Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: James Nishimura Interview
Narrator: James Nishimura
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Date: November 7, 2007
Densho ID: denshovh-njames-01-0014

<Begin Segment 14>

RP: How about, there were... you mentioned about dancing, going to dances or other activities. Did you ever ice skate out there, they had a little skating pond, or swimming holes?

JN: Yes, right, my father did buy us a pair of ice skates that my brother and I shared. Ice skating in camp was not a big thing. I mean, it was a huge pond. And if it was a smaller pond, I mean, reflecting back on the mechanics of ice, it would have been much better. But with all the wind that traversed the surface of that pond, it just became very bumpy. I don't know, I think... no, to answer your question, we did ice skate, but it was not like ice skating in Long Island, in the little ponds of Long Island.

RP: What about dealing with the extremes of temperature, coming from Seattle, kind of a mild area?

JN: Well, it was horrible. I mean, even as a child I remember. It was an experience to go to the bathroom or to go to the mess hall to eat, which was fun. But the weather, it was bad. You're always slopping in mud. I remember the older men, members of the community, they made wooden clogs, getas, and yeah, as a matter of fact, I had a pair but I didn't use them because you had to have, you wore 'em with bare feet and in the winter you couldn't use (them). The winds were just horrible when we first went there, I remember, even as a child. The barracks as you might see in some pictures were built above ground, they were not on slabs of concrete, above ground. And there was an opening of two feet at least from the ground to the floor, the bottom part of the flooring. And that was just a constant wind tunnel if you will. And then in the barrack itself there was only one plank, in other words, one 1x6 that separated you from the ground, and there (were) cracks in between. And the winds, I mean, the deserts of southern Idaho and the winds, during the spring for instance, or in the summer even, when we first moved there, that dust would come up and go and permeate every, everything within that room. We only had one room for the whole family. So I remember that, it was a constant, and then of course the men went and the lumber that we got from the other side of the fence was used to shore, to cover the opening between the ground and the first floor (...). Somehow, I don't know where they got the tarpaper and they covered (...) the lumber (siding) with tarpaper so that helped. But it was brutal. The dust was just as brutal as the cold. And the cold was bad, too. You either froze or you boiled to death. We had a big potbelly stove I see in some of the pictures, I'm active with the (...) Japanese American (National) Museum, and they have a lot of historical photographs. They show in some of the camps beautiful enameled stoves. Well, heck, I can remember nothing but a potbellied cast iron stove. And it was very efficient because there's nothing to dissipate, to slow down that heat. But it was hot for the first two feet or three feet away from it and the rest of the room was... now, I should not complain, it was adequate heat. I don't think I froze ever, but that was how it was heated.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.