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

<Begin Segment 1>

LP: Today is November 19, 2014. Present in the room is Larisa Proulx, NPS staff with the Tule Lake Unit, Kristen Luetkemeier, NPS staff at Manzanar, and Richard Murakami, and we're doing an oral history interview. Richard, do I have your permission to record this interview for the Park Service to retain it and use it for educational purposes?

RM: Yes.

LP: Thank you. So I'd like to start off by asking you when and where you were born.

RM: I was born January 29, 1932, in Florin, California, which is seven miles from Sacramento.

LP: And could you talk about your family, your mom and your dad, where they came from?

RM: My father was born in Hawaii, and my mother in California, so I'm a (third) generation, or what Japanese call a Sansei. And as far as what they call the mainland, I'm what they call an older Sansei. And I have four brothers and two sisters, all born in the United States.

LP: So how did your father end up over on the mainland?

RM: Pardon?

LP: How did your father end up over on the mainland?

RM: Well, see, my grandparents, when my father was born in Hawaii, when my father was about five or six years old, I believe, they went back to Japan, and he stayed there 'til he was, I think around eighth grade, and then my grandfather came back and started farming, grape farming near Sacramento, in Florin, where I was born. And my mother's parents, he was doing different things, and when my grandfather -- that's on my mother's side, he was raising chickens. And I don't know when he came to the United States. We suspect he was a Canadian "wetback," but we're not too sure.

LP: So what was growing up in Sacramento like?

RM: See, I was only a young kid. The only thing I remember about growing up in Sacramento is I don't know how old I was, but riding in an old truck. But I grew up in Lakewood, California, where my father was farming. That's where I grew up until Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, we lived there. And we moved to Florin after the war started, and the reason we moved there is 'cause my father was the oldest son, and in Japanese families, the oldest son becomes the head of the family. So he took all of the sisters together and moved everybody to Florin except his older sister. And his older sister did not want to move with us because my uncle was picked up by the FBI and put in a Justice camp, and she didn't want to go with us because she said if she went with us, my uncle would not know where they were. So they were the only family that didn't go with us, so all of us ended up in Florin, and from Florin we went to the camp together, so that's what happened.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

LP: The event of Pearl Harbor, it sounds like there was a little bit of the FBI stuff impacting your family. And from your perspective as a kid, what was that day like and what was that like to hear that information?

RM: Yeah, I know, I've tried to remember that, and I don't remember too much except when it happened, we had some real good friends, and all I remember is in the farm, the man that was in charge of the water company and his assistant, they came over and said, "Don't worry, we'll take care of you." And they took care of us, and they told us what we should be doing, like my father had guns and things like that. So my father gave him whatever guns they had for safekeeping, and they told us what to do so they kept us calm and that's what happened. So we stayed there until we moved. And when we moved, my father had a, my parents had a home, house, and the person that moved into the house was my father's foreman, Tony. He moved into the house so that when we came back, the house was still there. So we were lucky to be able to move into a house when we came back.

LP: When you heard Pearl Harbor had been bombed, so there's someone trying to help the family and keep everyone calm, but was there an undercurrent of concern, and any idea of maybe what the camp would happen, or what was their...

RM: Okay, see, I was ten years old. When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, I didn't know what was happening. At that time, you just didn't... we didn't know. I knew of Japan, but other than that, I didn't know anything. So all we knew is that, what happened. And so I really didn't think too much about what happened. The school that I was going to at that time, I was in the fifth grade, in the school that I was in, there were only three minorities. Myself, I was the only Japanese American there, and two Mexican kids. Julian, who was my best friend, and his brother, Rene, the three of us, that was all. So I never even thought about myself being actually different. And I tell people, you know, people said they were called "Japs" and all that. When I was going to school, I don't ever remember being called a "Jap" or anything. I was just like all the other guys. So I never really thought anything about that before the war, never happened to me. So like I said, I never thought I was different.

LP: Do you recall... somebody I interviewed yesterday, his family lived in San Mateo and he remembers the posters being posted throughout the town about being evacuated, and some folks in his neighborhood were, like, Italian immigrants. Was there, in terms of your neighborhood after Pearl Harbor, maybe nothing targeted specifically at you, but did you notice, like, changes in the atmosphere of your neighborhood? Were people maybe not reacting to you, but the general concern about what Pearl Harbor was?

RM: No. See, when I was living down here, nothing. I don't remember any anti anything. Now, when we moved from here to Florin and went to school in Florin, Florin was, the school I went to was completely opposite. It was maybe ninety percent Japanese Americans in the class, maybe only about three whites, Caucasians, in the class. It's completely different. I didn't really think about it then, but I realized that it was different. And as a ten year old, maybe I was naive or whatever, but I never really thought anything about that, I never really did. Actually, it wasn't 'til after the war when we came back, is when I really started feeling something. Well, I shouldn't say that, it was when I was in camp, it was in Heart Mountain, Wyoming. See, in Tule Lake we never got to get out of camp... see, I went to three different camps. First to Tule Lake, the first year, and from there, when the "loyalty questionnaire" came up, my father took the family, except one family, we went to Jerome, Arkansas. From Jerome, Arkansas, we went to Heart Mountain. And when we were in Heart Mountain, you were able to leave camp to go to the close by town, Cody or Powell. So when we went to Cody, that's the first time I saw the word "no Jap" and things like that, that's the first time I ever experienced that. Until then I never did experience that. And then when I came back after camp, that was kind of a different experience, too.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

LP: So what about the move to Florin? What do you remember about that?

RM: Moving to Florin? When we moved to Florin, we lived in, a church had a big auditorium, so I think there were about four or five families lived in there, so we separated, like, called it a room or whatever, by stringing a rope and hanging blankets, and that's out of the four or five families, I can't remember how many. But that's how we separated our space when we lived there. And we lived there until we were put into the camp.

LP: Do you remember the, sort of filtering through the things that your family owned, and taking certain things or feeling anything about having to leave certain things behind?

RM: Okay, yeah. When we left here, Lakewood, my father was a farmer, so we loaded up the truck with everything we had, and moved it up to Florin because we thought we were gonna stay in Florin. So we had everything with us. So when they made us go to camp, we took all of our belongings and put it into my uncle's basement, so what's where we stored it. And then my father sold the truck, but he kept the car, he stored the car, luckily. But everything else was stored in my uncle's basement, which we lost anyway. That's another story. So all our belongings we took with us except for one thing. My father had just purchased a Caterpillar diesel, that was the one thing he wanted, he just purchased, he must have had it less than six months, so he stored it in a warehouse in the water company. And can I tell you a little story about that? He stored it in the warehouse, and while we were in camp, our good friend, his name was Whitey Searing, Whitey wrote to my father and said, "You know, why leave the Caterpillar in the warehouse and just let it sit there? Why don't you lease it out to the person that's farming your land?" Not our land, but the land that's now being farmed by someone else. "Why don't you lease it to them? I'll take care of it for you." So he leased, took care of the lease of the Caterpillar for my father. He collected the rent and everything, and so then we had a little bit of money while we were in camp. And when we came back, Whitey gave my father every single penny from that. And my father tried to give him something, Whitey refused to take a penny, and that's how good he was, he refused to take a penny. And when I say there were some really good people that we knew, and he was one of those people, and we were grateful to him. And also, during the war, between the war, I had two brothers. My older brother and younger brother gone to Japan in January of 1941, they were in Hiroshima. That's another story.

But they were in Hiroshima and Whitey's son-in-law was a lieutenant in the army when he went to Japan. The first thing he did he went to Hiroshima, even though they weren't supposed to, he went to Hiroshima to look for my two brothers. He found them, and the first thing he did was he went to the U.S. authorities and he told them, "These two kids are to be on the first boat back to the United States." So my two brothers and my cousin were on the first boat back to the United States. So we were so lucky with knowing these people.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

LP: Do you mind talking a little bit about your brothers, just when they were sent there, they were Kibeis, it sounds like, they were educated there, and just a little bit about what that meant for them to be sent there and their life there and coming back?

