Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Eddie Owada Interview
Narrator: Eddie Owada
Interviewer: Alisa Lynch
Location: Denver, Colorado
Date: July 5, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-oeddie-01-0017

<Begin Segment 17>

AL: What kind of pastimes did you have in camp? Were you involved in any sports or clubs?

EO: Yes, there was. We watched kids playing baseball, some softball. And that's where I was introduced to weightlifting. 1943, the Klamath Falls weightlifting club came down to Tule Lake and they had a kind of a impromptu weightlifting contest. And the Tule Lake had quite a group of weightlifters, the picture. And Emerick Ishikawa, who was becoming a national champion, was the one that kind of started the club there. And from Bob Hoffman in York, Pennsylvania, I think it was through him, he managed to get, at that time a Olympic type weightlifting set. Nothing compared with the Olympic set of today. He had quite a group gathered there. And that's where I was introduced to weightlifting. And, I carried that with me the following year, in 1944 when I was transferred to Minidoka, Idaho, as one of the "yes-yes" boys, people would know. That's when we had to answer a "loyalty questionnaire." We were sent there to Tule Lake -- from Tule Lake to Minidoka.

And there in Minidoka we continued going to school. I remember one of my teacher's name was Frank Kawasaki. He was my shop and mechanical engineer, mechanical instructor. And from him I learned more about mechanics. I was very interested in mechanical things. I was interested in driving, and I was interested in the trucks, and so the things that he taught was right down my line. I remember when I was a kid at home back on the island, I would get a Sears Roebuck catalog, look through and get to the automobile parts section and look at the different things, like the differential parts, axel parts, the tires. And try to figure, by putting them together mentally, how everything worked. I remember going to our neighbor's place one day, 'cause Dad wanted to order some tires for a Model T Ford that he had. He can drive a Model T 'cause it didn't have a stick shift. And I remember the size of the tires were 33 1/2 by 30 inch, 30 by 3 1/2 inch tire. And we wanted to get a tube for it. T-U-B-E. My English and everything being lousy, I used to call it a tub, instead of a tube. I went to our neighbors and said... I showed 'em the paper, the order blank we had made out, put down the number. She checked that that was all right. And, "I wanted to get one 30 by 3 1/2 inch tub for this tire." Oh, she said, "That's called a tube." And so I learned little by little about these things. I watched my dad change the transmission band on Model T Ford. And little by little I picked up different things about the automobile. So when I went to Minidoka I was very interested in mechanical things. Over there they had one truck that had... it was a international KK-7. The model came before the KB-7. I looked at, crawled underneath and looked at it, it had a five-speed transmission. Wow. It had a three-speed brownie -- which is auxiliary transmission, Brown-Lipe auxiliary -- and I was really thrilled by looking at those things. And it ended up that in, in Minidoka, I got a job -- maybe because of my mechanical interests and ability -- job at the fire station. I was an engineer driving the fire truck. That was something. The fire chief was Mitch Yano. He later, in Salt Lake City, became one of my judo instructors.

AL: You know, we have a 1942 fire engine at Manzanar. It's got like 8,000 miles on it. So, if you ever come to Manzanar, you can drive our fire truck. [Laughs]

KP: You can crawl underneath it and look at it, too.

EO: It was probably a Ford LaFrance? Or a Boyer.

AL: Ours is a, it's a Ford.

EO: Ford would be a Ford LaFrance.

AL: Okay.

EO: LaFrance fire engine that's on it. We had, we had Ford LaFrance and the Boyer. You know, Boyeir, Boyer we call it.

KP: That would be the body that they put on the truck? Is that what you're talking about?

EO: Yeah, the cab was a regular --

KP: Ford.

EO: -- International or a Ford. The back... the far section with the pumps, the reel, hoses, was a LaFrance or a Boyer.

AL: We might have to contact you when we go to restore it, 'cause we... that's, it's helpful to have that information. You were talking about your dad and mechanics. Were you in contact with your father while you were in the camps?

EO: Yes. Just before we were transferred out of Tule Lake, he was able to join us. But in August of 1942, through channels, we requested that Dad be released from the POW camp in Missoula to join three young teenagers who were without adult supervision in Tule Lake. One year to the date on that paper, Dad was released and he joined us in Tule Lake. And he was there for just a short period of time when he was transferred with us to Minidoka.

AL: Did he have any kind of advice for you or directions for you when you were in camp before he was with you about how he wanted you to behave or how he wanted you to answer the "loyalty questionnaire"? Any kinds of...

EO: The "loyalty questionnaire," he never said anything about that. But we just, we were... for me, I was American, I wanted the American way. I didn't even want Japanese. So to me, "yes-yes" was easy. Dad would tell us about being good boys. 'Cause we were just kids yet then. And that was the main thing, emphasis, and he emphasized being good kids, being good citizens. That means we obey, follow directions.

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