Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: George Matsumoto Interview
Narrator: George Matsumoto
Interviewer: Kirk Peterson
Location: Orange, California
Date: June 10, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-mgeorge_3-01

<Begin Segment 1>

KP: This is an oral history with George...

GM: Matsumoto.

KP: Matsumoto. And we are at 245 Crystal View Drive? Street?

GM: Avenue.

KP: Avenue, in the city of Orange, California.

GM: Orange.

KP: And what's your zip code here?

GM: 92865.

KP: 92865. And this is tape one of an oral history with George. I am, the interviewer is Kirk Peterson, on the camera is Richard Potashin, and do we have permission to record this interview?

GM: Oh, yes.

KP: And is it okay if I call you George?

GM: Sure.

KP: Well, let's start at the beginning, for you.

GM: Okay.

KP: When and where were you born?

GM: I was born in San Francisco, 1924. July 19th.

KP: And where did your father come from?

GM: He came from Saga-ken in Japan. There's, the day he left, he left from Sasebo on Kyushu, and he heard the distant rumble of naval guns, that's when Admiral Togo annihilated the Russian-Baltic fleet. He was just a kid then. He was about fifteen, fifteen years old.

KP: What was his, what did his family do in Japan? Do you know?

GM: They were farmers.

KP: And why did he come to the United States?

GM: Well, I take it he was kinda adventurous. He was the eldest son and normally they inherit the farm, have to carry, carry out the tradition and take care of their folks. And he was kinda adventurous; he wanted to get out and see the world, so he came to the United States. That time, it wasn't, it wasn't that hard to get in. It was before the immigration restriction. 1924, they cut off all immigration.

KP: So if that was the annihilation of the Baltic fleet, what year would that have been?

GM: 1904 or '05. They sailed all the way around, half way around the world, and Admiral Togo, he was kind of a student of naval tactics, so he picked the Strait of Tsushima that was between Japan and Korea. It's real narrow, so the Russian fleet had to come single file, so what he did, he "crossed the T." It was something that Lord Nelson had done way back when, in this way, all your ships concentrate their fire on the lead battleship. So they couldn't fire too much, but you, the whole fleet was shootin' at the head, and when they annihilated the first one, then the second was their, the target. So he had "crossed the T" two times, and I think about ninety percent of the ships were sunk. But before that the Pacific fleet was annihilated at Port Arthur, and that was a kind of a typical Pearl Harbor type... they had 'em bottled up in the harbor and they just sank 'em all.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

KP: So your father leaves 1904, 1905. Where does he come to in the United States?

GM: He came... well, first, the entry was either San Francisco or Seattle, so he came in San Francisco.

KP: Did he have family here?

GM: No, he was all by himself. And he was an ordinary farmhand. That's why most of the people came, you know. They, either they became fishermen or farmers, what their trade used to be back in Japan.

KP: And where, do you know where he worked?

GM: He, he worked all up and down from in Imperial Valley from sometimes Arizona, all the way up to Sacramento area. He followed the crop. They pick peaches and oranges, whatever.

KP: Do you know if he ever went back to Japan?

GM: Oh, yeah, he was went back about three, four times. He used to pride himself that he was one of the few that made periodic trips back, 'cause most of the people that came here, they were, it was a mouth to mouth living. They didn't have much to... no savings.

KP: So when your father, when did he kind of settle down and when did he get married?

GM: He went back and he married my mother. I guess it was around 1922, thereabouts, 'cause she came just before the embargo on all the immigration. So they settled in San Francisco and he used to do what's called day work. It's kind of like handyman janitor combination, anything that people wanted done. And they used to work out of an employment agency that sent people to different houses, but he was a good worker so he got a lot of repeat business. They would ask for him. (...) They couldn't pronounce his first name, so they called him Henry. So he picked up the name Henry.

KP: And what was his name?

GM: Morikichi.

KP: Could you spell that, please?

GM: M-O-R-I-K-I-C-H-I.

KP: And your mother's name?

GM: Kura. K-U-R-A.

KP: What was her maiden name?

GM: Sugitani.

KP: Now, was she from the same area as your father?

GM: Oh, yeah. Same.

KP: Was it arranged marriage?

GM: I think that they were introduced somehow, but I don't, I won't say it was arranged.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

KP: So who was the first child born to your parents?

GM: That's me.

KP: That's you?

GM: Yeah, I was born in San Francisco, in July 19, 1924.

KP: And were you born at home?

GM: That I'm not too sure, but they used to have a midwife that comes to the different houses, and I think the first three of us were born in our home with the midwife.

KP: So what are the order of your other brothers and sisters?

GM: Well, we were two years apart. My first brother was Bill, Hideo, second was Dave, Hiroshi, and next one was Fred, Shigeru. And next one after that was Mae, Masako, and everybody was rejoicing because finally had a girl.

KP: Were these all born, all these born in San Francisco?

GM: No, just the three, first three were born in San Francisco, then we moved to Ocean Park. That was a part of Santa Monica, suburb. And --

KP: What year was that?

GM: That was 1929.

KP: So you do have some memories of San Francisco?

GM: Oh, yeah. I wrote a piece on the, I remember the first talkie. That was 1927. That was the jazz singer. A friend of my family took me to a restaurant, and I remember eating beets and I thought, "Gee, that was great." Pickled beets, I never had before, so I always remember that. And then they took me to this movie and I couldn't understand what this big fuss was about, but it was the first talkie. You know, Al Jolson, The Jazz Singer. And then there're a lot of things that I remember. I remember my mother taking me down to the beach one time and it was very cold, even in summertime, San Francisco's very cold. And I don't know where, well, she bought herself and her lady friend and me hot dogs, and I was sittin' there, and I'm a little kid, baby almost, but a little friendly dog came running out from somewhere, I don't know where. I'm sittin' and the dog is trying to get my hot dog, and I'm holding it like this [raises arm over head], but I'm just a little kid, so finally he, after leaping at my hot dog couple times, the wiener slipped out. The dog just grabbed it and ran off. And here I'm crying; my mother just told me, "Be quiet." [Laughs] She's too busy talkin' to her lady friend, but here, it's a traumatic experience for me so I remember that, and people ask me, "How old were you?" I says, since my brother wasn't born yet and he was two years after me, so I was less than two years old. They can't believe it.