RM: See, my brothers... my older brother was twelve years old, he was a Sansei in Japan, because he was Sansei, he was treated as a foreigner, treated differently than a Nisei, a second generation. A Nisei was considered Japanese, a Sansei was considered not Japanese, so he had to go register with the police, he was treated differently. So when people think about a citizen of a country, like even though ethnically you're Japanese in Japan, he's treated completely differently.

LP: What was it like for both of them to be there? It sounds like they were alienated a little bit. Did they have dual citizenship?

RM: No, they didn't lose the citizenship. My father, my older brother had a lot of buddies who kind of stick with him and protected him. My younger brother, who was eight when he went, because they were elementary school, they took all the elementary schools out into the woods. Because the U.S. was bombing Hiroshima, so then that's where they lived. And he said they had to eat plant foods, plant and bugs and things like that. So he had a kind of rougher life. And my brother lived in Hiroshima when he was lucky. The day before they dropped the bomb, he cut his foot. And his class went to Hiroshima to, they would go once a week to clean up Hiroshima. His class went but he couldn't go because he cut his foot. So he was walking to Hiroshima, and when they dropped the bomb, there was a concrete wall, and he was behind the wall. When they dropped the bomb, he was behind the wall, that's why he didn't get any of the effects of the atomic bomb, that's what saved him. So after they dropped the bomb he said he walked home, and all he could see was, it's a whole different story. He told a story here once.

LP: So when they were in Japan when Pearl Harbor was bombed, so did they ever share with you what that meant to them, hearing that news? Were they concerned about the family that was in the States at the time?

RM: All my brother would say was that my grandfather would say, "Why did Japan bomb Pearl Harbor?" He said my grandfather would always say, "Japan is going to lose the war. There is no way they're going to be, to win the war against the United States. So my brothers used to always tell them, "Don't say that," because the Japanese people will get on 'em. But my grandfather was one that said, "No, there's no way Japan could win the war against the U.S. Because, see, my grandfather lived here for I don't know how many years, so he knew the strength of the people here.

LP: So when they came over to this, do you know around when they were getting on that boat to come back to the States? It sounds like it was before you all moved to Florin, or what was the timeline for that?

RM: They came back in about 1946, '47.

LP: Oh, I see, so they were there for the war.

RM: Yeah, they were there for the war. But when they dropped the bomb, we knew they had dropped the bomb, but we didn't know what their fate was. And I really don't know how long it took us before we knew, my mother knew, but I think it was through the Red Cross, but I really don't know what the timeline was on that.

LP: So throughout all of the war, essentially, this part of your family and this other part have very little communication, it sounds like.

RM: None, absolutely none.

LP: Did that weigh on your family a lot, is that something as a kid that you noticed?

RM: Well, you know what, that's something that our parents never talked about, we never talked about it. And this is what I believe. See, when we were put into the camp, people said, "How was life in camp?" I was ten when I went in. As a ten-year-old, I used to play with other kids and all that, and people said, "Did you have fun?" I said, "Yeah, we had fun playing with other kids." And I think that's because of what our parents did. Our parents, even though they suffered, tried to make life as normal as possible for us. So they never really groused or complained about being in camp. So like when my brother was there, never really talked about my brothers, what they may have been suffering. Try to keep our life as positive as possible. So I give credit to our parents. When I say our parents, I mean all the parents. So we tried to keep life as normal as possible. I really truly believe that. Because otherwise they could have said United States, they could have really made it bad for us. They kept us being positive, and I think that's one of the reasons why, after the war when we came back, came back and went to school, college and all that, we were able to succeed, because of the positive influence of our parents, the Nisei and Issei people, parents.

KL: Before we go further, I wondered if you would tell us for the recording the names of both of your parents and your siblings in birth order?

RM: Oh, sure. My father was Kazuo, but he picked up the name Harvey, so it's Kazuo Harvey, and my mother's name was Yomiko. And my oldest brother is named Arthur. We all had English and Japanese names. Some families don't... our oldest brother was Arthur Ichiro, and my younger brother below me was Eugene Toshio, and my sister was Bernice Shizuko, and then Raymond Tetsuo. And then Katherine Hiroko, and then Daniel Shigeo. Is that seven? And I'm Richard Michio.

KL: And you're child number two, right?

RM: I'm number two.

KL: I was curious about why you stayed home. Why did your parents keep you home and send your two brothers, do you know?

RM: Well, I kiddingly tell people, when people ask me that, I tell people, "Well, I knew what was going to happen," people give me a strange look. But, see, I just didn't want to travel, simple. So when they went, I was, in 1941, so I was nine years old. My younger brother was seven, and he wanted to go. Now why a seven year old kid would want to go to Japan, I never asked him. And I don't know if he even knew why, but he wanted to go. And my older brother went, because he was the older son, and you have to understand, my older brother never lived at home with us. He lived with my mother's uncle, who had no kids. That's the Japanese way, I guess, had no kids, so he lived with them. So he was more Japanese than any of us. He did all the martial arts stuff and all that. But I'm a homebody.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

LP: So going back to Florin, so we talked a little bit about the setup of the church, but the physical transportation part of it going to Florin, the truck was packed, was there anything that you can recall being really hard to leave behind where you all were living besides the equipment that your dad had, anything for you? No pets, no anything like that.

RM: No, we didn't have any pets, so like I say, our parents were moving, so I just said, "Okay, we're going," so that's why I went. I didn't question anything.

LP: And then were there any impressions that you had of Florin in particular? You said that the demographics at your school changed pretty significantly and all that.

RM: Yeah, see, you have to understand, I was a very, very naive kid. I just... even now, I accept things as they are. So when I went there, that's what it was, so I just accepted that. I never thought about being different. I only think about things being different when I got older in life. I never really thought about being different.

LP: So at what point did you leave Florin to then go to Heart Mountain?

RM: Okay, for Florin, when they... I can't remember what month we went to camp. See, Florin was a town with probably ninety percent Japanese Americans, with Japanese and Japanese Americans. And what they did was, there was a railroad track right in the middle. One side went to one camp, another side went to another camp. Because I understand the government did not want the whole town to go to the same camp because after I learned that, after I came here, you have a big group like that go to one camp, the government thought they might start problems, so they split 'em. So we went to one camp and people from the other side of the railroad went to another camp. So that's where we ended up in what they called assembly center, what they called Marysville. From Marysville we went to Tule Lake. And from Tule Lake, after the "loyalty questionnaire," we moved Jerome, Arkansas. Jerome was the last camp open, first camp closed. And after I volunteered, I learned that Jerome became a German prison camp. And then after Jerome we went to Heart Mountain. So I spent a year in each camp.

LP: So then it would be Florin to Marysville to Tule Lake, am I understanding that correctly? It was Florin to Marysville to Tule Lake?

RM: Yes.

LP: What was that progression like? What do you remember about going from those places to Tule Lake?

RM: I just remember my younger sister then was about maybe less than a year old, so I remember my mother having to carry her, and all you could take is what you could carry. So my mother had my sister in her, and so I carried whatever I could carry. That's all you could take, so I remember that's all we did. And I remember the armed guards and being on a train, and that's all I remember about there and arriving in Marysville. And in Marysville it was next to a swamp. Two things I remember is mosquitoes and ice cream. Mosquitoes, so a lot of mosquitoes, so what they did was they put netting over the bed, but they didn't help because you know why? The flooring, the wooden floor, it was that far apart, so mosquitoes would come underneath that, so you had to put netting on the floor to keep the mosquitoes out. And then ice cream, wherever ice cream is, I used to run around with my cousin, who was about four years older than I was. Him and his buddies, they went around and got... see, to go to eat, you had to have mess hall passes. So I don't know how they got 'em, they got all these passes from all these different mess halls, and any time we had ice cream, we had about four or five different passes, so we'd run around to all the different mess halls to get ice cream. [Laughs] That's the only thing I remember. Other than that, I don't remember anything about Marysville, because there was really nothing to do. No school.

