Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Eiko Yamaichi Interview
Narrator: Eiko Yamaichi
Interviewers: Larisa Proulx, Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: San Jose, California
Date: July 15, 2015
Densho ID: denshovh-yeiko-01-0024

<Begin Segment 24>

KL: So you went from Jerome to Gila River, why... I know you mentioned the POW camp, but do you know why Gila River had that happen?

EY: I don't know. Because Gila River had two camps, Poston had three camps within itself. And we were in Camp 1 in Gila, that's where I met my girlfriend and we were real good friends. And even after we relocated and I was a housegirl, she was a housegirl, and that's how we made our ends meet. Then she worked for a Jewish family, I worked for a Jewish family, we became good friends.

KL: How did you meet?

EY: In Gila. And she's actually from an entertainment family. Her father played the shamisen, Japanese guitar, and mother, I think... I forgot what she did. And then she sang, and sister I think played an instrument. And so I don't know, we just clicked together. And then she worked in the canteen, I worked in the canteen, so we really got along. She was more entertaining, but me, naive me, I just went along with her. But we did get along, our personalities were almost the same. So all these years we've kept in touch, and she lost her husband about four years ago, so here we are. And Jimi's more involved in the community than her husband ever was, so there's a fine separation there. But I never talk about it. And she's in the entertainment field, and she's with the Chidori band, (they are) the local band that we have here in San Jose. She's retired now, she doesn't sing anymore.

KL: What is her name?

EY: Masayo Arii, A-R-I-I.

KL: Is that her married name?

EY: Yeah, married name. Her maiden name was, oh boy, Yasui, Y-A-S-U-I.

KL: Is Camp 1, is that Canal camp or Butte?

EY: Pardon?

KL: You said you were in Camp 1 in Gila River. Is that the one people refer to as Canal or Butte?

EY: I don't know how they separated camp 1 and 2, but anyway, we were assigned to go to Camp 1 and Block 4, that's where I was, Block 4. She was in, I forgot what block she was in.

KL: What was your job in the canteen?

EY: Something to do with invoices. When the manager ordered something, then we had to make sure that the item that he ordered coincided with the invoice that was listed there. It was a fun place to work, there was quite a few of us. [Laughs]

KL: Lots of young people?

EY: Yeah, young people.

KL: Who else do you remember from there besides the South?

EY: Well, we got together and just chitter chattered like teenagers do. And I think that was more fun than anything else for me, yeah. So it's nice to be with young people my age.

KL: Better than washing dishes.

EY: Oh, yeah. [Laughs]

KL: Did you ever have any encounters with tribal members?

EY: With who?

KL: With tribal members, with Indian people?

EY: No, I didn't. In fact, when you're talking about tribal, I had a girlfriend in Washington before the war, her name was Regina Moses, she was a tribal member. And she was quiet, she didn't say too much, but she was in all my classes. Said, "Hey, Regina, how you doing?" kind of thing. But we never really talked one to one. Too bad, because I could have learned a lot about her tribal culture and all that, but didn't do that.

KL: Did you hear anything in Gila River about the tribes or other local people or what they thought about the camp?

EY: No, nothing.

KL: What about when you went back to visit? Did you have any encounters at that time?

EY: No... yeah, we went to former barracks of a certain block, I didn't know what block it was, but they had converted it into part of a store. And they didn't really keep up the barracks, and I was making the comment that there were so many children, why didn't they continue to use the barrack as classrooms for the tribal kids. Never got an answer, but they had, used one barrack for something, and we got to go in there. I think we just used part of a sail thing, I don't know what it was, I couldn't make sure what it was. But they were all members of a tribe, yeah. And I think... where were we? They were still primitive in that they don't use... the government didn't provide electricity for them, and we were talking to some of the kids, and, "Where do you live?" Said, "Over there," and they're pointing at it and I couldn't tell where it was. But there was no telephone poles or nothing, so I guess they still live primitively. And I thought, gee, this day and age, what is it, year 2000, by now you would think that the government would provide something. But I don't know.

KL: Yeah, that's one of the things I read about Gila River, that there was no electricity for preexisting local residents, and then when the camp closed, the government took everything useful away and just left, like, the concrete slabs and stuff, so people couldn't even farm or do anything in that area.

EY: That doesn't make sense, does it? But that's what they did.

KL: Are there any other people that stand out about your time in Gila River, either that you knew personally or that were kind of leaders in the camp?

EY: Gee, I don't think so. Because the person that I did know, I think he passed on. He worked in the canteen with me, couldn't even think of his name. But I used to see him occasionally in San Francisco.

KL: He was in the canteen, too, you said?

EY: Uh-huh. He was much older than us, he used to flirt with us all the time. [Laughs] You think I remember his name? No, but I still see his face, though, always smiling. But no, I can't recall any other person.

KL: What about... these are some of the same questions I had for Gila River, but what about landscaping or gardens or ponds or anything?

EY: Gee, not as much as... at least the few places that I went, I didn't see as many as the one in Jerome. Whether it was because of the weather, or whether the people just were not active, I have no idea, but there wasn't as many.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.