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-01-0043

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RP: Victor, tell us a little bit about leaving camp. Why did, you said you went to Minneapolis?

VI: Right. I graduated in 1944, June. And as soon as I graduated, most, a lot of people were leaving camp at that time so that, well, I decided I want to leave, too. So this best friend of mine -- he was a little bit older, and he had graduated the year before -- and he was ready to go back. But being a minor, I had to get somebody to sponsor me. Well, a friend of the OTs, one of the OTs, had a big brother that was over in Minneapolis, so I asked him. He said, yeah, his big brother would sponsor me, act as a sponsor. So we picked, picked to go to Minneapolis. We didn't know where we wanted to go, we just wanted to get out. So we decided we'd go to Minneapolis so my friend and I, we left camp, and we went to Minneapolis. We got to Minneapolis, and they have a hostel that you can go to until you find someplace else where you can live. And I remember getting to Minneapolis and finding out that I had five dollars to my name. [Laughs] So decided the best thing to do is probably find, find a job at a restaurant so at least you could eat. Well, one of the reasons why I was able to leave camp was that I applied for a trade school, Dunwoody trade school. They accepted me, so that way now I was going to school so the camp people said, "Well, you can leave." So, of course, I went to Minneapolis, and I went to Dunwoody trade school, and I was going to be an electrician so I studied electricity and all that. At the same time I got a job at a restaurant peeling potatoes so that at least I knew I had one good meal.

We left the hostel, and we moved to a big home where a lot of the people from all over, from California, they were all Niseis, it was this big house, boarding house that they're living in. And we had one room that had two beds, two double beds, and there were four of us there. And this is in Minneapolis. And there were people from California downstairs, we met a lot of the friends. This was right in the heart of Minneapolis, and right below us was a couple of lakes, Lake Lorraine, which was hooked up to the other lakes. They used to freeze over, so we used to go down there and ice skate through the lakes. Of course, we were kind of clumsy-like. I remember a little kid coming up, says, "Mister, you want help?" But anyway, so we worked at... I went to Dunwoody. I took one course in electricity, so I fulfilled my schooling because I went to school. Then I quit, and I went to work for Pentz company because, and a shipping clerk, so that I could earn a few bucks so that I didn't have to depend on just the job at the restaurant. This restaurant was -- I forgot the name -- but some of the guys that lived in the house worked down there. And we used to peel potatoes. And in the evenings about 9 o'clock they'd close, and then we'd have a chance to eat what was left over.

See, but we were in Minneapolis. When you first went, the Military Intelligence school was at Camp Savage, and then Camp Savage moved to Fort Snelling. Of course, once they moved to Fort Snelling, all of a sudden some of my friends from the OTs were coming through Fort Snelling, so they'd come in over the weekend. And at that time cigarettes were hard to get, so the only ones that can get it were the soldiers, so some of them would collect from the other nonsmoking soldiers, and they would bring cartons of cigarettes to us. They'd come to our, where we were living the 416 Clifton. I had people sleeping on the floor, we had one kid named Beryl, he was sleeping in the bathtub. [Laughs] But they'd come over for the weekend, and when they'd come over after our shift at the restaurant was over, we'd have 'em come in, and we'd give 'em ice cream. So we still kept in touch with the OTs. And as one group left, maybe another two or three may come by, so it was kind of a hangover from camp.

After, then I found out that I could make more money working at this International Harvester. And there was a war plant that was making 105 shells for the howitzers, and that's where I kind of mentioned that one day I was working away, and here came this guy, a sweeper, that had this big shovel that he sweeps into it. He saw me, and I think he thought I was an enemy, so he came after me. I mentioned that I had taken judo for six years when I was little or so. Instinctively, I grabbed him and I threw him, which was enough to stun him and get him down, and by that time there was enough people to stop things. So I worked there for a couple of months, I think, not too long, when I got my notice greetings for my draft. So I came back to Spokane.

RP: You did?

VI: Yeah. But when I was in Minneapolis, there was really a pretty strong Japanese American community there because a lot of the wives and the families of the people that were at Fort Snelling were there.

RP: And you got involved in that community?

VI: Yeah, because they used to have dances and things like that. So we got to know some of the people that were living in the community, so it was kind of like a second home. I always remember Minneapolis very fondly, my second home type, and it was a good time.

<End Segment 43> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.