But after he was born I remember doing bad things. One was that I got into my father's camera. Couldn't figure out how the pictures was taken, so I took a knife and... it was one of those foldout cameras, so that was the end of his camera. We did some bad things. My, we lived in a second floor of a flat, and I can still see my brother goin' down to the landing out front, and he'd grab the milk bottle, and they were glass in those days. And he came crawling up to the top of the second floor and the bottle slipped, and I can still see it rolling down (...) the stairs, and at the bottom it, boom. [Laughs] Broke. There's milk all over, so my mother had to clean it up and we had to buy another bottle. I remember all these things. And then just before we went to Ocean Park, the Graf Zeppelin came by. It was a big thing in those days. And it made two circles and it was soaring over everything, just leisurely made two passes and then went to Los Angeles. I still remember that.

KP: So that was, what year did you move down to L.A.?

GM: 1929. I remember then the Graf Zeppelin made a world tour (August 1929), and I think, I think it had come from Tokyo.

KP: And you, you remember seeing that?

GM: Oh, I remember that. I was five years.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

KP: So your family moved down to Ocean Park. What motivated that move?

GM: Well my father had bought a amusement concession. It was a fish, goldfish, if I recall, a goldfish pond. It was something that they had in Japan but was never here, and he bought it from a fellow in Saga Kenjin, a friend. And what they had was a rod about so long that was made out of wood and then they had a metal ring and it was a wire (hoop) that held a piece of tissue paper, and with that you're supposed to scoop up the goldfish and you just yank up on it like that then the paper will tear, so you had to be very careful and you had to cut through to the edge to catch these fish. Then the people that wanted to take 'em home, we used to give it to 'em in what they call oyster pail. It's like Chinese takeout places (have), and some people didn't want the fish so they, depending on how many fish they caught, we had different prizes. They were mostly plaster dolls. They were Betty Boop and Pluto and Mickey Mouse and these kind of things in those early days. Then later on the, they had the Snow White, bunch of Doc and Happy and Sneezy and all those. So those were the prizes that we gave out. And I inherited it when I was (thirteen). My father decided to, it wasn't enough money to sustain the family because we were all growing up and needed more money, so he told me, "Take over," and I was thirteen years old. So all through, through junior high and high school I ran the thing myself.

KP: What did your father do?

GM: Well, he moved to Los Angeles and he worked for a produce packing (firm) for Frank Naruto, and what he did... before that he went and, actually went out in the field and, and packed cauliflower and celery, put 'em in crates and so forth at different farmers, but that got kinda hectic, so he moved into the distribution end of it. And they would pack these celery and things and send 'em back East. They put 'em in refrigerated cars. So that was his job until the war started. So when the war started they had a curfew and he was living in Los Angeles, and here we were Ocean Park, about thirteen miles away and you weren't supposed to travel more than five miles, but I drove, I had to drive up because I had to take his laundry and... every week. And then once in a while, a great while he'd get off and I had to bring him home, so it was kinda hectic.

But the funny thing is that even when Pearl Harbor started, I was working on the Ocean Park pier there, and people, was calm. Nobody was hysterical. And of course there's a six or seven hour difference in time between here and Pearl Harbor, so it was late in the afternoon that papers came out, and people said Pearl Harbor is bombed and they said, where is Pearl Harbor? No one knew where it was. I knew because I followed the news. So people just (were) calm, they were going about their business, and I just closed up the usual time and went home. And then the next day, at school, they said, "Okay, we're all gonna go down to the (outdoor) auditorium and hear President Roosevelt's speech." So he was blasting the dastardly attack of Pearl Harbor and "the day will live on in infamy," this kind of thing. People were just kind of somber. They just went about their business. And I, I continued working until the evacuation, about a week before we turned over the key to the Ocean Park Amusement Corporation, because I couldn't find a buyer. Nobody wanted to buy it. And as far as the school was concerned I was a graduating senior, so my teachers were very nice. They said, "Oh, we'll just take your midterm grade and make it the final grade." And I said, "Fine, that's great." I got out of the final exams. So once I was in camp I used to write to my teachers, and our principal, he was real cool because all the rest of the high schools in our area, they wouldn't recognize your grades or anything, so they denied them their diploma, except at Santa Monica High School, and there was about six or seven of us seniors, and they sent me my diploma right to the camp, so I still have that in the original envelope. And I had written to my coach about the letters that we had earned and he sent 'em to me and I gave 'em out to the, my fellow schoolmates and classmates.

KP: So going to high school, living in Ocean Park, did you, did your family live in the same house the whole time you were in Ocean Park?

GM: We originally had this big Victorian mansion, but that was sold, we had to move. [Phone rings] I don't know who that would...

KP: Oh, is it okay?

GM: And then we moved to a smaller one because it was sold. In those Depression days houses were very cheap, so I think this, this one sold for about two thousand five hundred dollars. [Laughs] Real... we had no money, so we just moved to another place that was about a third this size.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

KP: So you're growing up in your family, sounds like your father needed English language skills and probably... did he speak --

GM: Yes. He was self-taught, and even while he was moving from one city to the other, different farms, he had this suitcase and he had a dictionary and he could read the newspaper (with) no problem.

KP: What language did you speak at home?

GM: We spoke Japanese, but the kids sometimes responded in English.

KP: What about your mother? What did she speak?

