animals, too. But they found the poor cat out in the forest, and she brought it home. She wanted to have a little service for it. See, and that was sad; that was really sad because we didn't, I don't think they had any dogs, but we had that cat. But she had that cat, I never saw it outside. I don't see how it got out, somebody must have gotten in there out of spite, taken that cat, take it out there and died, killed or something. But anyway, my mother, she asked if my mother would be at the funeral, at her service, and she went, my mom, out of respect. I didn't go, but I remember Mom said she was going. That's, things like that, it's sad when you're out with people who are being naughty. 'Cause we all love animals, you know, but that was one of the sad moments in my life, to find out that somebody did that.

KL: Yeah, a source of comfort for some people, too. When did you start working in the block manager's office and how long did you have that job?

JW: I worked there until I left camp. I worked as a waitress for, I don't know how long. Oh, I worked in the... the office was a friend of mine, in that same block, of course, Mary. She was a block secretary for a while and then she started working in the hospital as a nurse's aide. And that's when I took over, so gosh, I don't know. Half a year, maybe she worked there a half a year until she got that job. But I was there for maybe about a year. I wasn't in camp too long, 'cause I left in '44, January of '44.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

KL: One other thing that sometimes happened at least at Manzanar in the block manager's offices were people were interviewed about the leave clearance form, and for the men, selective service, for the draft eligible guys, the selective service forms. Sometimes people called it the "loyalty questionnaire" that the government sent around in 1943. What are your memories of that?

JW: You know, I remember the questionnaire very well, but I don't know that anybody came in and asked about that. I'm sure maybe Kats took care of the manager.

KL: Well, maybe it was different at Rohwer.

JW: Maybe they had to go to, maybe a certain office. I bet they did.

KL: What are your memories of it?

JW: I don't remember.

KL: I mean for yourself?

JW: Oh, I wouldn't remember filling out those blanks. Yeah, well, those two questions were kind of... I knew I wasn't going to the service. We all put "yes." I can't remember what they asked all except what was the 27 and 28, was it...

KL: Those were the really key ones, particularly 28, which was about renouncing your loyalty to the Japanese emperor?

JW: Yeah, I don't know... it seemed like a test, that they were testing us, you know, when I read all the questions it seemed like... but I filled 'em out, I don't recall the questions that they asked.

KL: How did it strike you to feel like you were being tested that way?

JW: That maybe they wanted to get rid of us or something, divide the loyal ones from the unloyal ones. It's that strange, I can't remember a single question?

KL: A lot of them were innocuous, like "what's your name," "what's your age." But those two were the ones that have become notorious, and were the ones that determined consequences. What was your understanding of what the consequences were for how you answered? Or what did you think at the time about what would happen next?

JW: I really don't know. I really don't know, or I don't remember how I felt. Except that I wondered why. The questions were asked, but when I came to those two, I felt, "Oh, they want these people separated, the good ones and the bad ones." But I don't remember.

KL: Did you talk it over with anyone?

JW: I think I did, with my friends. Yeah, I think I did. Yeah, 'cause several of my dear girlfriends, the family, they had to go to Tule Lake. I don't know why they put down "no," but I think maybe the boy... funniest thing is he served in the service, in the army. No, I don't... yeah, we talked it over, and then said... yeah, because they ended up in Tule Lake. I think they put down "no," and one of the sisters did go.

KL: To Tule Lake?

JW: No, the whole family went to Tule Lake. But one of the girls' daughters was shipped to Japan, but the other stayed.

KL: In the U.S.?

JW: Yeah, they were sent over. But this one daughter did go. Maybe she wanted to go, I don't know. But she ended up in Japan during the war.

KL: Your friends that you talked about it with in that family, did they... what were their reasons for deciding to answer the way they did?

