Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Alfred "Al" Miyagishima Interview
Narrator: Alfred "Al" Miyagishima
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Denver, Colorado
Date: May 13, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-malfred-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay, so today is Tuesday, May 13, 2008, and we're in Denver. My name is Tom Ikeda, and I'm the interviewer. On camera we have Kirk Peterson with the National Park Service, and we're doing this interview for the National Park Service, it's the Manzanar National Historic Site in partnership with Densho: the Japanese American Legacy Project. So this is a partnership. And so today we have Albert Miyagishima as our person. So Albert -- or Alfred, I'm going to start at the very beginning, I'm sorry. So can you tell me your full name when you were born?

AM: Well, Alfred Shunji Miyagishima, born in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, December 2, 1926.

TI: And do you know why you were named Alfred?

AM: Yeah. Nobody ever told me, but we used to have a summer visitor who was a professor at the University of Georgia, and they used to come to Scottsbluff every summer, and him and his brother George and his, Alfred's wife, I believe one of 'em was a professor, his brother was a dentist. And one of 'em, I can't remember which, used to teach Japanese school in the summer. And I really don't know what the relationship was with other people there or whatever, but I think I was probably named for him.

TI: Okay, that's good. And then the Shunji, where did that come from?

AM: My brother's name is Shunichi, and I guess "Shun" is more of the given name, "ichi" is the first son, "jun," "ji" is the second son, so my brother's name is the "first son," "ichi," Shunichi, and I'm Shunji.

TI: Okay, good. So you talked about your older brother, let's talk about all your siblings. And so why don't you start with the oldest, and why don't you give me their name and then kind of their order.

AM: Yeah. My, the oldest one was Mabel Chizuko, she was born, I think, the same day as my wife, I mean, the date, September 17, 1920. I believe that I may have had two brothers that were born after that, but both of 'em succumbed to the flu epidemic and/or the diarrhea epidemic at that time. And my other brother, Eddie, Edward, he was born in 1924, and Ed passed away when he was fifty years old, so I guess, was that '75, I think, 1975 he passed away. Then came myself in 1926, I have a sister after that, Gladys Tokiye, and she was born in 1930, and she is deceased, she passed away last year. And then I had Aiko, Jean is her English name, and I think she was born in '32, if I'm not mistaken. Then I have one other sister, her name is Becky, and she was born in '36. And she is living in California at the present time.

TI: That's good; that's quite a memory, to go through not only all the names, but all the dates.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So let's talk about your father first. What was his name and where in Japan was he born?

AM: Well, for some reason, he started out, his name was Gontaro Miyagishima, and he was born in Shizuoka, Japan, and I don't know what town it was. I believe the year was 1890, and later on he changed his name to Toshiro, and I remember he used to sign our, my report cards "Fred G. Miyagishima" for the longest time, then all of a sudden it changed to "Fred T." So I really don't know what transpired at that time to change the name. Gontaro is a very ancient name, you know. My mother --

TI: Before you get to your mother, your father's family, what did they do in Japan? What did your father's family do in Japan?

AM: I have no idea. My father passed away when he was fifty-six or fifty-seven. I spent two years in the service probably at the time that I should be asking a lot of questions. But we were put in the camp, you know, the evacuation camps at that time, and then I spent I spent two years in the service. And then in the meantime, he passed away, so there's a void there that, well, the circumstances as it were created those things, and I wasn't ever able to ask him some of those questions. Because when you're younger, you don't, you're not inquisitive about those things, you're not mature enough to ask about 'em. When you get older, then you understand, you'd like to know.

TI: Did you ever get a chance to find out why he left Japan and came to the United States?

AM: No. I think he was, he was in San Francisco, 1906, and it had to be before April because I think he told me that he was there during the earthquake, and he remembers the buildings coming down and shaking and fires and all that. He survived that, he didn't, he never told me what he did at that time or anything like that, but I think he was only fourteen years old or thirteen years old when he came across. No, he had to be older than that, sixteen, maybe. And it was soon after, I guess, he went to work on the railroad.

TI: And so when he was sixteen in San Francisco, do you know what he was doing? Did he come, did he come with his parents or did he come by himself?

AM: No, he came by himself. He had his passport and everything, we still have his passport. And I don't know what other records, but I do know we still have that, and we were looking at it a couple years back.

TI: Yeah, it's always amazing to think he was sixteen years old, going to a different country to start a life. It just seems so, I guess, adventuresome to do that.

AM: Yeah. See, I think the Union Pacific Railroad at that time, I think they made the connection in Salt Lake City in 1860 or something like that, and I guess it took a lot of time and a lot of years to make all these other spurs and the rest of the railroad to all these other towns, probably passengers, shipping goods and stuff like that. But there was a big, there was a big push for getting laborers to go up north and work these places, and that's where he went. So when he got to the gang to where he was supposed to work, the supervisor said he was too young to work with the rest of the men, so he said he needed a houseboy. He had some children that still was in school and this and that, and he thought that my dad could take care of them, take 'em to school and all that. And while they were in the school, my dad would sit in and take his pencil and paper out and study along with the kids, although he was much older, that's how he learned.

TI: Do you know in what towns or cities he did this?

AM: No.

TI: Interesting. What experience -- so this is pretty unique. So he was probably, what's different was he had the time to learn English during this time because he sat in...

AM: Yeah, with the children in school, that's how he learned. And then, of course, being with the kids that didn't know Japanese, of course, then he had to learn. He had to learn English, how to communicate with the kids and all that, so I think that's, that helped him quite a bit.

TI: So do you recall any stories from that time period? This is kind of interesting, that he had this experience. Do you recall any stories that he said in terms of how people accepted him in the classroom, or was he kind of shunned, or were people fond of him? Do you know anything?

AM: No, the only thing that I remember is he said he had relatives that was working along with the railroad, and some ended up in Salt Lake. I remember him saying that he had some relatives that was in Billings, Montana. I think he said he had a relative that owned a hotel there. I remember a lady and her two kids came to Scottsbluff to visit, and they were from Billings, and that my dad had registered for the draft during the war. Of course he said, by the time they started considering him, why, the war was over.

TI: So this was World War I?

AM: Yes.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So eventually he got to Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Do you know about what age he was when he got to Scottsbluff?

AM: I sure don't. We have a picture of him when he worked for the Western Nebraska Republican, there was a gentleman named Bill Westervelt owned, owned the newspaper, and we had pictures of my dad sitting there at the desk. I have no idea what he did there as far as working for the newspaper. All I know is he was sitting there at the desk with a telephone and all that. So I don't know what his capacity was, but he spoke and wrote English at that time, and at the same time, he sold State Farm insurance for a while. And I do know that he used to broker -- what I mean broker is that that's the in-between for some of the Japanese farmers soliciting contracts with the beet companies, the Great Western Sugar Beet Company, and assigning contracts, going to the bank and securing loans because you always had to put the money out to get the seeds and all that, as part of the contract with Great Western. But I do remember those things.

TI: Going back to that photograph you saw with Westervelt, what was he wearing? What was, describe that photograph a little bit for me in terms of what it looked like he was doing.

AM: Well, I have to look at that picture, but I would say he was in his thirties, early thirties. I believe he had... I think he had a shirt and tie on. I don't remember whether he had a jacket on or not, but I know Fred -- I mean, of course my dad was Fred -- but I remember Mr. Westervelt coming around the house every once in a while and Bill would have a little, little booze in him and I guess he'd start reminiscing about some of the old things, and he would come around and talk with my dad. But we were just little kids then so we didn't understand what they were talking about.

TI: But they were talking English back and forth?

AM: Yeah, oh yeah.

TI: So it was kind of like a friendly visit.

AM: Yeah, just a friendly visit, you know, like he'd maybe have a few drinks someplace along the bar and said, "Well, I gotta go visit Fred or something like that." Just kind of talk about some old times, I guess.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So let's talk about your mother now. So what was her name and where was she born?

AM: Her name was Kiku Endo, and she came across from Japan with her father and mother, which would be my grandparents, and they settled in Hillrose, Colorado. And I believe my aunt Louise, that's where she was born, and she was the only daughter, and in time, they moved to the Scottsbluff area. I think my dad and my mother married in Denver. It seems like I've seen a picture of, they had a wedding and then it appears that... Hillrose is just a one-horse town, you know, it was a little farm town, and it didn't seem like that was appropriate for a wedding. It looked like the way she was dressed and everything, I think it happened here in Denver. My dad had lots of friends here in Denver, and whenever we used to visit Denver, we used to go visit some of his friends and stuff. And I have no idea whether they were ken people, you know, from Shizuoka or something like that.

TI: So I'm curious, what was the connection between Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and Denver? Why, what was your father connected so much to Denver?

AM: Well, my father opened up a store that had a lot of Japanese goods in Scottsbluff, and he called it the Mount Fuji Company. And of course, lot of his goods and stuff came from here in Denver, and that's where he would do most of his ordering for things. And, of course, fish came from either in the San Pedro area, or it came from Seattle Fish, and they would ship it. I remember Dad used to go to the railroad station, and then tell everybody to get their orders in for some sashimi and things of that nature, mackerel. So then my mom would cut it into serving size, I guess, and she would, I guess you'd call it butchering the fish, and then my dad would deliver it. They had, Mabel, all of my siblings were all born in Scottsbluff, so after they were married, then they came to Scottsbluff. So evidently, I'm thinking that my father probably had established himself in Scottsbluff before they got married.

TI: Going back to your mother's family, what type of work did they do?

AM: Oh, they were, they farmed. They were... I think most of the Japanese didn't have any kind of skills, and of course farming was relatively, just back-breaking work and the will to work. So there was, a lot of Japanese all went to farming for other people with a share and this and that, and eventually they saved up enough money to buy their own farms. Of course, I think, at that time, I don't believe that there was, the law said that you couldn't own, that aliens couldn't own land. And I don't know whether that was a federal law or what it was.

TI: Usually they were state laws, so each state had their own separate...

AM: Probably, but I don't know whether that held, held up in Nebraska or not, because there was a lot of Russian and German and whatever, immigrants there, and they all had big farms and whatnot. So I have no idea if that was true or not. But that's what they did.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: So I'm curious about this one, because both your, well, your mother was already in the United States, most of the people I've interviewed, their parents were married through kind of an arranged marriage between, with the woman being in Japan and the man being in the United States. In the case of your parents, how did the two of them meet?