GM: Yeah, she spoke Japanese. Knew some English. She worked for a Jewish family in San Francisco and they were kosher, so she cooked for them and they had to keep their dishes and pots separate, meat in one and fish and fowl in another. So she learned to cook Jewish dishes, so she liked lox and stuffed cabbage with hamburger and all kinds of things, spaghetti and... so these kinds of things that she learned, and she was quite good at cooking these things.

KP: What was your, in Ocean Park, what was your community made up of? Caucasian?

GM: (There were) very few Japanese. So when we moved from San Francisco where we were in the, well, it was half and half, half Japanese and half Caucasian, but when we moved to Ocean Park there were only about five Japanese families in the whole area. So we lost touch with our Japanese...

KP: Did you continue to, did you go to Japanese language school ever?

GM: No, since I was working most of the time, helping my father even when I was ten years, eight, ten years old, changing those fishnets and things.

KP: Did you participate in any of the Japanese holidays, your family?

GM: Oh, yeah. My father used to make these mochi, I don't know what you'd call them, cakes, rice cakes. We used to pound them. But we didn't have one of those big crocks like they do in Japan, so my father made one out of soy sauce barrels, and he had to reinforce the bottom because you're pounding, it breaks, so he, he did a lot of things that, at home. We caught fish, mostly mackerel, during the summer, and he would salt them and that's what we ate the whole winter. And I would go... then we had the 1933 earthquake and we were going to school in tents, army tents. So there weren't enough tents, so what they did is they cut the classes in half and there was a part that went in the morning and a part in the afternoon. So if I go into afternoon class, then the morning'd be free, so I used to go fishing and catch the smelt and whatever.

KP: Where did you fish from?

GM: The Ocean Park pier mostly. Sometimes we'd go to Santa Monica pier and, and my father used to give me a penny for each fish and sometimes he'd look at it and say, "No, that's two for a penny. [Laughs] So with that I was able to save enough to buy a bicycle and I bought the best one they had in Montgomery Ward, but it was so heavy. It had one of those kickstands, just like the motorcycle. That was the first -- then it had a tank between the bars, battery for the horn, and it had a rearview mirror. It was the deluxe, but it went through my two brothers. They all used the same bike while we were growing up, and my younger brother, one of 'em left it on the curb one time and a car hit it, so we lost a fender and it never tracked straight after that.

KP: What, how far away from the amusement concession did you live?

GM: Oh, it was only a few blocks, and when we moved to the other one it was only about a block and a half from the ocean, so at night you could hear the waves, very close. So that's where we spent our, our childhood, is on the Ocean Park pier, Santa Monica pier or Venice pier, and they were one mile apart. So that, with very little money during the Depression we used to have a lot of fun, just go down to the beach and all we had was a ball and a bat, a glove, pair of skates, that's about it. So that was the life that we led during the Depression. And my father used to make his own miso, that soy bean paste, and he used to make his own home brew, sake, so we were pretty well set. Then after Prohibition ended... well, even before that, when we were kids, we used to go around back alleys and pick up bottles, and we used to sell 'em to the, there was one place that sold malt, malt and hops. And it was legal to make your own, but you couldn't sell it, during the Depression, and they had bottling equipment and they sold bottles, empty bottles, so we used to sell it to them for, it was penny apiece for pints and sometimes they (would) tell me, "No, we can't buy that. They're worthless." I asked 'em how come, (they) said, "These are bootleg pints, not a full pint." So they were reasonable about it. We just threw 'em away. But gallons, it was like a nickel, so that was a bonanza, sometime we'd find a bottle, a gallon, and then they would use it to buy wine and this kind of thing. So after the Depression, a gallon of wine, you could buy, a gallon was, like, fifty cents. You'd take your own bottle, too. And then they had a big keg and they'd open the spigot.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

KP: So you already told us a little bit about Pearl Harbor, and one of the interesting things that you said, you were kind of informed, you knew where Pearl Harbor was.

GM: Oh, yes.

KP: Sounds like you were working all the time, so, I mean...

GM: Well, I was, there was a library just a block and a half from our original home, and all my, my schoolmates, they were all single child during the Depression, I guess. So they were very precocious and they were reading adult books when they were in grammar school, and they used to drag me to the library and I got interested in reading all these sea stories and different places and history kind of interested me. So here I was in junior, in grammar school and junior high, readin' all about the world history and all this kind of thing. It was interesting to me.

KP: Did you ever go to movies growing up?

GM: Oh, yes. Next door to our concession was the Dome Theater originally, and that was a big deal for us kids. For a dime you could get in on a matinee. They, they have two movies and about three short features, you know, oh, Buck Rogers, this kind of thing, serials. And on the way out they used to give you a Milk Nickel, (ice cream bar on a stick), just to get you out of the door. So we used to go there all the time. And then --

KP: Did they show newsreels there, too?

GM: Oh, yeah. Newsreel, that was a part of the package. They had a feature film and then they had a B-rated film, and then a couple of serial comics, comic book writers, I remember, Tarzan and these kind of thing, and then a newsreel comes on.

KP: Can you remember watching any newsreels about what was going on with Japan and China?

GM: Oh, yes.

KP: What did you think about that?

GM: Well, when I was a kid I didn't think anything of it. I was, oh well, always fighting, but I remember reading about the 1933 incident and when I was a kid, after school, I used to sell papers. There was a boardwalk from Ocean Park pier to Santa Monica pier. It was a mile, and at the foot of the Ocean Park pier there was this newsstand and this news guy would give me twenty papers or something, Times and there was the Herald, Examiner, there was Evening Outlook, Santa Monica Evening Outlook. It's defunct now. But I used to have a stack like this and I would walk down the boardwalk and sell paper to the people that's sittin' around. And there were little stores along the way, and this one guy, oh, there were more than one, would say, "Hey, come here." Said, "Give (you) a penny. Let me read the paper and you pick it up on the way back." And I'd say, "Oh, sure," because they lightened my load, so I'd leave it and he would read the paper. He knew (...) it took me so long to get to Santa Monica and come back, so by that time he had read it and it was all neatly folded and I would return. If I didn't sell it then you could return it, so that was a good deal for both of us.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

KP: So when you heard about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, was that a surprise to you? Or were you aware of...