JW: I think it's because the others, maybe the father might have said something. And, of course, the sister, being that she was from Japan from the beginning, she's a Kibei, I think they all put their heads together and said, well, okay, we'll go to Tule Lake, and this one daughter decided she was going to go to Japan. And that was bad because I don't think they wanted us in Japan. They had enough of their troubles. But she, eventually she got married in Japan to a serviceman was, it? Came back to the States.

KL: And she was a friend, it was your friend who went to Japan?

JW: Uh-huh.

KL: What was her name?

JW: Her name was Mitsuko. I tell you...

KL: That's okay. I'm asking you to remember a lot of details from seventy-plus years ago. And it's stuff that's been studied since, so those layers of memory kind of... do you recall people leaving for Tule Lake and what that was like, to watch people go?

JW: Yeah, I was sad to see my friends go. Oh, wait a minute. Did that come after I... what was that? 'Cause I left early.

KL: People were leaving in '43, usually. In Manzanar there were still some people in '44 who went kind of late.

JW: To Tule Lake? I wonder if they were gone. Gee, I can't even remember that. Can't remember if that family had already left.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

KL: This is tape number two on October the 14th, 2014, with June Watanabe, and you were saying you talked to Miye, one of your friends from Lawndale?

JW: Yeah, she called and she said, "June, remember when we used to walk?" I said, "I sure do, we were a whole load of people walking, weren't we?" She said, "Yeah." She said, "You know, there's only you and me. Out of that whole bunch, they're all gone, that used to walk to school together." And she's a couple months older than I am, she's ninety also. But that's the truth, they've all gone. It's so dad.

KL: I'm sure it is.

JW: Uh-huh, it is. And they, most of them were younger than we are. Yeah, they had cancer, cancer is terrible.

KL: Before I turned this on, you described sort of how you would go to school. Would you repeat that?

JW: Yeah. Well, you know, there were homes all along the dirt road, and so Janice would come by, she'd be the first house on that end. She'd call Miye, Miye would come out, and then it was, "Chuck," Chuck and her sister Mary would come out. Then it was myself, "June," then it was Eda, then down the road, then it was on this side, "Amy and Fumi," and then we'd all go to school together, just blabbing around. And you know, we lived on, it's now Marine Street, Avenue I think, but in the old days it was called Compton Boulevard. One day -- and I can't believe we did this -- one day, as we were going along, we saw this taxi on the other side of the street, and we all ran over there, and here was this taxicab driver, you know, with his cap like that, and he had a pistol, I mean, he had a hole in his head. And we said, "Oh my gosh, someone shot this man," we went merrily walking to school together. And then coming home we said, "I wonder if that man is still there." In those days, none of us had phones, none of the homes around there. But I can't believe that we did that, just saw what happened and merrily went on to school expecting it, to see this man still dead in that cab.

KL: Was he still there?

JW: No.

KL: That's so out of the ordinary to see that.

JW: It is. But I can't believe we were that unattentive or what, I don't know. It's just dumb that we didn't do anything. I guess we didn't want to get delayed for school or something.

KL: Or maybe you didn't know what to do when things are so out of the ordinary.

JW: Or maybe we thought, well, that's nothing, a guy got shot in his head. [Laughs] That's that, let's go on. But now it's a big issue, you know.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

KL: You were speculating back to Rohwer about the length of time that you had certain jobs and stuff. How long were you in Rohwer, when did you leave?

JW: I left on, about the 24th of January, '44. So that didn't leave me in camp too long, about a couple years, two years.

KL: Yeah, year and a half. Why did you leave?

JW: Because I got married.

KL: Who did you marry?

JW: Richard. We were corresponding and he was in the army stationed in Camp Savage in Minnesota. And he asked me and I said, "Yeah." I was getting tired of camp life, too. [Laughs] But I knew there was security, and he was just that type of a person, you knew that he'd do anything to keep you happy. That's why I left camp. And I even had a shower before I left. I guess we didn't go shopping, but I think the girls, through catalogs, Sears catalog and everything, towels, got a lot of towels, or guest towels, I still have some.

KL: That's nice. Where was the shower?