LP: On the train, a person I interviewed yesterday, he remembered asking to look out the window and being told no. Do you remember...

RM: I remember that, yeah. Bench seat, didn't look out the window. I remember that sometimes when you're out the country, you could put the shades up, but as soon as you get to a town, an armed guard would come by and they'd pull the shades down. They wouldn't let you peek out.

LP: Was there... I'm trying to think, from the perspective of the kids, seeing an armed guard, was that really intimidating to you as a kid, or did you feel any emotion, like what was that like to be interacting with the army?

RM: As a kid I never thought about that. The reason is [coughs] -- excuse me -- because I had seen soldiers before. Where we were living, in Lakewood, farming, where we lived, my first three years I went to a two-room schoolhouse, we used only one room. But for walking to school, across our farm was Douglas Airplane. So walking to school, there was an anti-aircraft gun on the road, and there were always soldiers there. So I used to see them all the time, so I was used to seeing soldiers. So I guess it was when I saw them, and that was when I was in the second and third grade. So I guess when I saw the soldiers on the train, I never thought about anything about that, because I had seen it before. It was not something new to me.

LP: So at Marysville, besides the mosquitoes, what was the housing like?

RM: Barracks. Like I said, they had cracks on the floor, wide and all that, and it was poorly built, that's all I remember.

LP: In your mind, did they seem just the same as the ones in the other camps, it was just typical construction?

RM: Yeah, yeah. The ones I remember most is the Tule Lake ones, were just terrible.

LP: So going from Marysville to Tule Lake, what was that, were you brought over by train?

RM: By train.

LP: And what are your memories about being told, "We're going to Tule Lake now," and that progression?

RM: See, I don't really remember the train ride from Marysville to Tule Lake. Maybe because it wasn't that far, comparatively. Going from Tule Lake to Jerome was far, but Marysville was... Tule Lake was in California so I really don't remember too much about that.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

LP: Did you have any impressions about the high desert, Tule Lake in general? It sounds like Marysville had mosquitoes and all that, but then Tule Lake, the environment is really different. Was that striking to you at all?

RM: Yeah. The things I remembered, good or bad things, I'll talk about the good things. I don't know whether it was planned or not, but the block that I was in, there must have been, I don't know, at least twelve to fifteen kids who were maybe my same age, about a year or two younger or older than I was. So that was really good, so you had a lot of kids to play with, but also lucky. Now I wish I could remember his name, there was one guy, and I think he was about college age, he's the one that got us together. He's the one that built the basketball court, he's the one that taught us how to play basketball, how to play softball, how to play football, how to do track and field, he's the one that kept, I tell people he's the one who kept us out of trouble. Some would ask, "What kept you out of trouble?" I say he kept us out of trouble, kept us busy, but he's the one that did it. And I wish I could remember his name, but he's the one that really kept us going, doing things all the time. So to this day, I wish I could remember his name so I could really thank that man. He was the guy that did it. So that's the good part about it. Luckily we had a lot of kids. And then our whole family except my uncle lived in the same block, we were Block 10. My uncle, who had cancer, lived in Block 9, because in Block 9, they had all the people that had some kind of illness, or invalids, so they lived in Block 9. I had discovered that, so they had some kind of... that's why my analysis is that they had some kind of a segregation, that's what I thought, kids in one block, no, there were no kids in Block 9. That's why we were kind lucky.

And things, bad things I remember is like my mother used to have to sweep the floor two or three times a day, because dust could come up because of the cracks in the floor, like that, and it was built on a lake, wind would blow, dust would come up, and it was terrible.

LP: I'm not sure if you have a visual memory of that area, apartment, but could you sort of walk me around the space that your family had to live in? So what were the spaces that were sort of carved out? How did you organize yourselves?

RM: We were in the end room, I mean, the end room. And so my father had strung a rope across and a blanket to separate the room with a blanket, so the bedroom was one side. See, at that time, it was my parents, and I was the oldest, I was ten, and my younger sister Bernice and Raymond and Katherine, and my youngest brother Daniel was born in Wyoming, so there was the five of us. So since we were all very young kids, little kids, you know, I guess that was the reason why they only had this one room. When we went to Jerome, we had two rooms. But it was separated by a blanket.

LP: Was there a stove or anything for heat?

RM: Yeah, a potbelly stove, coal burning, it had one light.

LP: And how far was the area that you had to live in from the latrines and the mess hall?

RM: See, we were lucky. We lived almost like in the middle of the block, so the latrines were almost close by, and since we were in the middle of the block, the mess hall was just a few steps down. But people that lived on the ends had to walk far for the mess hall and for latrines and all that, especially in the wintertime. It was the first time I ever experienced snow.

LP: What was that like?

RM: Well, as a kid it was fun.

LP: From the interview yesterday, something... this person was in Block 30, and they were there after the questionnaire. And so the barracks had been obviously lived in and there were different things they sort of noticed, he's about eleven years old. And he recalled some of the bathrooms being modified to have soaking tubs. Do you remember anything like that?

RM: No, see, I was there the first year, so we didn't have anything like that. Let's see, the first year we were there for the first couple of months, my father was the man in charge of making sure they the boilers worked, to make sure to add hot water.

LP: Did your mom work at all, or was she just taking care of you?

RM: No, just taking care of a few of us.

LP: What about the food in the mess hall? Some people have really unsavory memories of the food. Is there anything that stands out to you?

RM: Okay, I will not eat white macaroni and cheese. Because I still remember this, that's what they fed us for the first time, I don't know, a couple of weeks. Until... I remember this very distinctly. My father said one day, the adults were having a meeting, and my father said, "You are not to get, go to the mess hall or get close to the mess hall," 'cause they were having a meeting. What they were meeting about, I found later was they were meeting about bad food we were getting. And so then later on we found that, so did other blocks, and what was happening, they found out, was the cook was stealing the food, the sugar and everything else. So shortly thereafter, the cooks were gone. And then the cooks then became from people in the block, and some blocks were, if they were lucky, they had people that owned restaurants or were cooks, they had good cooks. But I really can't remember what kind of cooks we had, but we had better food after that. We got food after that, not just macaroni and cheese. So that's all I remember.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

LP: Do you remember a block manager or anybody like that that was...

RM: Well, eventually, before we left, my father was the block manager.

LP: What was the block manager's responsibilities or job?

RM: Well, it's just like, I guess, to make sure that everything ran smoothly. And it's... well, it became, because in camp, if you live in the block, they kind of self-governed. So that's what... they'll do that. And then the government would have certain regulations, so made sure that was followed. And so my father was a block manager toward the end in Tule Lake, but he also became block manager over to Heart Mountain. And when we went to Heart Mountain, it was our third year, we got there and my father went to the office and he opened it in back of the block manager's office, there was kind of a warehouse, he opened the door and he saw these piles and piles of blankets. And he says, "How come have so many blankets and..." everybody was cold, right? And so he asked how come, he says, "Well, that's because the government says everybody could only have two blankets." My father said, "Too cold." Well, he probably said, "To hell with that." He told everybody, "If you want another blanket, come and get it," so he passed all the blankets out. Before that, the prior block manager didn't care. No matter how cold it got, they only got two blankets, but he passed them all out. But that's what he did.