GM: Well, I knew that there was something coming up because the, the oil embargo and the scrap iron, those kind of thing, that, I knew that the United States was trying to back Japan into a corner, and my best friend's father was a banker, and he loved to grab me and, every time I went to my buddy's house, he'd grab me and start talkin' about current events.

KP: Do you remember that gentleman's name?

GM: Oh, yeah, Kenneth Hills. It's in my, my report. But he used to say to me, says, "Oh, Japan is just a pipsqueak country." He says, "United States will destroy it in a week." So then when their... attack the United States, and I kept, "No, no, no." I says, "All indications lead to this attack," and I told him, I said, "Hey, Spain, in Spain they had the civil war and the Italians and the Germans were aiding Franco and the Russians were helping the, the loyalists, and the United States claimed to be neutral, but they sent (...) two or three thousand young men." Most of 'em were Communists, and they were working in, on the, working in the, for the Lincoln brigade, and Hemingway wrote about this one guy, (Hemingway) was a war correspondent there. And I told Mr. Hills, I says, "Hey, this is just a rehearsal for World War II." He says, "Oh, go on." Says it's, nothing will come of it. I told him, I say, "Hey, you know, Germany was denied making airplanes and tanks and this kind of, and they're perfecting their war tactic." And they had the stuka dive bomber, and this thing would come down, straight down before they release the bomb and it would take out the bridges and the tanks, and it was a really, a powerful weapon.

KP: You knew about this before Pearl Harbor?

GM: Oh, yes, because I used to read about this in the newspaper and the magazines.

KP: So what did you, did you have any personal feelings about Mr. Hill's assessment of how easy Japan would be to beat?

GM: Oh, yeah. Well, I was thinking it... well, I knew the United States and I knew that Japan had nothin'. It was a, just a country about the size of California, no resources, nothing, and when Roosevelt said that here we got several demands, he came out with the ten point demands, one is to get out of China, and Japan had been fighting since 1933, they lost a lot of men and spent a lot of money and they would lose face. So I knew that that's gonna be a bad point for them. And then they started to say, "Okay, we're not gonna trade with you anymore." And England said the same thing. Then little by little they cut sending scrap iron and oil and this kind of thing, so we were squeezing Japan into a corner.

KP: As a, as kid, do you remember, or as a teenager, do you remember thinking before Pearl Harbor that Japan's getting squeezed so hard they're probably going to...

GM: Yeah, they're gonna explode.

KP: Yeah, when did you, when did you start thinking about that?

GM: Oh, when Roosevelt started to squeeze. There was an officer that formulated a plan to initiate a war, provoke Japan, and Stimson, his secretary of war, and the admirals, they all got together. They said, "How can we provoke Japan to strike first but sustain the least damage?" And this is why Roosevelt never told Short and Kimmel that they had read the message and Roosevelt said the night before, he told his family, he says, "We're gonna be at war tomorrow." So there was no, no mystery, you know? And they said, "Oh, well we were fooled because we thought Japan was gonna attack Malaya and Singapore and Dutch Indies, but they knew all the traffic was going, the naval forces were heading down to Indonesia, the coast. They knew that and then they shot down a British patrol bomber that was tracking them, so they knew that there's a fleet on the move.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

KP: So back to Ocean Park and... did things change at all, after Pearl Harbor? Did you see any changes? Well, aside from your father's difficulty getting to work, but attitudes toward Japanese people?

GM: No, no. That was the funniest thing. Everybody told me what hard times they had, and since we didn't have any money in the Japanese banks, they can close any bank they felt like, it didn't bother us. But other people in other cities, told me that their neighbors turned on 'em and people at school stopped talking to 'em, but I didn't see anything like that. My neighbors were all still friendly and the people at school never said a word.

KP: So when the evacuation notice came out, what did you, what did you think about that?

GM: Well, we, we didn't know exactly what was going on, but that's the edict from the government said, "Hey, you're gonna move." What can you do? There's nothing we can do.

KP: Did your father come back from Los Angeles at that time to stay with the family?

GM: He, he worked until about the week before, 'cause that was money in his pocket.

KP: And then what did he do?

GM: He came back and we just did our final packing and left.

KP: What did you do with your, the rest of your stuff you couldn't take with you?

GM: Oh, we sold some of the stuff, but most of that stuff we gave to the neighbor next door. He was a good friend of ours. He was a, more like a second father to us. He used to take us to the snow country, Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead and somewhere on Santa Ana River, way back when. During the summer we used to go swimming in a spring. You could feel the cold water coming out from the bottom. He was like a father to us. In fact, he converted all of us to Christianity. We were all Methodists at one time. He was an elder in the Methodist church and they had a storefront church on Broadway and Second Street or somewhere around there, in Santa Monica. It was part of the Salvation Army. So he gave me a Bible and that's what I took to Manzanar when we got interned.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

KP: So when your family had to leave, where were you supposed to gather?

GM: We were supposed to go to the Venice Community Center. So my, my best friend, he drove there and I had sold his father, this banker that was giving me all that trouble, anyway, I sold my Model T, Model A Ford for sixty-five dollars, (...) I had just bought four (new) tires. Of course, in those days tire, you can buy a tire for about five or ten dollars. It's cheap.

KP: When did you buy your car?

