Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Richard M. Murakami Interview
Narrator: Richard M. Murakami
Interviewer: Larisa Proulx
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: November 19, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-mrichard_2-01-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

LP: So the transition from Tule Lake to Jerome was by train?

RM: Train.

LP: And do you remember anything about that train ride or leaving Tule Lake?

RM: Only thing I remember is bench seats and pulling down the shade whenever you came close to a town, and the armed guard. Like I say, did I think about the armed guard? I never thought about it because I'd seen soldiers before.

LP: Did you, those two boys that you were fairly close with, that used to, it sounds like, kind of, not raise hell with, that you used to kind of... what was that? Did you have any feelings about leaving that group of friends? I know you moved a lot, but did you think anything of it?

RM: Yeah, I say, I guess when you only had a relationship for a year, you don't really have that deep feeling, except him having been my best buddy.

LP: And so the train ride, do you know approximately how long it was, or how long did it feel, was it a few days?

RM: Yeah, I never thought about that.

LP: what about arriving at Jerome? What do you remember about Jerome in general, arriving there?

RM: No, I don't remember anything, any kind of a feeling or that. All I remember is when I arrived in the block that I had, there were no other kids my age, only one guy, and that's the only thing I remember. After experiencing Tule Lake and going there to Jerome, and one guy my same age in Jerome.

LP: Did you get along with him all right?

RM: Oh, yeah, we were buddies.

LP: What would be... essentially two kids, what did you do to...

RM: Well, we didn't do much, we just sat around, and because everybody else was older, we hung around with the older guys and did whatever. Jerome was kind of a different camp because they didn't have the space for, to build a basketball court or anything like that, not like Tule Lake. So the activities were much different. I remember playing with some other kids much younger than I was, we played Kicked the Can, played with them. you ever play baseball with a knife, jackknife? Baseball with a jackknife, you put a jackknife, anyway, play sticks and play... I forgot, Alley-Oop with a ball, you throw the ball over the barrack and catch it. If you catch it, you run over and try to hit the guy with a ball and stuff like that.

LP: Did you play that one around the barrack that you all were in, or did you have unhappy neighbors?

RM: Oh, it used to be over the barracks that we, one of us lived in. [Laughs]

LP: And then you said marbles, you were really good at marbles?

RM: When I went to Heart Mountain we played marbles because we had, Heart Mountain again, you had space for a basketball court and all that, so then we had marbles.

LP: And was Jerome, in terms of the, it doesn't sound like there was room for a basketball court, but was there anything that was better or worse about that area compared to Tule Lake? Was there thinking the humidity was kind of intense there?

RM: Yeah, see, one thing, I never really thought about the weather in any camp, they're all different. But it did snow in every camp, it snowed in Jerome.

LP: Was that, like, something that you didn't expect?

RM: Yeah, I didn't expect it.

LP: What about school there? Was there anything, was it the same as in Tule Lake?

RM: No. 'Cause the school, I was in the seventh grade then, so that the school was together with the high school, same area.

LP: And what was that like, thinking about that age or starting to become a little bit more social maybe, or interested in dating?

RM: Yeah, a little bit more social. Because you're going to school with the older students, so made it a little bit different.

LP: Were there any clubs or any kind of extracurricular activities that you did over there?

RM: Yeah, there used to be, but see, because I was in this block with hardly anybody else, I didn't belong to any clubs or anything in any camp.

LP: Was there any entertainment or anything?

RM: Yeah, see, in Jerome, I don't remember anything like that. And I know that people talk about Heart Mountain having Boy Scouts and things like that. See, I live in what would you call, Block 1, which was the edge of the camp. Everything was happening in the center of the camp, so I never knew there were Boy Scouts in Heart Mountain. And people talk about having Obon and ondo and stuff like that, I never knew they had that, because we lived over here and everything was happening here. So I tell people that, they can't believe that, I said, "That's true." And besides that, this is my analysis. We lived in Block 1, and most of us that lived in Block 1 were country people, people who lived in the center were city folk, you don't really mix.

LP: Someone that I met at the Manzanar reunion in Las Vegas two years ago was at Jerome, and he remembers, I think it might have been his dad having to cut firewood, or there were some, were some parts of it wooded?

RM: Yeah, in Jerome. My father drove the dump truck for the lumberjacks, and all three of my uncles were lumberjacks.

LP: Did they have any experience in doing anything like that prior to the...

RM: Not prior.

LP: Because that can be a dangerous occupation if you're hauling really heavy trees.

RM: So that's... oh, Father was a dump truck driver, so you'd go out there, and that's when he went, go out there, and he'd find trees, and they call it kobu, the knots, and so we have a lot of those at home. Because that's all he would do, 'cause he's driving the truck.

LP: You mentioned some of the mud artwork and things like that. Was there anything besides that that was really unique to Jerome that you remember? I'm thinking Tule Lake had this interesting shell and arrow head stuff.

RM: No, other than that... but people tell me they remember eating shrimp in Jerome, but I sure don't. In Jerome eating shrimp.

LP: Where did they come from?

RM: I have no idea, 'cause I don't remember eating shrimp in Jerome.

KL: I bet there's lots of crawdads in Jerome.

RM: Oh, there was crawdads in Jerome, I remember that. Because we used to have little drainage, we used to catch crawdads, we used to catch that, yeah. Not eat 'em, though. [Laughs]

KL: Yeah, what was your address in Jerome, do you recall?

RM: No. Block 17, but other than that, 17-14, I can't remember.

KL: Do you remember, there were a group of Hawaiians that were sent in to Jerome, do you remember any groups that were unusual or that caught your interest?

RM: See, I don't know whether I should say this. I know there were about two or three blocks of Hawaiian people, they used to have gangs. [Laughs] Stayed away from them.

LP: Were the gangs used as, like a mechanism for getting things, or what was the purpose of it? Was it just a social, or was there any role...

RM: Well, they never lost a basketball game. [Laughs] You could take it for whatever that's worth.

KL: Did you ever leave Jerome and go into the other towns?

RM: No, I didn't, my father did. Oh, I should talk about that experience. You probably heard this story. My father was forty-something years old, but he had go to Little Rock because the draft board didn't have enough people, so he had to go for a physical. So he went to Little Rock for a physical, he flunked, of course. So then when he was there, he started to go to a store, he went into this store to buy some bread and things to bring back. And when he went in there, he said a Caucasian was being helped, and I'm just quoting him, a "Negro" was standing there, so my father went in. So then he says the white guy got helped, so that the store owner says to my father, "You're next." My father said, "No, he's next." Store says, "No, no, you're next." My father couldn't believe it, but that's how blacks were really treated, badly. Because at that time, when he went to the station for the restroom, didn't know which one to go to, it says "black" and "white," they told him, "Well, you go to the 'white' one." Couldn't believe it. So that's the first experience he had about that. And then you hear about, you talk to GIs, 442 guys, they'll tell you the same thing. And so when my father came back, he told us the story, we couldn't believe it. But that's what I call my first experience with prejudice.

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