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-01-0025

<Begin Segment 25>

KL: Overall, how did Gila River compare to Jerome and Tule Lake? Same kind of what was different, what was similar, question?

EY: First of all, I think all of us were all in the same situation, we're all in camp, we're confined. So I think majority of it was, I would like to think that we all got along, there might have been dissentions, but outwardly we were very respectful of each other. I don't think there was any animosity unless there was a personal vendetta or something going on. I was not aware of those things. Of course, the weather had a lot of difference there, and camp life... I talk about firebreaks in Tule Lake, but I can't recall firebreaks in either of the other camps. And I don't know whether it was because Tule Lake was so large whereas Jerome and Gila was not as large. Maybe it was, but in my eye, it didn't seem that way. Although I would think that if the government felt it needed one over in Tule Lake, they would do so in all the other camps. I don't know about Heart Mountain, Jimi would know that, I don't know. But in Jerome, I don't recall a firebreak, nor do I recall one in Gila. I think that, like in Tule Lake, when we went in, there was a group from Washington, so we were kind of in a section of our own. And then when people from Oregon went, they had a piece. And then so all the barracks and blocks, I should say, were more people who knew one another. But through, I think, school, and I think with social life, I think they started too, so that was nice. For me, I have to say that had it not been for the camps, I would not have met him in the first place. He was in... I never knew him during my time in camp.

KL: Jimi?

EY: No, I never knew him. But it was interesting that when Tule Lake had the reunion, class reunion, well, the 250 people who did attend, there was only one couple who married. But those others, they knew one another, and eventually got married outside, not here in camp. And so it was interesting, of all the 250 people there, when they ask, "How many of you are married?" most of us were married. [Laughs] Lot of times just majority, more singles than there are married people, but this time most of us were married, and few still single. So that was interesting. Who came from the furthest away, some were from Japan that came, so that was the furthest away, that kind of thing.

KL: I kind of am curious about how you and Jimi met, but I want to save that for a minute and ask you first if you have any memories attached to nighttime at Gila River.

EY: No, I can't remember. All I know is once in a while I'd see, like she asked about the sky and all that. Each place I'd see the sky and the stars. But other than that...

KL: Pretty bright stars in Jerome, too?

EY: Uh-huh.

KL: And what about encounters with unusual animal life in Gila River or in Jerome?

EY: Animal life? None.

KL: Well, are there other things you wanted to record about Gila River, about your time there?

EY: Well, only thing is that I was real happy that I met my girlfriend Massie, that we connected so well. But other than that, sometime at the canteen in the office, those two things are more memorable.

KL: Was that an eight-hour a day job?

EY: Yes, it was.

KL: What was your salary there?

EY: Sixteen dollars. And professionals got nineteen, right, the doctors?

KL: Yeah, and you said your father worked in Gila River but you're not sure what his job was?

EY: No, I don't remember what he was doing. Probably cook, but I'm not sure.

KL: [Addressing LP] Did you have any questions about Gila River?

LP: There is one story that somebody shared with me was about a man, an elderly man, missing from Gila River? He liked to wander outside of the camp or something and they never found him. Did you ever hear anything like that?

EY: I heard that story, but I didn't know whether it was in Gila or where, which camp it was. That he was hard of hearing and he didn't hear the MP telling him to stop, and he got closer to the fence, and so he got shot at. I don't know whether he had a dog or he was chasing something that one of the child, or a ball that a child had thrown and got close to the fence and was trying to retrieve that. I don't know whether that's the same story or not, whether it was the dog there or whether it was a ball. But I heard that story but I don't know which camp.

LP: Was there ever a story about someone wandering outside of Gila River, like getting outside of the fence and just disappearing and never being found again?

EY: No, I'm not aware of that.

LP: The dog thing though did give me a question. So one of the, I think it's the Tulean Dispatch, at some point references a dog show happening at Tule Lake. Are you, how did people get dogs in camp? Because people couldn't take their pets, right?

EY: Well, that's a question, because I sure don't know. I mean, unless their friend on the outside was able to sneak it in or something. It's just like they say about bootlegging in Tule Lake, you heard that story?

LP: No.

EY: Oh. You know when a party passes on, and they get put into a coffin, but before they do that, they have to take the body to the mortuary. I heard stories about having that put into the cavity, or when the mortician came back and the coffin was there with the body, then it was loaded with alcohol, and that's how the body came in, with the alcohol in the coffin, and that's how some men got their liquor, I don't know whether that's true or not.

LP: Were you aware of anyone, like I know some people were able to ferment things and brew things and stuff. Do you remember anyone being able to do a home brew of some kind in their barrack?

EY: I wouldn't be surprised if it happened. No, I don't know, I haven't heard that one. But could be, I'm not surprised.

LP: I would have done it. [Laughs]

KL: Well, you could have.

EY: You read that? Then I'm sure it happened.

KL: I think I have a guess about what your answer might be, but I asked what you, when you hear the words Jerome, what you think of. I had the same question for Gila River. When you hear the words Gila River, what comes to mind instinctively?

EY: I think I would say that my time at the canteen, yeah, because that was nice. I was able to meet different people, then I made this friendship with my friend, lasted all these years, and I think that's neat. Although I don't see her that often now, but I don't know. Of course, hot. [Laughs]

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.