GM: Nineteen, what was it? 1939, I think. It was about ten years old when I bought it. Bought it from a friend of ours. Yeah. So anyway, when, years later when, when I came back to Santa Monica and I finally met Mr. Hills again, it was for his fiftieth wedding anniversary, and when I walked in the door he saw me and he got up out of his chair and he smiled. And I said, "Wow, that's the first time you smiled at me." Until then he was always a stern lookin' guy and I was kind of intimidated. He came and shook my hand and said, "Yeah, you were right." Said, "We went to war." So anyway, when I was a kid I used to read these naval history and I learned a lot of interesting stories about Code Orange, they called it, the Japanese fleet Code Orange, and every year they used to have a military exercise. And one year, in '33, maybe it was... I read where they had this black and blue fleet. They split this fleet and one U.S. admiral had the blue fleet and the other one had another contingent, and they were assigned battleships and one of 'em had two, the carriers, the Saratoga and Lexington, and this admiral in charge of that fleet had been a captain on, on the Saratoga when it was first built (and) launched. So he was, he was the enemy. He was a, he was the Japanese fleet, and his task was to invade, attack Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, so he split his fleet. He sent the aircraft carriers and a couple destroyers on a north, northern route to attack Hawaii. And he picked it on purpose because the word was out that they had bad weather in the north. And then also he picked Sunday as another element of surprise, and then he launched all these planes. He ran into bad weather, but he launched all the planes without losing one, and everybody thought that they would, they would be destroyed before they even got to, in range of Pearl Harbor, because in those days the planes had a range of about two hundred miles and they figured that they had to be pretty close to Pearl Harbor before they could launch any planes and by that time they would detect the fleet. But he, he snuck through there and their bad weather and came up with a...

KP: So it was like a rehearsal before it actually happened?

GM: A rehearsal.

KP: Yes, okay.

GM: And the Japanese observers saw this thing. He, he clobbered the airplanes that were on the ground, just like during Pearl Harbor, and the fleet was all there, but people didn't believe that they could do this type, sort of thing so they hushed everything up. So the battleship admirals had their way. They said, "Oh, we would've found the, the carriers and sank 'em." And they claim that they shot down so many planes when they didn't. They didn't. They shot one. So the Japanese admirals, they noticed all this and they kept account of it, and they were going back, going back to Tokyo. So couple years later after they (made) the plans that they (...) agreed to attack Pearl Harbor when all the battleships were lined up.

KP: So they used the same plan that they had seen?

GM: Yeah, well, general plan. And then there was a British war (writer) -- well, he was, of course, author, but he was very knowledgeable about the navy and he came up with a story, a history, of a future attack --

KP: Right. I think I read that.

GM: -- and claimed that Japan could have a bastion of islands fortified, and first they would destroy the fleet at Pearl Harbor and they would have all these mandated islands from World War I fortified.

KP: Yeah. I think I, I think I've read that.

GM: And then Yamamoto was in Washington at the time that book came out and he, he was very impressed with it, so he brought it back to Tokyo and when he went back he lectured about this, about this Pearl Harbor plan. So that was the general (plan) --

KP: It was known at that time, yeah.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

KP: Okay, so back at, when your family gathered down in Ocean Park to, how did you get from Ocean Park to Manzanar?

GM: Oh, we went by bus. Southern Pacific Railroad (also) had buses in those days and they sent, (...) they had about ten buses or so. And there was a MP in each one.

KP: Yeah, how was that caravan set up? There was an MP in each bus...

GM: Yeah.

KP: And what about...

GM: They had jeeps and army trucks leadin' the way and we just followed them.

KP: And what time did you, what time did your caravan leave?

GM: We were told to assemble at seven o'clock in the morning, so it might've been about an hour later they had everybody on board and all our luggage. Well, we were only supposed to carry, take what we can carry, so it wasn't that much.

KP: Did you know where you were going?

GM: We heard that we were going to Manzanar, but nobody knew where Manzanar was. Except that I had read that there was trout fishing there, so I had a fishing pole that you could break into, oh, about so length, and I dismantled it and stuck my stuff in my suitcase and then I had this pole. And I had a T square I was gonna use, so I carried that with me into camp.

KP: On the trip up, did you, did the caravan stop anywhere?

GM: Yeah, we stopped at Lancaster.

KP: For?

GM: For lunch. We had a boxed lunch, and my father saw a tavern so he made a beeline for it. He thought that was gonna be the last time he'd get a drink, so he had boilermaker, shot and a beer.

KP: That was okay with the MPs?

GM: Oh, MPs, they were watching him so he wouldn't sneak off. They didn't drink, but they watched people.

KP: So one stop in Lancaster?

GM: Yeah. I'd say that was it, as far as I'm, can remember.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

KP: And when did you arrive in camp?

GM: It was very dark. It was dusk and it was in April, so you know the days weren't that long, and it was windy and dusty and the visibility was terrible, so I could hardly see anything.

KP: What, what was that like? What was going on when you arrived?

GM: It wasn't much of anything. They had to stop construction for the day.

KP: So what did you, what did you have to do? I mean...

GM: Well, first we had to register and then they told us where we were gonna, which barrack you were gonna go to. Then they gave us mattress covers. It was kind of like canvas, canvas sacks, and told us to go to a certain place and we had to get straw and stick it into the canvas bag. And then after we had done this and gone into our room they told us to go eat. We had to go somewhere. I can't remember which mess hall it was, but my, my youngest (sister) was just about two (months) old and I had to carry her.

KP: Your youngest sister?

GM: Yeah, my youngest sister.

KP: Who was that again?

GM: It was Grace. She was born after Pearl Harbor, so I had to carry her in my arms. So anyway --

KP: How did you protect her from the wind and the...

GM: I had her under my coat, jacket. I put it so...

KP: Do you remember what you ate that first night?

GM: Yeah, it was kinda like wieners and sauerkraut. Something like that. And then they had coffee cups, it was the army stuff. It was hinged, so every once in a while they'd just fall, just rotate, and you'd get hot coffee all over you.

KP: So when you finally got into your room, so who all was in, in your barrack?

GM: My mother and father and my brothers and my younger, two sisters.

KP: And what was in there?