JW: I think we had it in the office. I think it was in the office, but that was nice.

KL: Was there anything difficult about leaving Rohwer, or was it all...

JW: Oh, I was sad, of course, especially with your parents, you know, didn't want to leave them. But I guess that's what marriage is about, leave your own parents. And I had no inkling of what I was going to do, but luckily there's a place in the outskirts of Minnesota, Minneapolis, a place called Bloomington, near the Masonic Home, a family by the name of Lee, Roger C. Lee was his name. They had a live-in domestic worker and she was a wife of one of the soldiers. And she was pregnant, so she was going to leave, and she wanted to know if I would want the job, and I said, "Yeah, I need a job." So that's where I went. Very beautiful, very nice, in the country. It was then in the country. And Camp Savage was right below, so on Wednesdays he would get a ride from Mr. Lee who worked down at the tool company, Savage Tool Company, which is right next to, near the camp. So he'd bring Richard up, and then in the morning he'd take him down. And then on weekends, I had every other weekend, so that's where I worked for quite a while.

KL: What was the reception from others like in Bloomington?

JW: Nice, everybody was so nice. Yeah, and the Masonic Home is where I caught the bus. And you know, while waiting there, we became friends with a lot of the older people. I enjoyed it. But on winter days it was cold, had to walk with your stadium boots, it was really different.

KL: You remember I told you on the phone that one of my colleagues is from Bloomington? And when I got off the phone she said, "You have to ask her what Bloomington is like, I can't even imagine Bloomington existing in the '40s."

JW: Yeah, oh, it was a one horse town. There was a gas station there and a little, like a mama and papa grocery store. It was really small. Before you knew it, you were out of it. But now, yeah, we went there in '87, thought we'd take a look at where I used to live, entirely different. Homes, Bloomington, and that house of ours, it was right on the bluff there, and it's still there. But the fields and all that are all residential area now. Yeah, I loved it there, I liked the four seasons in Minnesota.

KL: And you said your employers were the Lees?

JW: The Lees, the Roger C. Lees. That was... you know, when we moved back here, they came by here once, he wanted to bring his wife here. It was sad to see her, 'cause I thought, well, gee, we used to hug each other and greet each other. They went on this Hawaiian cruise, and then they went back home, and soon after that she passed away. But she had Alzheimer's. I used to think so much of Mrs. Lee because she was young, she was bright, she's a Wesleyan graduate, really bright, really thrifty. That's where I learned how to be thrifty, with every little... well, it was during the war, too, and things were rationed, you know. But she would save every little thing, and then on Fridays we'd have leftovers, and she'd fix 'em so they were very attractive, and I enjoyed that. I learned a lot from her, I really did. But now, she wasn't herself then, that was sad to see.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

KL: What did Richard tell you about his military experience?

JW: Yeah, well, you know, we were married only about January, February, March, he was off to Melbourne, Australia. You need to write always, he'd write all the time. And from Australia, he said when he was in Australia, I think it was, this guy who couldn't swim very well almost drowned, so Richard went out there and helped him, he came by here one day. Then from Australia he went to the Philippines, and later on he learned that his brother was in Japan and had, was living in Japan, was a navy man, an officer on the ship in the outskirts of Philippines. Can you believe that? Fighting each other. Richard talked about... he looked like, I guess he did look a little Filipino, I guess. But he said he always had someone with him, a Filipino, to protect him. Although he was a translator.

KL: Did he have any... what was it like for him to be in the Pacific in the U.S. military with the family members in Japan?

JW: He didn't know about his brother until after the war, after General MacArthur landed, he went over and went to visit his folks in his civilian clothes. That's when he learned that his brother was also out there in the Philippines. So he was shocked, you know, he was really sad to hear about that. But anyway, they both lived through that.

KL: That's lucky.

JW: So it's true, that even in the European war, I understand Germans were, brothers were fighting brothers.

KL: It can happen.

JW: It happens, yeah.

KL: Where were you while he was stationed overseas?