AM: That, that is... I just never did find that out. But I imagine it was one of those, the Japanese term is baishakunin.

TI: So you think it was even arranged here.

AM: Yeah, it was arranged, there was an intermediate person, and they said, "Well, you need to get married, so-and-so's got a daughter and so-and-so's got a daughter," and they show pictures and stuff like that. But when I was a kid, that was the way it usually happened. Even for Niseis it happened, and I think that was the end of it. When you was a Nisei, I think that was the tail end of all the baishakunin marriages.

TI: Okay, I was just curious about your parents, if it was like a relationship of love or something, that they saw each other in Scottsbluff or Denver or something like that.

AM: At that particular time, when you're, Nebraska, if you go out in a place out in Nebraska, "Where is that?" Even today, people don't know where Nebraska's at, you know, as small as this world has gotten to be. But everything, hardly anybody traveled out of the community, and maybe they came to Denver and back and that's about it. They never went to Lincoln, Lincoln was probably another two-hour drive from Scottsbluff, whereas coming here to Denver was, what, four hours, five hours at that time, slow traffic, and the train ran there.

TI: So when you talk to some of the old-timers that perhaps knew your father, how would they describe him? What kind of man was he? Do you have a sense of, in terms of his personality, or was he talkative, was he quiet? What do you know about him?

AM: You know, he spent more time at work than he spent as being a father. He was always someplace delivering, get up early in the morning, we never even seen him get up to go to work. And then, of course, we're all in bed by the time he'd come back, lots of times. And he'd do his book work during the day and all that stuff, get stuff ready and put the orders together, and he'd go out and deliver. And in those days, you know, one-way trip over ten or fifteen miles, from one town to the next town, and as it were, the Japanese, well, where they settled was probably within a ten-mile area in most cases, but I do know that he went to some places which was probably thirty, forty miles away on a, on a trip. So I don't know whether he stayed overnight in some of those places, which I suppose people did in those days because travel was kind of slow. He had a pickup truck and he loaded up and off he'd go.

TI: And so you never heard stories from people like, "Oh, your dad was like this," or they remembered your dad and they just mentioned something to you? Or do you even recall when we was with Mr. Westervelt in terms of how he was just with some of his business people?

AM: Well, he was able to hold a conversation, most of, a lot of my conversations, I guess, with my father would be during the times I was in the service and we communicated by mail quite often. But he always used to tell me to, he always instilled in me, "Alfred, be a good soldier and do as you're told to do. Obey your superiors, don't bring shame to our family," things of that nature. I think that's kind of his evaluation that they bring from Japan to this country. And you know, they just kind of instilled that all the time, and I remember that's what he used to talk about a lot of time.

TI: Let's talk about your mother. What was she like?

AM: She was an awful hard worker, she raised the kids and feed 'em and she used to work the store when my father got ill. And here she had to run the store by herself, and I remember her making tofu and making age, and most of the stuff that she had to prepare she did herself. My dad probably showed her how or he went someplace and learned and then showed her. And then, of course, he did the outside part of the business and she did the inside part of the business. And I remember not so much my dad being in the store except when he was behind the desk working his abacus. But I remember being with my mom and maybe I wouldn't feel good and we had a little cot there. It wasn't really a cot, it was more like a table, tabletop with the side put up that she would put me in when I was a little kid and wasn't feeling well. That's the only thing that you remember -- other times I'm out playing someplace. [Laughs]

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: And so did your older sister, older brother, did they have to help in the store? Or any of your siblings when you were growing up?

AM: There wasn't that much to do in the stores, but I think my oldest sister, on Saturdays, that's when all the farmers used to come into town and do stuff like that, and she used to come and help. But she, I think she graduated high school in '36 or '37 I think. Maybe '38, I can't remember. So '38, so then she took a job, I think she waited tables for just a little while, 'cause they always, there was a Japanese restaurant in town. It wasn't a Japanese restaurant, but it was owned by Japanese, they served mostly American fare, called the Eagle Cafe. And it was one of the better restaurants there right in downtown, and every once in a while they used to call and say they needed another, you know, somebody didn't show up, "Could Mabel come and help us for a while?" She used to like the tips, 'cause I remember, I remember when I was a little boy that on windy days in the wintertime, the wind would blow the door open and they couldn't keep it shut because of the fierce wind that would blow up here in the wintertime. So they used to call me and said, "Alfred, would you come and close the doors for us?" [Laughs] So I used to open the door and shut the door, open the door and shut the door.

TI: And this is at the Eagle, Eagle Cafe, where you would be the door-shutter, essentially.

AM: Yeah, door-shutter. And the waitresses used to give me gum and stuff like that. They used to treat me good.

TI: And that was your pay, just these little treats, or did they actually pay you to do this? It was just these gum and things like that? And going back to the store, who were the customers of the store?

AM: Mostly just the Japanese farmers from that area. I don't know the exact number of the Japanese farmers. I think there was some of kind of publication came out said there was fifty farmer families or whatever, I don't remember. But there was quite a few farmers all in that North Platte River Valley there, and they went mostly along the river, 'cause, of course, that's the most fertile land there is. I couldn't tell you how many, but there used to, my dad used to have the rice come in, and then he used to call the farmers and the farmers used to bring their trucks right up to the train station and load, load right from the boxcar right into their trucks. And some of 'em used to make ten or twenty bags of rice whenever it came in.

TI: So things like, for the Japanese families, things like banking and things like that, did they use the regular local banks, or how did they save their money and things like that?

AM: Yes, I believe my dad used to bank at the Scottsbluff First National Bank, I believe, and if I remember right, almost all the farmers used to, the Japanese farmers used to probably get their loans and stuff right there in Scottsbluff.

TI: How about, did your parents, do you know if they had to ever extend credit to the farmers? I think of farmers, and their income is sort of seasonal. And so when they buy the seeds and things like that, sometimes they would have to borrow or get things on credit and then pay after the harvest, things like that. Do you recall those kind of cycles that your parents had to do with the farmers?

AM: No, I really don't, but probably from experience I could tell you it's just an ongoing, ongoing thing. If the crops turned out good, like if they raised sugar beets for the sugar beet company, they would get paid on how much tonnage per acre, and they would all kind of get the most tonnage per acre. And I remember the farmers used to talk about, "So-and-so got 20 tons per acre," and everybody said, "Wow, that's pretty good," and then somebody would say, "Well, so-and-so up on the so-and-so place only got 14," and then they'd talk about sugar content of the sugar beets. And that also helped as far as how much money you would receive for your sugar beets, too, they would grade your sugar beets, how much sugar was in there and stuff like that. And if you hit it pretty good you didn't have to get a loan next year.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: I want to talk about your childhood memories of Nebraska, and were there any things that sort of stand out in terms of, you mentioned playing a lot. What kind of games or what kind of playing did you do?

AM: Well, we used to, as a young boy, I remember there were some men that, lot of bachelor men that ended up in Scottsbluff, and lot of 'em used to work at the cafe. And there also was a gambling group -- actually it was only two, two men that... that would be an interesting history, because I remember in the back room they used to have a place called the club. And the place where my dad's grocery store was, they had some apartments downstairs, they had some rooms upstairs, they had an area in the back that had a couple bedrooms and a big area which they called the club. And the, lot of the single men used to hang out there and play hana, or they would play go, and on given nights, why, they would play hana for money. And I know Nishi-san and Watanabe-san used to be the ones that had the games. They also had roulette tables in the back, and they never brought those out, but I do know that one time I was back there peeking around and I saw some roulette tables. So somebody told me that years and years ago, they used to go to these railroad camps with their equipment, chuck-a-luck, I guess, roulette, some other games, and they would travel from camp to camp and set up a gambling thing, and that's how they made their money. Eventually they ended up in Scottsbluff. But going back to my childhood, they used to go fishing, every two or three weeks they --

TI: I'm sorry, before we go there, the club is really interesting to me. So these two men, when they weren't running the club, were they doing other things, or was it enough for them...

AM: No, they just ran the club.

TI: They just ran the club. And when you say "bachelor men," about how many are you talking about? Dozens?

AM: Maybe fifteen or twenty.

TI: And so they were probably, you said they worked a lot at the restaurant, but they probably worked elsewhere? Were they farmhands, too, things like that?

AM: None of 'em, some of 'em used to work on the farms, and they used to be like the hired men. But in the wintertime, they'd come back into town and they'd spend their time there. They'd cook there and everything, just like you're familiar with the Chinese tongs? Similar. Where the tongs have a club, you know, and they serve food, somebody cooks, they all eat, they all play paique or shigo or whatever. And it was similar to that except not on the big scale that the Chinese tongs had. This is just a very small minor thing.

TI: So when I'm, when I interview people in places on the West Coast cities, so I hear similar stories where they have these sort of gambling places, usually in the basement, and usually there's also lots of drinking. Is that, did you see alcohol and drinking and things like that?

AM: I never saw that.

TI: Never saw that? The other thing that sometimes people talk about are, is prostitution. Was that something that you saw or were aware of? Was that happening in these towns?

AM: Never saw any women in there.

TI: Interesting. Yeah, I was just curious because --

AM: That was a rarity. I don't, I just remember every once in a while they would have, play hana, and there was certain farmers that used to like to come in and play hana. Of course, there was always money out there, and I never learned how to play that, but they would come and, but it wasn't a regular, regular thing. Yeah, they would come in and they would play and they never hung out there, it wasn't on a regular basis or anything, but I remember seeing 'em in there.

TI: Now, would people like your father, would they ever go down there and maybe play also?

AM: I never seen him in there. It's just part of the daily things, I guess. It wasn't, I don't ever remember seeing any kind of problems down there. No arguments, and I used to hang in there.

TI: And so if your, if your mother had found out that you were hanging around there, would she be upset, or was it not a big deal?

AM: No, there was nothing there to get really upset about. And they would play cards and stuff, and I don't, I imagine there was money exchanged but I never remember seeing any. And I remember even falling asleep in there lots of times. I used to talk to some of the old men there, just talk about regular things. They used to take me fishing, and that's where I kind of got stuck on it.

TI: Yeah, so go ahead and tell me about the fishing.

AM: Well, that's where it started from, you know. And then, of course, all the spin offs of, "How did you learn how to go fishing with these old men? What did the old men do?' They used to go trout fishing a lot, and I remember they used to go to certain places and they showed me how to clean the fish and how to keep it fresh, and how to rig up a line and all that kind of stuff. Of course, in those days, most of the fishing was with worms or something like that, minnows, worms, some live bait.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: Okay, good, fishing, how about boys your own age? What kind of things would you do with boys, or girls your age in terms of playing?

