Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Mary Suzuki Ichino Interview II
Narrator: Mary Suzuki Ichino
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Pasadena, California
Date: December 3, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-imary-02

<Begin Segment 1>

RP: This is a continuation of an oral history interview with Mary Suzuki Ichino for the Manzanar National Historic Site. We're at the same place we were I think six months ago, Mary, 545 Bellmore.

MI: Still here.

RP: Still in Pasadena. Date of the interview is December 3, 2008. The interviewer is Richard Potashin and our videographer is Kirk Peterson. Our interview will be archived in the Park's library and I assume I have the permission to continue with our interview?

MI: Oh yes, for sure.

RP: 'Cause we went to all this trouble and Kirk got all this equipment together. So Mary, I'd like to focus today a little more on your life in camp and particularly with the Maryknoll group. But I wanted to ask you a question, sort of a lingering question from our last interview. You told me that you led kind of a sheltered life, or rather naive when you were going through school at Maryknoll and...

MI: Sacred Heart.

RP: And Sacred Heart. And then you get into Manzanar. And you did something that very few people had the courage to do. You wrote a letter to General John DeWitt protesting your evacuation without any equal protection under the law.

MI: Yes, I did.

RP: How do you account for that transformation? From sort of a quiet naive teenager to... was it, was it the camp experience? The time that you spent there? What else might have factored into that?

MI: In retrospect, I would imagine it was because suddenly I found that I didn't have the freedom that I had before. And who would you question but the person that was in charge? And I really realized that I was born with no fear at all, you know, what the consequences were. If I thought I was right, I was gonna go and fight for it. And I think that was the motivation, not only for myself, but for everybody else. 'Cause we were so restricted. There were things that we missed. We took it for granted that we could go and get an ice cream soda or whatever, and all of a sudden you find out you can't even get that. And all the other uncomfortable situations that we were put in and no luxury I guess is the word, you know. But somehow we made do. And I saw my mother and dad quietly, never complaining, but that was very traumatic. To think that my dad, if I even think of it today and go, suppose the government tells you within a week you're gonna have to leave? He's got a whole business that he has to get rid of, lock, stock, and barrel, plus his home. That is very traumatic. I don't know how they did it. Again that word, Japanese word, shigata ga nai. And at times remember I told you I says, boy, that word sometimes tells me, oh god, that's a dirty word. [Laughs] Today I may not do that. I will complain first.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

RP: What were some of the most difficult situations that you faced in Manzanar? Was it the latrine situation, was it the food, or was it a combination of all those things?

MI: I think, I would have to say when we got off the bus -- some people traveled by train. We had to take the Greyhound bus which we thought was great because I had never been beyond that part, you know. But when we got off and this man came on the bus and he had this, what is it, armband that said "MP." And my god, MP, you'd think he's in a military uniform but he wasn't and he was one of the internees. And he gave us a canvas bag and told us to fill it up. And we said, "What for?" That was our mattress. We had to fill up our own mattress with hay. And I... it's kind of like going from a human being to an animal. And it's so funny because you have to adjust your mattress every night because it gets all these indentations, you know. That was probably the eye-opener. And the second one was when you had to go and you found out the latrine was just one open bowl after another. I thought, "This is ridiculous." To me, that was very inhuman, extremely inhuman. I thought the least they could have done was put up partitioning. And you could have somebody stand in front of you. But at least a partition. And then the other one was then we had to go brush our teeth. And if you were in the middle of this what looks like a trough, actually, you don't dare stay in the middle 'cause everybody's spit and whatever goes down the middle. [Laughs] So you get kinda smart, you know. What was the other? Oh, and diarrhea was rampant. And I didn't even... never heard of the word diarrhea until I went to Manzanar. I never had... which is a funny subject to talk about. And that was the reason why made it even more so difficult to go to the restroom.

RP: Was that something that was rampant in camp? I mean were there, was the whole block coming down with diarrhea or was it...

MI: It just seemed like everybody was.

RP: And was, from what you recall, what did people blame that on? Was it, was it food or...

MI: I don't...

RP: Lack of hygiene or...

MI: Well, the one thing I heard was that because the, the change in the soil and the water. But golly, you can't find a better water than the one up there. At that time, when everybody was suffering, I didn't have that problem. And there was a man, he was... I know he was crippled, a very well-known man, writer, Carl Kondo. And Carl Kondo and I, we all, a bunch of us used to hang out together. And I said, "Gee, Carl, what is it the talk that everybody is saying diarrhea?" "Oh, you mean to tell me you've never heard about the two twins that were born?" And I go, "No." "Well, one is called Dia and one is Rhea." And I took it seriously. And I thought, oh god. So, anyway, that's how I started learning what diarrhea was all about.

RP: That's the epitome of a sheltered life isn't it?

MI: It is very sheltered. I lived a very privileged life, I have to admit. I didn't think so. I thought it was a very normal life.

RP: Until you get Manzanar.

MI: 'Til I got there. It was a very happy life. It was a very happy life.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

RP: What, what about the landscape, the setting where this camp was placed? What type of reaction did you have when you saw that landscape? The mountains and this desert, did, were you... well, tell me in your own words.

MI: Well, I had never been that far where I saw a desert. So it didn't occur to me at the time. But, and I used to admire the mountains, which I still do. I could go anywhere. If I see a picture of that mountain, I could recognize it, I could tell you where it is. And I used to admire it and I used to look at it all the time. And then I would look at the sky and I'd say gee look at, you could see the stars like as if you could almost reach and touch 'em. That I liked. But the realization was in the afternoon when you had these dust storms. It was like, what is it, pebbles or whatever hitting your legs. And at those, in those days you didn't wear pants. Girls all wore skirts and bobby socks. So it was pretty round, pretty rough. But that was every afternoon, I remember. And you don't seem to have as bad a dust storm today? Do you?

RP: Occasionally.

MI: You do.

RP: We still get a...

MI: See, we used to get every single day. And so no matter how hot it was, a hundred degrees or more, you'd almost have to go indoors because otherwise you couldn't take it. And then it would subside. And the other thing was I used to love to hear the radio. And you could get radio connections -- that was when radio was permitted -- you couldn't get any of your favorite programs 'til real late at night. That's one thing I missed.

RP: What affected you most, the heat or the cold, for you? How did you adjust to those?

MI: You sort of, you know, hmm... it was cold. I don't take cold very well but somehow we managed. The heat was harder because you had to stay indoors when there's a dust storm. And of course there's no air conditioning. You can't leave the doors wide open. Maybe the heat. 'Cause we used to tend to sit outside at night. So there was, that had its good points because then everybody was sitting outside. There's this camaraderie, the familiarity. That was nice, you know. And I think that's why Block 32 was close. The young people always kind of gathered together, yeah.

RP: You started in Block 19.

MI: Nineteen.

RP: And was it just your immediate family that occupied that?

MI: No.

RP: Who else came along?

MI: It was my immediate family and then my distant cousin. I didn't even know he was my cousin until we went to camp. But he's a Maryknoll'er. But how we found out was through, I guess you had to tell where you were from. And it turned out that his mother was from the same place that my dad was from. And that's how we discovered it.

RP: What was his name?

MI: Henry Umeda.

RP: Umeda.

MI: Yeah, M-U... no. U-M-E-D-A. And so we had him and the six of us, so there was eight of us in this little teeny-weeny spot. That's why we had to move out of there. That was way, way too small. There was absolutely... couldn't do anything.

RP: And you moved to Block 32, which was not too far from Block 25 where the Maryknoll group was located. Did you have folks from the community that you lived in before camp also in Block 32 or...

MI: No. See, other than the Haras next door, who were part of our church at Maryknoll. No, they're the only ones I think I knew. The rest were all... oh, there was a Neeno, yeah. Hiroshi Neeno, his wife was a Maryknoll'er. So those would be the only ones that I would know.

RP: You moved into Block 32, Building 4, Room 4.

MI: Four, four.

RP: 32-4-4.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

RP: And you know we've heard what the rooms looked like when people first located in there. How did your barrack room change over time? What happened to it? Do you remember the changes?

MI: Yeah. I really don't know where my dad got this lumber, but somehow he was able to make a long table, like a dining room table. And so when my mother and dad thought that the food was not up to par for the children, they had brought canned food and stuff with them, just in case as an emergency, 'cause they didn't want us to starve. And that was really thinking ahead. So they had all of that and they were, they made sure that that came up with them. So my dad made this little kind of a corner kitchen like, you know, and he had all this stuff. And so my mother would cook rice and we would have whatever she could put together. So that was the front end. Then people used to buy bedspreads. Bedspread was the partitioning between different parts. And so assuming that there's this front end was like the dining room and there was this -- later on came the oil heater, oil burning heater -- in back of this bedspread was the beds. And in back of the beds was another spread. And that's where my mother put the clothes and things. And then we didn't have any shelves but the windowsills worked. So you'll see, you know, cups with your toothbrushes and stuff on the windowsill. And then some people got innovative and made little hooks, you know. Yeah, they were pretty clever I thought. You know that's what you call survival.