LP: His initial job at Tule Lake was working with the boiler system?

RM: Boilermakers, yeah, to make sure he had, that's why he had a dump truck, so he was going around, and that's how we were able to get some wood and things like that. That's why we were the only block that had a sled, toboggan, because he went out, he found this quote/unquote scrap roofing.

LP: Did he tell, do you mind telling the story you shared about the sled ride? But also touching on, did he give that to you all as a gift, or did he tell you that he was making this, or how did that even...

RM: Yeah. What happened was, as he was driving around, he found this roofing, you know, the corrugated roofing. So he brought it back and I believe it was somebody in the block built a toboggan. And so then.. and he also built me a sled for Christmas. Anyway, so when it snowed, we'd go up to the Castle Rock, and I would ride the sled and guys would ride the toboggan. So after about the, I don't know whether second or third time, I always tell my dad I want to ride, ride, ride. So he finally said okay, so the time I got to ride, got on, and I was the next to the last person on it, an adult was behind me. So I remember getting on it and we were coming down. And after I got off, my buddies come to me and says, "Oh, you guys were lucky." I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "You know, we thought you were gonna get killed." I said, "What do you mean?" He says, "When you guys were coming down, first thing you guys were doing was you were heading for this telephone pole. And then, next thing you know, you guys were heading, you guys turned right and you were heading for the cliff. And then you turned left and you went between the cliff and the telephone pole." So we heard that, and see, luckily the guy in front knew exactly what to do, you lean left and lean right. So that was the last toboggan ride they ever took. They said never again, 'cause it was too dangerous. So I thought, that's why I tell people I took the last toboggan ride down Castle Rock. And our block was the only one that had a toboggan, because nobody had that scrap piece of roofing.

LP: Do you know what happened to it?

RM: I have no idea what happened to it afterwards. I don't know whether disassembled it, got rid of it, I have no idea.

LP: And the smaller sled that he made for you, was that the same thing, you just decided to not use that?

RM: The sled? Yeah, it's just, you know, a sled for a kid. And I think I may have been one of only two or three kids in the block that had one.

LP: What was it like to get that as a Christmas gift? Were you totally surprised?

RM: Yeah, I was totally surprised. And my buddies didn't have one, so we'd go up to Castle Rock mountain and I would share.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

LP: What were holidays, I mean, what were the holidays that were celebrated or what were they like, do you remember at all?

RM: Didn't celebrate holidays. The other day somebody said, "Halloween, did you ever wear a costume?" I said, "We didn't have trick-or-treating or things like that in camp." I never wore a costume. I can't remember... see, I can't remember ever having a birthday party until my sixtieth birthday. I can't remember having... we have Christmas dinners, a Christmas party. Well, in a farm, you really don't have it, but in camp, I don't remember having parties, Christmas or that kind of parties in camp. I can't remember that. And the people I used to hang around with, we would have dances and things like that, but having what I'd call a real party, I can't ever remember having one.

LP: Spiritually, religiously, did your family believe or practice anything in particular, were there any services or anything in camp?

RM: Yeah, not really. When I was in Tule Lake, my mother used to make me go to a church. The first year in Tule Lake, no Buddhist services at all. We had Christian churches, so she would make me go. But I was not a very good kid, Sundays. Because Sundays were the days that we would play softball, and I really wanted to play softball. And I tell people this one story. One day we were playing softball and I was the pitcher. And she made me go to church, so I walked very, very slow to go to church. And I got there, and the door was closed. So I didn't go in, so I came back home. My mother said, "What happened? You didn't go in?" I said, "Oh, the door was closed." [Laughs] She said, "Why didn't you go?" and I said, "The door was closed, that's why I didn't go in." She got mad at me, so I said, "I want to go watch the game." She said, "No, you can't," and she made me stay home. But she didn't make me go. And you know, I could never remember the Lord's Prayer when I was going to camp. But you know what? When I went to church, I was about fifty-five years old, I went in there, darn it, I knew the Lord's Prayer. I never knew I knew it, but word for word I could... surprised the heck out of me. Well, I'm a Buddhist. I returned back to my parents' religion. My mother was Buddhist. And now I realize why there were no Buddhist services during the first year. All the Buddhist ministers in the Justice camps, that's why.

LP: Do you remember... someone I got in touch with is the son of someone who's a reverend at Tule Lake. And at the pilgrimage event this past year there was an event to go up to Castle Rock, and there's a plaque there and everything. Do you remember, by chance, anybody, I know you were a kid, you weren't really interested in church, so probably didn't matter, but do you remember anyone that was affiliated with any of the churches when you were at Tule Lake?

RM: No.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

LP: You mentioned softball. So was that one of the, sort of, activities that you participated in in camp?

RM: Yes.

LP: Did the teams have names or anything?

RM: No, we just played, we may play another block, it's like football. But nobody liked to play with us because we had these two guys, my best friend and his brother, who were mean. [Laughs] Nobody wanted to play with us. And his name was Morita, George and Robert. But what I do remember about baseball is a semi-pro team came from... what was that town close by? Klamath Falls. They came to play, I vividly remember them because, see, we played, our guys were five foot four. Oh, those guys were six foot tall, they were big, giant guys and all that, you know, we said, "Wow, those guys are big," but we beat 'em. [Laughs]

LP: This was a team that was just local kids that were coming over?

RM: The guys were, they had played, the ball players, good ball players from Tule Lake were from a town called Riverside, and they had played ball before, no, they were nineteen, twenty year old guys, so I still remember that, playing. They must play about three or four games, I remember going to see the games. So that was... that's one thing I remember.

LP: Was there sporting equipment given to people in the camp, or was that something people had to make in the camp?

RM: Yeah, I don't know how, you know, the guy that taught us to play basketball and softball and stuff, I don't know where he got the equipment. I don't know, I really don't know.

LP: Do you remember where the field was for them?

RM: Oh, in the firebreaks. And in the block they had this one area where he built the... every block there was a kind of area you could build a basketball court.

LP: So besides basketball, baseball, softball, was there anything else that you did as a kid playing or activities that your parents really wanted you to do in camp.

RM: No, that kept us busy so that was it. Except when I went to Heart Mountain, marbles. See, what is it, fourth grade, I was pretty good at marbles. [Laughs]

LP: You mentioned that there were dances, and were those at Tule Lake or later in your...

RM: No, in Heart Mountain.

LP: Do you remember, do your parents have any sort of social groups to hang out with? It sounds like your mom, your parents were probably both really busy with having...

RM: Yeah, having a family, so not that... and see, maybe it's kind of different for our family because we were in every camp only year, so some of these people I know, when they go to reunions, they go to reunions because they were in the camp together for three and a half years, but I was only in each camp one year, so you don't really build that strong relationship. Because when I left Tule Lake, they had this autograph book, and guys signed them, so when I looked at it how many years later, I was gonna donate to the museum, I looked at it, I couldn't remember a single guy. I was ten years old, by the time I looked at it, I was sixty-five, and I couldn't remember a single name. And from Jerome, I only remember one guy's name. but I do remember a couple other people.

LP: So you talked a little bit about the winter weather, but what about the whole year, with the warmer months, was it really unbearable weather during the summers? People remember extreme...

RM: No, I never... the weather never really bothered me, even, because I like cold, so it never really bothered me, the weather. I used to think about things like, even Tule Lake now, you know those little whirlwinds, we used to call it girigiri. We said, "Oh, another girigiri." Yeah, that's what I remember about that in Tule Lake. And then what I remember about Jerome was my buddy said, "When you're walking to school, if you feel one drop of rain, you better run, thunderstorms." He was right. One drop of rain, you'd better run, because it would just shower. And then what I remember about Heart Mountain is the long days in Heart Mountain. We'd go to a movie, come back at night, and then we'll play softball afterwards, it was still light. The long days, I remember.

