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

<Begin Segment 1>

RP: This is an oral history for the Manzanar National Historic Site. Today we're talking with Kinge Okauchi.

KO: Uh-huh, yeah.

RP: Kinge lives at 353 Phillips Street in Ridgecrest, California. The date of the interview is July 16, 2008, the interviewer is Richard Potashin, and the videographer is Kirk Peterson. We'll be talking with Kinge about his experiences at, first, the Tanforan Assembly Center, and also the Topaz War Relocation Center, and later his experiences at the China Lake Naval Weapons Center. Kinge, thank you so much for sharing some time this morning. And we want to jump right into things here and talk a little bit about your early, early life, starting right with your birth. Tell us where you were born and what year.

KO: Well, I was born in Sacramento, California, in 1924. Probably somewhere near Old Town as it exists now. I don't exactly know where, 'cause I looked a few years ago to see if I could find a street name that was familiar from my own recollection and papers I may have had, but I couldn't find the street. I have a feeling that there's a parking lot where I was born. [Laughs] Anyway, I looked around, and it's a few blocks, probably a quarter of a mile from Old Town, what is now Old Town, is my guess. Because that's about where the street address that was on my birth certificate, at least -- I shouldn't say street address -- I don't remember if there was a street address. But there was a doctor's office or something mentioned. But they never gave real details on that, so I couldn't be sure.

RP: What was the month and day of your birth?

KO: That was in May, May the 20th.

RP: 1924.

KO: Yeah.

RP: And your given name at birth was Kinge Okauchi? You had no middle name?

KO: No middle name.

RP: And did you ever acquire an American name at all?

KO: No, never.

RP: Never used an American name.

KO: People would distort my first name, anywhere from Kay to Ken to Kinge, any combination of characters you want, including a college professor who couldn't ever pronounce my name properly. [Laughs] That was always convenient, because every time we had roll call, every now and then he'd do roll call, and every time he stumbled on a name, at the proper part of the alphabet, that would be me.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

RP: Tell us a little bit about your parents' background. Your father, first of all, his name?

KO: His name was Mitsuyuki, yeah, Mitsuyuki, and last name was whatever he translated the last name into. That's the way I got it now, is the way he translated. And he came over, I guess, somewhere around the turn of the century. I'm not quite sure, maybe even just before, but he never was quite specific. And I doubt if he really knew, 'cause at that time, he didn't speak any English. And he came as an immigrant. Of course, he was able to get an... what do you call it? Immigration permit...

RP: A visa?

KO: Yeah, visa, yeah, that's it. He wasn't, he was proud of the fact that he wasn't one of the indentured laborers that came over. He had a visa, immigration visa, and came in directly.

RP: Where did he come into, do you remember?

KO: From what he said, he apparently came through immigration in, whatever that place in Seattle was at that time. And got off the boat, went through immigration, took another boat down to San Francisco and came through Angel Island at that time. And I guess got a job in San Francisco as a houseboy, apparently. And he didn't speak English, and from what he says, he had a wonderful way -- I shouldn't say wonderful -- he had a devil of a time with the language. Because the people worked for was a French couple who came from France, and they spoke, you might say, "Frenchicized" English and he couldn't speak. [Laughs] And the combination was that neither could speak English properly. So they had a terrible time trying to communicate. But apparently, I guess he worked for them until the San Francisco earthquake. And then everybody got driven out. And that's part of the reason why we don't know much about (what) his original papers, stuff with, all the documentation he had was lost in the earthquake. He had abandoned his trunk and possessions, and getting away from that fire they had. He had to abandon it in a park, and by the time he got back, his baggage and everything had been gone through by all the bums and stuff, and scattered around so he couldn't find his possessions anymore. About all he had left was what he was wearing and carrying.

RP: Where did he immigrate from in Japan? What part of Japan?

KO: As far as I could tell, it was Yamaguchi-ken or something like that, the mainland part near Tokyo or near Kyoto or whatever it was that, I guess it was Tokyo at that time. But he was somewhere near the mainland. And, let's see. I'm not sure whether he was near the coast or one of the inland prefectures or something.

RP: Did he ever talk much about his family in Japan, his mother and father, brothers and sisters?

KO: Not particularly. He had an elder brother who was in the Russo-Japanese war and in the army. And he made light colonel by the time he retired just before World War II. So he was, his elder brother apparently was the supply corps type. And made light colonel, and then apparently he got a few decorations for his service in the Russo-Japanese War.

RP: Were there any other siblings or members of his family that came over to the United States?

KO: His sister, I guess his sister, next younger sister I think it was, one closest to him, came over. And she was my aunt, she lived over there in the Oakland side of the Bay Area.

RP: Of the Bay.

KO: My cousins, first cousins by that group, few of them are still around. Every now and then I visit them to find out whether they're still kicking or not. [Laughs] Keep in, they keep in touch. I sort of try to keep in touch once a year just to make sure that somebody knows where, who is. And anyway, she came over...

RP: Did she come over about the time that your father did?

KO: No, about, probably about ten or twenty years later, I think, much later than that.

RP: Did your father...

KO: Pardon?

RP: I was going to say, did your father ever express what his desire to come to the United States was? His motivation for coming here?

KO: Oh, yeah, yeah. He had some very personal reasons, he wanted the... I think the main reason, what I got the impression was that his family wanted him to marry somebody, and he didn't want to. [Laughs] And he managed to get his visa and he took off. My aunt, his sister, I guess married a guy that was, went back there to get married and came back with the husband. She came, when she got here, she was essentially married.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

RP: And how about your, your mother? What was her name?

KO: Her first name was Saki, S-A-K-I.

RP: S-A-K-I.

KO: And I guess --

RP: She probably gets confused with sake.

KO: Yeah, that's what I keep thinking. And I have to be careful, too, because once in a while, I write it out in a hurry. And if I don't take the, write that very last letter properly, it looks like sake. [Laughs] Sake, right.

RP: What was her maiden name, Kinge?

KO: I believe it was Ogawa.

RP: Ogawa.

KO: O-G-A-W-A. I'd have to look it up on my birth certificate to find out.

RP: And so most, like you mentioned, most of the marriages, Issei marriages were arranged marriages.

KO: Well, yeah, sort of.

RP: Was that the case with your parents?

KO: My mother didn't. She and her sister came over on their own. They had reasons, too, and they picked up their husbands over here. And I guess they were, like my father, they were the adventurous type. But anyway, they didn't want to stay and get married to some farmer or peasant or something like that, so they came over. They both, well, my mother, I guess, married my father, who was essentially about that time had a small business in Sacramento. And her sister essentially did the same thing with somebody in Stockton.

RP: A small business?

KO: Yeah.

RP: Now, your father's small business was a grocery store?

KO: No, no, it was more of a whatchamacallit... not a department store, dry goods store. The Depression came along, and everybody lost their businesses, essentially. My aunt, my mother's sister's business hung on for a few more years after that, but this was back in the '30s, so their business sort of petered out, too. But by that time, it wasn't too bad. And I guess the second eldest, the second elder son, I remember my father sort of helped him through med school at UC. And he was able to establish a practice. This is just about the wartime, so when things went to pot for them, they had essentially, they moved to Chicago, and my cousin set up his practice in Chicago. I forget where he had a practice. I think he was with one of the children's hospitals or something like that. I don't know where it was.

RP: So your cousin moved before the war broke out?

KO: Yeah, just before the war broke out. He essentially had to... well, I shouldn't say he had to, but they sort of went and... what it was is I think he had an elder cousin, or elder brother. He's pretty old, he's older than me. But he had an elder brother who had a job in Chicago, so they moved over to join them. And very interestingly, that family became more or less a professional family. He had a cousin, he had a brother who was my age who became a dentist in Chicago, and he had an elder brother, I forget what his profession was, but it wasn't dentist, it wasn't medical, but it was something, semi-professional of some sort. And he had an elder, much elder sister who went into opera of all things. And she sang, I guess, the lead in Madame Butterfly just before the war, in '40 or '41 at San Francisco. I forgot which opera company she was with at that time. But she sang, I guess, one season or two there. One lead, I guess, and then she went through, just before the war, or a year or two before the war, she went to Italy to study. And from what I understand, she got married to an Italian baron or something. And from what I understand -- all of this is third-hand, but the way -- my ears are big, so I keep listening to all these, sort of, tales and stuff. But apparently, the opera singer cousin, well, this baron had, I guess, even during Mussolini's period, had a fair amount of property. During the war, when the 442nd Infantry Battalion went, worked up the peninsula, when they got into her area, she would entertain a few of these soldiers... not entertain in the entertainment sense, but just have dinner or whatever it is. Essentially at that time, by that time, Italy was on our side, so it worked out pretty well for everybody.

RP: Especially the 442nd.

KO: Yeah. And they went through that area, so it was very convenient for them. And they had some way of spending some of their leave time, I guess, in the Italian towns and areas based like that.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

RP: Kinge, can you share with us some of your memories about growing up in Sacramento? Tell us a little bit about your childhood.

KO: Well, about all of my childhood was I was in pre-kindergarten age, so I hardly know much of other, much. But my father did take me down to what was then not Old Town, but Sacramento, in the waterfront area. And I think one thing I remember once, which I never, I can't visualize it 'cause I don't remember what I saw. But he once took me down to the levee somewhere, either the American River or the Sacramento River, in a flood period, and the whole countryside was flooded. Went out in our old Model T, I guess it was, and he showed me the flooded areas. And another time, when he took me over on a tour to where the mine, the gold mining boats, the kind that dredge, mining dredges were, and showed me that dredging. And I still remember that as a trip, I don't remember the picture of it. A few years ago, I took a tour down that, drove through that area and looked at the dredge that they had sitting there. And sort of interesting, having remembered as a child that I saw something like that when they were actually working. [Laughs]

One of the other interesting thing, we had the little store. I think I got into trouble with the cops once. As a little kid, I think I sprayed a cop with a garden hose. [Laughs] 'Cause I do remember running into the store after dropping the hose. That was, actually, what I was essentially doing was essentially washing down the sidewalk in front of the store, and the cop came along, and I inadvertently sprayed him. But at that age, I could get away with anything. But anyway, it wound up sort of interesting.