RP: Did you store water inside your room in buckets or pots that you could use for...

MI: Only pot, for a pot of water, hot water. That's after we got the oil heater.

RP: So you didn't have an oil heater when you first got in there?

MI: Not in the beginning, no. Of course they issued these peacoats or pea-jackets and army clothes, the old World War I khaki thing and I said, "I don't care if I freeze to death, I'm not wearing that thing." So my mother took it apart, 'cause she was a seamstress. That was, she had a degree in costume designing. And she made a skirt for me out of this pair of pants. I wore it one time and I said, god, this thing is so darn itchy, you know. That was the last of it. I kind of wished I saved that peacoat. I think it would have been worth a fortune today.

RP: She made a skirt out of a peacoat?

MI: No, the peacoat... it was just a khaki colored, yeah. But yeah, that peacoat would have been nice even today. I don't know. Fashion statement.

RP: Many, many folks also were able to sort of improve their barracks by ordering items from the Sears and Roebuck catalog or Montgomery Ward's. Was that, was that one of the bibles in your living room?

MI: Well, yes and no, because you didn't get half of it. Probably because it was wartime, too. Every Christmas I remember that, oh god, they had the most luscious pictures of chocolates. Oh my god. You know, boxes of chocolate candy. You know what, every year that we were in camp we ordered it early, never got one. Never got one. I don't know what the reasoning was for that. Who knows what was going on outside, you know. But a lot of families I think depleted their savings by ordering stuff that they needed. I'm pretty sure my dad did, too.

RP: Did you father bring in money with him?

MI: I don't know that at all. He must have brought his checkbook. How would he have been able to pay for some things, you know. But that's something that never occurred to me to ask him. He had to have because... hmm. I remember one time him saying that they had used their savings up or something like that. That was a, that I remember.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

RP: What were your impressions of... you spend a little time at Manzanar High School, you eventually graduated there. You had came from this education, this probably very quality education at Sacred Heart, and then you went into a barrack high school.

MI: Yeah.

RP: You mentioned to me, we talked a while back, that you were very bored.

MI: Oh, yeah. Still challenge... we were way ahead at Sacred Heart. Even Maryknoll, too, we were way ahead. That was even, not even going to camp. If you had gone to any of the parochial schools you were way ahead of the public schools. It just seems like that's the way it is with private schools. I don't know how it is today, but the English class, even the books... we had to read a book every single week. A book report was every single week. Homework was two and a half hours every single night. And then you go to Manzanar and you go, "Whoo, no homework." No this, no that. You know, it was like freedom in another way.

RP: So besides writing these, like you said your girlfriend and you were writing this drama, this play and you decided to write this letter to General DeWitt, how did you stimulate your intellect and your, keep your mind active? If...

MI: That's why we wrote that murder mystery.

RP: You said you never finished it, though.

MI: Yeah, we couldn't figure out how to...

RP: So did you...

MI: Well see it's against our principle of killing somebody for one thing, you know. And a murder mystery there's always somebody that gets killed. Then we couldn't figure out how the heck to end this darn story.

RP: So you wrote General DeWitt into the play?

MI: Oh, I wish I could have. And a little bit more, too. [Laughs]

RP: Well you mentioned all this reading you had to do. Did you continue to read voraciously?

MI: Yeah, I'm very much like my father. My father was a reader. Yeah, I am a reader. I'm always interested in documentaries, I'm always interested in history, and I'm always interested in hearing not just the frontal side. You know, that there's got to be something in the background. And that fascinates me. And I think that's the, might have been the reason why I got this job or I was asked to take that job with the WRA. Because it was in the reports office, meaning there was several criterias in reporting something, what, when, and where, and how. And you had to follow that. And if you didn't get those four things, that was not a story.

RP: Were there any teachers that made an impression on you during your time in the camp?

MI: Yeah. There's a couple of 'em. I'm not sure on the academic level. I think they were all good teachers. But for the sacrifice that they made to come and teach us, and for the work that they displayed where there was so much anti, you know, feeling. There was this Janet Goldberg, Helen Ealy, and what was his name, our music director. He became...

RP: Frizzell?

MI: Huh?

RP: Frizzell?

MI: Yeah, Louis Frizzell. And Mr. Greenlee. Mr. Greenlee was blind and a very quiet person and you know what? Several times I heard that Manzanar people, students, former students, would see him downtown, and they would all stop to talk to him. So that's sort of like orei, you know, thank you for all that he did. So those are the teachers that the names stands out for me.

RP: Predominately for their, their contributions.

MI: Yeah, 'cause there, there were some that were like, taught shorthand and typing and stuff. Didn't make much of an impression. Not that they were bad or anything, but you just know. These were, these were the ones that really for me was outstanding.

RP: They moved you to, stimulated your mind a little bit? What did they, what did they actually do for you? What, why do you remember them?

MI: They didn't basically stimulate my mind, I think because I was already a little bit above that, you know, with the, the parochial school education I got. But they never put you down. They never said that I was, like we were like second-class students. You know, or you gotta do this, you know. Yeah, I think that's probably what it was. They always encouraged you in whatever you did so I appreciate that. 'Cause I'm sure that there were other kids that were not in the category I was or my brothers or my sisters were. You know. There was like a couple of other girls from Sacred Heart there, too, in the camp. Yeah.

RP: You worked on the high school yearbook?

MI: Yeah.

RP: What did you do? What was your contribution to the yearbook?

MI: Well, you know what? It's a funny thing. It's... you talk about democracy, this was a dictatorship. He says, "Okay, now you're gonna be in charge of the money and the management. You're gonna do this, you're gonna..." So no... but you know, it was lucky because he put me in charge of the business management.

RP: Who was he?

MI: Yosh Nakashima.

RP: He was the advisor?

MI: Well, he was... no. We were a clique, like in the high school group. And we were the movers. And so one would be this and one would be that. And it wasn't like you had to be, you know. Sort of a democracy, I think. But then there were certain people asked to do this and do that. So I was asked to raise money. And I went, "How in the world do you raise money in a camp?" you know. And so the first thing I thought of was, I says, "Gee, if you look at the yearbooks they all sell space for advertisement. Well, who's gonna advertise in camp?" So I went to a, I wrote a letter to the editor of Sharp Font Press, and, is it Lone Pine?

RP: Bishop, Lone Pine.

MI: And I said that I... you know, this is where you're so naive you know, you're young, you're not thinking anything else. "I am the business manager and would you like to buy a space in a yearbook?" And lo and behold, I got all of these things, spaces and the money came in. And then after the book was published, he offered me a job. [Laughs] I thought that was funny.

RP: You could have stayed in the Owens Valley.

MI: I think I should have. 'Cause I love it up there, you know. The desert grows on you.

RP: It does.

MI: Oh yeah, but still at that age I was dying to get out of there, too.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

RP: You told me again a while back when we were first talking, you said, "We did a lot of crazy things that we, in camp, that we couldn't do in the city." Is that kind of, sort of represent maybe a bit more freedom that you had in the camp? And what are some of the things that you...

MI: Oh, I think it was more like a teenage rebellion. We don't realize it as a rebellion, but teenagers go through all that right? We didn't think anything of breaking the curfew. Where else would they go? Where else would they put us? So we stayed out as late and beyond the curfew.

RP: There was a curfew in camp?

MI: At the park. You know, what is that?

RP: The north park? The park to the north of the block there, 32?

MI: No. The... Bair Creek.

RP: Oh, the picnic area.

MI: It would get so hot in camp. Everybody would go to the camp and wade in the water or the streams, yeah. But we would all... you know, we're safe. Where else could you go. Except there was a guard tower there. We could have been shot. But it's like Stalag. We said, "Oh, this is exciting. Oh, the light is going over that way. Okay, come on. Now's the time to move to get out of here." You know I'm going if my mother and dad found out about it, they would have croaked us one. But we did that. Thought nothing of it. We just thought it was an adventure.

RP: You pushed the boundaries a little?

MI: Yeah. I think you could only do that in camp. That's one of the things you could get away with in camp.

RP: And the one, the one thing that people often remark about in terms of when they mention the breakdown of the family unit at Manzanar, they always mentioned that, "We ate with our friends rather than our parents." What was the case in your family?

MI: My mother was the glue that held us together. And my dad, too. But that it was because my dad worked so long hours and my mother was the one that controlled the family. She said, "We are not gonna eat separately. We are gonna eat as a family and after we eat, then you can take off with your friends. But you are not to go to any other block and eat as you please." Whether we were on one end of the camp all the way to Block 32, we ate together. Unless we told them ahead of time that we'd been invited, you know. Other than that, my mother had a very strict rule about that.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

RP: You said that on occasions, or maybe this was early in camp, that your father had brought some canned food and you did have, take some meals in your room. Was that just an infrequent occurrence or did you spend most of your mealtime at the mess hall?