KL: Can I ask one or two questions follow up for Tule Lake? You mentioned cooks who were taking ingredients and they were sent away. Were those cooks Japanese American?

RM: No.

KL: They were Caucasian staff?

RM: Caucasian, yeah.

KL: Do you know where they went?

RM: I have no idea. I was ten years old, but I knew that they were gone. And afterwards, when we came here, you could start reading about what happened to him. But at that time, all I know, they were gone.

KL: And they were replaced with Japanese American cooks?

RM: Yes.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

LP: So the timing of leaving Tule Lake and going to Jerome was because of the questionnaire, it sounds like.

RM: Yes.

LP: Can you talk a little bit about what the questionnaire was and the reaction and the feeling about what that was, what the purpose of it was, why people wanted to, or felt they should or shouldn't answer it particularly?

RM: In our family, we were that close to my father saying "no-no." The reason is, my father felt that we needed to go back to Japan because of my two brothers. And my mother said, "If we're going back to Japan, how would we live?" And my father thought about that, and there was no way he would make a living. So that's why my father decided to go "yes-yes," and by going "yes-yes" he kept the family together, you know, my uncles and aunts, except for one. And the only reason that one didn't go is because my uncle had been picked up by the Department of Justice, and that family stayed in Tule Lake, so that's why we left. And I have to tell you, my father, when we went to camp -- and I remember this distinctly because when you lived in a small little room with only a blanket hanging, my mother and father would talk in the evenings, and my father said, he's a Kibei, he was educated in Japan, but he really believed in the United States. He said, "We are United States citizens, and they're going to let us out in six months." He really believed in that. And he says, "Besides, we're farmers, and United States needs food during the war, so they're going to let us out." That didn't happen. So when it came to questionnaire, even though he was going to go "no-no" because of my brothers, he really said "yes-yes," so that's when we left Tule Lake to go to Jerome. And so the whole family went. It's my belief that because of what happened to us, and we didn't get to go out, my father was very disillusioned, and he was very unhappy. He never said anything to us, or anything about it, he never talked about camp or anything afterwards. But my opinion, he was very, very disillusioned, he really worked hard. Because he really believed in the United States. I just, from... and really myself, I pick up after my father, and I really believed in the United States. I call myself a proud American, I'll say that to anybody, I'm a proud American. And it's how you believe, I picked that up from him. But he was disillusioned. Excuse me for saying that.

LP: One of the things that the person yesterday remembered was a lot of meetings and people... because it caused a lot of chaos, a lot of discussion, some people were having these conversations very privately within their family, but then other people were very outspoken, trying to bring up bigger conversations about what it meant for everybody in the camp to answer a particular way? Although you were a child, was any of that apparent to you and other kinds of parts of the camp, or did you get a sense of maybe your parents felt that there were bigger discussions that they were being asked to participate in or anything like that.

RM: Never, never. He never talked to us, or my mother talked to us about anything that was, would be considered anti-U.S. Never, never, never, not one word.

LP: The kids that you played with in camp, did they ever, did they seem aware of what was going on in their families, the conversations? Why mom or dad feels that we should answer this way? Was there, between peers, and at a childhood level, was that at all something?

RM: See, and my mother told us afterwards about going to Japan and all that, and I know that, how my father felt. See, I remember how my father felt in 1940. I remember my mother and father talking, in 1940, it was an election year, I was eight years old, I remember them sitting at dinner and talking about who they're going to vote for President. People says, "How you remember that?" I remember that, eight years old. I remember exactly who would vote for President and why. That's how my father felt about this country. So when he went in, that's why he said we're gonna be out. But he never said anything to us about anything anti or anything, he just, he accepted what it is and he kept it to himself. So all through the war and after.

LP: So after the questionnaire stuff was done, at what point did you become aware of moving from Tule Lake?

RM: About the questionnaire, you know, I really did not become of the questionnaire, what was asked and everything else until after I came here to volunteer here, and what the questionnaire was about. And then what my mother had said about almost saying, my father saying he wanted to go back to Japan, that's all after, long, long after.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

LP: So when did the move from Tule Lake happen to Jerome?

RM: I think it was in about July, it was after school ended, so it was about July, we moved to Jerome.

LP: And since you just reminded me of school, what are your memories of school and then Tule Lake?

RM: Sitting in bench seats and all that. I was a very bad student.

LP: Why do you say that? Seems like there's a story.

RM: You know, I guess psychoanalyzing myself, I think I was a bad student because maybe I was rebelling, really thinking about rebelling of what happened to us, and not really thinking about it, maybe I was. And I know that when I was in Jerome, I rebelled more. I tell people this story, people yell at me when I tell the story, but in Jerome, see, I like math. I was in this math class, and this teacher, he was Japanese. After class one time he called me, he made me stay. He told me, he says, "Richard, you should do better in math than you are now. You should do better in school, as well as this guy named Roy, he was brilliant, all right? He said, "You should do just as well as Roy." I said, "No, I can't." And to prove him that I was right, I didn't study. That's how rebellious I was. And the thing is, after camp, we came back and I moved to L.A., guess who was in the same high school I was? Roy. [Laughs]

LP: Was the teacher at Tule Lake Caucasian or was it someone...

RM: All the teachers I had, elementary, I was in the sixth grade, yeah, sixth grade, and it was a Caucasian.

LP: Do you remember their name by chance?

RM: I have no recollection of her name. There was only one teacher I remember in Jerome, is my music teacher, 'cause I was in love with her. [Laughs] She went to University of Cal.

LP: Was there any, the one at Tule Lake, is there a personality at all, or was it just the teacher you had?

RM: Just the teacher I had.

LP: One thing that stands out to me from, there's a video that Kristen brought to give you all, it's about Manzanar, but there's an excerpt from an oral history interview where someone's talking about being in science class and the teacher is holding up a piece of cardboard or something and saying, "Imagine this is a Bunsen burner." Do you recall any lack of supplies or any lack of anything and it just seeming really odd?

RM: No, I don't remember too much about that. See, like I say, I wonder about school in Jerome, and I used to like my music class because of the teacher. Other than that, don't remember much, except when I tell this to my friends that were in Heart Mountain, when I went to Heart Mountain, and none of my people I know that were in Heart Mountain, same classes I was. And I said, when we went to Heart Mountain, I said, "Did you know that in Heart Mountain they separated the classes based upon a person's grades or their intelligence?" He said, "No, I didn't." I says, "What class were you in? You were in, what, A Class, B Class, C Class?" "I was in a class with all C people." I said, "Oh, yes, you guys don't know that. I know that." "How do you know?" I said, "I could tell." See, one thing, I eventually became an auditor, and auditors analyze things. I still do analyze things. I said, "I know that, I could tell." "How do you know?" And I says, "Think about the guys that were in class with you guys, they're all A students. I was in the C class." So I kind of knew that then, so maybe that's all the more I didn't study. I really didn't start studying until I went to college. So that's the way it was. I guess that was my way of rebelling without really knowing it, without really knowing it.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

LP: Something that's sort of striking about Tule Lake was some of the artwork that came out of the camp. Do you remember... I mean, some people used the shells that were part of the lake bed.

RM: Yeah, shells.

LP: Do you recall anyone making anything in camp that was artsy?