AM: Well, I guess I left there when I was about fourteen, thirteen, thirteen, I guess. And the kids I used to hang around with, you know, as your age progresses then you start doing different things. And I imagine that I was just like any other kid in the neighborhood or anything like that. We used to go raid apple orchards and stuff like that. Just because I was Japanese or something, say, "Hey, you didn't do things," like I did what everybody else did.

TI: And so were most of your, your friends that you ran around with, were they non-Japanese?

AM: Yeah, yeah.

TI: How about entertainment, especially around, like, Japanese entertainment. Was there anything like that in Scottsbluff, Nebraska?

AM: Well, they used to have a hall right next door to where we lived, and they just used to call it the Hall, the Japanese Hall. And they used to hold plays there, shibai, they used to hold banquets there. I remember when, I believe a Japanese counselor or somebody came to visit, and they had a big dinner, you know, it's more like a potluck dinner. And I have some pictures that was taken in the hall, and my dad was there and some other dignitaries. Of course, it wasn't captioned or anything, so I don't know who those people were. But they used to have their New Year's celebrations there. Mainly, they didn't celebrate so much, they used to have plays and food.

TI: How about Japanese movies? You ever see Japanese movies?

AM: Oh, yes. There used to be a man called Ban, S. Ban, and as far as I can remember he was from the Seattle area. And he had a touring car loaded with, with film and a projector. And he would announce through somebody that he would be in town at a certain date, and he would show certain pictures. And in those days, everything was silent pictures. But this man would portray all the characters in, in the movie, and lot of those were tearjerkers. I suppose in those days, tearjerkers were probably the norm besides samurai movies, chanbara. And sometimes he would have a short chanbara movie, and then he would have one of these tearjerkers. But he would portray all the men, all the women and all that stuff. And sometimes he'd run a reel and then in between the, a break or something, he'd be winding the, rewinding his film. We used to go help him rewind the film sometimes. But he used to load up and go to the next town. But far as I know, S. Ban used to have a pretty-good sized business in Seattle, but other than that, I really don't know.

TI: And so I'm curious, when he would do all the voices, is he also then running the projector, or is he up by the screen? Where was he when I did the voices?

AM: He was right there at the projector.

TI: And so he's just like, so if if it's like a samurai movie and someone gets killed, he would act out being killed and scream out, or if someone's crying, he would, a woman crying, and do all that?

AM: Yeah, I think he had a prompter. You know, he used to read from it, the words and stuff like this, and he used to look at the movie, and look at the prompter and the words, and that was all in Japanese. And I remember he was, he was pretty decent, you know, he did that pretty well. He must have really practiced that. Now, I don't know whether his name was Ban, but they used to say, "Ban-san, Ban-san," you know.

TI: And so was that kind of a big treat whenever Ban-san came to Scottsbluff, everyone would, lot of people would show up and go to the club or wherever?

AM: Oh, yeah. Seeing a Japanese movie was quite, quite an experience. You don't see anything like that, and so all the Japanese used to make time to get everything done, come into town, get all the chores done, come into town and see the movies.

TI: And so you grew up learning both English and Japanese? Was your Japanese good enough so that you could follow along with the movie?

AM: I think, I kind of think that there was some captions on there, closed captions. But then during, he would actually try to imitate the voice and the emotions of the actors. Now, when you see a closed caption, you just see the words, you know, so you don't know the, how they emote, things like that, but he used to do all that. That's what was so spectacular.

TI: That's a good story.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: How about things like churches? Did your family attend a church in Scottsbluff?

AM: Well, most of the community at that time were Christian because of Reverend Kano, he was a Christian minister. And the Buddhists, all the, lot of these, I guess a lot of these people from Japan were, were all Buddhist at one time. But when they came to this country, why, the influence was Christianity. And most, as far as I remember, it was Episcopalian, and I myself was baptized as an Episcopalian. And I think as some of the older ones grew up, and after the war, there wasn't, I think the Christianity kind of lost its hold because of the war. And as I remember, lot of the older, older people reverted back to Buddhism even though they didn't know anything about Buddhism, but their families were. So the reverend here at the Tri-State Buddhist Temple, they expanded their territory to include Western Nebraska, and I guess they go to Wyoming. I imagine they, they include parts of New Mexico, too.

TI: So I'm not quite sure I understood that. So you said during the war, people kind of left Christianity to be more Buddhist, is that what you just said? I wasn't quite sure. When you said the Buddhists were able to expand, that was because people kind of, during the war, left Christianity?

AM: No. I think the people that were pretty much in charge of the Christianity in Western Nebraska, Reverend Kano, he was interned, I think, or somehow he was taken, interrogated because he had, he was an influence with the Japanese people. And I think at that time, the hold, toehold came apart because there was no one there to take his place.

TI: Okay, so what happened was, essentially, the leadership of the Christians...

AM: Yeah, I think it just deteriorated because of that.

TI: ...was gone, and so people, because there was nothing there, the Buddhist, sort of, influence got larger.

AM: Yeah, I think they just, you know, there was no one there to expand on the leadership, and it just kind of eventually, just kind of fell apart.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: Growing up in Nebraska, I'm wondering, did you, how did you think about being Japanese? Did you think about, or say to yourself, "I'm Japanese, I'm different," than your white friends? Did your parents ever talk to you that by being Nihonjin or Japanese, that you were different than people? Do you remember anything like that?

AM: Yeah, you know, there was... it never occurred to me except when I was around white adults, and they would make a comment, "the little Jap boy" or something like that, and I wasn't allowed to do something because, "we don't want that little Jap boy hanging around," and stuff like that. And I remember as a little kid, crying, said, "Why was I born Japanese?" And I didn't understand because you're young, you're immature, and you really don't have anybody to ask. But my sisters used to tell me, says, "You shouldn't pay any attention to that." Says, "You was put on this earth as Japanese and so you should be proud that's what you are." But you know, when you go play with your friends and this and that, and their parents are, whatever, calls you down like that, it really hurts your feelings. "Why was I born Japanese when there's all these hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of other people laying around?" But you don't understand the other part, where, see, there was very, very few blacks in our town. Most of 'em were dropped off because of the railroad or something. And I can't remember, maybe two families in the whole town. Mexican people are really looked down upon because they were the hired people from all the farms and this and that, and they were, at that time, they were really unreliable. When you get older, you understand why they're unreliable, because they had no future.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: Okay. So eventually, when you were around thirteen years old, thirteen, fourteen, your family moved from Scottsbluff, Nebraska, to California. Can you explain why your family moved to California?

AM: Yeah. My father, during one of his deliveries to, to the farmers, was caught in a blizzard. Stalled his car and all that, and he got quite sick from that, he caught pneumonia. Got stuck in the snow and whatever, and he caught pneumonia. Well, they treated the pneumonia, but even at that time, there was not a lot of medicine to help cure that. Eventually it turned into tuberculosis, and then he was unable to work. So my mom took over and doing the best she could, but as far as doing the ordering and trying to keep it up, she just couldn't do it. So push comes to shove, why, I guess my father's sister in California said to bring the family out. They lived in Teminus, California, which is twenty or thirty miles outside of Stockton, and they were farmers there. So we went over there, took a train ride, stopped at Salt Lake City, met some more friends and went on to California. My dad was still bedridden, my mother did the cooking for the farmworkers, and it was really something new for her to do. She just got shoved into it, and I know she had a really tough time. They had maybe ten workers there that she had to prepare breakfast and lunch and supper for, and I think she must have really had a tough time. Because it's just something that you just don't get into and cook for all those people and keep 'em happy and try to make a menu. And I know she had a tough time. Eventually we moved back into Stockton, and my dad still was unable to work. My sister was working someplace, my brother and myself and the rest of the kids were still in high school. We used to, I remember one year we went out to try to work on the farm doing planning and stuff like that, but it just didn't work out for us. But then the war broke out.

TI: Well, going back, when you say it didn't work out, so this was your, your father's sister's farm. Why wouldn't it work out? Was it because you didn't know how to farm, or what happened?

AM: Well, I think what happened was, was I think it really got down on my mom. She just had really a tough time trying to work out a menu, try to keep the workers happy with supper and this and that. And of course, you had different nationality, you don't know what to cook and this and that, you're not used to it. Now, if you worked, if you lived out there and was born out there, you knew what, what their fare was. But I think her coming in there and just cold turkey trying to figure that all out, and trying to change the menu and keep 'em happy, I think it overwhelmed her. Although I never heard that, but this is just my thoughts.

TI: And so when you went to Stockton, moved to Stockton, what did she do in Stockton?

AM: She worked in the packing shed with a bunch of ladies there told her that there was some work in the packing sheds packing broccoli, and that was the first time I ever ate broccoli in my life. [Laughs] But she used to bring home all the, all the trimmings and stuff, like she used to put it in a little bag and bring some broccoli home. And we had broccoli almost every night, but we learned to eat it, we learned to eat it and it was pretty good stuff. [Laughs]

TI: And so would you say your family was sort of struggling financially, or during this time period with your dad being sick?

AM: Yeah, I think we just scraped by. I don't think there was any money left over for hardly anything, you know. But my dad used to be in, he was bedridden, he always used to say, "Well, we're going to have a, we've always had a good, good Sunday dinner." We always had roast beef or something like that. He'd always say, "We're always going to have a good Sunday dinner."

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So I'm curious, so you went from Scottsbluff, Nebraska, to, you know, eventually Stockton, California. And Stockton, California, has a much larger Japanese community...

AM: Oh, yes.

TI: ...than Scottsbluff. What was that like, going to a much larger community, Japanese community?

AM: Well, I had a bicycle and I remember doing shopping for dad or my mom. My dad would tell me, go down and go to the Star Fish Market and get some sardines or get some kind of fish or something like that, get some tofu. I used to be the errand boy. Right now, I think that's why I do most of the grocery shopping in our household. [Laughs] But yeah, they had, they had a pretty good-sized Japanese community there. That's where I learned, in school, I had lot of Japanese friends, but they'll all kind of gravitate, gravitate to each other anyway, you know.