MI: Mostly at the mess hall. But when it got to a point where they got a little bit worried that we needed a little bit of variety, or they didn't think, or they think we needed something more, yeah, then the canned food came out.

RP: What are your most vivid recollections about eating in the mess hall, and the food in your mess hall?

MI: Oh, I hope the cooks on Block 32 are not alive yet. I just, they were the worst cooks. We used to have a name. I forgot what we got fed on Mondays. Tuesday was always slop-suey. Now you know what that means. And so we'd say, "Oh, don't go eat there tonight. It's slop-suey." And then somebody would say, "Hey, it wasn't too bad tonight." Said, "You've gotta be kidding." So then we'd go, you know. What was Wednesday? Wednesday could be anything. Friday was always fish, smelt. Now my sister told me something just recently. That I go... she said that they refused to eat that fish because, see, smelt is something we used to use as bait when we went fishing. And here we're eating this darn fish. Well, she said that she and her friend were sitting on the outside somewhere and there was this big ice chunk of fish, and it was full of maggots. And I said, "Why didn't you tell us that?" She said, "We were scared to tell anybody what we were seeing." And I think that's why there was some sickness, yeah. My Terminal Island friends who are, are very knowledgeable about fish... I used to work as a dental secretary, and we get to eat lunch early and we did go eat at this one mess hall. And she said, "Oh, don't touch that fish." And we said, "Why?" She said that when a fish bites your tongue or you get a bite to it, the fish is no good. And I thought, oh, I learned that, to this day I'll remember that. So I don't know where they got the fish. Maybe from a bait store, who knows. But anyway, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

RP: You mentioned some Terminal Island friends. What was your perspective on that group, at Terminal Island kids, some people refer to them as the yogores. What, is that reputation deserved or not?

MI: Well, there's many ways of looking at that. Fishermens are a very rugged individual and so is their language. And I remember when I first heard even a little youngster talking Japanese, I was, I just about was floored by their language. It was not the kind that I was raised up in. But they... you know when you get to know them or understand, they're really nice. But there's a sort of an old Japanese male chauvinist kind of a thing going on. Oh, I guess maybe that's why my mother would not let me date any of those guys. And they did have a reputation of being pretty rough and tumble. But then see, we thought that way, but they were great. It was a bravado. You know, say, "Oh yeah, we're a bunch of yogores." Yogores meaning "dirty bunch," right? So anyhow, I remember when I was asked to go on a date and my mother asked me who I was going with. I said, "Oh he's a yogores from Terminal Island." She would not have it. I think it was the name. It sure sounded pretty, you know.

RP: Even if you don't know what it means in Japanese it still sounds...

MI: It sounds very, yeah, you know... oh well. But gee, some of my best friends are from Terminal Island, so you can't judge 'em all that way.

RP: So, Nori Iwasaki, was he one of the guys you hung out with?

MI: Yeah, he was, but there was a Terminal Island group that was very more finesse. They're the Terminal Island people who were very rough and tumble. Nori, Fumio and some of those others are not that way. So you can't put 'em all in one bundle.

RP: It's stereotyping.

MI: Yeah, stereotype.

RP: What was dating like at Manzanar?

MI: Dating?

RP: Yeah.

MI: Well, I guess everybody knew who everybody else was dating because it would come out in the Free Press. So it was always, at the dance, I go, "Oh god, here I go." It was a very innocent period then. It's not like today. You know, kids today will go run off some place. But no, that was just a no-no. You don't do that. I'm pretty sure it's a hundred percent. Maybe ninety percent or ninety-nine percent. But still, that was not considered proper. You went to the dance, you had your fun, and you came home. And the boys always took you home and that was it.

RP: And all dates were cleared with Mom?

MI: I don't know, but with mine it had to be. My mother gave them the third degree. She would look 'em up and down saying, hmm, you know. But that's good. I, at the time, I thought, gosh. But, see, you don't appreciate that was a concern of a mother. And so, you know, it's no different than what I'm doing with my own kids. So, it's interesting.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

RP: I wanted to bring in the rest of the family, your brothers and sister and your mom and your dad. First of all, maybe you can kind of summarize, you know, what they did in camp. What occupied their time and what was their, how did they respond to the life of camp?

MI: I'm not really sure what my dad did. I think he did work in camp but I can't remember what kind of a job he took. Hmm, that's interesting. You know what, I really don't know what my dad did. I know that he had a job but I don't know what he did. I could probably ask my brother and see if he remembers. My mother, having had her background in costume design, decided to open up a class for young ladies to teach them sewing, drafting of clothing without having to buy a pattern. In those days, dress patterns you had to buy separately. It's not like today. And so that was her contribution. So I used to see all these girls in my house and my mother used to want to teach me to sew. I said, "Uh-uh." Too much of a tomboy.

RP: Where did she hold these... did she hold these classes in a recreation room or in her own...

MI: No, she... my dad made a table long enough where the girls could sit around the table. I was out of there while they all came. [Laughs]

RP: The same table that you would eat at?

MI: Yeah. And they would come and yeah, I was really proud. That was my mother's contribution. And then of course she was very interested in tea ceremony. And then she was interested in flower arrangement.

RP: So she took classes in those at...

MI: My mother had... I think she did take a class in -- no, this was not in camp. This was, as far as the flower arranging, I think she learned that outside. But she wanted to get me influenced, but like I told you, I was too much of a tomboy. I didn't know the front and back of a flower. Gosh, I used to get so, you know... I said, gee... even the tea ceremony, it's this ritual of doing everything. It has to be this, you gotta put this... so you know, in the meantime your leg is going to sleep. My god, this is ridiculous. But you know what that is supposed to do is to develop poise, I guess. Didn't work on me somehow.

RP: Still have some doubts about that?

MI: I don't know.

RP: How about Mike? What was Mike's focus in camp?

MI: Well, he was still going to school. Yeah, and then sports. And my brother Joe, too. Most of the, the young fellows that were in those pictures are around the same age. So they were basically interested in the schools.

RP: And sports.

MI: Yeah. And then, you know, every camp, every block had a basketball or they set up one. They, yeah, they set up one. They did something, anyway. So then they would play basketball and things like that.

RP: Girls had opportunities for athletics in the camp, too.

MI: Baseball.

RP: Softball.

MI: Softball, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

RP: Did you participate in any sport, sports activities?

MI: I was more interested in tennis. And so my dad ordered a tennis racket for me. And we used to get up at six or seven in the morning, about four of us, and then we rigged up a makeshift tennis court. Yeah, we played. There was a...

RP: In camp?

MI: Yeah, there was a tennis court that we set up.

RP: Yeah, and you know, I think it's the right location, but it's right across from the auditorium, there's still clay on the ground there.

MI: Is there?

RP: Yes.

MI: Really.

RP: That was officially the tennis... you know, tennis courts were set up there. There was a tennis club for a while.

MI: Yeah.

RP: We're going to talk to a teacher, a teacher who taught at Manzanar, tomorrow, and apparently she was heavily involved in the tennis club.

MI: Who was that?

RP: Her name is Libby Wordner, or at the time she was Libby Gratch. G-R-A-T-C-H.

MI: No, we didn't belong to any organized. We just went there and had fun.

RP: Practiced.

MI: Yeah. It would have probably helped us. But we just went... it's social, you know, it's just...

RP: So Mike and Joe were kind of occupied with school and sports.

MI: If it's school, it's sports, and church.

RP: Church. We're gonna get to that in just a minute. How about your other sister?

MI: Angie?

RP: Angie.

MI: Well, she had her group of friends from Maryknoll. And she was still going to school, too, of course, because she's very young. And I think her main activities were all at church, too, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

RP: Tell us about the activities that the church offered to, other than the mass, you know, masses, and what other activities and opportunities were offered through the Manzanar Catholic Church?

MI: Well, I think there was a lot of like helping one another, or helping visiting elderly people. You know, basically what you do today like volunteer work. And then they used to have Christmas plays. I had a picture, a book of Maryknoll, I wanted to show it to you and I can't remember where in the world I put it. But there's a picture of the nativity and that was taken in camp. I didn't take that picture so I don't have it. But yeah, we did used to put on these little programs.

RP: What was Christmas like in camp for you?

MI: Oh, I'll never forget, I guess probably one of the most memorable Christmas ever is etched in my mind and it's at Manzanar. We went to midnight mass and the usual, going to the mass and greeting everybody, saying "Merry Christmas." We were walking home, home meaning the barrack, and I looked up at the sky and it was absolutely still. There was no breeze, no wind, or nothing. It was just dark and then you could see all the stars. And it was almost like you felt the presence. It was like... it really touched me. I don't know what it was but it really... the stars, you know, it was just seemed almost like you're thinking about Bethlehem. And I'll never forget that, walking from the church and we have to go uphill, you know, to go to what, Block 25, then there's a fire break and then Block 32. You're going uphill and then you're going towards the mountain. And the mountains at night looked blue for some reason, don't they, iridescent. Then you look up at the sky and says, "God, look at the sky. Look at the stars." It was, it was... this is a holy night. That was all we could think of. I never forgot that. To this day I keep thinking about it. And then we had Men's Society, and then we had Cause Fidelity, which was the girls. And as, those were basically either prayers or helping one another, helping people in need. We had two nuns there, too.