RM: Oh, yeah. See, my mother and my aunt... see, my aunt was an artist. They used to make shells, and it makes all kinds of things. And my aunt, when we went to Jerome, as far as I know, my aunt was the only person to make articles out of the Jerome mud. I donated a piece here, and I have some others that I want to donate here. And I asked her why, she said, "You know, there was nothing else to do." So she took the mud and she made models of my brother, models of her parent. I still have the one of my brother, which I want to donate to a museum, parents and all that. The only one left is the one of my brother. Her brothers and sisters had 'em, she doesn't know what happened to 'em. So I thought that she took those and she kind of burned them in the kitchen oven, they would just dry naturally, she painted them and all that. But they're still with us, so I have that. And I could say nobody else made that. And you know, you heard about everybody doing birds, she carved horses and all kinds of things. So when she came back she lived in Walnut Grove, she was a real good artist and she did all that. So in camp, my mother and all my aunts, they all carved things and made things, that's what they spent their time doing.

LP: Was there anything... wasn't there like two holes or there were two, something shaved out of wood you brought pictures of to the pilgrimage? Wasn't that you? There was pictures of something that were made at Tule Lake that you said you were donating here. Some sort of sculptural thing that was out of wood.

RM: Oh, okay. I have one from Tule Lake. My father used to sneak out of camp, no moon. If he'd got caught, he would have been shot. No moon, you sneak out of camp, and you've got these vines or whatever it is, and I don't know how many he had when we left Tule Lake, but we only took one, his favorite one. I still have that at home. And because of, you only have so much packing space, you took his favorite one. And I don't know what kind of vine it is, what kind of things, but that's what he did. He took it and we'd carve it and clean it up, and take Johnson's Way, so I still have that. And when we left camp, I don't know how many we left behind anyway. That's what he did. And then I still remember that one of the things that we, was arrow heads and shells, we had a bunch of those. When we left camp, we left it there, except for this one piece. You know why we left arrow heads and shells there? Because it's federal land, right? The government said it's federal land, so you can't take anything away, so my parents didn't take anything. I'm saying how foolish we were. I wish we would have had that. And that's the one thing, when we had an exhibit here of all the camps, the first thing I looked for was artifacts from the people who donated the things or loaned to the museum to display. I looked for arrowheads and things made out of shells from Tule Lake. Do you know how many I found? [Pantomimes zero] And I wondered why. I wonder if they did the same thing that my parents did, federal property, so you can't take it out. I mean, that's my thought. You know, my buddies and stuff, we had all kinds of arrow heads and shells, things out of shell. But I think Tule Lake, now they have things made out of shells that people made in camp, right?

LP: Yeah, there's, like, some pins and different things that people donated.

RM: Yeah, but that's what they used to make, all kinds of things.

LP: Something that just came into my head, and so this is later, this is after the segregation era, but one of the things that men used to do was make out of, it was either coat hangers or something, but hooks with line, and they would bait them and catch birds, and apparently they would catch seagulls and they would paint red dots underneath the wings so that when they were flying around they would go, "Oh, look, there's a plane, there's a plane." Everyone would come out and look and they'd all do stuff like that. Was there anything, did you ever hear of anything like that, any kind of pranks or anything?

RM: No.

LP: What about, sort of, like, foraging or hunting within the camp was, did anyone ever...

RM: My wife will tell you stories about hunters. But at that time we didn't, it was the first year, we didn't have any of that.

KL: When you guys found the arrow heads, did you have any knowledge or did you speculate about people who had lived at Tule Lake before?

RM: No. Well, we kind of guessed there were Indians, so the arrow heads, that's what it was. Never really... we just said there were Indians' arrow heads, that's all we, kids always thought about.

LP: What about Abalone Mountain? Was there anything...

RM: Okay, everybody talks about Abalone Mountain? When I was in Tule Lake, never talked about Abalone Mountain, only Castle Rock.

LP: And could you talk a little bit about why it was called Castle Rock, or is there any...

RM: I don't know why they call it Castle Rock, all I know is that when I was there, we took off to Castle Rock because wintertime we'd go in the snow. I have no idea why called it that or anything else, it's a way for us to get out of camp.

LP: Do you recall any of the, like, potato storage areas or the hog farm or any of the agricultural...

RM: Okay, see, just before I left Tule Lake, they started the farming. So about maybe three weeks before I left, one of the fathers in our block was working in the farm, so he took us out to where they were growing the chickens and pigs and cattle and all that, he took us there, showed us that, so we spent a day there. And then in two weeks he was going to take us to the vegetable farm, but I left camp so I never got to see that. So they were just starting just when we left, I left, anyway.

LP: Was there ever, as a kid I guess sometimes the scale of things can seem skewed, but did it seem like a big operation when you were being shown it or was there anything kind of, that stands out?

RM: No, since I grew up on a farm, so we just wanted to, we were happy to see that happening, got to see, and never really think about the history of it and why, the historical significance. Never give that kind of, I didn't give it that kind of a thought.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

LP: What about the hospital? Did you ever get, were you ever ill in camp, or anyone in your family?

RM: No. the only time the hospital was in Jerome when my brother was born, that's the only time.

LP: Did you ever hear... one lady I'm interviewing on Sunday, she went to the hospital and her parents, initially the story sounds like of like... 'cause she was in dance class and played basketball and her parents had her doing something all the time. She's really active, and this one time she had really severe pain in her abdomen, and she went into the hospital, and whoever was looking at her said, oh, she must have appendicitis. And that night she had a performance, and she was pretty popular, I guess, so her dad was like, "Well, can it wait? 'Cause she's supposed to perform tonight." So they actually waited. But the next day they came back, and there was a different doctor, and he said, "She doesn't have appendicitis, she just has the flu," and he was right. And later she found out it was because her dad didn't trust the medical staff initially that were looking at her. Was there any kind of talk like that about anyone, it was like, oh, that person's really inept, or, you know, nothing like that?

RM: Yeah, see, when I was in camp, I don't ever remember anybody needing medical help. Even my uncle who had cancer, I don't remember anything like that. He had cancer.

KL: Just a couple of names, what was your uncle who was in Block 9's name?

RM: Robert, Robert Masao Murakami. And my aunt was Alice. And then they had a son born in Heart Mountain called Michael.

KL: And then your aunt who was the artist, what was her name?

RM: Alice.

KL: That was Alice? Okay. I wondered a little bit about the uncle who was in the Department of Justice camps. Could you tell us more, starting with his name and his wife's name, but also about his journey, what you know, where he was, and when he came to Tule Lake?

RM: His name was Roy Onga.

KL: Could you spell Onga?

RM: O-N-G-A. And his wife's name was Irene. And he was the first in the Justice camp, there's a big controversy about this place now called Tuna Canyon. And from Tuna Canyon, I don't know where he went, but I saw my cousin for the first time, and ever since camp, she was at the pilgrimage this last time. That's the first one she ever went to and that's the first one I went to. She's the person you ought to talk to, she has all the documents, because he saved things, all the documents that he had. And he took a lot of photos, so she's got a real big scrapbook. So if you're interested... but anyway, but they asked me about why they stayed in, they don't know the history of why they stayed there. See, I had two uncles that were picked up, but they stayed in Tule Lake. And after that he came back and he farmed here in northern California. And I don't know how many children they had, because that's one set of cousins I never really got to know.

KL: Did he talk ever about Tuna Canyon?

RM: No. See, because after we came back, I never really saw him that much, because he lived up north and we lived down here. I had another uncle that was picked up, but I don't know where he was. But he was released and then that was the aunt that didn't stay with us, so he ended up, came back and lived in Manzanar.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

KL: I wonder if you remember any emotion attached to your parents' discussion about the questionnaire and how it was for your mom?

RM: No, see, that part of it, from camp, I don't remember anything. It's after camp that my mother told us about it, like thirty or forty years later, as to why that happened.

KL: Did she say what it felt like to have to make those decisions that involved her children?