JW: I was over there at the Lees.

KL: Still with the Lees?

JW: And then when the war ended, of course, he came back, the war ended in August, was it? '46. But he came back in '45. And I came back here, because I knew he'd be coming back. I stayed with a family in this little house, this lady had three kids, and this couple had one, two... and here me, I went there, and I thought, oh my gosh, they're all going to stay here. So anyway, I thought, well, I've got to get a job. So I found a job as a housekeeper. And then there was this man, a good friend, who worked for the Powells, the June Allison Powell, and he said, "You know, the Powells want a domestic worker, a housekeeper. You want a job?" And I says, "Oh, I don't know if I can manage that." He said, "She wants an interview with you," so I went, had an interview with June Allison, and got along very well. She said, "You call your husband?" I said, "I call my husband Richard." She says, "I call my husband Richard. And you're June?" I says, "Yeah," and she says, "I'm June, so we got to get this settled, so she called me Teru. She said, "What is your Japanese name?" I said, "Teru." She says, "What is Richard's Japanese name?" I said, "Takashi." "Well, we'll call him Tak." So when Richard got home that night from the service, we went over there, and I introduced her and I said that, "He is going to have to stay with me." She said, "Well, that's perfectly okay," and I said, "Well, he's not gonna work." "That's perfectly okay." So he was going to continue with his education. She said that's okay.

So that's what we did, I lived there and I did a lot of work there, enjoyed it. It was fun working for her, for Mrs. Powell. She'd call from the studio, and she at Metro Golden, and she'd say, "Why don't you come over?" She'd say, "I'm tired of the commissary food, so why don't you bring me some hot..." whatever. So that's what I did. She wanted to stay and wanted to shoot some movies here, pictures, and so that was very fun, too. So I was with her for a couple of years until Richard decided, I mean, he graduated. Not graduated, just went to Santa Monica two years, and he got a job in Tokyo. So I said, "That's far." And he says, "Yeah, but," he says, "I'll only be there several months and call you over." So I said, well, okay, I'll go home. So my folks, in the meantime, they had moved from Louisiana where they relocated, and from Louisiana they moved to Bueno Park.

KL: Shig said that he thought that there may have been a friend of either your stepfather's or your mother's in Louisiana or someone. Do you know anything more about how they decided to go to Louisiana?

JW: You know, I don't know. They were farmers, and I visited them several times when I was working with the Powells. I think it's because... they had several friends there, the Okubos lived there, and another family I can't remember, and another... there were families. Maybe it's because they knew this family and thought, well, maybe that better... go over there. But I think mainly it might have been because it was farmland, and that's the only thing he knew, is how to farm. I visited there and I wondered, because they had this big tank, and I asked my mom, "What in the world is that tank?" She said, "It's our water, our drinking water, our whole thing." I said, "Oh." So it was kind of... you know, you expect a place out there to have running water, all that, but no. I learned quite a bit when I visited them, too, you know, about the segregation and all that bit. I didn't realize it was that bad.

But in a way... have you ever heard of Marrero? That's a place out in Louisiana. We had to take the bus one when we were visiting there, and I noticed the black people, when they got on the bus, they all, of course, had to sit in the back, and hoopaloo, you know, they were noisy. I felt that if they were mixed with us, the rest of us, I don't think they'd carry on like that. Don't you feel that way?

KL: People do act differently depending on who's around.

JW: Well, if they're in a group like, yeah. Because I bet that would be true whether it's Japanese, too, if we were put in a corner there, and all hoopaloo and joking around, and all the other white people were here. I bet if we were mixed in we wouldn't be that, having a gay time and jumping around and loud talking. I bet we wouldn't. That's where I learned how, 'cause I've never dealed with the black people. I don't know, it's just all wrong.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

KL: That reminded me that I wanted to ask you, when you were in Rohwer, if you ever interacted with local people who were from Arkansas?

