Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Mary Nomura Interview
Narrator: Mary Nomura
Interviewer: John Allen
Date: November 7, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-nmary-01-0016

<Begin Segment 16>

JA: You had mentioned earlier the guayule project. Would you explain that, what that is?

MN: That is a plant that is grown in the desert and it's from that plant, it's called guayule, they extracted a sap which was made into rubber. And in those days it was only synthetic rubber because the other regular rubber was coming from Malaysia or Southeast Asian country and they were not able to get it. And so the government okayed this study on making synthetic rubber from guayule, and this professor from Caltech, he spearheaded that. And he came to Manzanar and he started these people working on growing it and extracting the rubber, which is even better than the regular synthetic rubber that was being made at that time. And my brother was always into agriculture and aquaculture, whatever -- not aquaculture, but plant life, and he went to work there and he got very interested in that. And so to this day, he could still get seeds, guayule seeds that he has and grow them if he wants, whenever, if anybody wants to see the rubber plant growing. And they used to have to grow it in Manzanar in a lath house, and try to chase the rabbits away 'cause they would eat it. But this is what the war effort was about in that aspect, growing rubber plants to make rubber for the United States. And then I understand that... oh, what is that company, Chevron or United something, they put a damper on it because it was eating into their profits by having guayule made into synthetic rubber which would, stymied their project. And so that was a very bitter thing for Dr. Emerson to swallow, that something that these inmates had done for the war effort or for the country was not accepted when it should have been.

JA: So what happened to the project?

MN: Nothing. But there are people I believe up north, Fresno area, that can still bring it up to -- and there's also an area, Arizona, I think, that they could still grow the rubber plants, if need be. And my brother has some seeds yet, and his friend who lives in Laguna has barrels of the seeds that he can start, and he checks them every once in a while to see if they'll grow, and it does grow. And so, it could be, if ever it needs to be, but it was stymied. And the fellow, the scientist, the chemist who made the formula for the extraction of the seed, the rubber to be made into good rubber, invented the formula, and he just was to the bitter end, he just was so bitter for the fact that they could not use it for the United States. That he would not give that formula away to anyone. He took it to his grave. He said, "No one has that formula now."

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.