RM: All she said is they don't want to go, because how are you gonna live? But I do remember one thing. One year, I had these real good friends that lived in Portland, so my brother took my mother to Portland to visit them. On the way back, they stopped at Tule Lake. As soon as they stopped there, my brother said my mother started crying. We never talked about that. My brother only told us that when he was going to the pilgrimage. Until then, he never told me that, so I never got to talk to her about that, so we never talked about camp. Except one time we did an interview which, I have to get my niece to type whatever the interview was about. But anyway, we never really talked about camp. But she had some, I know she had some bad memories.

KL: Your mother?

RM: My mother.

KL: Do you know whose idea it was to stop in Tule Lake?

RM: I think it was my brother's.

KL: I wonder if also, your father being a block manager, sometimes in some places -- and I don't know if this is true at Tule Lake -- there were conversations in the block manager's office, people were expected to go there to answer the questionnaire. Did your father have dealings with other people or anything of that nature? I know he wouldn't have told you then.

RM: No, that I don't know. One of the things I do remember though, when all this turmoil was happening at Tule Lake, we used to like to go to see movies whenever they had it. We always had to walk to anther block. He used to always tell us, "When you go movies, don't go by yourself, you have to go five or six of you together." Because if you go singly, guys would get beaten up by the Kibeis. So he said, "You have to go five or six of you together." And that was before, in the first year. That's the one thing I do remember about that.

KL: Do you have any sense of whether his worry was general, or whether it was specific to you as the block manager's kids?

RM: No, he just told us, not as a block manager, just advice he gave to us and to my cousin, because he was older than I was. Because I used to hang around with him to go to these things all the time. So he really told my cousin that, who was about three years older than I was.

KL: Oh. So your sister was very young in Tule Lake and in Marysville. What was it like to have a baby in that housing situation? Did it affect your relationship with your neighbors, or how was it for your mom?

RM: No. All I know is I was the oldest one in the family, and I had to take care of my younger siblings, so that's all I remember. That's part of life.

KL: Was she a pretty quiet baby or would she cry a lot?

RM: Yeah, quiet.

KL: What was the name of the church in Florin where you stayed?

RM: Florin? I wish I could remember, but that church was started by my grandmother Murakami, my mother told me that. But I don't remember what the name of the church is. My uncle lived right next door, and that's the church I... I wish I could remember the church, but I don't.

KL: What's the name of the road or the community in the neighborhood?

RM: Florin, Florin Road.

KL: Was it a Buddhist church?

RM: No, it's a Christian church.

KL: Do you know Grandmother Murakami's first name?

RM: [Laughs] I don't.

KL: You will in two hours, don't worry. Oh, you mentioned your best friend Julian from school before the U.S. entered the war.

RM: Castro.

KL: Did you have letters with him or did that relationship...

RM: No, we didn't.

KL: Okay, that's all I've got.

LP: Actually one thing, you brought up the DOJ, so from Tuna Canyon they went to Tule Lake, or he went to Tule Lake?

RM: No, went from Tuna Canyon to another Justice camp, I don't know which one, though.

LP: And so he never ended up in Tule Lake?

RM: He ended up at Tule Lake, yeah.

LP: Do you know what year?

RM: No, it was after we left, so I don't know what year.

LP: And did he repatriate?

RM: No.

LP: And there was a second person you mentioned that, was it a DOJ camp?

RM: Yeah, my father's older sister, his name Yagi, he went to, Takashi Yagi, he was in a Justice camp, and he's probably one of the very few Nisei that was picked up. He was picked up, you know why? He used to work at Southern California flower market, and he was the only one that knew how to take care of books, so the Japanese school come and asked him to take care of the books, because he was doing that they picked him up.

LP: And so he was at Tuna Canyon as well?

RM: No, I don't know where he was. That, I don't know where he was.

LP: And same thing, at some point, he ended up in Tule Lake after you left, and he also did not repatriate?

RM: Yeah, did not.

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

<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.

<Begin Segment 16>

LP: How did those kinds of experiences, if at all, sort of impact your parents' philosophy of how to treat other people and one another? It sounds like that situation to begin with, and you already saw that was wrong, but do you think those kinds of situations tended to translate into philosophy and ideas about how to treat other people?

RM: Well, he moved into Los Angeles from Lakewood. My mother and father came in to Los Angeles to buy a house. So when they bought the house, they met the neighbor, Reinharts. And so they talked to the Reinharts and my mother came back and said, "We're going to move in and the next door neighbors are Negroes." And I was fifteen, and I had met and saw Negroes before, so I didn't think anything of it. But my mother's lesson was very simple. She says, "I met the Reinharts, they're really nice people. And when you first talk to them, they were also afraid of hearing the Japanese are moving in," because they read the comic books and that kind of stuff. So they didn't know what to expect from us. So my mother told us, to me and my brothers and sisters, said, "Remember, we're moving in. They have a head just like you, two arms and two legs and a body. They're just like you, so treat 'em just like that," and that's the way we thought, and that's what we did. And did you know that we lived there, we moved in in 1947 and we moved out in '77, it's thirty years. And we had kind of a... maybe we were prejudiced, but we had kind of a triangle. We lived here and the Reinharts lived here and across the street from us, the Smiths moved in about a month after we did. The Smiths had, Fischella and Willie Smith, and Mom Sims, I call her Mom. Anyway, we became like a triangle, forget about everybody else. We became so close, we could just walk into each others' house without knocking. And to show how close we are -- my mother's still alive, she's 104 -- when my mother and father bought a grave site, you know what the Smiths did? Next door. That's how close we were. So they're neighbors forever, that's how close we are. How else can I explain? And that's how, I've dealt with people all my life. So people go up and they says, "Oh, that's person's this or that," and I says, "Yeah, so?" And that's, all my life, and people talk about gays and all that and you know what? I've been retired almost twenty years, and I've known... I used to go to lunch with a gay guy for ten years before I retired. I used to work with people that, so-called gay people. They're people. That's how it's been all my life, and that's how my brother and sisters all felt. So our family anyway, we never really thought about anybody being different. And maybe that's kind of a lesson that maybe that's what my mother learned way back when, but that's the lesson she taught us. So I never really think about anything else. People would say, "Oh, that person is this or that." And so you know, to this day, people tell me by name, that's person's Jewish, I said, "Yeah?" I don't know. I don't know, and I tried not to know. To me, that doesn't make a difference. That's the way I was taught, and that's the way I grew up. But the one thing I do try to do is what you just did. I want to say thank you for that, is how to pronounce names. That's a real bug of mine, I want people to pronounce my name correctly.

LP: In terms of these other groups of people, eventually, like, we're talking about POWs and stuff like that, something that just came up, looking at people differently or whatever, was there at one point, did you or your family become aware of, like, POWs or anything like that? Where they weren't at all overlapping with when your family was in these different sites, am I correct in understanding it that way? Like were there ever, there was a camp you mentioned that had either German or Italian POWs?

RM: Oh, yeah.

LP: Was that Jerome or was that a different camp?

RM: No, no, that was in Texas, Crystal City.

LP: Okay.

KL: Jerome was used for POWs, it was after they left.

LP: Oh, I see.

RM: Yeah, I never heard about Crystal City until I came here.

LP: Okay, got it.

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

<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.

<Begin Segment 18>

LP: Back after a break, this is tape three. And would you mind talking a little bit about the end part of being at Heart Mountain and going to L.A.?

