Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Victor Ikeda Interview
Narrator: Victor Ikeda
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Date: November 6, 2007
Densho ID: denshovh-ivictor-01-0032

<Begin Segment 32>

RP: You mentioned there were A, B, C, D areas. From what I've heard, you were not allowed to go from one area to the other?

VI: Right.

RP: But did you guys do that anyway?

VI: Well, you couldn't go -- the only time we went was when we were escorted from one area to the other.

RP: You had to be escorted.

VI: And it had to be on a special occasion like if our showers broke down, I guess they felt sorry for dishwashing crews, so we'd be marched over to take a shower. One interesting thing was my -- one of my best friends had a girlfriend over in Area B. And then we found out that if you went into the isolation ward and went to the bathroom and opened up the window of the bathroom, we could talk across to Area B. So it was arranged so we'd go into this area, open the windows, and he'd talk across the street to his girlfriend in Area B. But you know how people are, they find ways to get around different rules and regulations. We shouldn't have been in the isolation area 'cause, you know, that was not -- it was a restricted place, but...

RP: Found a way around it.

VI: Yeah, we found ways around.

RP: Were there organized teams in the camp or did you just --

VI: Just kind of pick up. So we'd play softball, and, of course, the area we played was very limited so it'd be hit into the barracks or it'd be hit into the latrine area. [Laughs] But at least it kept the people busy.

RP: Did your mother or father -- you said that you washed dishes -- did they have any...

VI: I can't remember. I don't think they did as such. My dad could have helped as, in the kitchen, 'cause for cooking that, for that many people, you'd have to have quite a bit of help. Of course, my mother never did work while she was in camp, assembly center or in camp.

RP: Was the camp arranged in blocks like Minidoka or different --

VI: Not really. The barracks were just built wherever you had space. So some areas it was built straight, other areas you had diagonal barracks and things. And one example that was given by one of the friends was that he had gone up into the racetrack, up into the stands, and when he looked down he realized he saw rows and rows of barracks. It never really hit him until he got up that high to see what it looked like 'cause when you're down on the ground you see barracks, but they're just buildings.

RP: Little different perspective.

VI: Right, the perspective was very different.

RP: Did each area have its own mess hall?

VI: No, it was one consolidated mess hall.

RP: One large mess hall.

VI: Right. And that's why we volunteered as dishwashers, 'cause we would see everybody come through that. [Laughs]

RP: Well, let's see, you were what, about sixteen or seventeen?

VI: No, I was still fifteen.

RP: Still fifteen. But you were very, you were starting to get interested in girls though.

VI: [Laughs] By fifteen we were finding out about girls.

RP: The hormones were raging.

VI: Right.

RP: Did you date any girls at Puyallup?

VI: No, not really. It was just...

RP: As they say, "eye candy"?

VI: Yeah. We'd have -- Saturday afternoons we had dances because the swing band from Seattle, the Mikado swing, was still organized. So Saturday nights they'd play the music, so we didn't know how to dance so we'd watch the older people dance. So...

RP: By older people you mean older Niseis?

VI: Yeah, anybody older than me.

RP: Were there any Isseis that ever danced?

VI: Not really. I can't remember any Isseis dancing.

RP: And the Mikado swing, swing band, they were also in the camp?

VI: Uh-huh, yes.

RP: Well, that was real special to have live --

VI: Live music there.

RP: Live big band music.

VI: Right.

RP: Were there occasions where people had brought records in and you created a concert in the mess hall?

VI: Not really. The only music I can remember was the band that played, got together and played Saturday evening or Saturday night. So...

RP: What about your little group, the OT group?

VI: Well, that was probably the beginning of the OT group.

RP: So it started in Puyallup.

VI: Right, 'cause we started out with the "hubba hubba" crew, we were dishwashers. And then what happened is they evacuated us from Puyallup to Minidoka area by area, so that the Area D people all went and stayed in the same area in Puyallup so, therefore, you became friends, yeah. So the friendship of the OTs started out in "Camp Harmony" with the "hubba hubba" crew and a couple of people that worked the sanitation crew, but basically from Area D. And, of course, we knew these people in Seattle because we came from the same area from Seattle to Area D.

RP: Kats was recounting a story about friends who, I think it was actually a teacher, who came to visit him at Puyallup, actually handed a note through the fence 'cause his mom had been ill and had to stay back for a while.

VI: Oh, okay.

RP: Did you, did you have any, you know, visitors from outside?

VI: No, we did. But we have heard about some of the teachers that would come and visit. And the people that came from the valley -- 'cause Puyallup is in the valley area -- now, they had Caucasian friends coming over to visit them. And I've heard of different people that were in high school maybe had a high school teacher come over and visit 'em.

RP: The fairgrounds was ringed by barbed wire, and there were guard towers.

VI: Yes. There were guard towers along the thing, and there were guard towers on top of the buildings, too, or guards on top of the buildings.

RP: Did you ever have any contact with any of the MPs in a positive or negative way?

VI: We tried to avoid them as much as possible. [Laughs] So at our age we probably were better off not contacting MPs, so we kind of avoided them.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.