Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Sue Kunitomi Embrey
Narrator: Sue Kunitomi Embrey
Interviewer: John Allen
Date: November 6, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-esue-02-0009

<Begin Segment 9>

JA: Once you got settled in there at Manzanar, how would you describe the -- what daily life became like?

SE: Well, for those of us who didn't work, or for those people who didn't work, I think it was kind of boring, there was nothing to do. You got up and ate breakfast and then you had all that time until lunch, and then all afternoon until dinner, unless you were, you know, a mother taking care of kids and doing the laundry and everything. For the first time, I think our parents had leisure time that they had never had before. People who had their businesses worked ten, twelve hours a day, seven days a week. Farming people worked every day from sunup to sundown, and all of a sudden now they had free time, and I think a lot of them enjoyed that, that free time that they were having. My mother learned to roll bandages for the Red Cross and she joined an a cappella choir, or a group that sang Japanese songs a cappella, and she took care of her grandson, the first one. I think she really enjoyed life for a while anyway, but it was -- for those people who didn't work, it was kind of boring. The rest of us, we worked and kept the camp running, and I think that helped in terms of our, you know, mental state.

JA: What kind of work were you doing?

SE: Well, a week after we got there, my sister-in-law came and said that the Maryknoll sisters had come in and they wanted to help us put together a school because all the kids were running around and no one was in control. So, they found an empty barrack and we went over there and they gathered all the children together. There were no chairs, no tables, no chalkboard, no materials, no books, and I can't remember what -- I guess we sang songs and we took 'em out and played games, but there was no sports equipment either, so I guess we played tag and things like that. We did that for a couple of weeks, and then we were told that the camouflage net factory had completed building a shed and they were taking only American citizens to work for the war effort and make camouflage nets for the army. So we went over there and got assigned to work to make these huge 10 x 12 nets, weaving different green, yellow, and brown colors, and they used them to cover the tanks and the heavy equipment for the army. And I did that for a couple of months, and a call came out to young men and women to help harvest the beet, sugar beet crop because the young men on the farms had gone to war and they were short of labor and the sugar beets were going to rot in the field if they didn't have people come and harvest them. So a lot of the young men went out for what they called a short-term furlough. And so a call came out that the Manzanar Free Press was looking for reporters and typists and people to work on the paper. So I went over and applied for the job of a reporter, and I got the job, and so I worked as a reporter for about a year, and as the older people left camp to go into the service or to relocate outside of the West Coast, I got the job of assistant editor and then I got the job of managing editor. And I did that until I left in October of 1943 for Madison, Wisconsin.

JA: When did the camouflage net factory close, and why did it?

SE: I'm not sure. It was still going when I was there. I had heard that there was a lot of complaining from the Issei, who were considered "enemy aliens" and they could not work there. They wanted to do something for their, for the war effort. I'm not sure -- I don't think they got paid any more than the other people in the camp, although I had heard in some of the other camps that they -- they got extra pay. But I think eventually because of the tensions within the camp between the different groups, they had to close it down.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.