RP: Did you have any other chores around the store as a young kid?

KO: Yeah, I essentially, my mother and father worked in the store, and I would kill my time just fiddling around the store. I remember as a little kid that they would keep me occupied by spreading a sheet of wrapping paper or whatever it was on the counter, and I would sit there drawing pictures or whatever, scrawling on the counter. In the pre-kindergarten age, obviously, I couldn't draw anything or write anything, but I could make marks on it with a crayon and stuff like that on the counter. So that went on for a year or two when I was old enough to do things like that. And then about twenty-nine, thirty, I guess it was, store went broke and we moved to Sacramento -- not Sacramento, Santa Rosa. And my father and mother got a job as, in a laundry. And he ran, I guess, the washing machine, and my mother did the ironing and stuff. But anyway, we had a, essentially, an income, you might say.

RP: Enough to get by during the Depression.

KO: Yeah, rent a house, so we had, I guess, an apartment or a house. I think it was, we had a house somewhere near the old railroad yard or something like that. I know it was somewhere near a railroad yard, 'cause I had another one of my adventurous experiences. I was in a kindergarten, I think, across town from where we were. Across the main part of town, probably it might be, maybe about a half a mile to the opposite side of town from the main street of Santa Rosa at that time. I think Santa Rosa essentially had one big main street, and we were on the railroad side of the main street. But anyway, my favorite tale of that period is that one, my father used to come and pick me up after kindergarten was over, and eat a late, at noontime or early afternoon or something like that. One day, he was late for some reason. He was late and late, and I waited and waited and waited, and he never showed up, so I walked home, across town. And my father was really having kittens, you might call it, 'cause I had disappeared. And he drove the route back that he usually drives back, but fortunately, he knew enough to follow the, trace the route because he figured, okay, I ought to be somewhere in town, 'cause I couldn't go very far. I was a little kindergarten kid, I couldn't walk that fast. But anyway, he found me walking down the sidewalk or side of the street about a block from home. I had essentially crossed town through downtown Santa Rosa, and almost got home and he was able to pick me up. And the thing I remembered about that trip was not only the fact that I walked home and through a residential area, but I crossed the main street in Santa Rosa with all the traffic and everything. And like I always do, I tend to do a little scheming on my own, even at that age. And I was taught in the early age never to cross the street without an adult. So I stood at the corner on the Main Street trying to figure out how do I get across Main Street towards home. And the traffic lights and everything, I didn't know how to work traffic light or anything like that. But I figured, I reasoned that, after a while, that I wasn't gonna get any adult to help me across. But since I was told that, taught that I should never cross the street without an adult, I tagged along with an adult when they crossed the street. [Laughs] I observed that adults were crossing the street, so I tagged along with one of 'em. And I crossed the street and I was able to get on home again.

RP: You stayed within the letter of the law.

KO: Yeah, yeah, right. Essentially, like I say, I tend to scheme a fair amount, things like that.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

RP: It sounds like you had little of your father's adventurism, too.

KO: Yeah, some of that. He had adventures all over the place. After the earthquake, he worked for the SP.

RP: Southern Pacific.

KO: Southern Pacific over towards Sacramento somewhere.

RP: What did he do? Was he on a section gang?

KO: No, he essentially, I guess, worked with the, whatever the... not the mess crew, but the support group for the section gang. And he had a living, comfortable -- not comfortable, but at least he made a living for that, until I guess he was able to start his business.

RP: That would have been the business in Sacramento?

KO: Yeah.

RP: Tell us a little bit about your dad from a personality point of view. Put yourself as a soon looking at your father.

KO: Well, he was a... I couldn't say that... fundamentally, he was sort of a taciturn character of sorts. Reasonably strict but reasonably friendly. He and I got along pretty well. Every now and then we'd have a fight, but this was when I was older. When I was a little kid, it didn't matter. He took care of me, and he and my mother used to get me toys every now and then. And so I was reasonably happy. And being the only kid in the family, I had a fair amount of freedom. So like I say, I tended to concoct all sort of tricks on my own, and they had to keep track of me. But on the other hand, I stuck to the rules. I figured that the rules were sort of a handy way of keeping out of trouble, you might say. I didn't really know it in those days, at that age, but I more or less stuck by the unwritten rules and kept out of trouble.

RP: Was your upbringing pretty much Japanese or American, or a combination of both?

KO: It's a little of both, really. At home it was almost all Japanese. And when my father visited friends, it was mostly Japanese, except that I would play with the kids on an American basis. So the kids were all Americanized, you might say. Then the result is that I essentially had pretty much two worlds to live in. When I went to school, that was essentially strictly American school. I think when we moved to Menlo Park, which we moved from Santa Rosa after about a year. I was in first grade, and I didn't know a bit of English to speak with. But I managed to get along and learn bits and pieces of English as I went. My father just knew just enough English to get me started, and then from there on, I picked up words. I read a lot. When I was a kid, I tended to read a fair amount. So I picked up all sorts of words and stuff, which was convenient. It always was sort of interesting that I was able to get along in the first grade without having any real skill in English. But I guess picked up enough words to get along with the teacher. And I got in trouble with the teacher -- I remember having to stand in the corner once. [Laughs]

RP: Oh, why?

KO: Yeah. I got into trouble in school. I wasn't paying attention, I think, is what happened. But like I say, I tended to be a little bit precocious at times. And I tended to do all sorts of things on my own. And of course, in school, class, that's a no-no.

RP: Doesn't work.

KO: Yeah. So I wound up standing in the corner. That taught me not to do things to wound me standing in the corner. So I think I, probably after that, I schemed very, schemed to stay out of trouble.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

RP: What did your father do in Menlo Park, Kinge?

KO: He wound up, originally, did a little bit of a, you might say, farm type work. There was a Chinese family over toward Atherton that had a, I think, flower farm, flower growers, anyway. And, in fact, chrysanthemum growing, had a fair, couple acres, I guess, of chrysanthemum farm. And he had, for about six months or a year, my father and mother did the work at the chrysanthemum place. And the reason I remember that is that I got to work in the chrysanthemums. In order to keep me occupied, we had no babysitter, they taught me how to pick the excess buds and stuff off the chrysanthemum. So I did my little share, for what little worth it was. It kept me busy. And we had, essentially, we ate with a Chinese family, and I got to learn to like Chinese food. [Laughs]

RP: Uh-huh. Did you pick up any of the language, too?

KO: No, almost no language. I think the communication was more or less in English. The common language, broken English on both parts.

RP: So you had contact with Chinese, did you have contact with other ethnic groups as well while you were growing up?

KO: Yeah, yeah. The, in Menlo Park, we lived on Mill Street, right parallel to the railroad, one block off the railroad. And we had an Irish family next door, and down the block was an Italian family. And so we mutually got into trouble playing with each other. And we all essentially were in school at almost the same grade, so I think one of the kids, yeah, one of the kids of the Italian family was the same grade I was, and he had an elder brother. Typical Italian family, he had several brothers, obviously. And the Irish family was the same way. One kid was younger, one kid was my age, one kid was older. And interesting enough, the older brother had a shoe repair business in Menlo Park after the war. So I met him a few times, and when I came back from the camp at that time. And we traded greetings and stuff. It was sort of interesting, the few people we left, that we knew from before the war were still around. I think only about one or two others from my grade school period was still around at that time. They had all either gone somewhere else, or... same thing as that, like this guy was a shoe store, shoe repair place, since we were next door neighbors for quite a while, we recognized each other and chatted for a while. Unfortunately, I guess, he's no longer there anymore. The shoe store, obviously, isn't there.

I met one of the other girls that was in my elementary school class. She was taking, let's see, she was taking teacher's course, school course in San Jose State after the war. (We met) after the war, chatted, and we went to, I guess the time I went to school for a couple years at San Jose State, we would run into each other every now and then. But she was in a different part of the school so it wasn't too common. We had a couple of common courses, I think, art history and stuff like that. That was about it.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

RP: What experiences do you remember most about growing up in a Japanese household? Is it the food, or the holidays...

KO: It was a little of both. The holidays were mostly American holidays except that they emphasized the New Year's holiday.

RP: What do you remember about your, your family's celebration of New Year's?

KO: We would have a New Year's feast. And all our family friends would be visiting each other. That was the old tradition at that time. And so we would visit their family feast and they would visit our family feast. We would, I guess, over the period of around the New Year's Day, several days, we'd visit quite a few friends that way. Sometimes one or two hours, sometimes longer. Couple of our better friends, we'd visit a whole evening or something like that. And all the men in the family tended to drink a lot of sake. [Laughs] Fortunately, you might say, there wasn't that much in the way of traffic control in those days. [Laughs] And my father didn't drink all that much, just enough to get tipsy, but not enough so he couldn't drive. I think he would probably get a ticket these days. It was the same sort of deal. We'd drink and sit around for a while until they sobered up, and then we'd drive home. My mother would, you might say... my mother would chat with the wives and the women of the family, and my father would drink with the men in the family. We'd all have all this thing like sushi and New Year's feast and stuff like that, gorge yourselves. And everybody had pretty much the same sort of thing, different variations, the family variations. It wasn't exactly the same sort of, the sushi wasn't exactly the same in every household, so that was sort of convenient. Get to taste and find our favorite stuff.

RP: Another, another icon of New Year's was the mochi.

KO: Oh, yeah. I loved that stuff.

RP: Did you ever pound mochi?

