Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Kinge Okauchi Interview
Narrator: Kinge Okauchi
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Ridgecrest, California
Date: July 16, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-okinge-01-0016

<Begin Segment 16>

RP: Give us a picture of Topaz the first few days that you got there. How did, how were you affected by what you saw there in the camp, the environment?

KO: It was essentially like a typical... if you have any familiarity with an army camp, the brand new army camp, that was it. The dirt, loose dirt was ankle-deep all around, buildings were just, new buildings, tarpaper shacks, nothing, no amenities, no nothing. No... just the shell of the building with partitions for the different rooms. The only difference was that we were essentially, the buildings were cut up into family-style quarters instead of one big barrack.

RP: They had partitions?

KO: Yeah, they had... the thing, the unit I was in was a barrack-type building, except that they had cut it up into six units. I think a 10 or 12 x 20 unit on each end, and then I think a 20 x 20 unit next to it, and then they had the same 20 x 20 in the middle except that the two middle ones had a common doorway and they were for bigger families. One family got the whole, two units. The two next sized ones were issued to a smaller family, and then the individual sized ones were on the ends. There were one or two people lived in those. And this was our end of it now. This was our half of the camp. The other half had similar units, except that I think their units were bigger, bigger family units. And the layout was the same as an army camp; you had a mess hall and the bathroom facility in the middle, mess hall and the bath facilities. And then the buildings, the barracks building was on each side. Then we had one, one spare building on the end which was supposed to be a recreation building, miscellaneous purpose, which hardly anybody used, had any use for. There was nothing to use it with. [Laughs] So we just used it as a play room or something like that.

RP: Do you remember the block and the barrack room number that... your address?

KO: Well, I know the number, 29-8-F.

RP: 29-8-F. And was that in the middle of the camp or the edge?

KO: No, it was... see, I was on, let's see, three blocks from... let's see, one row in from the end, and I was the, it was the third block, I think, from the boundary line. So I was, there was one group of buildings off to one side of the fence, and then there was a, they went down this way, and there was a fence line, and we were the second or third unit down. So we were about two, two blocks from one fence line, and three blocks from another fence line. And we were off in one corner, so we were about as far away as we can get from the bureaucratic part of the town, so that was sort of convenient. And let's see, I think there was probably a couple of more blocks to the other side of us, and then a whole bunch of warehouses and stuff like that. And I was, I think my block was about two blocks from the area they had set aside of the community area for the schools and whatchamacallit, auditorium and stuff like that. But like I say, when we first got there, it was all dirt, and absolutely nothing. Fortunately, the dirt blew away after a couple of weeks of all the wind blowing stuff.

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