TI: And so how, how did they accept you? So you're coming in, thirteen, fourteen, and sometimes that's a tough age. I mean, that's kind of when boys are going through puberty, and everything is changing, very, very dynamic. And sometimes you form these groups, and sometimes it's hard to be an outsider coming in. What was it like for you?

AM: Well, when I first started high school, I was a freshman, ninth grade. And I really didn't know anybody in school, but next thing you know, I got a nomination for president of our freshman class. And I didn't hardly know anybody, you know, I thought, "Wow." So there was a coalition of Japanese friends, I guess, that put me up for nomination.

TI: So this is, this is pretty remarkable. I mean, here you're brand new, the Japanese friends that you're talking about, they all grew up together in Stockton, and they supported you as class president. Why do you think they did that?

AM: Well, it appears that there was a strong bunch from a little settlement outside of Stockton, French Camp. They didn't have a high school, so the bus used to bring 'em into school. During that second year, they had a new school on the south side of town where we lived. Which meant that all those French Camp people were south, they would all be going to that same school. So I think that's, kind of popular after that. I met all these people and this and that, and then the war broke out.

TI: Well, still, I'm curious, Alfred, talk a little bit more why you were so popular. What was it that, that let you make friends so quickly?

AM: I don't know. I think, I think I changed quite a bit. I think I was more friendly then. Maybe it's because I was so naive. [Laughs] I think being, going through life kind of hardened me a little bit, you know.

TI: So if you were one of those Stockton kids, and they were trying to describe Alfred, how would they describe you back then? What kind of things do you think you think they would say about you?

AM: Well, being new there, I was probably trying to make friends. And if anybody said hello to me, I would try and make friends with them. And I think that's probably what it was. Because I didn't know anybody in town, just moving in from the country and this and that, and the first time to go to school. It just so happened, I think, that we moved into town just before the school term started. So that's the reason I think I was able to make friends, 'cause I needed friends.

TI: Well, at your high school, how many were Japanese? I mean, what percentage were Japanese Americans at your high school?

AM: Oh, I don't know, but there was, you mean the percentage-wise or something like that? It's hard to say. In my classes that I took, I don't know if there's maybe two or three Japanese in any of my classes that I took. But yet, I got to know these people and I don't know how they got to know me, you know. [Laughs]

TI: So did you become freshman class president?

AM: Beg your pardon?

TI: Did you become freshman class president?

AM: No. Another guy just aced me out, and it just so happened that he was from the same French Camp that those people who were supporting me. And he was Anglo, he was Bob -- remember his name -- Bob Bewly, he was a real nice fellow. And he just, I just missed by just a couple votes. I didn't ask for a recount or anything, I was kind of glad. I didn't want that.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: Okay, so we're now in the second hour, Alfred, and where we finished up, we're in Stockton, you had to move there because your father was ill, got sick, and you were gonna pick it up right about when the war started. So let me ask you the question, on Sunday, December 7, 1941, how did you hear about the bombing of Pearl Harbor? Where were you, what do you remember of that?

AM: If I'm remembering right, there were newspaper boys out on the street, "Extra, extra, Japs bomb Pearl Harbor." We turned the radio on and it came out on the radio. My father used to listen to a commentator, news analyst or whatever at that time, his name was Boke Carter, and my dad used to listen to him on the radio all the time, he thought that this person give real good opinions of the world news and stuff like that. But my dad told me that Boke Carter had said things that might lead to war at that time. There were certain things in the air, and so my dad, he had heard all that on the radio, but it's just another man's opinion, this and that, but he knew there was some friction. So when the war did break out, he was really, really surprised. To me, we just looked at each other and the bottom of my heart just fell. And I think I could speak for the whole family, just sat there just kind of numb, "What?" It's just like everything just fell like that. It was on a Sunday, so here we are thinking about, are we going to go to school the next day? We really felt bad. But we made up our minds we were gonna go, we got on the bus and went to school.

TI: Before you go there, so before, you mentioned how your father always wanted to have a good Sunday dinner. So on that Sunday, did you have a good Sunday dinner? Do you recall that dinner of that day?

AM: Yeah, I don't really recall, but I'm saying that more than likely, the dinner was already planned like on Saturday or Sunday. It was never something that we planned on Saturday -- or Sunday, because the meat had to be purchased and whatever. So I'm thinking that it was already pre-planned. So we probably had the dinner, but I don't think it tasted like any other Sunday dinner.

TI: Do you recall your father, any of the words of your father in terms of the words he said about what might happen, or what he was thinking?

AM: Yeah, he said... I can't explain the exact words, I don't remember, but I'm thinking he said that, "This is not right, this is not right," you know, and he kept saying that, "This is not right." But I don't think he had much comment other than to say that, "You're all Americans, you have to behave like good Americans and do the right things." He always espoused that, you know, he always told us that that's what we had to do. And I remember him saying that, "Whatever happens, you're still good Americans. Just remember you're American." That's all he used to say. What else could he say?

TI: How about any comments about Japan? Did he mention anything about his feelings towards his mother country?

AM: No. He never said anything about that at all, he never, you know, said anything derogatory or anything. He never mentioned going back to Japan or anything, 'cause I think in his heart, he knew that what he had was he earned while he was in the United States. There was nothing in Japan that owed him anything or that he had to go back to.

TI: I'm curious, leading up to the war, how did he stay in touch with Japan was doing? I mean, did he read Japanese newspapers?

AM: Yeah, he read the Japanese newspapers, he also read the daily papers. Of course, you know, he's an invalid, so he spent all his time reading this, reading that, or listening to the radio or something like that. So it wasn't like he was in the dark about anything going on, but he never, never subscribed to any subversive things or anything like that.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: Okay, so let's pick it up Monday. So what happened on Monday?

AM: Well, we went, me and my brother went to school, and the only thing I heard was some sympathizers, that they all said, "Al, it's not your fault," this and that. And these were from, we're talking about Anglos. And half of the Japanese kids didn't go to school that day. Lot of my friends, "Where's so and so?" Lot of 'em came to school. So there was just very few Japanese that even showed up for school that day. And, but I remember a lot of my good friends -- well, I wouldn't say good friends -- but lot of my schoolmates that I, that I got along with real well, what they told me, says, "It's not your fault, it's not your fault," you know. And they sympathized with me, said, "Don't let anybody get you down," and stuff like that.

TI: How about teachers? Did you hear any comments from teachers?

AM: As far as I know, I don't remember teachers even mentioning that. They never said, "Leave Alfred alone," or anything like that, I just, I think they just left alone, and I don't think they wanted to raise any questions one way or the other. They just didn't want to stir things up, I think.

TI: How did the teachers talk about the bombing of Pearl Harbor? On Monday, I'm sure everyone knows what happened. Did they talk about it in the classrooms?

AM: I think, the only thing I heard was, "You know that we are now at war, and the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor." And we had to do our bit to, for the war effort and things, but I don't, it was just in the beginning of the war, so I don't think anything was really organized except it was just a big, big news, it was just a bombshell among all the people. They just couldn't believe that that's what happened. All the other ramifications haven't set in yet.

TI: So what about reactions outside of school? So other parts of Stockton, did you hear about any events or incidences that happened relating to the Japanese community?

AM: Yes. I do know that there was this one owner of the garage, there was a garage right in downtown Stockton, in the Japanese, so-called Japanese town. And they found him dead one morning, and some Filipinos, I don't know -- I think there was others there that identified the assailants as being Filipino. And, but that was the only thing I ever heard of that there was, in retaliation for Pearl Harbor.

TI: And so what kind of feeling, so, so Japan had, at the same time as Pearl Harbor, they had, they were attacking the Philippines. And so there was a lot of tension between the Filipinos and Japanese. And so the thinking was that these Filipinos killed the Japanese garage owner, is that what happened? I guess the question is, how did the Japanese community feel about Filipinos, do you think?

AM: They really didn't, and I think most of it happened with the Bataan, when the Japanese took Corregidor, and I think that's what triggered it. But up until then, there was, out in the farms, I would have to say ninety percent of the workers were all Filipinos. And matter of fact, we had a family friend, I don't know, he was just a worker out on the farm when we were out there. But he kind of took a liking to our family, and he used to, then he found out where we lived in Stockton, and he came to visit every once in a while when he was in town or something. And it was during the war, or I think it was just after Pearl Harbor or something like that, that winter, he came to the house and he had a great big box of salmon. He went to Alaska and worked in the canneries there during the wintertime. And when he came home, he brought a big case of salmon, and he brought it over to our house. And he, and I remember him saying that, not to worry about the war, said, "These are people over in Japan, they're not the people over here." He was very sympathetic. And you know, it wasn't all the Filipinos were bad, he really was a nice fellow. And then every once in a while, he used to come over and eat dinner with us or something, then evacuation, we don't know what happened to him after that.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So talk about Stockton in those weeks after Pearl Harbor and before people left Stockton for the camps. What was happening in Stockton? What kind of things were going on?

AM: We had some friends who used to call and tell us how sorry they were that we had to leave. We stored some stuff that we had that we couldn't take, and a neighbor about two doors down, we stored it in their garage or I don't remember. I think it was in the, underneath their house in the crawl space. And of course, at that time, you don't know when you're going to get back, just a temporary thing. And their name was Strong, the family's name was Strong, and they let us put lot of the stuff that we couldn't take with us. We didn't sell anything, we just, we told the Strongs that probably, time comes and you need to get rid of stuff, go ahead and do whatever you want with it. 'Cause we had no idea where we were going, what the duration was or anything like that. We had some families from across the street, and they come over, and there was crying about why we had to leave, and some were Italian people. They really sympathized with us, you know, but... then the bus came, and the truck came and took our meager belongings like blankets, I guess, and a few things.

TI: Now, before this, your father was bedridden. I mean, he was sort of ill. What was the family thinking about your father? What would happen to him?

AM: When, when they interviewed us as evacuees, and we identified my father as being an invalid. So they had to put him in the county hospital because they had other Japanese that were ill or something like that, couldn't be moved into a general area. So they were moved into the county hospital.

TI: And this is within Stockton?

AM: Yes, that was the, they called it the French Camp General Hospital or San Joaquin General Hospital, I think is what it was, San Joaquin General Hospital that was located in the French Camp, California. It was just a little farm town, small town. And so when they took Dad the first time, pretty sure they came and put him in an ambulance, and that was the last time I saw him. And the rest of us waited for the truck to come and they loaded, we didn't have enough suitcases or trunks for some of the stuff, so they, we just wrapped things up in a sheet, tied it up, and then wrote our, we had ID numbers, painted ID numbers on it. And they loaded it on a truck along with our suitcases. And then a bus came along and picked us up and took us to the fairgrounds. And then we were processed there and then given a, given a barracks number.