KO: Oh, yeah. When I got old enough, I got, that's part of the pounding process. I'd get a few whacks in. But the men, they did the, most of the pounding. They had the old, classic old big hammer type thing, to pound it. It was too big for me as a little kid to manipulate, but I got to take in a few licks. They would sell the, I guess, spend the afternoon pounding mochi in the days prior to the New Year. And I had my favorite recipe that I tried to get a hold of the mochi and eat. [Laughs] That was sort of the -- that was, I guess, the pre-New Year's Day entertainment, the different families would get together and pound mochi. I think what was it was at that time was that every year, we would go to different places, different families and we'd do the mochi. It's sort of like a rotating picnic, you might call it. And the interesting thing about it was that they had the traditional way of cooking the rice and stuff like that, pounding it. And so it was an outdoor affair, usually. And the women would be making the stuff, the sushi and that kind of stuff in the house and the men would be out pounding the mochi. And the kids would be playing around, getting into trouble. [Laughs]

RP: No supervision.

KO: Yeah.

RP: All the parents were busy doing something else.

KO: Yeah, we'd be out playing games, and every now and then, we'd go and poke our nose in to see what was going on with the mochi and stuff. A few of us would get a chance to whack it a few times, get a nibble and go play again. So it was sort of like a picnic. And then in the spring, the Japanese community was sort of the informal community, not formal or anything like that. But we would have a picnic, find a farm or a place that, in those days, there were lots of open, all you had to drive was about half a mile, you're out in the country. So we'd have a nice picnic around, find somebody's, somebody's farm or something, and have a picnic. And the usual picnic games and races and stuff like that.

RP: This would be strictly Japanese families?

KO: Yeah, yeah.

RP: From the community?

KO: Few other people every now and then come to it and see what was going on.

RP: Now, these weren't prefectural picnics, were they? You know, where a whole group of folks from Yamaguchi-ken come together?

KO: No. It was the whole community, everybody around there. 'Cause there wasn't enough of any one group to make a big party.

RP: What kind of games and races did you participate in?

KO: Oh, the usual stuff. Any kid's stuff.

RP: Sack races...

KO: Play tag and hide and seek and stuff like that. And the elder kids would play baseball. Baseball, of course, what else, Japanese baseball?

RP: Yeah, did you take up baseball at an early age?

KO: I played some baseball. I'm not much of a baseball player. I did have one, I did have one big old leather football, the old fashioned kind. Big, fat, almost round, spherical football. I had that, and so when we played in the streets and around my home, we'd play with that thing. In fact, I think I was about the only one with a football. So we played with that thing. And then that, I had... I'm not sure, I think I had a baseball bat, I'm not quite sure. And my father collected some of these things, I think, left over from the time when he had the store. So some of these things were left over from that time. And I was able to take advantage of the fact that we had that in storage someplace. The football, and the baseball bat. I guess eventually, my father bought me a baseball, it was a softball. So I wound up with a baseball bat and a ball. And the kids in the street would play with my ball and bat and stuff like that. That made me, allowed me to congregate, you might say, communicate with a lot of kids in the neighborhood. But it's one of those typical ancient town type of thing. Only the kids in a few blocks or so would be the ones... other kids in another block, they were different groups, so we never really associated with them.

Although in Menlo Park, we had one big, it was a big vacant lot about a block away. All the kids wound up in that vacant lot and would be climbing trees and digging tunnels in the dirt. The elder, the older kids dug tunnels and caves and stuff, and that was sort of... it was essentially a trench-type cave covered over, so it would be a cave. We didn't have any hills or anything to dig in to. It wasn't dangerous in the sense that if we had a cave-in, all we had to do was, the roof would fall in. That was about it. And then there was a bunch of California oaks that we climbed in. A couple of kids got injured falling out of a tree, and my memory of falling out of a tree is I fell from, I guess, twenty or thirty feet up and bounced down to a lower limb, caught on a lower limb and I didn't get injured. It just bruised a little bit, but essentially I was lucky in the sense that there were a bunch of trees, California oak, and if you fall off of one limb, you fall into another limb. So I think I hit two limbs before I stopped. [Laughs] But even then, in my typical scheming approach, I was sure, made sure that I had some way out, you might say, a backdoor out if I fell off. So I always made sure that there was a limb underneath me. [Laughs] So if I fell off one limb, or broke, a limb broke, I would wind up being able to catch myself on the next limb.

RP: You had a safety net.

KO: Yeah, a safety net, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

RP: Menlo Park, was it typically kind of a rural farming area at that time?

KO: Oh, yeah. I think it made, I think Inyokern, in the present legal, the Inyokern, I think, is probably, might be a little bigger town than Menlo Park was, in terms of population. But it was, essentially, it was essentially a suburban town where the people who worked for the rich people that had property around there, in the Atherton area, lot of people in Atherton, that area there.

RP: So Menlo Park was kind of a service community providing help, domestics...

KO: Yeah, service community. Grocery stores and other kind of stores, and then movie theater, things of that sort.

RP: Yeah, so you would go down there for a little entertainment, watch movies. Were there other Japanese stores, or any Japanese stores in the community?

KO: There was a Japanese community, small community in Mountain View. I think one or two blocks off of Main Street, Main Street, to the south of Main Street, I think it was about one block, two blocks. There was a very short, short block of stores, and a Japanese store with Japanese goods and stuff. That was about it. And so every now and then, we'd go down there and get the supplies and stuff.

RP: Is that where you got your rice?

KO: Yeah. Well, rice, yeah, we'd get sacks of rice there, in the bulk quantity. The kind that was favored by the Oriental community. Because we couldn't get the rice in the regular grocery stores. Let's see. One of the... I'm trying to remember whether we had a family that lived near us or across the street from us or somewhere nearby, owned a grocery store in Menlo Park. In fact, it was about the biggest grocery store there. And they supplied this stuff for all the property-owning families. And so, essentially, their store was a, what you might call, almost call a pre-supermarket supermarket. [Laughs] And they would deliver week's, two weeks' worth of supplies, and the phone orders would come in, and they would put the order together and deliver the thing to the various estates. Well, they had a fairly good business there. It was that convenient 'cause they had all sorts of interesting stuff there, too, not just the mom & pop type stuff. But it was a mom & pop store, but it was a bigger one. So they had all sorts of up to date stuff.

RP: Any particular food that you remember taking a liking to?

KO: Me?

RP: Yeah.

KO: I like almost any kind of food. My favorite food was hamburger. [Laughs] And the interesting thing about hamburger, I have a tendency to react to slightly spoiled beef. If the beef is overage, I tend to break out in hives. But it has to be fairly old, but I learned the hard way and my family learned the hard way. The beef of that period which wasn't refrigerated properly, I would react almost immediately to it, and I kept busting out in hives. So whenever we bought any kind of beef, we had to be sure that it was fresh beef. And hamburger was the same way. We were able to buy things, the steak kind of cut and stuff, roasts and stuff, because they would come from fairly fresh chunks of beef that would be delivered during, early during the week, Monday or Tuesday, and we would get our beef then. We had an icebox we could stick those in a day or two before they spoiled to the point where I couldn't eat it. But we had to be very careful with hamburger. They used to use all scraps of stuff in making hamburgers on those days, and you could never know how old the beef was that went into hamburgers. So whenever we had hamburgers, which was, unfortunately, which was my favorite food, beef. [Laughs] We had to have our hamburgers ground from a steak, round steak was cheap in those days. So we'd buy it, round steak, and have it ground, and I was able to eat that without any trouble. But I didn't dare, we didn't dare buy any pre-ground hamburgers 'cause we never knew what was in it. We tried that a couple times and I broke out like crazy. So we wound up eating hamburger steak. Fresh hamburger, I still like fresh hamburger. But this was in the days when the butcher stores didn't have much in the way of refrigeration. In fact, it was old ice box and stuff, so we had to be careful. But it turns out that chicken and pork didn't bother me. So I developed a liking for pork chops and pork roasts and stuff like that. And visiting my cousins and aunt in Stockton, they had a store on one of the street, side, main street or side street, whatever it was. And there was a restaurant across the street from them who featured pork roast. So every time we go there, I would have a pork roast. Slices of roast, roast pork and rice, pork gravy and stuff like that. [Laughs] 'Cause we didn't have much in the way of pork at home except an occasional pork chop, 'cause every time, or about once a month, we'd go to Sacramento or something like that -- not Sacramento, Stockton, and I'd have my fill of pork roast. Roast pork, sliced roast pork with gravy, and that was great.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

RP: Was religion a large part of your family upbringing, too?

KO: Not especially. We did visit the churches every now and then, particularly during holidays and stuff. My mother was probably more religious than my father. My father was like me, we could, sort of, it was one of these things. We recognized with religion and we went to the church festivals and stuff, church holidays and things of that sort. But we didn't go out of our way to go to church services every week or whatever it was at that time. Of course, in those days, we would have had to travel five miles, ten miles, a half-hour drive to get to a church. And I guess, well, that Buddhist church in San Jose, when they built the thing, our family went and joined the celebration and dedication.

RP: Big event.

KO: Yeah. That church is still there.

RP: Did you make visits to San Jose Japanese town?

KO: Huh?

RP: Did you visit the San Jose Japanese town on occasions?

KO: Oh, yeah, yeah. We'd... it was handy in a sense, that it was a bigger set of stores and stuff there. So some of the things that we couldn't get in the Mountain View stores, especially specialty items, you would find in the store in San Jose. I still do every now and then, and get some of my supplies that I concoct every now and then. 'Cause I haven't gone the last four or five years 'cause I haven't been to that area too much. Directly I should. But one of these days, I'll have to get, restock some of my perishables -- not perishables, but canned goods and stuff that I concoct every now and then. In fact, I should do that 'cause I think some of the stock I have left is probably too old. So I better restock with the fresher stuff.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

RP: Kinge, tell us a little bit about your, your teenage years growing up in Menlo Park and attending Menlo Park High School.

KO: Well, it was elementary school in Menlo Park, downtown.