RM: Okay. When we left Heart Mountain, we came back to Florin. And I left early by myself, because my mother wanted me to get back to go to school. So I came out early, about a month and a half early, and I stayed with my uncle and aunt, Bob and Alice, to go to school. And I guess I had two experiences about getting back. When I first came back to Florin, it's a very bad experience. Got back there and people called us "Japs" and all that kind of stuff. Well, like I said, very bad experience. And then after a semester at Elk Grove High School, I came back to Lakewood, and I was the first Japanese American coming back to Lakewood. But after the experience in Elk Grove, in Florin, I was kind of afraid of what would happen when I came back to Lakewood. But when I came back to Lakewood, it was a completely different experience, it was completely opposite. The first day I went back to school, I sat in the back row, and I really believed that the teacher explained to the class that I was coming. And I sat down, and he introduced me. And the first question the guy who was sitting next to me, you know what question he asked me was? "You play basketball?" I said, "Yes." "Oh, okay." And that day, the first day, they had elections. The first thing is I'm the basketball captain, next thing I'm the homeroom representative, and I'm elected for all these things. And the guy explains to me that the reason why is because at Lakewood Junior High School, if you get so many points by electing to this and to that, you get a letter. And it takes you a whole year to get a letter. I earned a letter in a semester, and I got more points in that semester than anybody else in the school. Well, it's because people in the class did what they did. And it was a completely different reception than what I had when I came back to Florin. I was really surprised. And I remember a couple of guys, because I had left lake Lakewood after the war, so it was completely different, not only a couple of guys, but it was just completely different. It was a completely different attitude and atmosphere for me. So that what happened was then what happened was that I was the first guy back, so then after, I don't know how many... about a month or so, then had two other... I was in the ninth grade, had two eighth graders come to school there. I was a hall monitor, and one day they came walking by, so I called them aside and said, "Okay, you guys, you guys better behave, 'cause I have a reputation here. Because if you guys don't behave, I'm going to get on you guys." So I became like a big brother. So that's one thing that I'll remember that forever for that. I've had nothing but good experiences in Lakewood. Like I said, the guy that helped my father, and then coming back here. And then went to Dorsey, same thing, never had a problem after the war in Southern California. So it was a total difference.

LP: Did you, after high school, go to college, or what were your, what was your path after...

RM: Well, remember I told you I was a bad student? After high school I thought I was going to... gardener was making good money. So I tell people this story, I was going to become a gardener but I always say somebody was looking out for me, because that was the hottest summer we ever had. So I said, "Richard was not born to sweat." So after staying out one semester, I went back to school. And luckily, when I went back to school, I took accounting, and my accounting classes I took with a guy that I went to high school with, Dorsey High School with, he was in the same class. So we started competing to see who was going to get the highest grades in the test. So we used to do that. So then I found out that I guess I wasn't as dumb as I thought I was, anyway. So then after about a year and a half, he comes to me one day and he says, "Hey, Richard, I've got accepted to go to SC." I said, "Oh, yeah?" So I said to myself, "Oh, if this guy could go to SC, I can, too." Now, mind you, I have no way of knowing how I'm going to pay for it. So I applied and got accepted, but I did not know how I can pay for it. So my last year at City College, I was going to City College, Los Angeles City College, I took sixteen units and I was working forty-eight hours a week. I had enough money to go -- that was Korean War time, so I made enough money to go the first year, and that's the second year, I don't know what I'm going to do. So I applied for deferment for the first semester, second semester I said I'm going to go for second semester, knock on wood, and hope I can finish, and maybe I'll get drafted after. Well, as luck would have it, I got drafted, but I went in two days after my last final. Talk about luck. It was during the Korean War, so I went in and then North Korea signed the armistice so I never had to go overseas. I spent two years... I try not to claim I'm a Korean War vet, but people say I am. I spent two years at Fort Ord, California, came back out, and went back to SC, finished graduating. One year I worked for the City of Los Angeles and I went to work for the state. I retired after thirty-six years.

LP: At what point did you -- so you left Heart Mountain a little bit earlier than other parts of your family? At what point did they leave Heart Mountain and where did they go?

RM: See, I left in August and they left sometime in September.

LP: A month difference or so?

RM: Huh?

LP: About a month difference.

RM: Yeah, yeah.

LP: And did they go to the same progression of, back to Florin?

RM: Yeah, Florin. We went back and lived in the same kind of auditorium that we did before we went into camp.

LP: That church or whatever.

RM: Church, yeah.

LP: And at the beginning you mentioned some things that had been stored in a basement and different things. So do you know what happened to some of those things?

RM: Well, the person that rented the house with my uncle, quote/unquote, one of his real good friends, claimed that there was a flood and the basement got flooded. So he cleaned everything out. Well, all I could say is the basement never flooded before and never flooded after, so we lost a lot of things, memorabilia things. Because, see, I went to this two-room schoolhouse, and I wanted to get this photo. I remember they closed the school, there must have been about fifteen students, I really wanted that photo to show that people that... I don't have that photo because it was in the basement. So there are other photos that we had, because we didn't take too many photos of our family. But that's one photo I really wanted to have, but those kind of things we don't have. Lot of people, we say they have memories, photos from before, but we don't have those things, so that's one of the things I miss.

LP: Can we get the name of the school, the two-room schoolhouse? Do you remember the location of where it was, or was there a name for it?

RM: Oh, okay, it was in Lakewood, but I don't remember the school. It was a two-room schoolhouse on Carson Boulevard, and there's supposed to be a monument there. I keep saying I got to go back there and visit.

LP: There was that one piece of equipment, the Caterpillar, that your dad got back, and so that one guy that was really honest. Did you get a sense that they were surprised about coming back and things not being there, what their reaction was? I assume that they were upset and frustrated by that, but did you get a sense of what their reaction was to coming back and all those things being gone?

RM: All I remember is they were happy to see us, and we were happy to see them. And Japanese, for New Year's time, we have this big feast, I remember them coming to our house after we moved to L.A, coming into our house to have a New Year's feast for at least maybe five years afterwards until he passed away, I remember that. Whitey, during the war, was a policeman in Whittier. They were really top notch people.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

LP: So fast forwarding a little bit, at what point did you meet your wife?

RM: [Laughs] Well, see, Masako and I are first. We met here, we were the first couple to meet here and get married, we met here as volunteers and got married, we were the first couple to do that. She's the first museum volunteer, number one.

LP: And what year did you meet, then?

RM: See, I started here in 1994, and I probably met her in about '95 sometime.

LP: Was that your first and only marriage?

RM: No. You don't see my other marriage. [Laughs]

LP: Do you have any kids?

RM: No.

LP: I was going to ask about redress.

KL: I wondered if there was anything memorable from the museum, though. Are there any real memorable experiences -- I guess meeting and marrying Masako is probably pretty memorable.

RM: Memorable experience? Well, events... I guess the one event, well, got several events, but the event that I remember the most, and I forget what year it was, and when we had an event out here, men from the 100th and the 442, we had an event come here. And people who were rescued in Dachau concentration camp, one lady came here, and she met the 442 guy that rescued her here, they met. I mean, talk about something very emotional, that was it. That's something. And they remembered each other. I'll never forget that.

LP: Is there anything that we didn't ask you or anything that you would like to bring up in the last, I hate to say this, but like two minutes? I feel like we covered a lot, but there might be things that we missed.

RM: Well, one thing, I believe in the mission of this museum. And I say this, before I followed, see, when I decided to retire, I knew I was gonna volunteer somewhere. I believe in community service, so I volunteer here. And before I came here to volunteer, when the Rafu Shimpo, the Japanese paper, said the museum is going to have an exhibit on the Japanese concentration camps, you know what I said, "What the hell are they doing that for?" That's exactly what I said, because I didn't want to think about that. Until I came here and really started thinking about it and all that, now, turn around, I'm a big supporter of what we do here and want to tell the people our story and what happened. And in that way, I'm a supporter of telling our story. Because too many people do not know our story, so that's my one thing. So I tell people, I admit that when I first came here, that no. Why, but a complete turnaround.

LP: Thank you so much for your time and for sharing all of that, I appreciate that.

RM: Oh, thank you.

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