GM: Oh, there were just the cots. We had canvas cots first and then they gave us metal cots later, but we had to sleep on this straw mattress, and there's no pillow, so we just took our trousers and wrapped 'em up, used those for pillows.

KP: So was the wind blowing when you got there?

GM: Oh, yes.

KP: During the night?

GM: Oh, yes. And then, and the wind was coming up through the floor. They used that rough green wood, so it had shrunken a little, in a lot of places it had shrunk, and you could see open spaces there.

KP: And what was on the outside of the building?

GM: It was, well, they had bulldozed the sagebrush, so it was just, like, sand, so the wind would just kick up the dust and be all over everything.

KP: What was your, do you remember what your, your family atmosphere was? I mean, was it very solemn being there?

GM: We were so busy that... well, one thing is that since I was out of school and they sent me my diploma and everything, I had nothing to do, so my father heard -- it was about two months after we'd been there -- he heard that this mess hall in our block needed to be operational, so he volunteered myself and him to set up these stoves, heavy stoves. They came in big crates. We had to...

KP: [Hands GM a picture] Does it look like that?

GM: Yeah. Yeah, that's it. And they were back to back. They had two on the side here and two on the other side, and there was space about so much in between. And we had crocks there, and that's where I used to make my home brew.

KP: And that's before the mess hall was finished?

GM: No, after, long time after that. And they had water spigots on top and we used to fill that water in here, but once you filled it up it was a bear to get (them) down there. And this is what we used to cook rice in. We used to have rice on the bottom part and then another one we put on top for the lid.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

KP: So the first night you got there was dark at Manzanar and didn't really know where you were. What about the next morning?

GM: Oh, I wrote about that in my memoir. I dragged my brother up, got him out of bed, one of 'em, and I was curious to see where we were, so we, I told him to hurry up and get dressed and we, we went outside and it was still pitch black, but you could see the lights receding down to the highway so I knew we were up higher than, you know. We could see the lights going down. And on the other side it was just a black mass. Nothin' to... and then the searchlights came around every so often, make a sweep. And, and my brother and I, we stood by the mess hall to see what, the sun rise, so as the sky lightened up you could start to see features. There were mountains on the other side and there were mountains on the, the Inyo Mountain on one side and the Sierra Nevada on the other, and they looked kind of massive, huge to me. And as the skies got lighter and lighter you could see the features, see the mountain, the hills and everything, and then the snow, and then the light, the sun started to poke out. But long before that, I would say you could see color, but to the south there was the Alabama Hills and the sun raised over the, it's still behind the hills, but it will catch the crest of the mountains, and we were amazed that where it was white (snow) -- it was still white, but the rest of the, turned purple and red and orange and yellow, and just was amazing. Now, on the other side there was no, no snow, but it was kind of a monotonous mass. And I wrote about that, (...) when we awoke the wind had died down and the stars came out and you could see millions of stars. You never saw that in Ocean Park because the smog down there in Ocean Park usually you had an overcast, like here, you know, in June, so we hardly ever saw stars. But imagine, oh, you could almost touch 'em, so I was really amazed about that. And finally the birds started singing and you couldn't see 'em, but they were there. Every once in a while you'd see one flying by. That was quite an experience and I wrote about it, but I never asked my brother what, how he interpreted.

KP: So your father got you a job and himself a job in the mess hall?

GM: Oh, yes. He had some cooking experience, so he became a cook. But I didn't have any experience, so they put me washing pots and pans. That's what I did all day long, and I got tired of it after about a couple days. I said no, no, I said there's more to this than just washing pots and pans. So this chief, Yama his name was, he was a gaunt guy, tall, skinny, and I used to pester him all the time. He, he didn't like to talk much, and he says, "You got to go where you going. You bother me," kind of thing. But gradually he would tell me, okay, go peel some onions or do this, so that's what I started doing. I'd peel onions and potatoes and, and gradually I start slicing them and so I got to know what ingredients went into what and kinda interesting. Then the head cook or, he was a guy named Eddie Uno, he was the boss there, and he saw that I was really eager beaver, so he says, "Okay, I'll make you an assistant." And gradually from assistant became a junior cook and a cook and then became the head cook. Same time my father became the head, head of the kitchen, so it was kind of interesting.

KP: So as... a couple of terms come up, you talk about "swampers."

GM: Yeah.

KP: What was the job of a swamper?

GM: Swampers are those guys that came around delivering things on these trucks. It was a flatbed truck, no stakes or anything and they had all these food and piles of onions and crates of vegetables.

KP: And where did those, where were they delivered to?

GM: To the back, there was like a little stairs there in the back of the... yeah. [Points to picture] This would be the back of the mess hall.

KP: And the kitchen's on the other side, and that's kind of a...

GM: Yeah, the kitchen is right over here in this area, and then there was a refrigerator here and a pantry on this side, so they'd back the truck here and they, and there was a table right behind, behind here. They'd throw everything in there. Well, the vegetable they put on the floor here, but the, like side of beef, that's what they'd bring. They'd dump right on the table

KP: And where, where were the dishes being washed?

GM: The dishes would be on the other side of the pantry. See this thing had the length and along the wall here they had the sinks.

KP: And the hot water heater was on there.

GM: Yeah.

KP: Okay. How often would the swampers come and deliver food?

GM: Oh, sometimes two, three days, every two, three days.

KP: And so a lot of it had to be refrigerated to make it keep?

GM: Oh, yeah. Yeah. We had a walk-in refrigerator.

KP: Oh, did you? Okay. Looks like folks doing dishes there. Does that look kind of like the way yours was laid out?

GM: No. Ours was never organized.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

GM: The dishwashers were.