RP: What was the name of the school, do you recall?

KO: Let's see, what the heck was... I don't remember what it was. El Camino? El Camino something or other, I don't remember. But it doesn't exist anymore 'cause it's... it's just to the north of the main part of town. They have that, I guess, one block north of the Main Street in town, and then there was a little longer block, and it was just to the north end of that block. There was a school going from the, what is now the El Camino to the railroad track, one big lot, that school, and that was the only elementary school around there. And there was a couple of small ones way off to, towards Palo Alto, towards the Stanford side of Palo Alto. Some of the kids went there, but I think those were lower grades or something like that. But this was the regular K, K-9 or whatever it is. Anyway, eighth grade maximum. Kindergarten to eighth grade.

RP: Do you have any vivid memories of your grammar school years you can share?

KO: Yeah, well, I really don't have too much memory of it. But as I schemer I was, like I say, I always schemed my way through that school. In spite of the fact that my language skills in the first two years were rather non-existent, I was able to scheme my way through that and get along, just enough to get along. And I think my fondest memory is that either the first or second, I guess it was second grade, something like that, yeah, about second grade, in arithmetic course, they taught fractions, regular fractions for the mathematics part, or the arithmetic part of the course. I happened to get sick for about a week at that time, so I missed the mathematics part and I couldn't figure out how to do the fractions. And when I got to, back to class, of course, the class had gone on and they were doing fractions. Most of the kids were doing fractions. Like kids in those days, doing fractions, it was sort of a rather "guess and by gosh" procedure anyway. So I wound up not able to do fractions, and every time the teacher would ask me how to do a sum or something like that, two fractions, of course, I couldn't do it, I didn't know how. But it didn't take me long to figure out a scheme for getting along with that one. I found that the procedure was such that the teacher would ask the class, put a problem on the board, and then pick a kid out to try to solve that problem. Like one-half plus one--half equals one or whatever it is, and stuff like that. Or one-half plus three-halves equals something. And I discovered very early in the game that there was a certain relationship between the lower denomination and numerator part that I could do. I recognized a trick. So like one-half plus three-halves would equal four halves. I didn't know what to do with the four-halves, but I could find, get the four-halves right.

So I discovered that when the teacher started going around and putting the problem on the board and then asking somebody to solve it, when nobody volunteered, she would pick somebody. So I discovered very early in the game that if I found a, she put a problem on the board that I could answer, quick as a bunny I put my hand up. And I'd get the, obviously I'd get the one-half plus three-halves equals four-halves. I didn't know what to do with the four-halves, but I'd get the four halves right. So I'd get credit for solving the problem. And I discovered also that if I did it often enough, what would happen is that when she called me, and then the next time around she put another problem on the board, she wouldn't come back to me. In other words, even if I put my hand up, even if I knew the answer and put my hand up, she wouldn't come back to me until several times down the row. So I found that if I missed a question, I could wait 'til I found a question and put my hand up, I'd get, answer the question, then I wouldn't have to worry for the next few times around. [Laughs] And this worked out pretty well. And I think it was about two grades later that I really learned how to do fractions. And that was, that was the back door rule, too. I found that the teacher, the other arithmetic problem, I guess we were doing long division at the time. Played, went through a description of how to do, regularize fractions and stuff, and four-halves became two or something like that, and we figured out how to work that one. And also, the one-third plus one-half, the teacher showed how to do that. And so I discovered, finally, after about two years being behind in that stuff, I found out how to do the fractions. 'Cause I was always good at arithmetic anyway, so that worked out pretty well. And I always used that scheme of, if I knew the answer, put my hand up, and find out, even if I don't get called, I would get credit for putting my hand up. So that worked out pretty well.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

RP: Eventually you went to Menlo Park High School? Where did you go to high school?

KO: The high school I went to was in Redwood City. That was the only, that was essentially the equivalent of a unified school district. The whole part, area around, I guess, around Redwood City county seat, the old, I guess about ten, twelve, ten miles' radius or something around that area had that one high school. And there was another high school I think somewhere in the Palo Alto side of Menlo Park, way down to the bay, bay front area. But that was a small place, and I guess that wasn't, that was a relatively new school, so it wasn't well-established. But when I was going to high school, that whole area was one unified high school district. So we wound up, everybody and their cousins went to that high school. That was pretty good, 'cause at that time, it was a pretty good school.

RP: So did you scheme your way through high school, too?

KO: Oh yeah, yeah. I schemed my way through high school. And I think, was it, we had an equivalent of social studies course, and yeah, I think the social studies course, I wound up not being, not recognized as a troublemaker, but it kept me out trouble, and I usually wound up in the very back row in the classroom. And the reason I wound up in the very back row in the classroom was I used to fall over in my chair. I would lean my chair back, we had tables and chairs, desks, and I would lean my, tend to lean my table, chair back. And every now and then, of course, I'd lean back too far and guess what happens? [Laughs] And normally I would, essentially like in the arithmetic courses, I would know a fair amount of the answers from having schemed my way to figure out the answers. And so they wouldn't call on me too often in a classroom 'cause they needed to get the other kids doing their stuff. So I wound up being relegated to the back of the classroom where I could lean my chair up against the wall and stay out of trouble. And so that worked out in social studies. Other courses were sort of normal, so there wasn't any problem. Technically, you might say, the courses in science and stuff, I did all right. I was interested in that stuff, so I would study that stuff and I didn't have to go through all these shenanigans to get by.

And let's see. There was one other course that I wound up in doing my shenanigans. I'm trying to figure out which course that was. I wound up doing the same sort of thing in a couple of other courses. But this wasn't so much shenanigans, it's simply that... oh, I know. I know what it was, yeah. I liked arithmetic, and obviously, I got pretty well at algebra and stuff. And we had a pretty good teacher in algebra, and it turns out that we only had, there was only about two first or second year algebra classes in high school, and high school wasn't all that big. So they only had several mathematics classes, algebra class. And I wound up in one, the first-year algebra, or first algebra course with a couple of other friends who, like me, were sort of schemers. It turns out that we got into the algebra program and there was about two or three of us in the algebra class out of thirty or something like that that could do these algebra problems in nothing flat. Part of it was we were sort of cooperative, too, but the problem was that we would do the class even if we were separated, we would finish the problem before anybody, most of the other classes would. And of course you couldn't keep kids quiet, so we wound up talking with each other and stuff like that, and of course, disturbing the class. And the teacher would get a little bit annoyed because here we were, we were, he couldn't punish us for not doing our work 'cause we had already done the work. [Laughs] The sample program, the problem that he gave us we had finished, and we had nothing to do so we were twiddling our thumbs and communicating with each other. So the teacher we had got a very brilliant idea. And he was a first year teacher, it was a first year and second year algebra teacher, stuff like that. So he took the three or four of us that kept doing this all the time, and he shoved us off onto one table as a group. And he'd run the class through the regular curricula, you might call it, and give us the problem. We would finish the problem, and here we'd be twiddling our thumbs and the rest of the class still struggling. And when he noticed that we were through with our class, what he would do to us, he would give us a sample problem from the next year's course or the next class and have us try to work the sample problems out. And he was using us as a test, test crew. If we could do the problem, the other class could do it. If we couldn't figure out how to do the problem, he'd have problems with the other class. So we were the, we were the test guinea pigs for that class. And he kept us quiet doing that. We could take those course and probably about, most of the time, we were just barely finished by the time, end of the hour or whatever it was. But we were kept busy doing extra work. And this was just sort of extra puzzles for us, so we were sort of happy, engaged. And the nice thing about it, we would be in a group so we could talk to each other very quietly and cooperate and find out what to do with these things. So this worked out real well. And he did that, we had this teacher two years in a row for algebra, first and second year algebra, something like that. And we had the same bunch of kids, more or less, in those courses. He would work us out on that one. He worked at us, and I think, I think in the second year, we were, he started us out on more advanced algebra and stuff like that, and kept us occupied. By that time, though, we were getting ready to graduate anyway, so it wasn't too bad. But that worked out real well.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

RP: This is tape two of a continuing interview with Kinge Okauchi. And Kinge, you were sharing with us some stories about your love of mathematics in high school. You said you were also a puzzle solver, too.

KO: Yeah, yeah. I liked puzzles. At that time, jigsaw puzzles were the rage, so I worked a lot of jigsaw puzzles. That got boring after a while. [Laughs]

RP: Were you, were you also tinkering with mechanical things, too?

KO: Oh, yeah, yeah. The toys I had at home were mechanical, more or less. I had an electric train I learned electricity from, and learned, learned that perpetual motion machines didn't work. [Laughs] I tried to make one once, and it didn't work, obviously.

RP: A lot of kids that age used to build their own little crystal radio sets.

KO: Oh, yeah. And that's how I got into electronics and stuff. But electronics, crystal radio set, and vacuum tubes. We had an old radio that I took apart and made use of just before the war. In fact, I got into the radio amateur club in high school at the end there, just before graduating. And I learned a fair amount of electronics then. But that worked out pretty well. And so it did build up my background for the engineering school.

RP: And so you graduated in the summer of 1941?

KO: Yeah, June.

RP: And what were your plans or aspirations after high school? What did you go and do?

KO: Well, couldn't afford to go to any fancy college at the time, so I went to San Jose State, which is a state college. About all it cost me was books and nominal tuition. Transportation was the biggest expense, I commuted from school. Wound up commuting on the railroad track on the peninsula there. And that was another one of these things where we had a little clique on the train. Those of us that were in the science and engineering curriculum, we had three or four people that commuted on the same train all the time, so we would do our homework on the way back to school, home from school, the afternoon's homework. And then the next morning, we'd finish, that evening we'd finish the homework, and then next morning, we'd check each other out on the train going to school, and we would have our homework done. So again, like I say, I was doing a little bit of scheming. Actually, we all did that one. We got our exercise going from the train station to the school.

RP: How far was it?

