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-01-0003

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LP: So what caused your family to move from where you had grown up, initially?

EY: Well, first of all, depression. And the fact that my father realized he couldn't find any jobs down in Seattle in the city, so he did have to go to the outskirts, and like I said, he found this job at the Weyerhaeuser lumber company, and they provided living quarters in a barrack-like thing. So we had a roof over our head and we were able to buy food with what he earned. And at the time, refrigerators, electrical especially were not that popular. So my job became one of making sure that the melted water from the ice on the top was emptied out continually so that they didn't have water on the floor. And just about the time war started, my father was able to buy this GE electric refrigerator, and boy, I was so happy, 'cause that eliminated my position. I did the other things, but I tell this story to the kids and they kind of chuckle. So I didn't have to work that hard and make sure the water wasn't overflowing onto the floor. But he bought it with cash because in those days there wasn't any credit, and I think he paid about $150. And then the war came along and of course we couldn't take the refrigerator with us, so he sold it for about ten dollars. And of course, I think the surrounding people who thought that, oh boy, here's our chance kind of a thing, you know, came down to our area and then bought a lot of things next to nothing, I think you've heard different ones tell different stories. But our refrigerator for ten dollars and the rest of the stuff, I don't remember. Because we could only take what we could carry, right?

LP: The lumber company, was that a really big company, were there a lot of other workers? Because you mentioned barracks, and so I was just curious what the setup was for that job.

EY: I really couldn't answer that, in that I never really asked. Although I think there was three others and myself in the same grade, they were all juniors, and there were a couple of girls who were seniors. And there were two boys who were sophomores at the time, and that's about it. The rest of the kids were in grammar school. There weren't that many Japanese either at the time. I think most of us really didn't know what was going to happen to us, being uprooted. Where were we going? None of us knew where we were going, I know we had to get on the train. But the army sent the truck, army truck with an awning on top, and military police on the end. Of course, Japanese people were proud, and so our parents said, "You got to wear good clothes so you got to make a good impression." I'm trying to think, "Who do we make an impression to?" But anyway, we all had to dress up nicely, (...) to get to the train depot to go to where we were being sent to.

LP: Was the lumber company, or the logging company that your dad worked for, you mentioned living in barracks there?

EY: Yes, Weyerhaeuser. W-E-Y-E-(R)-H-A-U-S-E-R. And his child got kidnapped, it was very famous during that time. I want to say about 1936, something like that. And so it was the Weyerhaeuser baby kidnapped, and a big to-do about it. But evidently, I never met them in person, so evidently he really liked the work ethics of the Japanese Oriental men, and so most of his workers were all Japanese men. And they were assigned certain areas of the lumber industry, some had to work in the section where they debarked the tree, some were in there slicing the log, a tree into logs, my father was there. Some were assigned sorting, and grading, and so I think the people who worked for the Weyerhaeuser and the family felt that we were really lucky and grateful, the fact that Mr. Weyerhaeuser provided a roof over our head and was able to hire our father so that we could eat.

LP: Did your dad know that family, or how did he end up getting the job over there?

EY: That's something I never did find out. I was very curious about that as I got older, especially after being married. And I often wonder about that, whether there was a recruiting thing going on at the time, or whether it was word of mouth, I have no idea. But one day he came over and says, "I got a job," but that meant us moving, okay. [Laughs]

LP: What were the barracks like there?

EY: Well, it's that crazy? It's interesting you would ask me that because when people talk about their home life before the war, and none of them say barracks. And here I am, I lived in a barrack. But as to your question, I can't even tell you how long it was, but in our particular section, there was one, two families, and then kind of a studio where a bachelor did have a photography studio there. So another family, four families in our thing, and each unit had two bedrooms and a kitchen with a wood stove, and we had a common community outhouse at each end of the barrack. And then we had a community bathhouse. And each family had to take their turn to clean the tub inside, and then scour it. And you know about the Japanese bath?

LP: Soaking tubs?

EY: Soaking tub like, yeah, made out of wood. And you had to clean it out every night, and then because the fire is on the bottom, and you make the water hot. But then there was this heavy platform that went inside the hot tub so you won't get burned. And then you washed outside like Japanese people did in Japan, and that would be used every night for the whole family, I think there was four, and five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. So there were ten families that used this community tub. And each family took their turn to take care of it and then get it hot for the night. On occasion when the hot spring was working, we could take a bath in this big... it's almost like a swimming pool, that men got together and dug a place, and then they lined it with concrete. And so that was a time, then I liked it because I didn't have to go scrub the tub inside, because it was my job, it was supposed to be my mom's job but it was my job to do this. So we would go to the hot spring and then naturally wash ourself outside and then soak in a tub, and so the whole family went in there. It was a community thing and so this is almost something that we did on an everyday basis before the war. So for me it was nothing too upsetting, whereas a lot of these families who were city dwellers had a hard time adjusting to it because there was no privacy. But you have to learn to put your towel over yourself so you have your own private, and then turn toward the wall so no one would see you, and do your necessities and then rinse off and then jump in the thing. But I know that a lot of the girls had a hard time, because when we went to camp, we were sent to an assembly center first, and there again, we had outhouses then, and there was only holes. Well, first of all, I should describe that. Or am I getting myself too far ahead?

LP: No, you're good.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.