KP: Okay. This is --

GM: Then on this end, when they put the plaster board in there I used to hide coffee. The coffee was kind of, it was light. It was a big sack, but it was light. And I just stuck it up... because if, a couple times when the quartermaster came, they would inspect the amount of garbage. And they, they say, "Hey, Sergeant -- "

KP: Excuse me, one second here. I just need to slate the tape. This is tape two of a continuing interview with George Matsumoto, and so you're talking about when they put the plaster board over the ceiling of the panty?

GM: The whole mess hall.

KP: The whole mess hall, that, that you, there was a access?

GM: There was an access on one corner and what I did was I put some boards up there and hid coffee, so when they tore down that mess hall I'm sure that they found some coffee up there.

KP: So why did you have to hide the coffee?

GM: Because the, there was a second lieutenant originally that came around and he had a sergeant with him and they would inspect the garbage cans. We had garbage cans out in the back, and he would say, "Sergeant, this mess hall has too much stuff."

KP: Too much?

GM: Refuse. Too much garbage. So he says, "Cut down their rations." [Laughs]

KP: So what did you do about that?

GM: Well, so what you did is that, on the outside of the mess hall was a firebreak, and at night we used to go and dig holes in there and bury our garbage. Not all of it, 'cause they'd get suspicious.

KP: So why, why do you think there was so much, or too much garbage that they limited...

GM: They never cut down our rations.

KP: But why do you think there was so much garbage?

GM: Why would they?

KP: Why did you?

GM: Oh, I didn't think it was that much, but the, the quartermaster, they thought that it was excessive, overflowing garbage can.

KP: So was the food, what kind of food was, were you getting? Early on, when you first got there, what kind of food?

GM: Well, we used to get bolognas, those big things, you know? I don't know if you've seen 'em hangin' in the butcher shop, but they used to come like this and we used to get couple dozen of those things and we're supposed to cook that. And how many ways can you cook bologna? People used to rebel, and you'd put it on the plate but they wouldn't eat it, so we just had to throw it away. So you get five hundred people there -- not five hundred, but pretty close, three hundred, two, three hundred -- and if they don't eat it and it just stacks up by the trash, you got a lot of garbage there.

KP: So you took it out and buried it?

GM: So we used to bury it. That's when we, one time we saw that there was a gully toward the end of where there was a barbed wire fence. They had a warning fence that was kind of a little white wooden fence. It was kind of warning that nobody, that was no man's land after that. Between that and there, there was another fence that was a barbed wire fence that was the outer fence.

KP: Was it a fence or just a series of posts? Do you remember?

GM: No, they had a wooden rail there, by where we were, and then, oh, about fifty yards or so it was another fence and that was the no man's land. You're not supposed to be there. But we used to time the sweep of the searchlight and we ran out to the edge there, and there was like a gully there and, by the fence, and we'd dig out an area and then we'd stick sagebrush in there to cover it up. And there was a patrol that came by there. It was a perimeter road, went around the camp, so there's a Jeep come around, look, and they didn't see anything there and just keep goin'.

KP: And what did you use this, this hole under the fence for?

GM: We snuck out one time for, for... I was gonna go catch fish. So my chief, chief, kitchen chief got wind of it and there was two, two other guys that wanted to go with, so there were four of us. We, one Saturday night we went out and went up to the mountain.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

KP: So how did you, can you describe the process of leaving, leaving the camp?

GM: It, we just had to crawl underneath the fence, and we knew that during the day you could see a road going up to, and then it kinda paralleled the creeks, and you could see boulders and kind of dirt, but the creeks were lined with sort of greenery and they looked like little shrubs from the camp. So in the middle of the night we start goin' toward, you know where the cemetery is? We went past the cemetery and finally we saw this road and we start going up the road, and then as it got lighter we came up to the creek, and what we thought were little bushes were tops of trees, more like sixty feet down, you know. We said, "No, no, we're not gonna go down there to fish. Forget it. But since we're here might as well climb this mountain, see what's on there, up there." So we start climbing up the mountain, and then a plane came over. It was kind of a private plane, not a military, but start flying around. I said maybe they spotted us, so we hid behind the boulders. And these boulders are huge. They're the size of houses, but from the camp they look small. And then we kept going up there and then the, the road turned. There was a road, dirt road that paralleled the foothill, so from there we decided to climb, leave the road and climb up, but after a while there was a place where, I don't know if you can see it on the... but there's a place where the two, two forks meet, and we came up to about that point, but some places there were no trail or anything.

KP: [Coughs] Excuse me.

GM: No trail. So as we started to climb all of a sudden the mountain disappeared. Couldn't see it anymore. And then the footing got bad. We hit shale, and you climb up a little bit and you slide back. You climb, then you slide. So some places you had to crawl, and by that time I had my fishing pole stuck on my back and it was a nuisance to me. No use because we couldn't fish 'cause the gorge was too steep. I don't know whether the other people, I read somewhere they had gone fishing and found some stream or something, but we never saw anything.

KP: Did you ever fish outside of camp?

GM: No. They were, they were very strict about that until after all the "no-nos" left, then people started to wander out.

KP: So how long did you climb Mount Williamson?

GM: It was just a couple hours, I guess. We, we got to a sheltered spot and we, everybody says, "Oh, we had enough." What are we gonna do? You come up, but you don't see anything. And the camp got smaller and smaller and pretty soon it was like this. It was a mile square, but you couldn't see. It was just a little block there. And then while we were still climbing there a jeep came up with two soldiers. We said, "Oh, they spotted us." They came up the road and they went down the southern branch and they went back to camp. We never saw 'em again. But we hid. They came within a couple feet from where we were hiding, but we didn't, we didn't...

KP: No problems getting back into camp?