KO: About a mile or something. We walked, buses cost money and the other one was that buses didn't run properly on time, so we walked that mile. And that worked out pretty well. We could barely make the first class, the train that we took.

RP: And were you able to get through a semester at San Jose State before the war broke out?

KO: Yeah, yeah, it was a quarter, the first quarter. And I dropped out of school at the end of the first quarter, 'cause that was about the time things were falling apart. So I was, just dropped out on a regular basis instead of dropping out in the middle of the school year or anything like that. That kept my paperwork, you might say, pretty well under control.

RP: So you didn't lose any time.

KO: No.

RP: You were, kind of later on, you were able to come back and pick up your education.

KO: Yeah, later on, all I had to do was sign up for the, you might say, reinstate myself at the class and pick up where I left off. And that worked out real well.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

RP: Tell us a little bit about your remembrances of Pearl Harbor Day and what happened to you and your family after, after the war broke out?

KO: Well, let's see. At that time, my mother had died, so it was just my father and I. And I heard about Pearl Harbor, I was doing my homework, on Sunday morning, with the radio on, of course, and I heard about Pearl Harbor. And it seemed a little strange, I wasn't too sure what was going on. Well, nobody knew what was going on. I think the radio broadcast on there was completely hashed up. Everybody was broadcasting rumors, and it wasn't 'til, I guess, later in the day that it was officially announced that Pearl Harbor had occurred. But then that, that was essentially, another, weekend was war news and that was about it for that moment. But the next couple of days... oh, yeah. The next day, we were able to go to school without any trouble. But about three or four days later, the people of our ancestry couldn't get on the train. We couldn't get on the buses and we couldn't get on the train to go to school. They just cut us off. They wouldn't allow us on public transit, transportation of any sort. So we wound up, I guess I missed about a week's worth of school, partially, because of that. In fact, I think the first day we found out about it, I couldn't get home from school. But we found, got transportation, some people had cars and stuff that we were able to ride home on. Then, then we had the problem of how do we get to school the next week? Fortunately, some people provided us with transportation by private car, so we were able to commute by car for a while. Then about that, I guess about that time, I was able to get our family car available, so I was able to drive to school for three or four weeks.

RP: And how far was it from your home to school, roughly?

KO: About twenty miles.

RP: Twenty miles?

KO: Yeah. And it was a normal commute on the commuter train, so, normally at that time. So it took us, I guess, by train it took us most of an hour, 'cause we had to wait for the train, and then we had to go from the train station to the school. By car, it was about three quarters of that. But fortunately, they didn't turn us off on the cars. But we couldn't take public transportation of any sort.

RP: So that, that ban on public transportation to Japanese Americans continued for quite a while?

KO: Oh, yeah. That was total, period.

RP: That was total. Were there other restrictions that affected you such as the curfews or some of these mileage restrictions? Do you remember any of that?

KO: Toward the end, I think toward the, before the evacuation period, we wound up with a curfew. We couldn't go out at nights and stuff like that, or over too far a distance. I think they made allowances for having to get, people having to get to work and stuff, but that was about it.

RP: For school?

KO: The whole thing was a bureaucratic mess in that sense. They made no provisions for anything. It was just a blanket, they cut it off, period. It made things awkward. I think at that time, let's see, when they started talking about evacuation, my father's sister's family, they were over in, living in San Leandro. And they, they moved down to where we were, lived in the same house, the family, whole bunch of us in that one house. 'Cause San Leandro was gonna get evacuated first, that side of the bay, they were gonna pull everybody else. I guess what they did, they moved them down to, that side of the bay down to Manzanar, I think it was.

RP: San Leandro?

KO: Yeah. And the San Francisco peninsula side, San Francisco got moved to Topaz. And I guess we picked up various fringe groups from the other parts of the state north of us. But it was sort of strange. The boundary was apparently the San Mateo county line and Santa Clara county, and the East Bay got moved down to Manzanar or elsewhere. I'm not sure where everybody went to. But most, mostly it was Manzanar. And then the San Mateo county and San Francisco county and probably bits and pieces of the other county north of us got moved to Topaz.

RP: Topaz. So the family consolidated, the two families came together?

KO: Yeah, yeah. We consolidated before things went to pot. It was a good thing that we were able to keep in touch with them.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

RP: What about the family, your family in Stockton, your cousins, I think it was?

KO: Oh, they were in Chicago by that time.

RP: Oh, they already had left, that's right, okay.

KO: And the interesting thing about it is we had, there was a family had a own farm in Mountain View, and they pulled out before all the deadlines came. They moved, I guess they leased their farmland to whoever wanted to do it, or let it lay fallow or whatever they did with that land. And they moved to the Nevada and tried to make a living, couldn't get anywhere. There's no place for farmers to work in Nevada, so they wound up over in Utah. And the younger, I guess they had a boy my age, he wound up driving a truck for a coal company. And he wound up supplying, driving the truck to Topaz with the coal. And his brothers and stuff, well, they went east and elsewhere. But it's sort of interesting that this one guy that I knew, my age, we used to play games out on the farm and stuff, he wound up driving a coal truck to Topaz. I met him a couple of times, but he had one of these real long haul drive all the time type things, so he didn't have time, much time to visit or anything. But I ran into him a couple of times and found out where his family wound up.

RP: Was he surprised to see you?

KO: Yeah, sort of, yeah. We were, actually, mutually surprised. The reason we found out that we were mutual acquaintances, that he knew of, his family knew of other people up in our area. So they were contacts that referred each other around a little bit, and then that worked out pretty well.

RP: Can you describe to us your mindset, your feelings and attitudes during this time of evacuation and uncertainty?

KO: Well, the evacuation was, in my opinion, was sort of a puzzle. We really couldn't figure out what the heck was going on other than the fact that we knew we weren't "enemy aliens," but they were, they were pulling us out. And we knew from our fathers' experience about the problems the Germans had back in World War I, 'cause he was old enough. Some of the other families, they weren't old enough, so they weren't too sure. But my father was sort of "eh" about it, because he was used to this sort of thing. The people would potentially do things for absolutely no reason at all, and he just accepted it. That's what I guess sort of, I sort of picked up some of that on my own. Do things as they came, and don't worry about the details, 'cause you had to get along. So I wound up, I guess, in Tanforan, killing time for about a month. Decided that wasn't going anywhere, and so I wound up working for the kitchen area. And that was not bad, 'cause I was essentially a part-time worker, and just worked the meal periods. At that time, essentially, was a waiter. So I just got the place ready when people when in, clean up the dining area, and then go home and goof off for the rest of the afternoon, go back in the evening an hour early and do the same thing. The only problem with that is you had to get up too early in the morning, and your evenings were sort of tied up.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

RP: Was there a particular sight, sound, or smell about Tanforan that sticks in your mind?

KO: Yeah. We were, I was lucky. My family and I were lucky that we got stuck in the barracks type thing they built in the infield in Tanforan. So we got relatively new, new buildings. But the majority of people got stuck in the converted stables. And some of those stables weren't quite converted, you might call them. But they had, they had, they all had plumbing more or less in the stable area, so that was all right. We had more of an army camp type setup in our area, so we had a common, common mess hall and stuff like that, and bathroom and things of that sort. And I guess as far as I can remember, all the eating facilities and stuff like that were in the mid infield on the Tanforan area. So everybody that was left in, living in the stable area had to walk a block or two, quite a few, quite a ways to get to the mess, dining areas. And I think at the, yeah, fortunately, we had family accommodation. The single people and stuff, they got, got quartered in the area where they have the, used to have the whatchamacallit, under the grandstands with that, all that betting rooms and stuff are, normal racetrack. So they got a great big barracks type operation there that they had to live in. That wasn't too good, no privacy, no nothing. We at least had privacy. Of course, our privacy, two families in a room about half of this room in area. And we were fortunate in that they had issued us old army cots, and so we had enough people and we got enough leftover lumber and made us a bunk bed double deck bunk beds for half the family. And I lucked out in that I wound up with a bed of my own. [Laughs] But my cousins had to double up on the bunkbeds.

RP: How many of there, how many of there were you in your barrack room, the two families? It was you and your dad and...

KO: Well, let's see. I think... one, two, three, I think we had, I think we had four kids on my aunt's side, my aunt. My uncle, unfortunately, was in the hospital with TB, so he was, I don't know where he was, I think on the East Bay side. He was there most of the war. He couldn't travel.

RP: Oh, so he stayed there?

KO: He had to stay there. Then there was my father and me, so there was five, five, six, seven of us in that little room. And my usual scheme, I had taken my radio, phonograph apart, and I brought the chassis for the radio part with me, so we had a radio. We were one of the few people in, in the area that had a radio. I didn't have a phonograph, but I had a radio. [Laughs] And the only problem was, I originally made a portable radio out of it with batteries, but the batteries didn't last more than two weeks. But fortunately, it was one of these AC-DC things, so once the batteries ran out, I just ran it as a regular AC radio.

RP: What would you listen to in camp? What were some of the programs that you liked?

KO: Well, all we can get was the network programs. In the Topaz area, about all we could get during the day was the KSL or whatever it was in Salt Lake City. And if we were lucky, we were able to pick up some of the San Francisco stations. This was at night when we could pick up that kind of stuff, that was about it. But the Utah station was the only thing we could get during the day.

RP: Pretty loud station.

KO: The one station. And at that time, there wasn't much to listen to anyway except soap operas. And the news was all cobbled up, like all the wartime news always were, so about all we could do was follow the course of the war and that was about it. Beyond that, we were on our own. And let's see. We didn't... during the day, we didn't have much to do. So we, we had the schools, they had schools for the kids that were still in school, so we would essentially go watch their baseball games and football games and stuff they had going in the afternoon. In the mornings, most of us slept late anyway. [Laughs]

RP: Did you have anybody visit you from outside the camp?