JW: Uh-uh. I went out to the town of McGehee once. I was going to cross the street and somebody stopped me and said, "No, that's the 'colored side.' You belong here." I think a white person told me that. Yeah, I just learned so much just being there, too, in that respect, because we didn't have very many of the black people in our area in Lawndale, we never did. But I thought that was terrible, I just learned about it.

KL: Yeah, I always think it's interesting to hear Californians, Nisei, talk about navigating that, because it's so... I mean, I lived in Montgomery, Alabama, for a while as a young kid, and that was in the '80s, but still, it's still pretty... I don't know what the right word is, but there's still sort of two categories of people, and it's black and white, or it's black and not black, actually, is more kind of the way it's structured. And that would have been... one guy I interviewed who was in the army, he was in the 442nd and he said that he got sort of instruction from the army on how to navigate segregated facilities because he had no experience with that.

JW: He didn't know, no, that's true. When we were in Rohwer, you know, there's one experience... they had, Mississippi, Camp Shelby was across the river, and we were over here, and they wanted, some girls wanted to go over there an entertain, not entertain, but dance, and, well, entertain. And so to socialize with them, one of my girlfriends says, "I'm going," and I says, "Oh, that'd be fun, huh?" And, of course, my parents... but when they found out that one of my parents, dear friend of theirs, was going over there because her son was with the 442nd, she was going as a chaperone, so I told my folks that. They said, "Well, okay, if she's going, okay, you can go." So I went there, and it was nice, we stayed overnight, or did we stay overnight? No, we just, I don't think we stayed overnight, but it was nice. Met a lot of Hawaiian boys, you know.

KL: What was that like?

JW: Yeah, that was nice, that was fun. You could tell by the way they talked that they were from Hawaii, a little different. (...)

KL: What did the Hawaiian soldiers think when you told them about Rohwer?

JW: Well, you know what? I think they had their... some of those people were interned, too, did you know that?

KL: Yeah, but a lot of people don't know that. There were individuals who were...

JW: Yeah, they were, they had a little camp for them. Were they sent here to the States?

KL: Many were. Many came to Jerome, some to Santa Fe, some to Crystal City.

JW: Yeah, I never asked their opinion about us, I never have. It was a fun day, yeah.

KL: How did you get there?

JW: By bus, we chartered a bus, and a busload of girls went. So long ago.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

KL: So I disrupted sort of your train of conversation while you were talking about your parents coming back to California, and you coming back to California while Richard was going to Tokyo.

JW: Yeah, Richard was in Tokyo and I was in Minnesota, Minneapolis. And then the war ended, so he was in Tokyo then, but he wrote and said he would be home on a certain date, so I decided, well, I'm going to go home, too. So on the way I visited some friends in Denver, Colorado, and came on home.

KL: Were you glad to be back in California?

JW: Oh, yeah. And then I stayed with (a) family. That house was overloaded. But anyway, I got this job with this one... what was her name? Beckmans or something, Becklers? And then I went over to the Powells' and worked for them, and then Richard finished his school, so he got a job overseas. He said it paid well, and it was a two-year thing, but he'd call me back in two months. But you know what? When did I go there? It was a couple years. Yeah, it was a couple of years. Was it a couple of years? Yeah.

KL: Yeah, that's what you told me on the phone. I think you said 1950 to 1959 maybe, you were in Japan together? Was it that long?

JW: Oh, December '58 is when we got home.

KL: Did you go look up any of your parents or your stepfather's family members in Japan?

JW: Yeah. When we were in Japan we did, yeah, in the '50s. Went to my mother's, visited them in Yokohama, they lived in Yokohama, my mother's brother. And then we moved to Fukuoka, Richard was working there, so we visited his folks and his aunts and uncles, cousins and all. Yeah, we did a lot of visiting. And then when we came back in '58, Christmas '58, anyway, and from then on, I guess he got lonesome for his people. So every time we had a vacation, where shall we go? I wanted to go to Switzerland, he said no, we're going to go to Japan. We made many trips to Japan.