RP: That was...

MI: Sister Susanna and Sister Bernadette.

RP: What do you remember about them in camp and what they did?

MI: Well, I used to think, you know, what a hard life for them. A nun? What kind of a threat are they? They had to endure the same hardship and inconvenience like the rest of us. Even the shower was wide open. And somewhere along the line they put a little shelter for the nuns, which I was glad.

RP: In the shower?

MI: Yeah. And then they wore these heavy, you know, the... what do they call it? Nuns' outfit, you know. Oh gosh and that temperature and all? How in the world do they stand that? Either they get used to it or what, but God, that is so confining. And I used to always think about that. How did they do that? Did they offer it up as a sacrifice to God? Yeah, it was a total dedication to good work. And anybody, anybody could come to the church if they were in trouble. They didn't have to be Catholics, tt could be anybody. And a lot of people did. In fact, there's one story where Father Lavery was too ill to come and say the mass. And we were all in the chapel and... I can't remember where I heard this story, but, and I can't even remember if I'd remembered that incident. But, however, so we were all in the church and this non-Catholic gentleman heard about it. And he was a collector of Gregorian music. So during mass, supposedly mass period, we sat and we listened to the Gregorian music, the Gregorian mass. So when they say God works in strange ways, I go, yeah, you're right. But I was, you know, I thought that was very inspiring.

RP: Were you involved personally in Sunday school or helping out kids in the church there?

MI: Yeah. Here and there, yeah. Can't remember now most of the things but, oh, you know. There was a bunch of us. We were just a bunch of organizers. We'd get in there and says, okay, come on. Let's, let's do this or we'll do that or whatever. I feel as if it's a natural thing to do.

RP: Camp it was a difficult situation which probably tested some people's faiths. How, what were the sermons like that, you know, Father Lavery, Father Steinbach delivered? What was the essence of their message to the situation you were involved in?

MI: You know, I can't remember any of the sermons, which is kind of sad. But I would assume that it was uplifting because they were both very uplifting. Father Lavery never dwelled on the negative, and neither did Father Steinbach. What was his... there was another priest. Well, he was a character. He was fun. He was the one that had two dogs, I remember.

RP: In camp?

MI: No, he would bring 'em. That was his own dogs. You know, priests didn't stay in the camp. They came, said mass, and then they stayed either in Lone Pine or they went back to L.A.

RP: Was that pretty frequent that you'd have traveling priests?

MI: Every weekend.

RP: Every weekend somebody would come out?

MI: That, when you think about that, there's only so many priests and they went to the ten camps? That's amazing dedication. And then there were people who were non-Catholic who had a request to make and wouldn't trust anybody else and they would ask fathers to do it. So that was, that was interesting because at least they had the mobility to come down to L.A. and get things that anybody else could not.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

RP: Part of the Maryknoll church included the orphanage. Did the church maintain connections with those orphans who were sent to the euphemistically referred to "Children's Village" in camp? Did you firstly make visits to see the kids there?

MI: No, I never did go to there. But Maryknolls there was a seventy-fifth anniversary book. That's the one I wanted to show you and I can't seem to locate it. I don't know where I put it or I loaned it to somebody. Mentioned about the Children's Village and how many came from Maryknoll. Well, I know a couple of them who were there, and they're out. In fact, I got a call from one of them just the other day. And apparently the nuns took good care of them.

RP: So the nuns would, would kind of watch over them a little bit?

MI: Yeah, yeah. See, that was the thing about Maryknoll. Maryknoll keeps coming back. But even when we came out of camp, you know where the safest place was? Maryknoll. That was where you knew if you went there you felt like you were at home, and you didn't have to worry about any discrimination or somebody getting obnoxious with you by using different kind of terminology. It was a good, safe, friendly place. So there's a group picture of all the returnees that was taken at Maryknoll. That's what I wanted to show you. Maybe if I could locate that I'll send that to you.

RP: That's be nice.

MI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

RP: You started working at the dental clinic?

MI: First.

RP: And what was that like?

MI: Well first of all when we thought, "We can't do just nothing, sitting around." My friend Marie Hisamaine, who also went to Sacred Heart with me, and I decided that we're gonna work with the sick. So we went to the hospital and my mother said, "No. You are not gonna work with...." So Marie went and worked. But there was another opening which was at the dental clinic. And I said, "I don't know beans about dentists." And they said, "Well, we'll teach you." Well, then I had to be a dental receptionist and a secretary. Which meant that as the doctor worked on the patient, I had to take notes. And you know, I never knew what a central or a first bicuspid was from a molar. And I had to learn all that. Which was a, you know, that's part of the spice of life. I learned something.

RP: Terminology.

MI: Yeah, really. But the dental clinic is another story, I'll tell you.

RP: Tell us.

MI: Okay. There was a Dr. Nakamura, Yoshio Nakamura, Dr. Fred Iwasaki, and there was one other doctor, Dr. Kikuchi, he was the head. Yeah. Dr. Kikuchi... then the dental clinic split, and it, one became one up at the hospital and one down at the, I think, Block 1. Or not, is it, yeah, Block 1. And it was just a room not quite as big as this living room. My desk was right here and then there was a doorway and again there's this partitioning with bedspreads. And the doctors worked on... no plumbing. And I went, "Oh gosh, this is terrible." And everybody sat out here, you know, to have their teeth worked. And we did the sterilizing of the equipment on that side of the wall. That was... we had at least electricity. And we had two intern dental students. So, the only way we could manage was, as the doctor worked on it, you had to discard the blood and all that stuff. So there was this kidney pan... you still want to hear this?

RP: Oh, yeah.

MI: Oh, I, it took me a while to get used to that. But anyway, there was this kidney pan and that's where they all spit their whatever. And the doctor worked on them. And at the end of the day these two internees, that was their job, to take the soup out. That's how primitive it was. And there were times when they were short or help, and they wanted to mix the filling and I had to learn how to mix the silver amalgam with mercury. Well, we didn't know mercury was that dangerous at that time. So, anyway, I learned how to make silver filling.

RP: Did you do cleanings too?

MI: I did learn it. I did it on one guy and I thought, "Oh, that's it. This is not my thing." Dick Izuno. I still remember it. "Oh gee, Mary, thanks a lot." He said, "My teeth feel so good." I go, golly, I hope I didn't, you know, mess up his whole teeth. [Laughs] And we had one, two, three, I think four dental nurses who were very, very efficient. 'Cause they came from family of dentists and worked in their uncle's dentistry. So that was a redeeming thing. So that's my experience with the dental. So, I'm kind of varied. And finally I just said, "Oh God, I've had it here." And then that's where the evacuee property job opened up.

RP: Just opened up.

MI: And Dave... well, I can't remember how it was. But Dave said, "I want you to come over," and work for him. I said, "What am I supposed to do?" He said, "Well, you sit there and you kind of keep the eye on the desk and keep a record of people who want their stuff shipped in." And I go, "Oh, that doesn't sound too bad. Better than seeing all that blood every day." You know, so I went over there.

RP: That was over in Block 1?

MI: Yeah. You know, as you go into the camp today, you see the, where the guard, that little building that Louie Kado's dad built? And you go up and then they say the post office is on the left. And as you go to the right, that corner was the evacuee property office.

RP: The whole barrack?

MI: No, just one end of it. And then next door was the shipping department and Helen Ealy, is it Ealy? Helen...

RP: Helen Ealy Brill?

MI: The one, she lives in, in your way. Or she did. She's an old pioneer from over there.

RP: Oh, Helen Gunn?

MI: Gunn, yeah, 'cause the, she would always say that her boys call her "Teppo." Teppo means gun in Japanese. She would always say, "Oh, these are my boys." And the boys would say, "Yeah, she's my teppo." What is that? Oh, her name is Gunn. [Laughs] Yeah. Oh, she was very possessive of those guys. Very good to them. So they, she was right next door to us.

RP: So you were responsible for property that was being shipped into the camp?

MI: Yeah, people wanted certain things that they had shipped, I mean, stored somewhere, and they wanted back in the camp with them. And so we had to make arrangements for that. And I think we had a warehouse in camp somewhere where some of that still was stored or, if they couldn't keep it in their barracks. Something like that, yeah.

RP: Right. And, so I'm very curious about your relationship with Dave Bromley. Perhaps you can share some impressions of him. I remember that you said that at first this guy didn't come off too well in your mind but later on you kinda grew to love him a little bit.

MI: I grew to love a lot about him. The reason why with Dave was, he was active in the American Legion. And the American Legion was one of the most voracious vocal group wanting the Japanese evacuated. So I just hated 'em. I just said, "They're for the birds." And then it turns out he's active in the American Legion. And I thought, okay, that's his choice, that's okay. But Dave had a softer side which was he was a poet. Did you know that?