KO: No. Almost nobody. There was nobody to visit us. When we were in Tanforan, I had some of the people I had associated with in Menlo Park visit us a couple of times. For the simple reason that we had asked them to bring us some books and stuff. Well, I had asked them. So they visited us, but that was about it.

RP: So were you able to keep yourself sort of academically stimulated by reading?

KO: Oh, yeah. We had, I guess it was that I was able to, with a few bucks, I was able to get the little jobs I had, that I was able to subscribe to a magazine, couple of magazines.

RP: Which were those?

KO: I think, I forget which one that was. I think... I think it was the Amateur Radio magazine, for one. And one other, I don't remember which one it was. And then we had, I subscribed to -- no, I didn't. I thought I subscribed to a, the newspaper, but we didn't. But on the other hand, I wandered over to the local library and read whatever they had available. And I had a few books of my own that I was able to bring in, so... but nothing, nothing serious.

RP: Did you or your dad store any personal belongings or items with families in Menlo Park?

KO: Well, we, there was a, sort of a Buddhist church type thing in Palo Alto which had a building of their own. So we, my dad stored a couple of trunks full of stuff, which was mostly papers and some old clothes and stuff. And that was about it. We stored that in their basement, came back, after the war we came back and we had found that that kind of stuff, somebody had broken into it and just broken everything out. But we had no valuables in there, so it didn't matter. We just had a busted lock on the trunk. And most people didn't have much of anything beyond that, and things we owned, like furniture and stuff, we essentially lost. The old Model T, Model A Ford at that time, we sold for twenty-five bucks or something to somebody, and hopefully, hoped to get it back after the war but we never did. They had gotten rid of it during the war. So we lost most of our property except the clothes and some of the books and papers. And I still had my high school papers stored in the trunks and stuff, but that was about it. And we accumulated a little bit of stuff during the, in the camp period, but there again, like I say, I had one or two magazines, one fiction magazine, and science fiction magazine, and I think something else, Radio, Amateur Radio magazine. But in those days, magazines and stuff were pretty cheap, so to subscribe a whole year's worth of magazines, couple, three magazines, for less than what we got for income for a month, so that wasn't too bad. And then we spent a lot of time reading newspapers and stuff at the camp library we had. Those of us that were interested in that kind of stuff. The other guys, I guess, people, they could care less. So the library wasn't too frequented. [Laughs]

RP: Do you remember much about the train ride to Topaz, Kinge?

KO: Oh, yeah, yeah. We were, going there, we got one of those old train, a long train full of, I think... I think they had exhumed a train, cars from, that had been essentially put on a permanent siding, you might call it. We had, the train, the car I was in was a coach, sixty-passenger or more coach, and we had a wood burning stove in one end, a coal burning stove. And, of course, they kept the one end of the train, the car, red hot, and the other, the rest of the train was freezing cold. And the old fashioned john in the train, and the plumbing facilities were almost non-existent. These were essentially 1910 vintage cars, I think. The only thing that's different about the car was they were all steel cars, they weren't wooden cars, but that was pretty close to it. But as far as I can remember, the train was, the vintage, they were probably the first steel cars they made after they got rid of the wooden ones. And we rode that to, I guess to, all the way to Salt Lake and to Delta, where we got on buses, the old army type buses, and they hauled us out to the camp area. And coming back, it was almost the same way except that the cars were newer.

RP: You got the new cars.

KO: Yeah, it was regular passenger train cars. But at that time, it was the wartime vintage cars, so there was nothing fancy about it, just plain old passenger cars. I suspect that the SP cars and the commuter cars on the peninsula and stuff were probably better cars than we rode in. We never did get anything like Pullman cars or anything like that, 'cause those were being used for the first class trains.

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

<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.

<Begin Segment 17>

RP: You got a, you started working in the mess hall at, in your block?

KO: Yeah. We had a mess hall, and I worked there for, I guess, about six months I guess. Three to six months, something like that. And got acquainted with a few people that were in that area. And I guess our mess hall was sort of lucky. We had a couple of professional cooks working there, so we had more or less palatable food. [Laughs] Palatable was a good description, that was about it. The suppliers, the army supply that provided the food and stuff, they had absolutely no idea what it took to make the food. I think the condiments we got was salt and pepper and I forget what else, there was something else. Salt and pepper... and one or two ordinary condiments. They expected us to make dining, you might say dining room type stuff out of it. There was absolutely the cooks can do except fry stuff or boil stuff and add a little salt and pepper to it. It was such that even when we got fried eggs or scrambled eggs, it was just plain scrambled eggs with nothing in 'em. You couldn't, no ketchup, no nothing. We didn't get, we got a few, guess it got about two gallons of ketchup per week for three hundred people. And I think about a pound of salt, or, I guess we had more than that. I think we had a five pound bag of salt that we could cook with, and almost no pepper. You couldn't season anything. You can make boil salt stuff this, and boil that. And the thing like, obviously things like butter and stuff were almost nonexistent. So it was sort of a mess. And whoever was supplying the place, they loved turnips, 'cause we got tons of turnips. We were throwing turnips out into the trash, 'cause nobody wanted to eat turnips. You couldn't, you couldn't do anything with a turnip. It was the kind of turnips that you could pickle. We couldn't even make pickled turnips out of the stuff. It was boiled turnips, just plain boiled turnips. Otherwise, it was sort of like army mess stuff. I guess about twice a week we could make stew with some onions, boiled beef, and potatoes, and that was about it. Almost no salt and no seasoning, and it was fatty beef. It was like army stew, it was, almost everything was floating in grease. And the cooks couldn't do anything with it.

RP: Did the food change over time? Did you start to get some Japanese food?

KO: Oh, yeah, yeah. We, they finally managed to start getting us some things like soy sauce and stuff like that. We got maybe four or five gallons of soy sauce a month or something like that, just enough to occasionally come up with something palatable.

RP: Creative.

KO: Yeah.

RP: You also, didn't you receive shipments of food at the mess hall? You said some of you originally were supposed to be a pot washer.

KO: Oh, yeah, I was hired as a pot washer, but I wound up, in between pot washing, which was only for a few minutes before the meal when they were cooking, we had to make, wash the pots as fast as we can in order to keep up with it. 'Cause we didn't have enough pots to keep things around. And we had this great big kettle type stuff that the army used for making ten gallons of stew or whatever it is, so we had that stuff to boil stuff in. So I did the pot washing. And the other times, I didn't have anything else to do, so I was sort of working as an assistant stock clerk or something like that.

RP: So you, you checked in the food was delivered to the mess hall?

KO: Oh, yeah, we checked in the food and hauled it into the little stock room, and doled it out during the cooking. They used to, when the cooks demanded such, we provided them with the appropriate days' amount. We had to be careful that we didn't over-issue the stuff, otherwise we'd run out during the week.

RP: Right.

KO: So we could check in the days' worth of food that came in and whatever it was, and made sure that that's what we issued that day. And if we had any leftover, we'd stock it up, and sooner or later we'd be able to use it. So that worked out pretty well.

RP: Did you have ice boxes or refrigeration?

KO: Oh, yeah, we had iceboxes. No refrigerator, just iceboxes. That was the other part of my job, was that the people who delivered the ice would put it in the icebox. But then we had to re-juggle the icebox every now and then to keep the ice spread out properly. So that was part of my job, I'd move stuff out. And as part, assistant stock clerk and stuff, I had the job also of finding out what the heck we had in the icebox so that the cooks could use it. So it was sort of an interesting non-routine job. We wound up, I guess the stockroom was sort of stocked with all sorts of the usual stuff. But we would, some things like flour and stuff, we would probably get a week's worth of supplies at one crack. So some days, the delivery truck would come and dump nothing but flour, some sacks of flour off. [Laughs] We wonder what the heck we're gonna use all this flour for. We've got nothing else to eat it with.

RP: How about rice, too? Did you get regular shipments of rice in?

KO: Yeah, towards the end, we got, I guess, a hundred pound sacks of rice. I think probably got the equivalent of something like a pound of rice per person per week or something like that. Or per day, I guess it was, the equivalent of that. So they were able to make things out of that. We'd have rice coming out of our ears. Trouble was, there was nothing to eat rice with. We didn't get enough -- we would get barely enough other stuff, vegetable matter and stuff like that to go with it. So it would be one serving of rice, or actually, two servings of rice and one serving of vegetables, of meat products, whatever it is. Of course, beef and stuff were relatively rare, and it was pretty hard to get fat for cooking purposes. That made it awkward for the cooks, 'cause they couldn't fry anything. About all they could do was boil stuff. We wound up with all sorts of boiled stuff. Unsalted boiled stuff. You get pretty tired of that after a while. But like I say, we had a couple of professional cooks in our crew, so they were able to do things imaginatively. But as I said, we awfully got tired of turnips.

RP: Turnips. Were there other things that were just completely offensive to people's palates like apple butter or mutton?

KO: Oh, apple butter, we had, we had stacks of that in the storeroom. Nobody would eat it. [Laughs] And we had essentially a ration of bread for enough people, but maybe the equivalent of one slice of bread for breakfast per person. Of course, some people didn't eat the bread, so that wasn't too bad. They get two slices if they wanted it. But we had... as a pot-washing general assistant, I had to help serve stuff out. We just made sure that everybody just took their portion of bread or whatever it is, and if they came back after everybody got through the line, if they came back, we could issue whatever they wanted. [Laughs] So some people got more than their ration of bread sometimes, more than their ration of just the stuff that nobody else took. Because one thing we did make sure, except for turnips, they could have all they want, for a second serving, they could take all they want as long as there wasn't any left. And if you were late, tough.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

RP: Did, at Manzanar, they had three shifts, you know, for lunch, breakfast and dinner. People would come in and eat for a half hour and then leave, another group would come in. Is that the way it worked at --

KO: Pretty much that way. What we, I think, did in our group was we didn't make shifts, we just, they came and we had everything ready for them. So as the stuff started going, running down, the cooks would keep up with it. So it was sort of like some of these coffee shops and stuff. You cook as they came in, and that way, everybody got hot stuff instead of having it sitting there waiting, cooling off. Except things like stew, which just sat there. But even there, we had the stew pot on the stove, and the serving area, we'd dish out more stuff from the hot pots instead of... but we had the three meals a day. And towards, after a while, after a few months, people started making their own schedules about coming in for the meal period. But first, the early birds would come in early, and then the late people would come in later. And it always was that if they ran out at the end, if they came late and ran out, that was their tough luck. We couldn't do anything about it.