KL: Did your mother ever travel with you or did she ever...

JW: When we were there she came and she visited my daughter when she was about a year and a half. Yeah, she came and took her all over.

KL: What it was like for her to be back decades later?

JW: She enjoyed it. She saw her younger, I mean, her schoolmates, they were still there because she wasn't that old. That was in Shizuoka. So we took her there, she enjoyed it, she really did. Fujiyama, Fujisan, is in Shizuoka, so she enjoyed that, too. She saw her brother in Yokohama. And Richard took her to see his folks and my father's relatives, 'cause that's where he came from.

KL: How was that, to meet your father's family several years later?

JW: Who, me?

KL: Yeah.

JW: They were nice. Let's see, who were they? Oh, yeah, Yasuko. I liked it. My father's, not my father-in-law, but my father's sister, I saw her, I met her, I met his nephews, nieces. He came over too, one year.

KL: Your stepfather?

JW: Uh-huh. And Richard took him around, too, he liked that. But boy, the Japanese custom, I guess, it's same with anybody, that when you go to Japan and visit your families and relatives, omiyage, your gifts, you take gifts, you're loaded with gifts. So when you come home, you're loaded with gifts. So Richard said, "We got to go there sometime and just not have to take anything." I said, "Well, that means we can't see our families." He says, "Let's take the girls." So we took Gina and Sondra, went to Japan, didn't tell any relative that we were coming, we had a ball.

KL: Are those your children, Gina and Sondra?

JW: Yeah, my daughters, yeah. We had a ball; it was nice. No gifts coming back. And besides, when you go visit your families, they want you to stay with them, and it restricts your wants, they have plans. But I appreciate them anyway.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

KL: And you came back to California then, from Japan?

JW: Uh-huh, we came and lived with my brother, he lived a couple blocks up here, stayed in their house. Oh, I brought... you know, my kids went to this school in Tokyo, Yoyogi, but I get this note from one of Gina's teachers, she was seven or eight years old, eight years old, and she said, "We can't pass Gina because she doesn't speak any English." And I thought, oh my gosh, well, my fault, too, the maid spoke Japanese, and I spoke mostly Japanese, 'cause Richard's not home all day long. And my neighbors, I lived in a Japanese neighborhood, and we all spoke Japanese. So I said, "Well, I got to go to the school and see what this is all about." Here this teacher, she had a classroom of children Gina's age, and they're all, and she's speaking Japanese to them, too. And this class was more or less dependent kids, you know, like Gina, like my children, American citizens' kids, and they all spoke Japanese. So I said, well, she's not going to learn any English, so I told Richard, "I'm going back home." Because I had three of 'em. And he said, "Well, I just signed a contract to go to Korea for two years." I said, "Well, I'm going back." So I did come back, and he stayed, 'cause he had to go to Korea. Then when we moved, I moved into my brother's house, then my mother and dad were living there. I tell you, in about a couple, three weeks, those kids were speaking English, no Japanese. My mother and I should have spoken Japanese, but my mother with her broken English, spoke English to them, you know. So to this day, they can't, they understand a little, but they don't speak.

KL: Did your mom ever change her citizenship?

JW: Yeah, my dad and my mother, they both became naturalized Americans. But it was nice living with them.

KL: Do you have any insight into sort of how they processed or thought about their experiences in Santa Anita, being told to leave home and go to Santa Anita and to Rohwer?

JW: They never talked about it, they really never did. I felt, in a way, for my mother, honestly, I think it was a time of rest, because she worked very hard. She worked very hard, so did my dad. We lost a lot by having to move, but I think, physically I think it was sort of a rest, I really do.

KL: I mentioned before we started the camera that there is a new museum in McGehee that's about Rohwer and Jerome, and this is a question I asked Shig and Frances, too, but I'm curious what you hope that that museum will tell people. What do you think is important that people understand about Rohwer, if they go to visit?