RP: Yes.

MI: And he even had a book printed. And I read his poems, 'cause I've taken heavy English at the parochial school, I realize that there was this big, there was this depth in this man's thinking. He was not like the American Legion guys that I thought he was going to be. And so my feeling about him just completely turned around. And he was basically like, you know, like a second father. I'm pretty sure he says, "Oh gosh, she's so young. She still hasn't been around. I need to guide her." Blah, blah. I am pretty sure that, I am pretty sure that crossed his mind. But he was always very patient. Yeah, and, and I really grew to respect him.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

RP: This is tape two of our continuing interview with Mary Ichino. There was an interesting story that you shared based around --

MI: I'm taking my glasses off.

RP: -- based around a plan, Dave came up with a plan to get Toyo Miyatake's equipment in to camp, his film equipment.

MI: Yeah I read that but I don't remember that really too well. I think Archie was talking about that. 'Cause when Archie told me about that I said, "Oh, he did?" And I'm not too sure if he was the one that said that when we were at the park. Remember at the high school park and we were all talking? 'Cause, I didn't... we did so many paperwork, I can't keep track of it all. But I know that Mr. Merritt, when he came as the project director, things changed.

RP: In what way?

MI: For the better. I thought for the better. Somehow he was able to sort of bend some things. That maybe the first two or first one or the second one did not. Yeah.

RP: What changes have, did you see in the camp before the riot and then after the riot? Did the camp change significantly after that event?

MI: The person that got shot, James Ito, lived right here in Pasadena, my friend's brother. In fact, he was in my class. So that was a shock. He was a quiet guy. I remember that we heard all this commotion and we were inside our barrack. And people were just yelling and screaming and my mother looked out and she said, "You're not to go outside, none of you. Stay inside."


RP: Were you working as a dental technician during that time? Or was that later?

MI: Probably, yeah. No, I can't be. Because you know why? James was in my class and I wasn't working when I was going to school. Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

RP: You graduated what in '43 or '44?

MI: '43 I think.

RP: The first, the first class.

MI: I think the second one. It was '44 then, huh. '43 or '44? One of those classes. Winter, because wasn't there a winter and a summer one? 'Cause if anything it would have been a summer one.

RP: I think there was just one.

MI: One?

RP: Yeah. Summer of '43 and then...

MI: Then maybe it was '43 then. Wait a minute. Yeah, I bet you it's about '43.

RP: Who, you talked about Dave Bromley. Who were some of the other administrators that you had contact with on a regular basis? Were there other folks that you mingled with, you know, in the business of the day? You mentioned Merritt.

MI: Yeah. Well, no, I did not mingle with Mr. Merritt. I hardly ever saw him. But Barbara Dougherty, I think was his secretary, but not on an administrative basis. She was the advisor to this group of young girls that I belonged to, the P.S.K.s, the phi, we called it the phi sigma kappa, KP... 'course some of the guys call say, "P.S.K., oh, the pretty sad cases," you know. 'Cause we used to put such crazy parties together. But Barbara was our advisor and she kept in touch with us 'til not too long ago, several years ago. Yeah, I'm pretty sure she's quite elderly now. In fact, it was funny 'cause I was, I just saw a letter that she had written to me saying that she wanted me to have this book. And I thought, "Oh God, that's right, I ought to get in touch with her." 'Course she's... but anyway, yeah, even after the war she went to Japan from Manzanar to work at the headquarters, MacArthur's headquarters. And she came, then she came back, lived in L.A. and she came to several of our functions. And she comes to Maryknoll once in a while, or she did. But I'm pretty sure she's pretty old by now. Yeah.

RP: And...

MI: But she was very dedicated to us.

RP: She really looked over, looked over the group.

MI: Yeah, she always, always kept in touch, kept track of who's who and how's everybody doing. You know, really...

RP: And this, this P.S.C....

MI: P.S.K.

RP: P.S.K. group, sounds like you continued as a group after camp for quite a while. Do you still meet?

MI: We did. I have a picture of them, but you know what? I think there is only three of us surviving now. In fact, there's a picture in the album of our group. But then we had added some other members after that, too.

RP: You said you had some wild parties?

MI: Well, you know, it sounds wild at the time but it's probably pretty mild. You know, in order to drum up something very interesting we would say, "Well, we're gonna have a poor man's party." So what's a poor man's party? Well we were gonna only serve crackers and water. Well, that was only a front. That was one party. But we were just a hilarious bunch of women, I mean, we could go to restaurants and we used to meet about every three or four months during the year and we would create such a riot just laughing, laughing. And everybody would want to join us, you know people we didn't know. It was so funny. There was another time when we said, "Yeah, let's reverse this role. Instead of wearing women's clothes, let's wear our brother's clothes." Oh, my mother did not like that idea and I said, "Yeah, but I'll be the only one that won't go to the party then." So I wore my brother's clothes. And of course we took it off after that. So they thought that we were... that's where the, one of the members, a family, said, "Gol, P.S.K, pretty sad cases." [Laughs] So what it basically boils down to is, if there's no fun in the camp, you make your own fun. And the best way to make fun is with your friends. No matter how crazy it is. Who cares?

RP: It's fun.

MI: Yeah, and then you... because of memory. I just, I think those memories are really precious.

RP: Especially those.

MI: I wouldn't do it today, but you know. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 16>

RP: We talked about Barbara Dougherty. Were there any other administration people that you kind of got close to while you were there in camp?

MI: Not what you call real close to, but I got to know him, was Allen Campbell who was the attorney. Because we had to deal with him when, with evacuee property. And, you know, there were some really well known writers but they're not administrators. See, who else would be in that place? Nope, that was about it.

RP: Do you remember a guy by the name of Arthur Miller?

MI: Uh-uh. Who was he?

RP: He was, he was in charge of the housing department or some division in the administration. I think he was also an author, too. He'd written several books.

MI: Really?

RP: More on sort of managing people and that kind of thing. Not as glamorous as the poet, but...

MI: Hmm. No, you know what? The name doesn't even ring a bell. Isn't that funny? Well, of course they shouldn't, there were so many. But the administration really didn't mingle too much with the internees, that I remember. Louis Frizzell did.

RP: You mean socially?

MI: Socially. They liked... they had their own homes with indoor plumbing, and all the luxurious amenities that we didn't have.

RP: You mean the Beverly Hills syndrome?

MI: Oh, yeah, for sure.

RP: So there, I mean, honestly, there was a fair amount of resentment of...

MI: I don't know whether it would have been called a resentment, but it did bring up some social questions. Meaning that when a three year old went to visit one of those places, said, "Well, how come you have a toilet in the house?" Well, see, they have no concept at three that, yeah, toilets are supposed to be in the house, the shower is supposed to be in the house. And it's not supposed to be open where everybody is, you know, naked and... so that's the concept. I think it impacts the younger people. "Why do, how come you don't have to line up for food?" See, this is where there's a breakdown. And so I think that's where the family being tight was so important.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

RP: So tell me how, how you got involved with this WRA opportunity in Los Angeles.

MI: Oh, you mean the job?

RP: The job.

MI: Frankly, I don't know how I got this job. I don't know whether somebody recommended me or what. And they asked if I wanted to work in WRA in Los Angeles. There is no, I don't recall anybody saying, "You have to make an application for this job." And that's why, to me, to this day, it's a mystery. Either somebody recommended me and said, "Yeah, you should hire her," 'cause they know me or whatever. But anyway, it was a case of god, anything to get out of this, you know, camp. And so my parents said... they, they were kind of very reluctant. But they knew that I need to make a decision on my own. So they did give me permission to go as long as I was cared for, number one, Maryknoll knew I was coming. Number two, there was a Polish woman who was also a Maryknoller who was married to a Japanese man, Fred Ogura. And so Mrs. Ogura said, "She can come and stay with me." So I had a place to stay. But Mr. Ogura, believe it or not, was interned in Crystal City. And his, it was only because of his association of one of the elders of Maryknoll.

RP: Was he the only Maryknoller that was interned?

MI: No. There were others. It was always the elders of the churches or elders of the organization. One night a group of men, and that's how we were told that they come, is the FBI comes and tells you to get your toothbrush and come. No questions asked. They came to our house. Well, my dad wasn't home. He was working late that night. And I don't know whether it was because the FBI man saw four little kids, he took sympathy on us or what. I don't know. I don't know what the reason was. But my dad never... 'cause my dad was active, too, in the church. Not as active as Mr. Ogura and some of the others because he had a business to run. So I've always wondered why those men came to our house.

RP: They never returned?

MI: They never returned. And it's, it, I find that very strange, you know. And the FBI always... you know why you know it's the FBI? They always dressed the same with a hat and an overcoat, dark suit. Kind of a trademark.

RP: So this, you had this opportunity to live with Mrs. Ogura. And this -- you can correct me if I'm wrong -- but this is 1945, '44, the WRA is, wants to help people who are coming out of the camp?

