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-01-0020

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RP: Kinge, can you tell us a little bit about what kind of activities you shared with the kids at, at the summer camp?

KO: Oh, well, other than the groups they came with had their own organized stuff that they did, usually in the evenings or something like that. And during the day, we would have, those that wanted to, wanted the outdoor experience got hikes up the trail and stuff like that. And sometimes some of the groups, well, occasionally we would have some of the high school teachers come with us. Especially like we had a naturalist come with us, and he led a couple of these groups out for, in one case, snake hunting. He's the guy I told you about that grabbed the snake by the tail. Big, like a three or four foot rattlesnake, you had to grab, so he brought that home with him. A live snake, he was swinging it at arm's length, just swinging it back and forth. The snake couldn't do anything about it, head down, and he managed to stuff that into, I guess, a gallon mayonnaise jar or something like that, took it back to school. He was a high school teacher, so he took it back to school with him for a snake thing. And he would go out with a group, and I usually would go out with part of that group. Because otherwise, he'd be trying to handle thirty or forty kids all by himself, that wouldn't be practical. So I would essentially... he would go first, and I would bring up the rear to keep the kids in line.

RP: Besides snakes, what other wildlife do you recall observing up there?

KO: Well, the usual desert wildlife, rabbits and rattlesnakes and squirrels, few squirrels. But that area is pretty desolate, and I think the kids scared 'em all off anyway. And a few would occasionally take a group out for a hike up the hills and stuff, and that was always a big problem. These kids in their natural exuberance would be running all over the place, and we had to keep tabs on 'em like mad, otherwise they'd get themselves hurt. Like the group I told you about where the kids were running downhill, and I had to stop 'em and throw a rock over the edge that they were running towards and told 'em to listen for the rock to hit, and they couldn't hear anything. Then I guess that put a stop to their running downhill. [Laughs] The more responsible kids in the group made sure that the rest of the kids didn't go tearing down that hill.

RP: Did you have a swimming pool or any place that kids could cool off a little bit?

KO: Let's see. I think we had a pool. We had a, what amounted to a basement, a concrete basement that the old CCC camp had or something, and filled that full of water from natural runoff from the spring they had. Filled that full of water. There was also always water running through that so that they had a swimming hole.

RP: And your water supply for the camp was a spring?

KO: Yeah, it was a spring. Actually, I think we had a tank and a spring, and so the kitchen area, the faucet and water coming out of it. And we had a head with running water in it. It wasn't a flush type, it was a running water continuously running through it. So it was a very civilized camp. [Laughs] The CCC people who had built the thing had done a very good job in the original setup, so we were able to adapt all sorts of things. And I think, yeah, we did have a cold shower capability. Cold, yeah, the spring water was cold, so the kids were able to either take a cold shower or go swimming or whatever. Either way, they froze.

RP: And how you supply the, or how did the camp supply food to the groups up there?

KO: How?

RP: How did you guys get food up there for meals and things?

KO: Oh, we had a supply truck that would come up. Usually it was a supply truck that came up once a week and bring a week's worth of food up. And occasionally there would be two trips a week bringing the perishables up when they were available. So they had a truck, couple of trucks usually, plus the bus that brought the kids up. That bus was the one, every other week. The trucks were about twice a week. It was a regular large-size ton and a half truck or something like that, and it would bring a week's supply of food, or a half a week's, depending on how many people were there. And we had a, what amounted to a supply tent that we kept the stuff in.

RP: Did you eat pretty much the same food that you would have eaten in camp?

KO: Oh, yeah. Same, pretty much.

RP: Same old slop?

KO: Same old slop. Like I say, like I said about our block, we had the advantage of a professional cook. But we had just one cook in this case, and he did everything. And, of course, the KP was done by the kids to keep them busy, so they would get assigned KP duty every now and then, and rotate that through the kids. The kids were happy enough to do that, 'cause that was something different for them.

RP: Did they ever express to you how happy they were to be out of camp?

KO: Oh, yeah. They had fun. They didn't express it explicitly, but --

RP: You could feel it.

KO: You could feel it. It was different, it wasn't the same old thing. They could run around and go chase squirrels and stuff. All we had to do was make sure that they were back in time for eating. And of course they always came back to eat. [Laughs] 'Cause we had nothing like the sandwich and stuff to carry around, 'cause there was no such supply.

RP: What did you, did you have evening activities as well, like the traditional, you know, campfire programs or singing?

KO: Oh, yeah, each group had their own program that they did. And let's see, I don't think we had any movies, I don't know if we had a portable projector that would work in that. Yeah, I think all our lighting was kerosene lamp and stuff, so we had no electrical stuff to speak of. I think we had a few minor things that ran electrically, but not enough to work a projector or anything like that. So everything was primitive, you might call it. And it was different for the kids, so they didn't have to worry about it. I think they all enjoyed it. None of this business of having to regimentally go to sit in the theater or something like that, and do things, or go out and look at the stars. That was the other thing, they got to go out and do their star watching and stuff like that. Gee, a few knowledgeable lectures could talk to 'em about stars. The Boy Scouts especially got the star watch thing. Unfortunately, we didn't have any telescopes or anything, but it was the, all basic, look at the night sky type of thing. And we didn't have any camp lights or stuff like, so it was a nice, dark night.

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