JW: Well, for one thing, the main thing is that you just don't panic and put people in camps. Because we didn't want that, we didn't want to be put into camps, we weren't going to do anything bad like blow up a port or a boat or whatever. I think they have to think twice before they do anything like this, I do. I think the people back east learned from the memorials that they have in these former camp areas. I just can't picture my kids having to go through something like that. Sure, you hear about people having fun sometimes. We did, as teenagers, we had fun. We had dances, parties, hobbies that we attended, learning centers. Christians had their churches, the Buddhists had their churches, and all that. We were given that opportunity to learn to be humans. But it's just not right. But when they have memorials like that, I think people learn that this isn't right, this isn't right.

KL: I see that in visitors sometimes in Manzanar, that people are affected by the opportunity to learn here.

JW: Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

KL: Have there been time -- you're ninety, have there been other times in your life when you've sensed a similar climate to 1942 and '42? Have you ever been worried that something similar could happen again?

JW: Well, you know what, remember when the Muslims started coming in and they started... they're fine, they have their own churches now, you know, this is what I think should be. If they want to build a moslim, is that what they call them?

KL: A mosque?

JW: A mosque and have their own religion, fine, as long as politically, as long as they don't form their own anti type of groups, I think that's fine. And we never did, I don't think the Japanese ever had any feelings of being anti towards United States. It's just not right, you know, to have a whole bunch of people like that, thousands of people. And I'm glad that you do have these museums, and I'm glad to hear about them, the McGehee, Arkansas, one too because that's the only way people, a lot of people will learn by attending things, if they can't find it in the books in school, people have that opportunity to visit. I really do think... and they should publicize it more maybe. Do the people in Arkansas know there is such a...

KL: I don't know. Arkansas has a pretty active State Office for Historic Preservation, and they put out a lot funding, kind of at county levels to help. There was a big one year anniversary, the museum's just about a year and a half old, so I don't know. Probably some people know and some people don't. Probably its reputation... I mean, a lot of people know about Manzanar through word of mouth.

JW: We learned a lot about it from... well, I don't know that everybody... the Rafu Shimpo, you've heard of the Rafu Shimpo? It's always Heart Mountain or Manzanar, you know. Very seldom do I hear of Jerome, Topaz, that center Topaz. There's Heart Mountain, Granada, Colorado. Poston we hear a lot about, too. We saw, at this seniors' last Wednesday's meeting a movie on Poston, how the state has developed that into a travel thing, an Indian... is it a reservation?

KL: It's a reservation.

JW: A reservation.

KL: It was even in the '40s.

JW: It was? And then they have the water system going.

KL: Yeah, it's interesting, the story I've always heard about Poston is that the tribe didn't want the confinement camp on the reservation, but the federal agency did.

JW: And they set it up.

KL: So it went in the camp. But there's a neat relationship I think, I had a visitor about a year ago at Manzanar tell me they had been to a reunion at Poston that summer, and there were tribal members with the Japanese American people throughout the whole, every part of the reunion, there was a dinner and there were tribal members, and families who either had been or had family members in Poston. And then there was a walking tour, the tribal members were there, and some of these descendants and stuff.

JW: Is that right?

KL: It sounds like kind of a neat relationship.

JW: That's nice, oh, that's nice. But they still have it there.

KL: Yeah, there's a memorial there and there's a group that's brought back one of the barracks. There's stuff going on in a lot of places, there's a museum in the works in Topaz.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

JW: You were mentioning something about Manzanar, about something else going up there the last couple years?

KL: Yeah, we're writing the new exhibits to go into the barrack buildings, and the barrack buildings are new, too, we have replica barracks.

JW: Oh, okay. I'd like to go back there.

KL: It makes an impact on people to see what living conditions were like and what daily life was, you know, something about what daily life was like. There's a replica guard tower also, and a mess hall that's historic, but we moved it to Manzanar from Bishop Airport.

JW: Oh, is that right?

KL: Yeah, but it's like the ones that people used in Manzanar. So students especially, but visitors can get a little bit of a feel for what it was like to live at Manzanar.