MI: Yeah. It was before the camps were closed.

RP: Okay, so...

MI: They already knew that at some point the camp has to be closed. That they would have to start moving people out. Where are they gonna go? How are we gonna move them? And so they had to have a central place where the internees could go and seek for help. Now there was another girl that was also picked to go. I don't know her at all. I never met her before. And we didn't travel together. I went by myself, she went by herself, I think. 'Cause I can't speak for her 'cause I don't know how she got down there. But anyhow, I was put in the reports office which is investigative and reporting any kind of incidents.

RP: Towards Japanese Americans --

MI: Yeah.

RP: -- coming out of the camps?

MI: And then making news reports and news releases to the newspaper. And that was my job. And then meeting people. Part of it was sort of public relation.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

RP: Just to back up a little, how did you feel about one, this opportunity, and two, leaving camp finally? This was something you probably wanted to do a long time.

MI: Oh, I thought it was great.

RP: And also you're not only leaving but you have a job at the other end in Los Angeles.

MI: Yeah. I worried about... 'cause I was gonna be all by myself. But I had the satisfaction of knowing that if I got in trouble or I needed help I could go down to Maryknoll. The father would be right there, the nuns would be right there. And they know me. They know my family really well. So there's that...

RP: Safety net.

MI: Yeah, that safety net there. And not only that, I'm staying with Mrs. Ogura. That's another safety net. Besides, when I went down there they probably thought I was Chinese anyway, you know, 'cause there were, there were no Japanese there at that time. But I just wanted to get out of camp and get going. I thought this was so stale, yeah.

RP: Also the other thing is that you were helping again.

MI: Yeah. I was, I thought I was doing something that... well, I loved to meet people for one thing, you know. And I don't have any problems with that. So, when that opportunity came I said gee, it'd be crazy for me... and I talked it over with my folks and they said, "If you feel comfortable, go." I'm pretty sure my mother and dad had their trepidations, but still... so I went.

RP: Who did you work for?

MI: For Earl O'Dea.

RP: Tell me about Earl.

MI: Earl O'Dea used to be the former city editor of the Daily News, which is a big paper. And he took over. And he worked for a while and then after that, I can't remember whether he got ill or something, and Eddie Eckles came in. Eddie Eckles, oh, he was a sweet guy. Gosh, he was so sweet. He was connected to the movie industry. He had a lot of little connections. And he was so much fun and his family was so good to me. But the heavy part of the work, I have to admit, fell on Earl O'Dea, 'cause, see, that was so new to have the Japanese coming back and the public has to be notified. How do you do that? How do you do that in a diplomatic, in a way that it doesn't incense the public? But he knew. He knew how to... and he knew all the reporters. And I got to know the reporters, and that was fun.

RP: You said you also met people?

MI: Oh yeah. I've had a lotta... there was one man that I can't remember his name but I heard that he was a very famous writer for the American, the quote, the name of the title, American Magazine. That's why there's a photograph of me in there on "American Day." And then, when you say meeting people, are you talking about that Chinese guy?

RP: You knew I was gonna tell...

MI: I know, I can tell you were workin' up to something. There was this guy when I was working on the... WRA was on the ninth floor. And then there was one I think on the fourth floor for the returnees to come to seek information, jobs, and possibly a place to stay. So this guy would always be in the front of the building waiting for me. At first I didn't think it was that... he was smiling, you know I thought it was... and then the minute I came he would follow me and wait 'til I got in the elevator. Thank God there was a whole bunch of people in there. And that was going on kind of a couple days, and then he would walk and then he would follow me to where my office is. And I thought... you know, after about a week or so you go, oh gee, what is it with this guy? And so finally I got very uncomfortable, I told Mr. O'Dea. I said, "There's this guy that keeps following me and all he does, not say a word, but he just looks at me and smiles. And I'm getting uncomfortable." So he told me, he says, "Okay, we'll put a check on him." Well, of course, I didn't know what that check meant. That's when I found out that the OSS office was on the same floor as us. Office of Strategic Services, and they're somehow connected with, you know... so the head man says, comes over and says, "Hey Mary, don't worry. We'll take over. We'll, check out this guy and see if he's okay and if he's harmless." And it turned out he works for them. Which was the irony of the whole story. I thought that was so funny. And I thought, I don't know whether to laugh or cry, I thought it was so funny. And he says, "Oh, yes. He's been given strict instructions to stay away from you, or else." I never saw him after that. You know what I think it was, according to what's his name at the OSS, "Mary, he's very lonely." I said, "Yeah, well, just tell him to stay away from me. I'm not that lonely." [Laughs] I'll find my own guy. But anyway, that was that story.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

RP: Did you have any contact at all with returning internees? You mentioned that there was an office for them.

MI: Yeah. You know, I have to tell you, the minute I got off the bus, the Greyhound bus, Mrs. Ogura picked me up, and it was my first view of Little Tokyo.

RP: What do you remember about it?

MI: It was so devastating. It was just so run down, so dirty. And I said, "This is Little Tokyo?" And she says, "No, it's called Brownsville." I said, "Well, it sure looks it," you know. There were laundry hanging out, people sitting out in the window. It was basically a black neighborhood now. It was no longer Asian. And so we went through that and I thought, okay, I learned something there. But the temple was still there, the Hongwanji temple. And then I went looking for areas that I knew and how things have changed. And the other thing was -- you were asking me whether I got into contact with some of the returnees. One of the big question was where would they live? Because at that time, restrictive covenant was still in effect, and there was still that anti-Japanese feeling. They didn't, they didn't make that distinction yet. And so where do you put them up? So the Hongwanji temple and several other temples and churches became hostels. And I remember my dad, I guess he got worried, he came and he stayed at the Hongwanji temple. And they all, they were down in the basement and in the room, every room was full of these bunk beds, two or three up high. It was hot. And my dad got a job as a cook or a dishwasher, something just to get started. And I would go there every other day, take his, get his laundry and bring back fresh ones for him. And then we would go to eat like at the Chinese restaurant we used to go to, like the San Kwo Low and the Far East. They were still there. So it was nostalgic that something that was, we missed was still there. Yeah. So we, I used to look forward to that and that was my dad and my time.

RP: Yeah just, wow. And the rest of the family is still at Manzanar.

MI: They were still at Manzanar. And then my dad, I don't know how he found it, but it's what they call a White Russian district of East L.A. It's sort of in a slum area.

RP: Boyle Heights area?

MI: Yeah, Boyle Heights. He saw this vacancy sign go up and he got off the streetcar -- this is what, the story that I heard -- and he took it. And it was above a store. And then he called the family from Manzanar. So we had a place to stay. And then we had to start buying furniture and stuff like that.

RP: How long did you work in this WRA position, Mary?

MI: Probably about two years or three years at the most. Yeah, and then I got an offer to work at the welfare council, which I thought was a little bit easier for me. So I took that job, yeah. But I went through a lot, a lot of experiences with the reports office when I was there. 'Cause that's where we had all put this thing together with Ronald Reagan, before he became president.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

RP: We were talking about some of your experiences with the WRA job. And you were just starting to talk about one of them.

MI: Oh, I went to the welfare council. Yeah. Well, oh, we were talking about Ronald Reagan.

KP: Yes, Ronald Reagan.

MI: Okay, this is a big one for me. Well, for me it is. I guess everybody else... but one of the families, a very prominent family in Santa Ana, the Neenos, they owned a big farmland. And apparently, the way I understood it was, it was entrusted to their neighbors to look after. And one of the family members came back and was welcomed with open arms but the next day they were threatened with a shotgun to leave the land. And we got onto that story. This was how we do, well, that's what the reports office job was. And Mr. O'Dea was just livid. He said, "After all what they had gone through here, you know, you make one face saying welcome and the next day you're being told to leave the land." So we wrote, we sent a telegram or something to Walter Winchell. And Walter Winchell picked up on the story. And it was on Walter Winchell. And it was big. It... oh, I was ever so proud. I was like gee, I was part of that big thing. And so it showed where how, how it could be so un-American, you know, when you don't realize what sacrificed we had made. And here that somebody had the nerve to do that. What kind of people are they? And somewhere along the line, Ronald Reagan came in on this thing somewhere and there was something like called the American, "I Am an American Day," that followed after that. And there was a band... oh, it was a big production and hardly anybody showed up. Well, you know, Santa Ana, at that time, was not known for being that tolerant, you know, of minorities. But anyway, he gave a speech. I have, that picture is in that album. I took it at quite a long distance, I don't know how you're gonna blow that up. Maybe you can't. But that's Ronald Reagan before... I don't think he was governor then. Or he was governor already. But he was so incensed, he came.


RP: We were talking about Ronald Reagan.

MI: Yes. So I do have that photograph of him speaking in the stadium.

RP: This was in Santa Ana?

MI: Yeah.

RP: And you were actually sent down by the WRA to photograph...