TI: So I'm thinking, you're a young boy, you're what, fourteen years old as this all happens, but I'm thinking, what a difficult experience to see your father leave in an ambulance and not really know when you'll see him. And then not knowing where you're going, packing, leaving your stuff behind, you're going to get registered and all this. Do you recall what you were thinking while this was happening?

AM: Not, not really. I don't have a really emotional remembrance of all that. It just seemed like we were just kind of in a trance. And like, go here, go there, you don't know what you're, you don't know what lies tomorrow. And you're really numb to the experience, I think. Of course, when Dad left, we didn't know when we was going to see 'em again, but here again, I think the whole process, we were just kind of numb from everything and the uncertainty of everything. And you don't, to me, it was just being like an unknown kind of thing, that you're, you lack the emotions, you more or less have fear, more or less, than you do the emotions. That's what I... because otherwise, I can't remember that.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: So let's go, so from your home, where did you go first? So after, after you leave your house, your home, so where did you go next?

AM: Well, of course, the bus takes us to the, to the assembly center, and here the, all those soldiers with rifles and machine guns and whatnot, you said, "Gee, now what are we getting into?" So they --

TI: I'm sorry, what assembly center did you go to?

AM: The Stockton Assembly Center, that was the fairgrounds right there in Stockton, Stockton Assembly Center, and then they showed us to your barracks, and, where you were going to stay. You walk in there, and if there's four in the family, there's four cots there and nothing else. And I, I think there were some mattresses on the cots. We found out that there was some other friends, and so we located them, and they were housed in the stables. They had ticks, mattress ticks, ticks are mattress covers, and they had stuffed straw into those, and those were their beds. And they had whitewashed the walls and put light bulbs in 'em, but you could still smell the horses. And I guess May, June, July, August, before they start shipping us out to the interior. September, yeah, that's what it seemed like. Because we, we were sent to Arizona because my father's illness. And being the climate was warm...

TI: But before we go there, let's finish up with Stockton, and then we'll go to Arizona. But, so back at, at Stockton, place, tell me, kind of, day to day, some of the things that you remember about Stockton.

AM: In Stockton, okay, I had to make new friends there because a lot of my friends that were there in the high school lived in French Camp, a little suburb of Stockton. And for some reason, they were sent to another place in Turlock, California. So I had to make new friends again. So it wasn't, it was pretty difficult trying to make friends there, so I hung out with a few people, they had a, started up a football team, so I tried out for that. I think they had, they had to begin some kind of program there to keep us busy, otherwise you're just gonna stand around, and idle minds, idle hands and so forth.

TI: And where did these other families come from? I mean, if they weren't from where you were from, Stockton, where were they coming from?

AM: Yeah, there was surrounding towns, for whatever reason, they didn't let French Camp in there. But towns like Lodi and the surrounding area. But lots of people from outside of Lodi were sent to another camp, you know. I don't know how they made the division or this and that, but I don't think my cousins that lived in Terminous, I don't remember seeing them in camp, but I do know that there were some other people that farmed in, in the general area that arrived in camp and I made new friends with some of those people. And I knew one or two of 'em because we went to school in Terminous, and it just so happened that they were sent to that camp. We spent a lot of time up there in the grandstands, it was nice and cool up there because it was the middle of summer, you know. And just staying in your barracks with black tarpaper was unbearable, they had concrete floors and just tarpaper outside and no insulation whatsoever. The windows were minimal-size, maybe. They weren't, maybe eighteen by eighteen or, I don't think they were two feet by two feet, but even at that, they didn't allow for much ventilation. So they spent a lot of time up in the grandstands playing cards, and it was, everybody learned how to play pinochle and 500 and stuff like that, bridge. [Laughs]

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So you said from, from the Stockton Assembly Center, they decided to send you to Arizona, and you were just going to explain why Arizona. Because I'm taking, I take it that a lot of people at Stockton when to another camp, they didn't go to Arizona?

AM: Yes. The reason for that is most of the people that were, had families in the hospitals went to Arizona. And the majority of the, majority of the people went to Arkansas. But just those people that had family in the hospitals, somebody told me that the reason they sent 'em there was because the weather was warm in the event that they would be released from the hospital. And if they're ever allowed visitation or something, it would be close by. Well, closer than going to Arkansas. But that's the only explanation that I heard, and I suppose it makes sense.

TI: So you were sent to Gila River, Arizona. So describe that, what was that like?

AM: Well, when we got there, it was already September, late September, I suppose. School had already started, we got a late start there as far as school goes. It... I had to make new friends there because even those people that had family in the hospital, I didn't know them either. But when we settled in our block, then we all had something in common, so you went around and you met people, of course, in school and this and that, at the mess hall or whatever, you know. Your block is just one big community center, you're in the washroom, you're in the restroom, you're taking a shower or whatever. Later on, just wandering around the camp, just to see what the, how big it was and all that, I met some friends from French Camp, they were all there. So I didn't have to look for any more friends, because all the kids that I went to school with from French Camp had been sent there, too. So it was the beginning of playing football with the guys, and basketball, baseball and stuff like that.

TI: Now, when you're, you're there with your French Camp friends, did you guys do anything that was kind of what you would say as bad, bad behavior or anything like that in terms of getting in trouble, things like, did you do anything like that?

AM: No, I don't think so. There wasn't that much to do, you know. If you went around, I suppose that lot of, lot of 'em went around trying to pilfer pieces of lumber to build things, but that was because they had lumber scraps here and there. And I don't know whether they just allowed anybody to go in there, but they used to go in there at nighttime and take some pieces of lumber to built porches and stuff for their little barracks, maybe build a, a swamp cooler, you'd be surprised at the ingenuity. They'd take a piece of wood and make it into something, they'd find piece here and a piece there and build things with it.

TI: So explain what a swamp cooler is. What's a swamp cooler?

AM: Well, a swamp cooler is, you know, it got to 110, 120 degrees there in the summertime in Arizona. And a swamp cooler is nothing more than a box built on the outside, maybe the box would be a cubic yard lined with excelsior, and they would run water down through the excelsior with a, with an electric motor and a fan inside so that it'd blow the water cooled air through the excelsior into the barracks, and it'd cool you off. And in this dry climate, what you do is cool air with water, liquid, and it dries right, it dries when it comes in. If you was in Seattle doing something like that, you'd invite yourself to an extra handful of mold, you know.

TI: Yeah, so that's why we, I don't know what a swamp cooler was. [Laughs] That's why I had to ask.

AM: Yeah.

TI: Okay.

AM: And there's lots of places, if you look on the outside, it's not the regular, regular air conditioning unit that you see. Some of them are, like I say, they're about a cubic yard, and they're a little bit different. That's what the swamp coolers are.

TI: Describe a typical day in Gila River for you, with you and your buddies, what would you, what would you do?

AM: Well, on a typical day, just too lazy to get up and eat breakfast at the mess hall, and usually all they had was just oatmeal and toast and some dried eggs and apple butter or orange marmalade, never varied. Matter of fact, there was some older guys used to call themselves the "Apple Butter Boys." [Laughs] Anyway, so my mom used to -- oh, they used to have some salted ham, but my mom used to bring some toast and some ham back, and so if you wanted to, dried toast, you put some marmalade or something on it. For lunchtime, they didn't really allow other, outside people to go to different mess halls, and I think a lot of it was quality control, some places you'd have a real good cook, and he could take... the food that came in was all requisitioned from the warehouse and it was all the same stuff. But sometimes the cook could make the difference on what it, what you fed 'em, how they'd prepare it and things like that. But I think that they drew enough rations for so many people in your barracks, and if you went outside of that, why, you created a shortage somewhere, so they always discouraged that. Some places they even had a little things that you had to show 'em that you lived in that block. They had a water container on the... but the faucet used to stick out from the mess hall. They used to have water in there and they'd drop ice in there from the inside so you couldn't get the ice, but you could get the ice water. So that was your water supply. You go in there and get the jug and fill up your water. The boys in the neighborhood, they, in our block, they built a horizontal bar for exercising. I used to work out on there, we had, we used to have one guy in there that was a, quite a, quite a good worker on the horizontal bars, he could flip and do all kinds of things on that. So we used to try to do whatever he showed us to do, work on the bars. Outside of that, we're talking in the summertime, go play football or something like that, baseball. We used to have a block team, and all the other blocks, if they had enough boys interested in it, they would also have a block team and we would go play them. That was about it. The older boys used to have a baseball team that used to play the other teams in the camp, and they were quite good. They had some boys that knew how to play ball pretty good. Most of those guys were probably in their early twenties, you know, all out of school, played good baseball.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: Well, and you mentioned when you first got there, school had already started. Tell me about school. What was school like at Gila River?

AM: Well, school life was, here we go, making new friends again, because you didn't know anybody. You might know somebody from French Camp or somebody in your own block. But you learned how to make new friends again, and I remember I took Spanish for two years, I was president of the Spanish Club. And the first time I ever ate a taco, first time I ever ate a tamale. We had a schoolteacher that lived in, in Chandler or someplace, adjoining town, and he introduced us to some of the Mexican food, tacos. He never brought us any tamales but he showed us, you know, brought us tacos, tamales -- sorry, tortillas. And corn tortillas, flour tortillas, beans, one time he brought some chili and some beans, and we had a little feast there. And just a sample, you know, but he showed us what those were. Most of us, some of those people from California were already introduced to that stuff, but people from northern California weren't introduced to tacos or anything like that yet. So that was quite an experience.

TI: And so tell me about the teachers and the quality of teaching in Gila River. How would you describe that?

AM: We had, I know my math teacher was Japanese, and my science teacher was Japanese. My Spanish teacher, his name was De Leon, he was Spanish. Biology teacher was Montgomery, she was Anglo. I had an English teacher, she was Anglo. Our coaches, physical education, they were all Anglos, but there were a few Japanese, qualified people that were teaching. But the teachers made, what, sixteen dollars a month or something like that.

TI: The Japanese teachers did?

AM: Yes.

TI: And so what, how would you rate the quality of the teaching?