JW: You know, when we were there a couple years ago, aside from that Manzanar, around the corner in the back, something, another exhibit was, a museum. Was that for the Indians?

KL: Well, there's a museum in the town of Independence, it's called the Eastern California Museum, and it has a lot of Paiute and Shoshonean baskets, which are the native people in that valley.

JW: That would have been interesting.

KL: And then there's an exhibit about Manzanar also in there, that was put together in the 1970s by a man named Shi Nomura who was held at Manzanar.

JW: Oh, Shi, we used to shop at his market.

KL: Oh, really?

JW: He had a, it used to be called Shi's Fish Market, right on Brookhurst in Garden Grove there. And that's where we went for a lot of our Japanese foods. And his wife still sings, Mary. Isn't that something? She can still sing, I can't believe it. And he passed away, didn't he? And he moved to Independence?

KL: No, they never moved there, but Shi created this exhibit. So they used to come up there a lot, and Mary still comes sometimes to the pilgrimage and stuff.

JW: Is that right? Oh, I thought he moved up there.

KL: I don't think so. I could be wrong.

JW: I'll be darned.

KL: We've kind of raced through this, but are there other things that you wanted, that you kind of expected to talk about today or thought were important to report?

JW: No. It's a good thing that... I would say it's a good thing. You know, when I was, when Richard was in Korea, I stayed with my brother, he didn't charge me anything. So all the money that Richard had sent to me I saved and we were able to put a big down payment on this house. I often am very thankful for my brother.

KL: I enjoyed spending the morning with them.

JW: Although my three brothers that have passed away... there's only Shig and myself now. And Shig is doing real good. I guess you know he had cancer, but he's doing real good and I'm so happy. He's such a dear brother, he's my youngest brother. He's got a heart full of gold and passion, he's got love in his heart, I just love that, he cares. Because I remember when we went, when I went to Japan to join Richard, oh, it was at the L.A. train station, he was there and he just hugged me and I hugged him. He's just a loving man, and I'm glad that he has Frances, 'cause Frances is very intelligent. She's on the ball, she's on the ball, I tell you.

KL: 'Cause she's the person that I called to ask if she would agree to be interviewed --

JW: Oh, I asked her about that.

KL: -- and she's the way that we come to be talking to each other today, and she convinced Shig to be interviewed too, and she was part of that interview. So I appreciate her that she's responsible for a lot of today and for your stories being recorded and being part of this project.

JW: I think she was a lot younger than I was. Yeah, she's only about eighty, she's about ten years younger than I am. Yeah, she was a little... if I can't remember, she can't either. And a lot of things I do not remember.

KL: Well, your memories are very different. It's good to talk to people of different ages, different backgrounds, different personalities, 'cause everybody's very different.

JW: You know, I have hearing aids, that's my downfall. You know, in church and all, and even in the church and all that, you got to... you need good hearing aids so you don't go deaf.

KL: You mentioned... I brought up Shi Nomura and that kind of sparked something. Are there any other people that you want to mention from either Rohwer or Manzanar or other caps, people who are in Orange County but have connections to the camps or to the pilgrimages or anything that you want to mention?

JW: No, except I ran into a friend not too long ago, we used to have a... she lived in Block 16. I don't know if she remembers me, she didn't seem like she did. But anyway, we would have horseshoe tournaments, and she and her sister and another guy would come over in our block and we'd play horseshoe throwing. Can't even lift a horseshoe now. [Laughs]

KL: That was in Block 1, those tournaments?

JW: Block 1, Block 16. Yeah, them days, those days. Things like that, people never mention. You hear a lot about the sad things of camp, but you know, there are happy times, too, even though you were in camp. It had to be. You got to give, forget the thought that that's where you are, you've got to do what you can.

KL: Are there other fond memories that you have from Rohwer?

JW: No.

KL: Well, thank you for this.

JW: Well, I enjoyed talking to you.

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