MI: Everybody... no, not to photograph. Everybody was invited to go. And my husband at that time was on leave from the army and so we all went. And we said, gee. They said, "Well how come this place is so empty?" Said, "Well, there's a football game." So then I guess the football game was more important than this affair, whatever. But anyway, so it's something from the past that tells you what Ronald Reagan did.

KP: Do you remember the year that was? Or any idea when that...

MI: Let's see. That's gotta be about '45 because I was married in '46, yeah, it was before we got married.

KP: And Ronald Reagan's involvement was as a military person...

MI: Not as a military person. I can't remember. He wasn't a governor then.

RP: No.

MI: No, but he was very active in politics anyway.

RP: I think he was Captain Reagan at some point.

MI: Was he? Yeah, he gave a pretty nice stirring speech. It's just sad that hardly anybody showed up.

RP: He basically went on record as abhorring that kind of treatment of folks coming out of the camps.

MI: Well you know, when my husband came on leave and here's he's a warrant officer, he's in an officer's uniform, and we went to the Sears Roebucks in L.A. on Olympic Boulevard. And we were walking around deciding what we wanted to do, get this or whatever. And this one man came up to him and said, looked at his uniform, and he said, "Is that a Boy Scout uniform?" And I thought that had a lot of... I would have given him a piece of my mind. But my husband just quietly said, "If you think so." So, you have to deal with all that. If you got violent or, then you almost lose the whole point of the thing. Yeah, but that's the kind of treatment they were getting. And like even like, the reason a lot of people could not find a place to live was because restrictive covenant was still in there and they would say, "Oh, we don't want the Japanese." Or, like in, in my case there was one place, and this was in 19... about what, fifties or thereabouts? Even, you know, after the internment, I went to see a house for sale and she said, "No, I can't sell to you. Why don't you stay with your own people." I said, "What people?" So, see there, you deal with all these things. And I learned -- I guess that's what you call maturity -- anger doesn't do anything. But if you say, "Well, that's the way you feel. I guess that's your privilege." You gotta leave it at that. Let them figure it out later on. Yeah, but that's what happened.

RP: So that's the kind of thing that you were dealing in this job. You were trying to respond to these incidents or acts of discrimination.

MI: Yeah, yeah. And then there was one family that took in a student, it was a she. And there was, they found a cross burning on the front lawn. And that was right here at Pasadena. So, see, you have that. And then it was, it's very interesting how things went. Because they couldn't find a place to live, for one thing. They couldn't, people wouldn't rent to them, unless they owned their own house and they could come back to their house. My husband was lucky in the fact that there was a reverend who had the power of attorney to keep an eye on his property. So he got to go back to his old house. But others were not that fortunate. And those who were not either had to seek a place of employment that provided a place to live, and that meant that you had to be a domestic. And that's how they, from a domestic they started going back up again. Then there was one gentleman, and I can't remember his name, and, oh, he was adamant. He said he's not gonna have these people come back and be a domestic. They're not that category. Oh, okay, well, that's nice to say but if you can't find a place to live you can't find a place to live. But that's how the Japanese gradually came back. So it's pretty interesting how.

RP: From your perspective working in the WRA office, do you feel like the WRA made a real honest and sincere effort to help internees coming out of the camp in terms of... I mean, you were up against some pretty strong obstacles. But, how do you feel, again, the WRA were, was the organization that administered to your needs in the camp and then you're working for them outside. And so...

MI: Well, I don't know.

RP: Do you think more could have been done?

MI: Yeah. But see, we did a lot of work. Because we got all the nitty gritty down to earth kind of reports. Whereas like in Mr. Robertson's office which is nice, clean, they meet the official, and they say, "Yeah, this is the problem we are having. Can you help?" You know, politics is like "you rub my back and I rub your" kind of, and that takes forever. So I really can't say. But it was on the third floor where these people came in trying to find jobs, trying to find places to live. Places to live was the worst space. Yeah, that was, that was really hard for those guys. It's just like my dad, was, he was just plain lucky that he found what he did and we lived in that, god, that was a really a come down for us to live in that place. But boy, we didn't complain.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

RP: Your husband's family was also in Manzanar?

MI: Yeah, but my sister-in-law, my two sister-in-law and their husbands, they left real early. They weren't gonna stay there and they went to New York. And then Phil was in the army already 'cause he had volunteered the year before Pearl Harbor. And then his brother never, his older brother was also drafted. So the younger brother was in camp but he left early, too. So it was basically just the father.

RP: What about the mother? Was there a mother?

MI: The mother had passed away by that time. Yeah.

RP: You said the father actually, I don't know if it was a hobby or a job, but he raised bees in the camp?

MI: Oh, he did all kinds of stuff. Raised bees, raised canaries, still remember when he was training this darned canary. He said, "Don't make a sound because he picks up on those." Gee, what do you... it used to drive me crazy when I lived with him. Oh, gee, "Cut that out." [Laughs] Yeah, but he was a clever unique man, I have to say. He came from very nice family background in Japan. I knew his art. So he has some things in his house that people from the museums would loved to have had.

RP: Art from Japan?

MI: Yeah.

RP: Do you know what he did before he went to camp?

MI: Floral business.

RP: He did pretty well?

MI: Barely. He lost a couple business opportunities or, or he lost the business. And then as the kids grew up and started helping out, then it got a little bit easier. So I see, you know, where the family was not as close. 'Cause they can't be close when you have, one is on delivery and one is this and one is that. And so there was never this eating together, you know. It was different from my family.

RP: How did you meet your husband?

MI: In camp. It's crazy. So romantic, gosh. Says, "Where did you meet your husband?" Oh, yeah in camp. "Where?" "Oh, on the mess hall line." Now how more romantic can you get? And then he says, "On top of that, she walks away from me once we get inside." I said, "I didn't know you had any thoughts in your mind." Come on, speak up. [Laughs] Whatever.

RP: So he came, he came back from his military activities to visit his father?

MI: Father, yeah.

RP: And that's how you guys met.

MI: Yeah. 'Cause his sister was still there. His sister was the oldest of all the siblings. And you know he got inspected. Wearing a U.S. uniform, they checked out his knives. Says, gee... crazy. But there's a lot of crazy things in life. You know when you think back you go, sometimes you think that is so crazy. That is so low. Why did he do that? And then you end up that he was the smartest one in the bunch like this guy at the, there was what they called the cooperative. Did you hear about that? There was a market. Not a market it was a store where you could buy things you can't get in the camps, you know. The co-op they called it.

RP: Right, there was...

MI: Right and we're all supposed to be members of that co-op, right?

RP: Right.

MI: And so apparently if you save your receipt then at some point you get a refund. Well everybody just threw it away. Who's gonna bother with this little itty bitty... this one old gentleman went picking it up every single day. And you know he got laughed at and everything. I think it was, he was laughing at us, you know. See, so, it's really funny when you think about it.


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

<Begin Segment 22>

KP: I have something. I overheard part of a story about a horse that was hanging around. At the context of where that came from?

MI: Oh, yeah.

KP: You were in block...

MI: It didn't come directly to me but there, there was a horse outside the perimeter of the camp. You know, there was this kind of a fencing around the camp. There was always this horse out there. We were wondering what the heck that horse was doing there. And, and it turned out that it belonged to a Japanese farmer. And the horse could only understand Japanese. And so whoever took over the farm said he had to ship the horse back to the previous owner because the horse didn't take directions or anything, which I thought was funny. [Laughs] Now they have interned a horse.

RP: Good story. That's a great story.

MI: Yeah, that was a fun story.

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

<Begin Segment 23>

RP: Last time we got together we talked a lot about this letter that your Quaker neighbors wrote and that you submitted to the Commission on Wartime Internment and Relocation, and also to the L.A. Times, or I guess it was his wife that did that. But --

MI: Yeah.

RP: -- it did create some support and sort of a rallying point for people to, to...

MI: Oh it created a big... I'm beginning to realize how much it takes... it's not something immediate, but it takes a while for all these things to sink in. And suddenly it's like an awakening. Said, "God, did that really happen?" And so there is something good about that. And the fact that I get so many requests to give talks about my experience in camp to these high school kids and to the grammar school kids and some of the questions are so funny because they're not living in the context of 1940. They're living in our day today. "What, you mean to tell me you didn't have washing machines or you didn't have dryers?" I say, "No."

RP: Television.

MI: No television. "You had to go to the john outside over there?" And I go, "Yeah." "Well, how come?" That was wartime, you know. What do you... it's difficult to explain to that. But there is one thing that really stands out. As young as they are, even high school students, realize the inequality of the whole thing. And if that is so, I hope that they learn a future lesson for other people. 'Cause actually it impacts everybody.

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

<Begin Segment 24>

RP: I wanted to kind of follow up on the discussion we had about the letter and about, you know, the commission issued its findings and eventually the bill was agreed upon and drafted and passed by Congress and signed by President Reagan.

MI: Right, that was interesting.

RP: It's the same guy you talked about earlier. So, again as a person who, you know, personally protested their incarceration by writing a letter to the, one of the architects of that incarceration, how did the passage of the Civil Liberties Act affect you personally and how did you see it as, did you see it as a healing, not only for Japanese Americans but for justice as well?