AM: Well, I think some of those, I think most of those Japanese teachers had taught before. They weren't... I know our geometry teacher, math teacher, Nikaido, he had teaching experience. And I think our science teacher had experience, too, but as to what extent, I really don't know.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: So let's... so you're in Gila River, and from there, you actually left Gila River to return back to Nebraska. So let's talk about that in terms of, why did you go back to Nebraska?

AM: I, I had an invitation, I guess, during correspondence, my mother said that these people in Scottsbluff said that if I wanted to finish school in Scottsbluff and then go on to college or something, now would be a good time to come back. And they had also said that I could work for my board in room, working in the cafe, the same Eagle Cafe. And so it was my decision if I wanted to go there or not. I don't think that it was imminent that the camps would be closing in any short time. Nobody knew that at that time. Still, I decided, yeah, I don't want to stay here, I want to go out and see what it's like back home. But when I got to Scottsbluff, then it really hit me that a lot of my friends that I knew were in the army or navy already.

TI: Because how hold were you? Weren't you really just like seventeen?

AM: Yeah, seventeen, turning on to eighteen.

TI: And already your, sort of, your friends who were about the same age were already in the service?

AM: Yeah. Some of those kids lied about their age or got their parents' okay. Maybe some were just a few months older than I was. I was born in December, so I had to wait a whole year before I went to school. But then half the kids were and the other half weren't, you know. Some were seventeen, some were eighteen. Yeah, lot of my friends had already enlisted, and I don't know what feelings they had at that time. And, but I do know that this one boy, he was in the one year older class, and he had been in the service and got wounded, came home, and he was in one of my classes. But he turned out to be one of the nicest fellows. I knew him from before, but because he was an older person, I really didn't know him all that well or anything, but I knew of him. And Roger walked with a limp from his wounds, but turned out he was, he was a really decent fellow.

TI: Did you ever have any problems in Nebraska with being Japanese?

AM: Just this one kid that I knew that mentioned something about being at war. And I don't know whether he said he's gonna kick my butt or what, but in those days, I wasn't exactly a, a pantywaist, you know. When I was a kid, I used to fight in the neighborhood, boxing gloves and things like that. And there's, one friends, they used to have a cousin that used to fight in the Golden Gloves, and I always used to have the, I was always chosen to be his sparring mate 'til I decked him one time. And the kid got mad, and so I wouldn't fight him no more. But I wasn't trained for that, but they always kind of threw me in the mix. [Laughs]

TI: And so going back to this, in Nebraska when this classmate of yours said these comments to you, what happened?

AM: Nothing. I just shrugged it off, and the funny part of it is that afterwards, we became pretty good friends. Matter of fact, he lives in Denver, and we talk every once in a while. And last year we buried him, he passed away and I went to his funeral. His wife was happy to see any of his classmates, former classmates come to the funeral.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: In Scottsbluff, the Japanese community, had that changed at all because of the war? Did you see any differences in how people acted during that time?

AM: I don't think so. I know we went to Scottsbluff this last fall. My cousin, she wanted to inquire about where her mother lived and things of that nature, and she said that her mother, course, they lived in California. But my aunt moved to California but she never did want to go back to Scottsbluff, and her kids asked her and she said, "I don't want to go back to Scottsbluff." So consequently, they didn't know anything about Scottsbluff, but they wanted to know, they came to me 'cause I was her buddy-buddy, you know. And she says they wanted to know where they lived, what they did and things of that nature, so we went there for a couple days. I tried to point out some of the farms and stuff that they lived at and things of that nature. We met, I called a couple of my friends and they're a lot older than I am, but they took us out to where they thought the farm was, and the farm was, buildings all knocked down already, but they had a good feeling about where their, where her folks had farmed. But these two guys that I called was in the service, and they spent their entire war at Fort Warren, which is in Cheyenne, and they were one of those people that they hear about that used to mow the lawn and stuff like that, and they spent the whole war there. They can't imagine that they thought they would be going to the 442 or maybe MIS or something, because they spoke pretty good Nihongo, you know. I can't believe it.

TI: That's interesting. And if you go back to Scottsbluff now, how many Japanese live in Scottsbluff?

AM: Come again?

TI: About how many Japanese live in Scottsbluff today?

AM: In town?

TI: Or in that area, that same area?

AM: Well, in that area, lot of the farmers don't farm there no more, and I'm pretty sure that the Kishiyamas don't farm there no more, the Yokomizos don't farm there, the Nagakis moved out, they still farm, but they're in Alliance, (Neb.). Hirazawas are no longer there. Joe Kakuda used to be married to my, my cousin, I don't believe nobody in his family farmed. I don't think there was maybe three or four families that still farmed there. That's not an educated guess, that's just a guess. Because most of those boys eventually went to college or did something, or found other kind of employment. I don't think they farm anymore.

TI: I wanted to ask you about another gentleman from Nebraska, Ben Kuroki was from Nebraska. And during the war, he was a noted soldier. I think he flew in those bombers. And during the war, he was used by the War Department to help recruit the Niseis into the army. Did you know about Ben Kuroki during the war?

AM: Yeah. He was more the age of my sister, but, 'course, we were, all heard about Ben Kuroki, and he was from around the North Platte area, Sutherland or Hershey, Hershey, Nebraska, which was just a little farm town outside of the North Platte. And somehow he slipped through the cracks and became in the Air Force. And there wasn't many Japanese in the Air Force, but he did make a name for himself, he flew fifty or more missions in, over the Romanian oil, Ploesti oil fields, bombing oil fields, which was the Germans' supply for oil. And I don't know, I heard somewhere that he went to the Pacific, but I just heard that, that he went to the Pacific and kept a good thing going, which is good.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: So after you finished high school, then what happened?

AM: Well, about a month before I graduated, which was in May, I got a notice in the mail to report to a preinduction physical here in Fort Logan, Colorado. So there was one other Japanese kid, Henry Hayano, and lot of the boys from around the valley would get on the train and come to, come to Denver for our preinduction physical. And we stayed overnight and then they sent us back. And my draft status at that time was 1-C, and I don't know whether that was "undesirable alien" or whether, because I was still a student...

TI: Or was it 4-C? I think it was 4-C.

AM: Is it 4-C? But mine was a 1-C, I'm pretty sure.

TI: Oh, 1-C? Okay.

AM: Well, I think it was 4-C, but then, you see, I didn't have to register until I was eighteen, so I think the previous ones that registered were 4-C, "undesirable aliens," I think. I think mine was a 1-C, and I think they, they kind of laxed the requirements, and I think 1-C was a student. I think a couple days after I graduated, which was the end of, towards the end of May, I get this notice in the mail that I'm supposed to report to Fort Logan, that I'm qualified as a 1-A, and I passed my physical and all that stuff. So I think about June, June the 2nd or something like that, I was already on the, on the train coming up here to Denver. And we were sent to Fort Leavenworth, and from Fort Leavenworth was were sent to Camp Fanin, Texas, which is near Tyler, Texas, where our, our training, basic training, and that lasted for seventeen weeks. All through summer in that hot Texas sun, that was... when you got out of there, you was ready for anything.

TI: And about what year or what, what time was this? This was what year?

AM: What year?

TI: Yeah, what year?

AM: Oh, '45, 1945.

TI: So the, at this point, the war in Europe had, had come to an end.

AM: Yes.

TI: But you were still fighting the Japanese? This was, I guess, summer of '45?

AM: Yes. I believe that in May the, early part of May, I think, it was, the Germans had surrendered. It was probably over sometime in April, but I think officially it was over first part of May. So we was kind of relieved of that, but then they were still fighting in the Pacific. So when we were taking basic training, they kept telling us, "We're still fighting over there, we're still fighting over there." And so, you know, do your training real hard, no goofing off and all that kind of stuff. Of course, I think August, before our basic training officially ended, why, the war with Japan was over. So we was quite relieved. At least, at least it cut the options down. [Laughs]

TI: Right. So after you finished training, where were you stationed? Where did they send you?

AM: We went to Germany on the ship, I think it's the USS United States, big troop ship, I think, it was like ten thousand of us on the ship. Went to Europe, landed in France, La Havre, stayed there three or four days or longer, then they, we got on these boxcars and they shipped us probably through Belgium and ended up in Germany. And eventually we ended up in Augsburg, Germany. So I think we got to Germany, let's see, we spent, I know we spent Christmas in Augsburg. And then by the next Thanksgiving, they had sent us home. So it was a little short of two years.

TI: So I'm curious, while you were in Europe, did you ever, did people ever ask you about the 442nd?

AM: Yes. Matter of fact, we had a sergeant... what was happening at that time was a lot of the divisions were being rotated, sent home, and lot of it was on the point system. So we used to see these other GIs that's been there before us counting back how many months they've been there in service, and how many points you got and all that. So they were sending a lot of the GIs home that had been there during the war. We had one sergeant, his name was Isao Nishi, he's from Seattle. He joined our unit because the 522 Field Artillery Unit, the field artillery unit that he was in was being sent home, but he decided he wanted to stay in the service. So they sent him to us for a little while, and then I don't know where he went after that. Somebody said that he went, he wanted to go to Japan or something, but I really don't know. But when I came back and went to work here in the Denver, and I met some of the fellows that were in the 522 because I was in the American Legion here. "Oh, Sergeant Nishi? Yeah, I know him." And so that was quite an experience to meet somebody that everybody knew from the 522.

TI: Did, did Sergeant Nishi ever talk about what the 522nd or 442 did during the war?

AM: Well, I know that, I think going through France, they backed up the 442 in lot of their artillery things. But I do know that at the end of the war, they were in Dachau, and they were one of the first ones there to release the prisoners that were there at the concentration camp.

TI: Did Sergeant Nishi ever talk about that?

AM: No, because the first thing they did, they shut everybody out and they wouldn't let nobody in there even though they were the first ones in there. They put a guard around it, wouldn't let nobody else in there. And I suppose it was security reasons, they had special MPs and stuff to do all that, and they wouldn't let anybody in there.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: Okay. So you're, you spent two years in Europe, and then you were shipped back to the U.S. So where did you go from there? Where did you go?