RP: Did you have meal tickets at all?

KO: No, no. We just, everybody had, ate in their own blocks, usually. But that was an informal arrangement. We would visit between blocks and stuff.

RP: Kirk, do you have any mess hall questions for Kinge?

KP: I think you answered one of them. You talked about the... it sounds like the kitchen in the mess hall was divided into an actually cooking kitchen and then a storeroom?

KO: Yeah. I noticed in looking into the mess hall things, setup you had, was essentially the building was pretty much the same, but we had everything stacked at one end. Storeroom was in the middle, and off to one side, and then... yeah, the storeroom was on the one corner, and then we had the refrigerator on one end of the storeroom and a corridor, and hot water heater and stuff, whatever, the coal, coal burner heater for the fire, stove, which was in another corner, the coal burning stove, old cast iron coal burning stove that they have there. And then we had a counter which essentially was a serving counter. And the work area between that and the stove. So that if you come off the stove, you put the prepared stuff on the counter in between, and then you could move it to the serving counter as needed. And then the pot washing facility was off to one end, one side, and that's where they also washed the dishes and stuff. And I fortunately didn't have to wash all the dishes. I just, my job was primarily the pots. And so we had people coming in to do the dishwashing part, which I appreciated greatly. [Laughs] I didn't have as much work to do that way. But on the other hand, I had to get there earlier. 'Cause dishwashing crew, all they had to do was get there after the prescribed dinner, or eating period, and they did couple hours and they were gone.

RP: So did you work different shifts usually, or had one specific shift like dinner shift?

KO: No, I had to work the --

RP: Pretty much the whole day?

KO: Three shift all day. But I got the in between period. And essentially the, practically, I think everybody did essentially in the kitchen crew, we pretty much did the same way. In our group, I think some of the other blocks had different arrangements like different shifts. But our group, essentially, the whole crew just worked at the same time. The cooks came in early, and they did their thing. I believe the cooks, KP types came early and they could leave earlier. I had the advantage that I didn't have to come in when the cooks started 'cause the pots were already washed, and I had to, all I had to do was be there when they started using the pots. And stick around long enough to make sure everything was tidied up. At that point, I wound up as a stock clerk and stuff like that. And since they only had one official stock clerk, they needed another one to just hang around when he wasn't, he was off somewhere or something like that. So I got that job, simply being a body. I was an available body, and so I was able to do that part. 'Cause nobody else, the cooks were busy, and the cooks, I guess, did most of their own KP anyway. And the dishwashers, they were only part time or a little bit of time. So there was nobody else around in between.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

RP: Let's talk a little bit about this job. So you went from the mess hall job to the job up at the summer camp?

KO: No, I essentially was a recreational... I essentially took a job with the recreational department as you'd call it. And I got assigned to, I think, one of the so-called recreational hall areas, which was one of the, I guess, the thirteenth building in a twelve building barrack arrangement, and there were several of those around that the different groups had. And some of the buildings were used by clubs and stuff. I got the one that the Boy Scouts had their stuff, and I guess we got the use of the recreational unit in my block, plus the one, I reported the one that was used by the Boy Scouts, and we did the paperwork for that kind of stuff there. And you might say I was close enough to the adults, so one adult supervisor there that did all the paperwork, and I got to back him up. Sort of like the stock work type thing, I got to back up all sorts of stuff.

RP: Be assistants.

KO: And when the kids would, when the school was out, the kids would show up and we could fool around there. They had things they could do in there, stuff they could work with or play around with, games or something. And in our block, we had, occasionally groups would use that building in the block, and I would have access to that, too. But I wasn't officially assigned building as such. And then, like I say, come summer, June or something like that, I went up to the mountains with the camp group. 'Cause I had some camping experience stuff, so that was convenient. Plus, I had mess crew experience, too, so we had a combination that was very useful. I could assist the cooks up there and all that, and I had enough to work with the kids when they went wandering around.

RP: It was officially known as Antelope Springs, but it was a former CCC camp.

KO: Yes.

RP: And what was left of that camp that you recall when you were up there?

KO: We had one building that was the john, I guess, yeah, I think that was it, and we had a whole bunch of concrete pads of which we used one as the kitchen area, and they put a shelter or a tent up over the thing and put the stove on the thing, coal burning stove obviously. Put the kitchen there in the kitchen area, and then I guess we used another pad area for the dining area, put the table down there. It was all out in the open, and the bedding, bedrooms and stuff, you might say, was just a bunch of army pup tents, two-man pup tents.

RP: So who would come up to the camp? Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts?

KO: Yeah, Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, the Cub Scouts. 'Cause there was little kids, school groups and stuff like that, they would have official tours, you might say, camp tours for two weeks at a crack or something like that.

RP: Like going to summer camp in the mountains.

KO: Yeah, that's essentially what it was, a summer camp for the kids.

RP: Organized, organized groups.

KO: Yeah. And they had their group leaders which had to come, adults, several adults usually that knew the group and could keep track of them.

RP: How were the kids brought up to the camp?

KO: Oh, they used buses, pour 'em into a bus with their personal stuff and haul 'em up there. It'd be a one or two hour drive, and kids would be sick and tired of the drive by the time you got there, and come pouring out of the bus. We had to be careful they didn't get away from us. [Laughs] The beginning and the end it was sort of always interesting because we would have the, usually we would have the tents fixed for 'em, pitched, usually have 'em pitched. And they would come pouring out and they would get assigned to their tents and stuff. And after a few days, each group would have their own idea of how they want the tents arranged, so they would rearrange the tents. But we'd teach 'em how to pitch tents, so they can do that. The girls usually pitched their tents in a circle, the boys usually pitched tents in a military style.

RP: And, yeah, so this was up in the mountains at about 7,500 feet.

KO: Yeah.

RP: And boy, June on the lake bed out there at Topaz must have been well over a hundred degrees. So this was a great sort of respite from the hot summer.

KO: Oh, yeah, and it was great for me.

RP: And you spent most of the...

KO: Yeah, I spent almost all the summer up there. Go back once a month or something like that for a break, and then go back up again for the next group. What I do is go back for a two week period and stuff.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

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.

<Begin Segment 21>

RP: This is tape three of a continuing interview with Kinge Okauchi. And Kinge, you were just describing to us the beauties of the night at this camp that you were, you know, higher up off the desert floor, and you didn't have the lights or anything else. What else do you recall about your experience up there?

KO: Well, the camp site was located such that we got a very good view of Sevier Lake, that dry lake to the south of us. So for city kids, which was most of these kids there, all this open space was something remarkable for them, especially that dry lake bed that stretched for miles. Although they got their fill of driving up to the camp site, the view from the camp site was pretty good, and they enjoyed that. And the walks they got in the hills, they got a kick out of that. Because there were all sorts of little critters that would show up when the, a whole bunch of kids come down the hill, the little critters would run like hell, and the kids would try to chase 'em, of course, and they never catch 'em. And then we did have a few hikes up the, up toward the mountain, but that was the exception to the rule. They always had to be organized for that one, made sure there was one or two adults that went with 'em to make sure that they were, didn't go get lost or anything. Keep track of the kids. Fortunately, we didn't lose anybody.

RP: I was going to say, if there were any lost kids or...

KO: The usual bumped toes and skinned knees and stuff, and that was about it. And, of course, the typical fights between kids, that was broken up usually, so that was no problem.

RP: Were there any situations where you actually had groups of adult internees from Topaz, or was this primarily just kids?

KO: These were almost all kids.

RP: Also, were there any people, administration people from the camp that showed up?

KO: Yeah, once in a while they would come up and check over the area to see that the situation was essentially... not under control, but simply that the place was not breaking down or anything. Make sure that we had the necessary supplies and stuff. But there was almost very little of that, 'cause it was pretty much a self-contained operation, and we didn't have to worry about supplies. We got the standard supplies and stuff, except that they were tailored towards being out in the middle of nowhere instead of in a proper full-sized kitchen. And since most of these were kids, they didn't have to worry about the quantity to any great extent. Made sure that they had the proper stuff, and the quantities took care of themselves, more than enough quantities. Kids eat pretty well. And kids being what they are, they didn't really notice what the greasy stew was all about, as long as it was there. [Laughs]

RP: After a day of hiking and activities, you know, anything tastes pretty good.

KO: All we had to do was make sure that they, they washed themselves properly in the evenings and stuff.

RP: Were there any particular kids that you recall that, that you kind of took a liking to or that impressed you?

KO: Not particularly, no. I was sort of slightly detached from the groups as such. The groups took care of themselves, mostly. I just sort of acted as a number two honcho around there, made sure things went the way they were supposed to go. Let the group leaders take care of their kids.

RP: You were about, what, twenty, twenty-one?

KO: Something like that, yeah. So that worked out pretty well. I just made sure that, helped make sure that the group leaders knew where things could be gotten, how things could be arranged if they needed it. So I acted more like a contact for the supply chain, you might call it.

RP: Were you responsible for closing up the camp at the end of the season, too?

KO: To a certain extent, yeah. We just broke down the camp and made sure that the fires were out in the cookstove, and just sat there. If they ever needed it, I guess they went up and got it, but we left it for the next year.

RP: Left all the sleeping bags and the tents and everything?

