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_2-01-0017

<Begin Segment 17>

LP: So let's move to the transition from Jerome over to Heart Mountain. What do you recall about that, what was that transition like?

RM: Well, I did remember one thing. This guy became my best friend when I get there. I really didn't know, I didn't remember this, but he told me this. When we moved in, this guy Tom said -- I'm not going to mention his last name -- Tom said, he told this one other kid, he said, "Oh, these guys moving in are Germans," us. So he told this one kid to go in and greet us and go, "Heil Hitler." And I don't remember that. So I guess this kid did that but I don't remember that. He told me, Tom told me that later, said, "Do you remember that?" I said, "No, I don't remember that." But that's... something like that.

LP: So when you arrived at Heart Mountain, I'm trying to think, there's that sort of, not iconic, but kind of this formation of rock, I'm not sure, I don't know what it's called. Like there was Castle Rock at Tule Lake.

RM: Heart Mountain, yeah.

LP: Yeah, is that formation called anything?

RM: It's called Heart Mountain. It's called Heart Mountain, yeah. And I guess you look from a certain angle, it looks like a heart. But when I looked at it, I said, "What do you mean, a heart?" And it's H-A-R-T, it's not H-E-A-R-T, it's H-A-R-T. I remember the first thing that I was told about going, says, "Don't walk out in the area between the mountain," because you get bugs and stuff. I forgot what they call 'em, get in your skin. If you get one, don't pull it out, 'cause the head will stay out there.

LP: Ticks?

RM: Huh?

LP: Tick?

RM: Yeah, ticks. That's the first thing I was told.

LP: What was the... I haven't been there, is it similar to, like, high desert kind of climate, or what was the area like?

RM: Well, just like most camp sites where, desert land. They turned it into farmland, but just desolate land. All I remember is there was the Shoshone River was close by, my father used to go trout fishing.

LP: Thinking about this being the third place, and perhaps then that means two families before your family had lived there. Did the space that you had to live in seem really lived in before? Did you feel like there was any signs of other people that had been living there before?

RM: No. Because when we moved in, looked just like the others, it was plain, it was not fixed up. Some of those places that they kind of fixed things up, but when we moved in there it was not, it was like moving into Tule Lake. Except we had two rooms... well, in Jerome and in Heart Mountain we had two rooms, so that made a difference.

LP: Like actual, like a partition had been built or something?

RM: Yeah, yeah, two separate rooms.

LP: And how were they utilized? Because one was like a living room and then a bedroom?

RM: Yeah.

LP: The reason I ask about the signs of other people living there earlier is that the person I interviewed yesterday, he said that at Tule Lake when they moved there, there was this ring on the floor that looked like a burn mark, and I don't know who alerted someone to it, but anyways, the Military Police came in and said, "You're brewing alcohol in here, look at this mark on the floor," and they said, "Oh, that was here when we got here," and it was this whole thing. So I was just curious if moving into these places, if it was evident of these other families.

RM: The only, one thing, big thing that we would remember about going to Jerome, hardwood floors. [Laughs] Yeah, that's the first thing my mother noticed, hardwood floors.

LP: Where in Heart Mountain, do you remember the block where... you were on the edge, sort of, of the camp?

RM: We were Block 1, which was on the end.

LP: And was it the end of the barrack, too?

RM: Yes, end of the camp.

LP: I've heard those tended to be bigger than the other spaces for people, I don't know if that's true.

RM: I don't know if, in total population, I don't know if it was any bigger. But, see, in Block 1, Jerome, I mean, Heart Mountain was kind of built different, like I say. In Tule Lake and in Jerome it was a block. But in Heart Mountain, Block 1, they have lower Block 1 and upper Block 1. But if you were in Tule Lake, it would have been Block 1 and 2, but in Heart Mountain it was Block 1-A and 1-B. Don't ask me why they did that, but that's what it was. So like when my father became block manager, he was block manager for, like, two blocks.

LP: And was that his job at Heart Mountain?

RM: He became block manager, yeah.

LP: And that was for the blankets that he found?

RM: Yeah.

LP: what about the latrines and the mess hall and some of those facilities?

RM: No, it was just like two separate blocks. There were two separate blocks, but they would call them 1-A and 1-B.

LP: Your sister or your brother was born at Heart Mountain?

RM: No, he was born in Tule Lake. My cousin was born in Heart Mountain.

LP: I see.

RM: I mean, my brother was born in Jerome.

LP: I don't know that we talked about that event. Did your mother ever share what it was like to, giving birth in the camp where perhaps there was limited medical stuff?

RM: No.

LP: And then the cousin that was born at Heart Mountain, do you recall anything about that, other than just knowing that you have a new part of your family?

RM: No. Only thing I remember is all of my aunts were very, so happy because Alice was, they never expected a baby, but he was born there.

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