AM: Well, they, we landed in, of course, we, they took us to the Statue of Liberty and all that kind of stuff, and we ended up in, in New Jersey, and we were processed. And I came back home, well, it wasn't home, but my folks, my mom and my sisters, had relocated from the, from the camps to Denver. So when I was on leave after my basic training was over, I came to Denver, and Mom fixed me a sashimi dinner and all that before I had to go overseas. So, of course, when I got shipped back, we came here, I came here, and then I wanted to go visit my, my aunt in Scottsbluff, and I stayed there for just a little while and helped her, just a little while, and then I came back. I was wanting to go back to Scottsbluff, and I wanted to start junior college because my benefactor there wanted me to go back to school. But my mom was working in the hospital laundry for thirty dollars a week or something like that, and I got three sisters still in school yet. And my brother had gone to school in Chicago. But I felt my need was here to be with my mom and help her out, 'cause she had a tough time.

TI: The last time we had talked about your father, he was still at a county hospital. So during the war and during this time, what happened to your father?

AM: Well, we used to exchange letters almost on a weekly or bi-weekly. And he used to tell me what, what he was doing there, which wasn't very much, and go for walks and talk with the other people that were there, the other Japanese patients. Used to read the paper a lot, keep up with the times. And he always had that message for me, "Always be good." Then one day I get the, I got a letter from my brother that, while he was on his way to Japan, that, January of '46, he had taken extensive training with the Japanese language school, MIS. But he was on his way to Japan in January of '46, and being he was in San Francisco, he had permission to see my dad. And he visited there and wrote me a letter that he looked pretty good and this and that. And then I think in... I can't be sure when, but I think it was February, a month later I get a telegram that my dad had passed away. And I couldn't secure any, any permission to leave to go back for the funeral and things. It was impossible, I tried the Red Cross and all that. But they had services here in Denver, I believe, and cremation.

TI: But he, he died, still, was he still in the county hospital in...

AM: Stockton.

TI: Stockton.

AM: French Camp, yeah. That address was French Camp telephone, San Joaquin General Hospital. But we used to exchange letters all the time. Write everything in English.

TI: By any chance, did you keep those letters? Do you still have those letters?

AM: I think I have a few of 'em.

TI: Yeah, those would be great keepsakes for your family, just to make sure you preserve those.

AM: Yeah, I still think I, I still have some. I'd have to ask my wife. She kind of keeps track of anything anymore. I'm getting too old to keep track of anything. [Laughs]

TI: Something that was just curious, in the Seattle area, people who were invalid, my understanding was that they even shipped the invalids inland off the coast. But in Stockton, they, they left people there, Japanese, even though it was a exclusion zone. And so I was just, just a comment. I haven't heard of people who actually, even though they were hospitalized, stayed in that zone. I thought they all, they had all left.

AM: I don't know whether they had guards there. That was never discussed with my dad. He, he... I know that he roamed the yard, you know, that was exercise, get out, and they pretty much encouraged getting out, walking and stuff like that. But he never said that there was guards around or anything like that.

TI: So we're now, it's after the war, after your military service, you're now in Denver helping your mom and your sisters, so what did you do? How did you help them out?

AM: Well, I took a variety of different jobs. I had no skill in anything. When I was in high school, of course, I washed dishes until my senior term, but that's no skill, being a pearl diver. Well, let's see. I think some friends got me a job at the Cudahy packing house, and I worked there for just a short terms, because they went on strike. And I don't even remember being a union member there. So then I went and looked for another job, and I went to work for, in the produce area. They was hiring lot of Japanese there, Japanese appeared to have a good record of employment and this and that, so there was a lot of Japanese working on the docks there, in produce. Being lot of those guys were farmers, they knew the produce, so it was pretty much their nature. It wasn't a career thing, but it was a stopgap until they took it, some of 'em wanted to go back to California or something like that.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: And so where we left off is you're now back in Denver, this is after the war, and you were describing some of your work. But before we continue with your work, can you just tell me about the Japanese and Japanese American community in Denver, and what was that like at this time?

AM: I recall that there was a lot of Japanese here in town. Before, it used to be just along Larimer Street, they used to have some stores there. But after the, when I came here after the war, the Japanese community really grew. They had a dozen Japanese restaurants, they had a couple portrait photography shops, they had a couple of fish markets, couple grocery stores with Japanese goods, employment office, they had a number of things here that we never had here before. Of course, when I say before, when my dad was ill, we came to Denver a couple times, and my recollection when I was maybe eleven, twelve years old, something like that. And it was just from one side of the street to the other side of the street, maybe a block long and that was all. There was a family here, he was a doctor, Dr. Miyamoto, and I do not know the relationship between my him and my dad, but they were very, very good friends. So whenever we used to come to Denver, we would always have to go and visit Dr. Miyamoto. And it's just like family, so I don't know what the relationship was, but there was so many other... it was really weird. They have a pool hall, they had a couple pool halls, and it's just like another little town here, just right down here on a couple streets. Couple barbers, couple beauty shops, and right now, when you go there, there's one beauty shop, I think there's still one barber, there was only one grocery store, couple restaurants, maybe three restaurants. There's 20th Street and there's Yoko's... maybe only two restaurants left.

TI: So it sounds like, so before the war, there was a sizeable Japanese and Japanese American community, and then right after the war it was much larger.

AM: Oh, it really expanded.

TI: Really expanded, and then today, you're saying, it now has gotten smaller again.

AM: Yeah.

TI: And would you say smaller than it was before the war, right before the war?

AM: I, I think that there were some bigger companies, I think there was an S. Ban company here in town. There was another company here in town that handed lot of the goods, food, things from the coast. This was their branch office type of thing. Other than that, there wasn't a whole lot of Japanese businesses, although they, there was a good population of Japanese here. But right now, it seems like our Japanese town is not as big as it was then. 'Course, I have to also say that Japanese are dispersed all throughout, they've assimilated. And the businesses have done the same thing, there's insurance companies out here, there's one out here, there's... and then, of course, the Asian influx, there's the Korean markets and Thai markets. You know, they're all Asian, they keep the same type of goods for all the nationalities.

TI: So going back to right after the war, when it was a large population, where did all the Japanese and Japanese Americans come from?

AM: Well, they came from the camps. And then they relocated here, like Amache was about two hundred, two hundred miles south of Denver. And lot of those people came out around their work release. You know, they came out to work, they went to Wyoming, they went to Nebraska, the same thing happened up in Idaho, Minidoka. People went to Montana to farm, they went to Wyoming, many places. They went to work sugar beets and whatnot. Then they came back in the wintertime and they went back out again. 'Course, I think when the camps closed, if the people didn't have holdings back to where they lived before, lot of 'em just stayed out here. They kind of got to know the people, they got to, some of 'em were short of a job when they come out, and you know, those kind of things. There's quite a few people here from Amache. I wouldn't say a lot, but there's people here from Amache. Chicago has a lot of people from the Arkansas camps, they still live there.

TI: And so you had this sort of combination of, of people who were here before the war, a sizeable community, and then you have this influx of people from the camps. How did the two groups get together? Did you notice any friction between the two groups?

AM: Not really. I think the only friction was with the Kibeis. And they had a, they marched to the beat of a different drummer, so to speak. And I know even in camp, when we had problems, it was always with the Kibeis. And they used to have a few things here with the Kibeis here, but they really never got it going. Every once in a while, you'd hear of some Kibeis, but then eventually I think most of those went back to California.

TI: What would be an example of something that, you said they'd try to get something going, what would that thing be? What type of activity would they be...

AM: With who?

TI: With the Kibei. What, when you mentioned they would "try to get something going," what would that be?

AM: Well, yeah, it appears that a lot of it had to do with the, joining the service. And, "Don't let the United States push you around," and this and that. They seemed to, to recall that they seemed to forget. These Niseis over here don't know anything else. They'd never been to Japan to be brainwashed or anything. That's what, that's what we thought, "These guys have all been brainwashed in Japan." People over here, the Niseis, they don't know anything like that, you know.

TI: And so was this happening during the war or after the war?

AM: During the war. In camps, it happened a lot. Yeah, even in the camps in the first assembly centers, they had some problems with some of those Kibeis. Then I don't know, it appears that the Kibeis that were always starting the trouble weren't family people. They were mostly young, younger bachelor type, non-married, and maybe that's what, they needed something to do. But it always appeared that it was always the Kibeis that was... [laughs].

TI: And so after the war, so this was happening, sort of, during the war, these tensions. Did you see any of that after the war? Say between people that, yeah, between, as you mentioned, Kibei or any other groups? Did you see tension?

AM: No, not so much. I would have to say that lot of the Kibeis had to forget, they had other things to do, and that was, one, to make a living. And a lot of 'em went chick sexing, that was, I know a lot of Kibeis did chick sexing. But they would have to go back east where a lot of the poultry farms were, Georgia, Pennsylvania, they went to school in Lancaster or something like that, up there in, someplace up there in Pennsylvania, they had a big chick sexing school where you learned how to, you know, determine what the sex of the chickens were, chicks. And, but I do know that a lot of the Kibeis I got to know, that's what they were doing. And I think a lot of 'em just determined, found out that, "Hey, I have to go work for a living, I can't hang around the pool halls all the time." [Laughs]

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: Within this last year, a fairly well-known Nisei, Bill Hosokawa, who was a writer in Denver, passed away. And Bill originally came from the Pacific Northwest, and so, so I've heard stories about Bill Hosokawa in Seattle and places like that. I'm curious, when he was in Denver, did you read much of his work when he was in Denver?

AM: Bill was an honorary member of the American Legion. I did not deal too much with Bill. I met him... Bill was a quiet person. He never, in my opinion, never went out of his way to say, "I'm Bill Hosokawa, how are you?" and this and that. He wasn't a, to me, he wasn't a warm person. He was an observing person, but he wasn't a warm person as far as I'm concerned. Min Yasui was from Hood River; he was an attorney. We made him an honorary member of American Legion, but Min did a lot for the Japanese people here. He did a lot for the American Legion, offering opinions and this and that. He was more of a, a person that I would look up to, rather than Bill. Bill did things for, for his own way.

TI: Well, an so you had both Min Yasui and Bill Hosokawa, and both of them were, were very active in the JACL, especially during that early postwar period. So did that make Denver a stronger town for the JACL? I'm curious what roles they played in the community around these issues.