KO: Yeah, all the supplies and stuff were packed up and ready to take back. Tents were... the nice thing about it is that most of that kind of stuff was done by the kids. And the last group of kids made sure that... each group that came out there would pack up their own pup tents and stuff and leave it like it was going to be packed off. So all we had to do was make sure that got loaded.

RP: Like you said, most of these kids were city kids, and had probably very little experience in nature. So this was, for many of them, probably, their first experience camping.

KO: Except for the Boy Scout groups, they almost had no camping experience. And especially the little kids, none of them anything other than... in fact, the typical camp problem, some of these kids got homesick. [Laughs] But since they had all sorts of other people with them, then it wasn't too bad. Kept them occupied during the day. It didn't take long for them to get used to all this. But once in a while, we would have a homesick kid. Fortunately, I didn't have to worry about that. Their group leaders had to worry about that.

RP: What was it like for you to be out of camp for two or three months?

KO: Well, that was the real relaxing camp site, the outdoor camp.

RP: Did you camp very much as a kid?

KO: Oh, yeah. I would spend a fair amount of time camping. Not to any great extent, but often enough that I could work my own way around the camps and stuff. Pitched my own tent, you might call, that's about it.

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

<Begin Segment 22>

RP: Since we don't have very much time left, I'd like to kind of focus on your life after leaving Topaz. Can you give us an idea of when you roughly left the camp? Was it late, 1945?

KO: I think it was August or September, something like that. Well, maybe it was earlier than that, maybe around July. But anyway, it was about the latter half of the, beginning of the latter half of the year, '45. We wound up in San Francisco for about a month. Which was, being a small town kid, I didn't particularly like San Francisco. But then at that time, there wasn't much of anything. We, my father and I, we stopped over there by Hunter's Point area, they had a bunch of leftover barracks and apartments from the shipyard days. And my father found a place in Menlo Park again and we moved down there. And like I said, he nearly brained me for wanting to go to work instead of going to school. Threatened me with disbarment or whatever you want to call it. [Laughs] So I wound up going to school. Fortunately, at that time, school wasn't much more than the cost of transportation.

RP: And you went to Stanford?

KO: Huh?

RP: You went Stanford?

KO: Toward the end, yeah. In the upper division type. I managed to luck out and get into, get accepted for Stanford. It was sort of interesting 'cause in my case, a guy, kid, a guy I went to school with in the same sort of area, he had better grades than I did, but he got passed over the first time, to get admitted to Stanford. Reason for that was he had a couple of bad grades during the earlier part, during the earlier part of his schooling, and I had neutral grades for that part. So I wound up getting, on paper, looking better.

RP: You were, during the time you were in camp, you were draft age even before you went to camp. You never had a military experience, did you?

KO: No, not directly. Indirectly, yeah, like as I mentioned before, I think if they gave me credit for the time I spent twiddling my toes and twiddling my thumbs in Fort Douglas, Salt Lake City, I could have qualified for the minimal GI Bill. But all it was was the preinduction type stuff. So we spent several days apiece, often enough, and I think at one period I did spend a whole, most of a whole week. And got to the point where they were running us through the preinduction type, or whatever it is they call the movies and stuff they put everybody through. And we had to just sit around and wait for some orders and stuff, and finally they sent us home to wait for orders, and orders never came. Each time, for me, it was each time the same way. They sent us home and wait for orders, and the orders never came.

RP: So you never were officially classified --

KO: We were never officially inducted. We went through a lot of the preliminaries, but never were officially inducted.

RP: This was, you would leave Topaz and go to Fort Douglas.

KO: Yeah. Couple of my people in my groups, different groups got called up pretty, almost immediately. But most of us wound up twiddling our thumbs for most of the time. In my case, I twiddled my thumbs between call-ups.

RP: But how many times were you called up?

KO: Three? About three times, I think. Three, four... at most three, twice for sure. But I think it was three. And the last one was during the Battle of the Bulge in Europe, the army panicked, they were calling everybody up to come in for induction, for induction stuff. By that time... by the time that we got in and went through the mill, the whole affair was winding down, so they sent us home again. But I remember that time they, about the second week of the Battle of the Bulge period, it was pretty obvious the army was really panicked. Because some of the people that had been inducted earlier, the month before or something, we had heard from, their families heard from, they were in Europe. They hadn't even gotten through basic training, they were in Europe. So that's the whole story of the whole period, that time. Lot of people got sent to Europe before they're through, got through basic training. It wasn't just us, it was everybody else, too. The army had just plain panicked, apparently.

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

<Begin Segment 23>

RP: You graduated from Stanford in mechanical engineering?

KO: Yeah.

RP: Tell us how you got on at China Lake, here.

KO: Well, about, I guess, six months or so after I had graduated, killed time. And we had, during the final years, we had all these interviews and stuff. I just interviewed around in the recruiting people that had my name put in, and the civil service type got a hold of my name. And the people here in NASA Ames needed some bodies. Just happened that this place got their first letter in, but after that I got the Ames one, but I'd come down here for an interview. And things were interesting and they needed bodies, so I accepted the job down here. Ames was sort of iffy because they weren't too sure what they needed up there. But it was sort of obvious that they were just filling out their list. I wound up out here, and like I mentioned before, at that time, this whole business out here was sort of guess and by gosh type operation, so having a degree or two, it was some basic fundamental schooling, I was about as expert as anybody else. And essentially, I was more expert in some areas than the other people out here, so I was able to work things out.

RP: What did you specifically work on?

KO: Initially?

RP: Yeah.

KO: Initially, let's see. I worked on the preliminary things, actually, things like the, one of the Sidewinder Rocket. It was at the idea stage, and they needed a couple of sketches to illustrate what the thing was all about. So me and another guy, we had put out a, just laid out a sketch of what could, should look like if we went through what they wanted to do. And like I was saying, probably it's a good thing they didn't go through with our design we made, 'cause we couldn't convince them that that particular combination just wouldn't work. But we knew just enough to know that it wasn't really a good combination of stuff. All they needed was something to tell the money people that this is what they were working on, sort of thing. And later on, things changed completely in that area. But we did that for the first couple, three months, and then all sorts of odds and ends.

RP: And just a couple more questions. What was Ridgecrest like back in those days? Probably a...

KO: Ridgecrest?

RP: Yeah.

KO: Well, let's see. China Lake Boulevard was almost empty. Everything was on base, and there was a lot more buildings to the south area, not as much as they got to be at the end. And Ridgecrest Boulevard was at that corner where the base is, that had a few buildings and a restaurant or two, a gas station, and is now a service place. It was there, and there was a garage there, no motel. And further down was, where there's a restaurant or two now, there was a couple of buildings that were restaurants. And the intersection of China Lake Boulevard and Ridgecrest Boulevard, there was that group of buildings which no longer exists, but that area had a few stores and stuff. And little bit, about a block to the west and some of the old buildings are still there, and those were there, and that was it. And I think that building, they call it County Building, and that was there, and that was almost anything there. Inyokern itself hasn't changed much, other than the fact that a bunch of bars have disappeared.

RP: And how long did you end up working at China Lake, Kinge?

KO: Huh?

RP: How many years did you put in?

KO: Oh, I came here in late '50.

RP: '50, and when did you retire?

KO: I got all sorts of odds and ends of jobs that, actually, I stayed with one group, but all sorts of jobs kept popping up, so I was able to stick with it.

RP: You called China Lake the "Navy Skunk Works."

KO: Oh, yeah, that's essentially what it was. I think in the Korean War, they needed a air-to-ground rocket, so China Lake concocted one. And concocted is a good term for it, about all it was. And later on, that rocket was totally inadequate, but at that time, they wanted an air-to-ground rocket. So they put one, slapped one together, and I think the word is they did it in about a month to two months from scratch. And at that time, China Lake had the laboratory there, and then they had the test area and they had a rocket manufacturing, an explosive manufacturing capability. So you could go from just an idea down to the finished product. And the shop area was a semi production line type arrangement. So you could build things on a production line basis, on a very limited basis. That's how they managed to do it. That's why I call it the "skunk works" type operation. You can come up with an idea, build it, and send it out to the fleet, and they could use it for a while until it needed to get polished up. And in a number of cases, it really needed to be polished up.

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

<Begin Segment 24>

RP: One last question, Kinge. How do you reflect on your camp experiences, mostly at Topaz? How do you see that experience and how did it shape any part of your life?

KO: Well, I guess I'd just call it a... an interesting experience like everybody in the war's experience, and went through a period that was out of, out of their control, but managed to get through it one way or the other, that's about it. And I guess in my case, it was sort of an interesting real life experience. Because at that time, all I knew was school and that kind of stuff. Beyond that, I guess everybody that gets military, drafted in the military, goes through sort of the same sort of, you might say, experience, that's not controllable and out of whack with everything else. Not quite the real civil life, type of thing. So I guess I can't say much more than that.

RP: Kirk, any additional questions?

KP: I do have one. Go all the way back to the beginning, do you have any idea what your father's family did in Japan, what kind of...

KO: Oh, they were a small village landholder. In fact, from what my father said, I don't know how accurate he is, but my father's family was probably one of the village elders, but they were probably one of the biggest landholding in that little village. Landholding meaning ten, fourteen acres, I think. I think one number I remember was seventeen acres. That was a big farm in those days, and about half of that was apparently a wooded area on a hill. But it was one of the wooded landholders and a village elder. And my father, some of the tales my father told me about the, his grandparents and stuff was sort of amusing. But I don't know if I should repeat that or not. [Laughs] But to phrase it real loosely, I think if my, one of my grandparents way back in the old shogun period, if he wasn't an incompetent revolutionary, I wouldn't be here. [Laughs]

RP: I think we'll end there, Kinge. That's a perfect place to end. Thank you on behalf of myself and Kirk and the National Park Service for sharing amazing and wonderful stories with us this morning.

KO: Okay, I'm glad to have had the opportunity.

RP: Appreciate it.

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