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-01-0040

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VI: Now, during the fall, just about everybody went out and harvested because the farmers didn't have any, any help. I remember the first year that we got there, I think it was 1942, in the fall, they were looking for people to pick the potatoes. So some friends, they were older, of course, and there were eight of us. We paired up in pairs, and we went out to pick potatoes. Where we went was a farmer had a whole pickup truck, so instead of having to come and pick us up in the relocation camp, he gave us the use of the pickup truck, so that the people can drive back and forth. Now, we had, I was with a group that had a couple of people that were through college, so they were older, so they drove the trucks and all that. We'd go out there and we'd pick the potatoes, and he had a good deal 'cause after he got through picking the potatoes he sent us back, so the camp will feed us. So only thing he gave us was, I think, sandwiches for lunch or something. Well, we were doing this for a while, and one day we came back, and as we got to the gate, all of a sudden here were all these soldiers with guns, machine guns, aimed at us. We came and they stopped us, they told us to get out with the guns pointed, lined us up, and they started searching us and the pickup truck. What had happened, we had no idea what was happening, except it sure didn't feel good when they lined you up and they're pointing guns at you. What we found out was the farmer's son had come home and decided that he wanted to, while we were picking potatoes, decided he wanted to go hunting or something, and he took the shotgun and he left the house. And so when the farmer came back and saw the shotgun missing, he thought that we had taken it and he had called the, the military police at Minidoka. [Laughs] So as we drove up, they not knowing whether we had the shotgun or not, they just lined us up. We missed our dinner, and after the farmer found out that his son came home with his shotgun, he apologized and the next time we went in, he bought us dinner. So that was quite an experience.

RP: So you went out every day?

VI: We used to go every day, and we'd have the use of the trucks in the evening, and of course when you have trucks, you need gasoline. And the way you get gasoline, if you don't have a gas station, is from another truck. So some of the people used to have trucks, and one day we saw this truck on the side, parked on the road, and we thought, "Well, there's a good chance to get some gasoline." So we got in there and we had a tube, and we siphoned some gasoline. And we looked up, and here was this guy looking out the window, and he happened to be the chief of police, and that was his truck. [Laughs] He realized what we were doing and he realized the situation were in, and he just kind of looked and nodded. And we stopped and left, but that was the extent of it. He didn't do anything to us, realizing that it's bad, but under these circumstances, it's probably tolerable that we got a little gas.

RP: He's the chief of police of Twin Falls?

VI: No, no, in camp.

RP: Oh.

VI: See, so he had his own car.

RP: So you, after this trip in the fall, or this farm experience in the fall, the following year, did you also go out on farm furlough? Where did you go?

VI: Just that we went to Burley, Idaho, and we stayed at a farmhouse. This is the time that eventually that these younger girls were there, too, to pick, and we were the OTs going there. And this was quite an experience at Burley, Idaho, the next year, because we were, we were potato sackers. In other words, the truck will drive down the row where the potatoes were picked, and we'd have to grab it and throw it onto the flatbed so they can stack it. Trouble is, we being short, that we'd really have to take effort to do that using our knee, we'd kick it up there. Now, if you got a tall Caucasian, he'd just pick it up and throw it up there. So it was really a chore. We thought we were there to pick potatoes, not to throw potatoes on the truck. But we did a lot of that. Once you finished the season, you leave. But in the evenings it was a school, abandoned schoolhouse, so they had gyms and auditoriums. We'd make believe that we were bands and things like that, to spend the evenings, so the younger girls got a big kick out of... so they always remember us not as the bad OTs, but, "You took good care of us when we were there." [Laughs] But most of the people went out to the sugar beets or potatoes. Of course, I was still going to school, so I was restricted to how long I could stay out and come back.

RP: And did you, did you go out again after that?

VI: No, by that time I was ready to graduate, to leave the camp.

<End Segment 40> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.