AM: Well, a lot of people that I knew, the younger ones, resented the fact that the JACL in the first place didn't appreciate the Japanese being taken off the coast and relocated to the Salt Lake area. They, from what I know, they didn't, they weren't for that, they didn't want them to relocate up there. Here again, this country's gotten smaller and smaller, the whole world has gotten smaller and smaller, and I think there was a lack of communication in those days. From my own experience, people in California were, like from a different country than people from the interior. And I guess I can say at this point -- and I've changed -- is that because of that, there was this discrimination. Because the people in Salt Lake didn't know the people on the coast. I myself from the interior went to California, I didn't know those people. They were different. Some of those places, just like what I hear about being in Japan, they had outdoor furo, you know, the bathhouses and all that kind of stuff, we never, "What's that?" you know. That's, seemed like it come from a foreign country. But they had lot of those customs they retained there. They had more of a closer tie to Japan than people from the interior, and I think that's because there was more Japanese there and they intermingled more. They pretty much spoke the same language, whereas people out here, why, you're next door neighbor is ten miles away or something like that, that spoke Nihongo. And most of your contacts was with the Caucasians.

TI: So let me, let me see if I can clarify. So a lot of the leadership of the JACL was located in Salt Lake City, and you're saying because they didn't understand, really, the Japanese on the coast as much, that was one of, you think, the reasons why the JACL was more... what's the right word? I guess cooperating with the government to put people in camps?

AM: Uh-huh.

TI: And part of that was because they just didn't really understand the West Coast Japanese as much. So is that what you're saying?

AM: Yeah, I think that was, you know, just the communication and all that, like I said before, the world has gotten real small, and you could stand next to a guy and you don't know where he's from, he could be a million miles away, so to speak. But in those days, my gosh, even if you went on a trip of two or three hundred miles, that was...

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: That's why I was curious. So Denver was such a, a crossroads of not only the interior Japanese Americans, but then West Coast, the ones who were in camp and then resettled. And so that's why I was wondering if those different cultures, those different, sort of, backgrounds, sort of clashed. Because when you went to California, you were kind of one of, in this large group. So you were, there wasn't probably any tension. But in Denver, it was maybe a little closer in terms of the sizes. And I was wondering if, like, there was any friction between, like, the West Coast Japanese and the interior Japanese.

AM: Well, I, I can't answer that because by the time I got here, why, I've been in camp for two years, been in California another year, and I just can, since you asked, I can tell you that there's a cultural difference. But pretty soon, with all your friends and this and that, you kind of forget your cultural differences and you just accept it as things that maybe you missed out on or something like that. I didn't see anything, when I first left the camp, I came to Denver to see my sister 'cause she was already here. And I remember meeting lot of her friends, some of her friends that were living here in Colorado, and some of the friends that she had that had come from camp, other camps. I really didn't see a whole lot of difference. I used to go to the Y dances here, that used to be like a weekly thing or a monthly thing or something like that, and you get to meet some, 'cause everything, everything was stag, or women came by themselves mostly. You know, how the old Japanese camp dance thing was, very similar to that. But I really didn't notice that much difference. The only thing I noticed was the way they danced.

TI: And how was that? How were they different?

AM: Well, I think the people up here, when they went to dance, I think some of them learned how to do the proper steps, and then the people from California didn't dance properly. They had what they called the shuffle and things like that, and I think that was the difference. And so we didn't jitterbug up here. It just seemed like it was, started with the California shuffle, it wasn't exactly like a, it was like a slow jitterbug type of thing. And then when I was in camp, they used to have dance classes, and the women's P.E. teacher used to do that. So she'd want so many of the boys to come from their P.E. classes, and the girls would all have to be there. So she learned us the foxtrot and the waltz and stuff like that, and I kind of liked that. So I used to dance a lot after that. [Laughs]

TI: So today, when you think of, like, West Coast Japanese American communities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and maybe even Seattle, and then you think of the interior communities like Denver, Chicago, Salt Lake City, how would you compare the difference in terms of, do you think there's a difference between kind of the West Coast Japanese and the interior Japanese?

AM: Oh, yeah.

TI: How would you characterize that? This is interesting.

AM: Absolutely. My, my oldest sister, she's deceased now, but we used to go visit them quite often in California. But their whole life spins around a lot of Japanese things. They got the big Japanese stores there, and of course, they belong to the Buddhist temple there and lot of their friends. But at her age, she still knows a lot of Nihongo, still is able to read Nihongo. They have closer ties to things from Japan, because there's a strong, there still is a stronger culture there just merely because a lot of the Japanese companies have settled there. And they have a lot of cultural programs and things of that nature. Whereas out here, we're more Anglicized. You still have some Japanese culture like the Hanamatsuri and stuff like that, but that's our only touch with that Japanese. 'Cause my granddaughter, she dances with the Bukkyokai, and during their programs, she's one of those that dances on the stage, and she just loves it. And she's a junior in high school this year, but she's been doing it for a couple of years. She really likes it.

TI: And so when you have sort of the West Coast, which tend to be more closer to the Japanese or Japanese culture, and then the interiors who, as you say, are more Anglicized, like today, if you went to a conference or a reunion or, like, for instance, have you ever gone to a Gila River reunion or anything like that?

AM: Uh-huh.

TI: And so when you go there, how does it feel? Does it feel... how do the two cultures interact, do you think?

AM: I don't feel any different. I don't feel, when we go to, we've been to about four of 'em, I think, or so, four or five of 'em there in Las Vegas and one in Phoenix. And I meet my old friends there, and some I don't know, meet 'em and this and that. My sister, she's always been on that committee, so she's always introducing me to people that are on, her coworkers on the committees and this and that. And I really don't feel any difference cultural-wise. Because the culture doesn't really show up there. Culture seems like it shows up at your home or in the environment, and this is a different kind of environment, so it doesn't show up. Not that I notice, anyway.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: So I want to now go back, you were talking about, at one point, the American Legion. And so you're, I want to go back in time now, back after the war, probably early '50s, that era. Well, I guess, tell me first how you met your wife. I think that's all part of that.

AM: Probably, we started up a baseball team, and 'course, we used to play teams from the churches, or mostly just among Nihonjin. And all thse little towns around here like Brighton and, you just talked to the Konishis and all that, Greeley used to have a baseball team, Platteville, Longmont, Brighton, they all used to have their own baseball teams, and most of 'em all used to be either teenagers or on up. And her brother used to play it with us, and she'd always show up. So I asked her for a date one time, and we just started seeing each other. And then she had, she didn't have any parents here, her mother had passed away when she was just an infant. Her father had divorced the mother before she passed away, and during the war, he went back to Nihon. So she was just here with her brother, but then she was pretty much taken care of, living with her aunt and her grandparents and working with her, paying the rent and stuff like that. And so one time we just decided we'll get married and just, she said the simplest way would probably just go and get married, so we done that. Of course, we disappointed everybody. They didn't like what we did, but up to this point, my wife never regretted it, she, running off and getting married, she thought that was kind of a good way to get out of whatever she was in at that time.

TI: And so where, when you say get married, so you went to another city to get married?

AM: Yeah, we just went to Golden, and we applied for a license, of course, and in those days, you still had to take your blood test and all that. Went up to Golden and got married, and went to a mountain town, mountain town and spent a few days there and came home. And we started housekeeping, we rented a place from a Japanese family. And I still had my job, she still had hers, and we got some cheap silverware and plates and stuff and started a house. Went out and bought, bought an icebox, refrigerator, that thing still works. [Laughs]

TI: And what was it about Nancy that attracted you to her?

AM: I, I think that, besides, she's really a pretty woman, she just had a calmness around her. And she wasn't the type to be giddy-giddy about anything, and real quiet, demure. Had a sense of humor and all that, yeah.

TI: And so the two of you started a family. How many children did you have, and why don't you tell me who your children are?

AM: Okay, the oldest is Carol, I think she was born in, we got married in 1950. I think Carol was born in '51 or '52. Carol's my oldest daughter, she has, she's a teacher at Colorado University. I have a son born in '53, and he is in computer work, he was the chief programmer and analyst for a microfiche company. And then my youngest is Joyce -- of course, my son has three daughters, and one of the daughters has two sons. Well, that makes me a great-great grandpappy. My youngest one, she's married, she lives in Lakewood, she's an environmental scientist, and she doesn't have any children, and she's, wants to be a yoga instructor. She had me doing yoga yesterday.

TI: [Laughs] That's great.

AM: So they're all doing real well.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: So Alfred, you have this large extended family, so you have your three children, grandchildren, and now great grandchildren. When you think about your life and all the things, are there certain messages that you would like to, say, give to your great grandchildren? I mean, because they're young right now, so they really can't communicate with you. But in the future, if they were here, older, sort of like in high school, what are some of the things that are important to tell them?

AM: I never expected to really live this long. When Nancy and I first got married, I was thinking, "I wonder if I'll ever see my kids graduate from high school." And then I'm, the next thing is they're getting graduated, and the next thing I'm thinking is, "I wonder if I'll ever be, live long enough to see grandkids." And then that goes on, and here you are, you're looking at your great grandkids. We have done everything that we were able to do for our children. And I think one of the strongest things that Japanese families have is to take care of your family. And by the same token, it's reciprocal, it comes back to you. So I got daughters that dote on me, and a son that dotes on me, and kids that dote on me. And by the same token, we're doting on our kids, too. So just in that alone, I think it's been pretty good.

TI: That's, that's good. We're reaching the end of our time, and so is there anything else that you wanted to say before we end? I want to make sure that we end about the same time Nancy does, so is there anything else that you want to finish?

AM: I don't know. I guess, you know, people ask me, says, "How you doing, Al?" And I say, "Well, little as possible." "How are you today?" I says, "Well, I got up and I saw the light from the outside and I can still wiggle my fingers." But you know, when you get older, you have a different philosophy, and lot of things that I grew up with, and you see the changes, and it does change your personality a lot. And like you say, well, I used to have an outgoing personality when I was a lot younger, and then when you go through life, for some reason, there's things that, that alter that. I still have a lot of empathy and a lot of sympathy for a lot of people, and I'm still a good-hearted old guy, but there's lots of things in this world that just don't settle good within me. I think that probably goes for everybody, but I always say what I think.

TI: And is there anything in particular that, that doesn't settle with you right now that you're willing to share, or would you rather leave that unsaid?

AM: Yeah, that's been one of my problems. I always pretty much say what I think, you know.

TI: [Laughs] Well, maybe we won't get you in trouble, we'll stop right here.

AM: One thing, I'm just too old to worry about it. [Laughs]

TI: Well, Al, thank you so much for the time. This was really, I think more useful than you realize in terms of information.

AM: Well, I hope it didn't get too boring.

TI: No, this was excellent. So again, thank you on behalf of the Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho for doing this.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.