MI: I don't know whether you call it a healing. I don't think you can heal something from something, that experience. It always stays there no matter what. Because I always feel like, you know what, the person it should have impacted, it should have been my parents and other Isseis. You know, they worked so hard, the word shinbo shita, you know. They waited so long for their citizenship. They lost everything after all those years of hard labor, and some never even got that compensation because there was a deadline. And so I have very mixed feelings about it. And I said, you know, they say twenty thousand. People today sue for millions. So twenty thousand, what is that? It's a pittance. But that is not here and there, 'cause that's the monetary. It's the morality of the whole thing that I thought was wrong. And whether I'm healed by it... I wanted to still talk to General DeWitt. I just want to sit there and say, "What kind of a guy are you? What motivated you? Do you think the same thing today as you did then? Why? Why?" You know these questions, why, why. So basically everything else could be forgiven, but I don't know about him. That's me. Some people would say, "Well, forget it now." You know, I say, "Yeah, that's true, but I'm still curious to know why."

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

<Begin Segment 25>

RP: Do you have anything else that you'd like to add?

KP: Nope, I got the horse story. That's what I wanted.

RP: You got the horse story. How about one more humorous story about camp, Mary?

MI: One more humorous?

RP: Yeah, give us one more humorous story that you...

MI: Well, did you know who the "Mayor of Manzanar" was? Quote, un-quote... Mr. Anzai?

RP: Oh, that's right, Mr. Anzai.

MI: Such a lovable man. Don't forget him. Poor guy. [Laughs]

RP: I thought he was a judo instructor.

MI: I don't know.

RP: A couple of those guys were. The mayor, so...

MI: I don't know, he, he would always come and check up on me and say, "Well, how are you doing?" I would say, "Oh, here is the mayor of Manzanar again." [Laughs] You know, it just dawned on me. You asked me if my dad worked. I think he worked in the camouflage.

RP: Oh, I don't know about that. You know, that was strictly Nisei work.

MI: Was it?

RP: Oh yeah.

MI: Oh, maybe it wasn't that then. What did he work in then? What else could it have been. I just, that thing came into my mind. Can't work in the guayule farm, that wasn't his expertise. And I'm sure he had enough of cooking. I have no idea. Maybe he sat and read, which is what he loved. Men took up knitting.

RP: In camp?

MI: [Nods]

RP: Really?

MI: I thought that was hilarious. Said, "Men don't do that." I says, "Why not? They gotta kill time somehow." Yeah, there was two guys across our barrack in Block 19 and they'd be sitting out there, they're knitting. I don't know what they're knitting. [Laughs]

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

RP: Well, a lot of sort of like a lot of gender roles really changed in camp. You had women working jobs for the first time and men knitting.

MI: What was that story? I'm trying to think. A guy was drumming it into us in high school. About that lady... it was historical. Who wrote that story? But this woman would knit and each one of those knit pearls stood for somebody's... and it was never something good. But it was some kind of a meaning. Isn't that funny? I could remember some people's names, sometimes I can't remember the name of a book. Yeah, I might think about it. Let's see, what else is there?

RP: Did you get to know Goto at all? Dr. Goto?

MI: No, but his brother wanted to date me.

RP: Ray?

MI: Tosh.

RP: Tosh.

MI: My mother said, "No." 'Cause he was with the yogores.

RP: Oh. All the yogores were after you.

MI: No, no. But Tosh was really not a yogore. He just joined the group. He was from Montebello. And, and when my mother said that the... well, I said, "The yogores are having this dance and Tosh Goto, Dr. Goto's younger brother, wants to take me out on a date." She says, "Where? Who's giving the party?" "Yogores." "No, you can't go." Well, see, I was only what, sixteen, seventeen. So the poor guy spent the evening with me in the old barracks. It's all you could do. Where else could you go?

RP: Yeah, other than parties and dances, there's no real hangout.

MI: Yeah.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

MI: You heard about the tomatoes didn't you?

RP: I think you told me about 'em but I want to hear, hear about it again.

MI: Well, the farmers were so prolific in growing vegetables in which they said... the local said that nothing could be grown in the desert. Well, don't say that to a Japanese. They could grow anything. So they grew tomatoes. Tomatoes, we had tomatoes for breakfast, tomatoes for lunch, tomatoes for supper and even at dances there was tomatoes. And now you see why I don't like tomatoes unless it's stewed like in a marinara sauce or something.

RP: Over spaghetti.

MI: Or spaghetti.

RP: I think they, there was also so many tomatoes they shipped them down to a cannery in Anaheim.

MI: Oh, they should have shipped most of 'em.

RP: They didn't ship enough. [Laughs] They didn't ship enough.

MI: Yeah, I don't think they did. But, boy... and then smelt was another thing. I think I told you about that.

RP: The other thing, another important question is did you ever leave camp at all on outings or...

MI: No. You couldn't.

RP: Well, later on you could if you had a pass, if you knew the right person.

MI: Oh, no, but you know, for work leave, yeah, there were people who went to work in... where was that? South Dakota or someplace? Potato?

RP: Yeah, for agricultural use.

MI: Yeah, they went for that. Sugar beets or something like that.

RP: Your brothers do that?

MI: My brothers didn't. (Narr. note: Joe went to Idaho and Montana to harvest sugar beets and potatoes before returning to Manzanar when he was one of the first to be drafted in the U.S. Army.)

RP: How about...

MI: Yeah, they used to come back and, you know, I bet they spent all their money and they come back with the boxes of chocolate.

RP: Boxes of chocolate and bottles of whisky.

MI: Probably.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

RP: Did you know of any people that, that went out of camp to fish on the creeks?

MI: Well...

RP: Did you hear any stories about that?

MI: Dr. Kikuchi, who was head of the dental, used to tell us that, "You see the base of that mountain?" He says, "I used to always drive by here and said one day when I retire, I'm going up there and fish." I'm pretty sure he did. And I think some people did go up there to fish. Too bad, 'cause that trout would have tasted pretty good compared to what we were getting.

RP: Especially, yeah, that would really...

MI: Wouldn't that have been great? God.

RP: A lot better than the smelt. Yeah.

MI: Better than anything else.

RP: Also you mentioned about spending time at Bairs Creek, you know, swimming or wading.

MI: Not swimming, wading.

RP: Wading. Did you also have picnics there? Do you remember some very, very good times?

MI: Yeah, that was really good times where people seemed to be so free. And Japanese have a thing called taking bento, rice balls, and I don't know why, but rice balls always taste so good in places like that. You know, so where, if somebody was able to, they made rice balls and they would take it over. But that was about it because you couldn't buy anything else. Unless something good came in on the commissary and you'd buy that on your own. Or the, you bring some leftover from the kitchen. Oh, and the other things that were really funny, I'll tell you, but I don't know if it was funny but it was kind of tragic. When you first went to camp, we went to the mess hall. And they issued these aluminum plates with, or these darned handles that, you know, if you didn't put it in there properly, and most people did not, it'd tip over and all your food goes out. We had more accidents on that. That was an army issue. I remember that, thinking, "Gee this is ridiculous." And they'd just pile everything on top of it.

RP: And people were used to it.

KP: And then they would collapse.

MI: And then they'd collapse. Because somehow that little thing goes.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

RP: The other thing, just getting back to your WRA job in Los Angeles, can you recall how much you earned a month?

MI: Yep.

RP: What was it?

MI: I earned $180.

RP: And what did you earn on your job as, in the evacuee property section of Manzanar camp?

MI: I was equal to a surgeon. How about that?

RP: Nineteen dollars a month?

MI: [Nods]

RP: So you went from ($16) to $180 a month?

MI: Yep.

RP: You were able to save a little money.

MI: That was a lotta money then. You know when you say... and then a $100 of that I gave to my mother to keep. And I kept the eighty, but most of the time I didn't need the eighty 'cause she's buying everything anyway. But there was a funny story about that, too. When I first got that job and I had to go down to L.A. I was being interviewed and, whether I'm fit for the job or whatever, you know, the FBI's gonna check on you.


MI: ...FBI agent, I guess for security, his questions in the beginning was okay. And all of a sudden he started drifting towards areas I thought was not proper.

RP: Like what?

MI: He was asking different sexual questions, habits. And, oh, I can't remember the whole thing. It was, very... and I got mad. I said, "What has that to do with my job?" And I said... and he knew right away and he stopped. But I reported him immediately to Mr. Robinson. And Mr. Robinson said, "I want you to write down everything he asked you." And I did. So I'm pretty sure he got reprimanded. But I thought, whoa. And I thought, "Good for you, Mary." You know, I didn't think I had it in me to say that enough is enough.

RP: Okay, well Mary, thank you again for, for completing our interview. Wonderful job and we appreciate it, both of us. And...

MI: I hope I was able to make some kind of a contribution or...

RP: A tremendous contribution.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.