Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Isao Kikuchi
Narrator: Isao Kikuchi
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: May 15, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-kisao-01-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

RP: Where, where were you housed when you first came into Manzanar?

IK: It was a, it was a... it had a roof, and I think it had the tarpaper on it. And leaky floors and so the dust always came inside.

RP: That was in Block 1?

IK: Yes, Block 1 in the third apartment. There were four apartments in a building.

RP: And you were in the first barrack?

IK: First barrack, yes. In the third apartment. That's side door.

RP: So were they still actually constructing Block 1 when you, when you moved in there? Were there buildings that were still being built?

IK: Oh yes, they were still digging sewer lines and there were no, there were outhouses at the time. And there were moveable carts that are on sleds. A truck would come up, chain on the thing and pull it away some place, and they would bring it back. It was kinda... they had, they were pretty busy, because diarrhea set in quite often because of the inexperienced cooks. They're not used to cooking the, or know the menu for the... but see, everything was new. That's all.

RP: Did you, was there a mess hall open at that time in the block?

IK: Yes, there was a building half done where we, they fed us. Just endless tables inside. Just as you could imagine it's nothing special, kitchen at one end and a mess hall in the rest of it. And we'd stand outside in line and wait.

RP: A number of people talk about the, sort of the monotonous look of the camp and that all the barracks look the same, and that causes a lot of problems for people who are trying to find their rooms.

IK: Oh, most definitely. I, the next, the first day, everybody... everything looks so same, except ours had -- well no, the first block had about half of the block were covered with tarpaper. The rest were sticks. So even within that, those few barracks, I was lost and everybody was lost. And I told my dog, "Go find home," and he just looked at me. He didn't know what I was talking about, 'cause he knew where home was at home. Anyway, we walked in about every other apartment and got laughed at because they did the same thing. They'd walk in and look for their bed and everybody'd look at you. They'd know we, they wouldn't scold you or anything. We just went in and looked for our bed, and so I went in about four or five apartments before... I knew there were not end doors. That's the only thing I knew, so I walked through all the middle ones and finally found my bed. The only reason is I found, I knew the color of my blanket.

RP: And --

IK: I'm sorry.

RP: Oh, I'm... who else was living in your room? Was it a group of bachelors?

IK: We were all the bachelors, yes, and a total of ten. And I forgot the measures of the thing, but I would guess it was about twelve by fifteen or something like... twenty, ten by, no...

RP: Twenty by twenty-five, I think.

IK: Some, somewhere in that neighborhood. It was just cot after cot, that's all.

RP: And did you know any of these guys previous to Manzanar?

IK: No, just the guy that rode with me. And I don't know, didn't know where the one I followed... because it was, when, we were just following each other in the dark and when we got into an apartment we just tramped in, and so we just didn't know where anybody was.

RP: What happened to your vehicle that you drove in? The, was it the Chrysler? Plymouth.

IK: The, the Plymouth, yes. Well, I've forgotten how much time later, my neighbor wrote me a letter and asked about the car. I said, I told him to come on up and get it, and I think he paid some money, about a hundred dollars or somethin' like that, which was a lot of money. And I wanted to give it to him 'cause I had no use for money anymore, but he insisted and paid the hundred dollars. He hitchhiked up and I wondered how he did that, 'cause not many cars came up that road. But he... well, I wondered if the car would start, but it did luckily. But there was no gas station nearby, either, and I didn't know where the closest town was, but that was his problem. But he, I was not happy to see it, but I was happy for him to get it, take care of it. I wanted to drive it one last time so I just made the wheels spin all the way around the camp and said goodbye. It was in very good condition, so he, that's why he wanted it.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.