Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Mary Jean Spallino Interview
Narrator: Mary Jean Spallino
Interviewer: Rose Masters
Location: Lake Forest, California
Date: May 20, 2015
Densho ID: denshovh-smary_3-01-0010

<Begin Segment 10>

RM: Can you tell us how in the world you managed to teach when you showed up at that classroom? You said it had no chairs, no books, what did you do?

MS: I don't really remember, we just talked. Maybe that was a good thing, maybe that was better. I can't remember. And it wasn't too long, did I indicate in... see, that was only a month after I had been there. We must have gotten chairs shortly after that, and you don't have to have... I don't think we ever had regular desks, you know. And the books would have been old books, but the early on days, I think we just talked and I would impart my knowledge to them. I don't even remember if I taught 'em any Latin in those early days. [Laughs]

RM: Do you recall the other classes you were teaching besides Latin?

MS: Well, all through my career, every once in a while they'd slip in another different... and to tell you the truth, I don't remember.

RM: I'm curious 'cause one of the things in here says you taught something called...

MS: Social studies. Not social studies...

RM: "Social problems," I think, is the name.

MS: Yeah. And how do, it was almost how to get along, how to act, and that kind of thing. You've kind of jarred my memory there. And I do... and how to apply for a job, little things like that. Interactions with other people, something like... and I had to make up all this stuff because there wasn't any curriculum for it, you know. So I did have a class like that, and I'd have 'em, because it took up time, I'd have 'em act it, get two together, says, "Okay, you're applying for a job, you're the person interviewing," and that kind of stuff.

RM: Yeah. How did it impact the way you taught, that you were teaching a group of students who were in this sort of artificial community, that they'd been forced to move there. I'm sorry, I'm moving my hand in front of the camera. [Laughs] So, Manzanar, it wasn't like going to teach at Hollywood High School.

MS: No.

RM: How did you, did you change the way you taught because of that?

MS: Well, I had never taught before, so I don't know how to answer that. I can't remember how it started out.

RM: Just thinking about going to get a job, this is how you go get a job for students that were inside the camp...

MS: Oh, that class.

RM: Yeah.

MS: I don't know because I had never had a class myself like that, but I knew enough about manners and stuff like that, that I don't remember much about that class. I don't remember much about any of those classes.

RM: Do you remember your students, what they were like?

MS: At first they were very, very quiet. Because too many of 'em, I wasn't the enemy, but I was somebody over here, different, and judging them. But I was young, and I could laugh at things, and we got along fine. As a matter of fact, I think the kids really liked Manzanar. They didn't have any chores that they had to do, they didn't have to go out and pull weeds and stuff like that, they had all kinds of wonderful activities through Louis and some of the others.

RM: Can you tell me a little bit about how long it took before they warmed up to you? You said they were very quiet at first.

MS: I don't remember.

RM: Okay.

MS: I don't think it took long; it doesn't take kids long.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.