GM: We waited until dark and then we snuck in, but after we came back we were tired, so Eddie Uno said, "Well, let's go to my place," and, since there was nobody there, we went there and we, we all sacked out for a couple hours. Then they said, "Let's get somethin' to eat," so we snuck back to the kitchen and he opened up, we had bowls of noodles and so we had some noodles. Then I went to my house and my mother and father were really worried. They said, "Where were you?" That kind of thing. I said, "Well, we were at the mountain. I told you that." But they had, they had forgotten. They thought something happened to us. I said, "What could happen?" They said they had the riot. That was the day of the riot. We didn't know about that. But I was kinda happy because Eddie Uno was a Kibei and most of the leaders of the mess hall were Kibeis, and one of 'em, he had started a union. I wasn't interested in any union, so I never joined.

KP: Do you remember signing, in some of the camps they had a, like a WRA work corps oath that you had to sign before you could work. Did you sign anything before you went to work?

GM: No. Oh, the, the only oath that they had was for the camouflage nets. Here we were in camp because we're supposedly all disloyal, otherwise they wouldn't have put us in the camp, but you had to be a citizen to work on the... kinda dumb. But I think that might've been the oath, because I never had... where's that piece of paper I gave you?

KP: The other question I have is when, it sounds like you were really aware of what was building up to Pearl Harbor at that time.

GM: I was, but the average people wasn't.

KP: Yeah, but in the camp, did you, did you know that there were any tensions that would lead to the riot at all, or were you paying attention to that?

GM: There was talk that they, the JACL, they're the ones that told us all be calm, take everything in stride, it's just something that can't be helped, all that kind of thing, so instead of them speaking up for the community, say hey, this is illegal, it's unconstitutional, they recommend that we go over quietly. So most of the people did that, like sheep. So I couldn't understand that. Nobody said any words, they just... except there were three guys that resisted, and I wrote about them, too. Not in the Manzanar one, but in the Tule Lake one.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

KP: So some people say that the riot had to do with food and food distribution.

GM: Yeah.

KP: What, what do you know about that?

GM: Well, they were, they said that the chief, this camp, as far as the food was... this guy named Winchester, he and his subordinates were stealing rations, mostly sugar, and selling it on the black market, and meat. And sugar was rationed in those days, so there was a squawk about that. I didn't...

KP: Working in the mess hall, did you see any evidence that your food wasn't what it was supposed to be when it was delivered?

GM: Lots of times when we got our supplies, like eggs, there would be layers missing out of the crate. Now, we didn't know, probably the farms were stealing it. And then we used to get some bad food.

KP: What kind?

GM: There were rotten eggs and really old and lots of time we got bread that was moldy, so you can poke the whole thing and you have holes in the bread, and everybody going, "Hey, what's goin' on?" So you would make bread pudding, but nobody likes bread pudding, and lot of time I just scraped a little bit off with a knife and made French toast. Then we used to have powdered milk. If you let that sit there, it all settled down and it's all water on top, so people didn't like that, but that's all you had.

KP: And what about, what kind of other stuff did you get in terms of canned goods and where did that come from?

GM: Oh, they were all army issue. You could tell by the cardboard box. There were four one-gallon cans in each carton, and they had a crescent and the U.S. Army quartermaster, so you knew it was army. But a lot of the labels that went, came to camp, they were turned inside out, so it said peas and then it'd be a blank. So you figured, well, they always said what the army was for us. But that's, that's what a lot of the vegetables came from, is the canned stuff, and people didn't like hominy grits and stuff like that. And we used to get a lot of florina and oatmeal and people didn't eat that stuff, so then all the garbage came from it.

RP: George, did you get, did you have people who would actually come up to you and complain about the food?

GM: Oh, yes, all the time.

RP: What would they say to you?

GM: They'd say, "Slop suey again" and stuff like that. Bologna and they'd turn their nose, and they didn't like lamb, so I would camouflage it by frying it, deep fry it and pass it off as sweet and sour pork.

KP: Did it work?

GM: Well, it killed the smell. And then lots of times we had eggs, but they were powdered eggs and you let them set and make water run out, and then lots of times when you cooked something, like scrambled eggs, it looked kind of artificial, so I used to take some fresh eggs, crush up the shells and throw 'em in so maybe they'd think it was real egg. And then I used to use egg, yellow dye, food dye, mix it in, and I'd do the same thing with our hotcake, hotcake mix. I was telling Richard that, since a lot of the eggs are old and you have a big pot there, you throw it in there, you spoil the whole pot, so I used to use the little saucepan and we used to crack half a dozen eggs in there, up to there and we'd dump it in, but we'd catch a lot of the rotten ones.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

RP: George, can you lead us through a typical morning and afternoon shift? What, what did you do, I mean, what time did you wake up, when did you get to the mess hall?

GM: Since, since I was the head chef, I used to be the second there. The first one started, started the stoves and they would light the stove that... in Manzanar it was easy because it was oil, but the oil stoves sometimes get gunked up and we had to clean it up. The night shift never did that. They just looked at everything and took off, so the morning guys had to clean the, the jets and get everything ready. And then the first thing I did was the big pots. I'd start the hot water for, hot water, we need hot water for everything, so we'd put that big ten gallon pot on the stove and start those, and then I'd look at the menu for the day. Usually first it was hotcake or toast and eggs or whatever, scrambled eggs, so it was kind of an easy thing to do, but for lunch they had different menus and I had to dump out, I used to just dump it on the floor, carrots and peas, beans, whatever and tell 'em okay, junior cooks, they were assigned to peel 'em and dice 'em and whatever. Then the meat, I would tell 'em what to do with it, make chop suey or spaghetti and we had to grind the hamburger for the meat sauce and this kind of thing, but I would lay out everything for them. That was my job. And after we served everybody for lunch we cleaned up and that was the end of my shift, so I'd go home and -- yes?

RP: When would you finish your shift? What time?

GM: I would, it'd be about one o'clock, and then one, one-thirty, somewhere around there, that's when we quit serving. We'd start serving around twelve and by one o'clock people would be all finished and the dishes would be all washed, pots and pans would be all cleaned. So from two o'clock was my, most of the time I was free. I'd go back and take a shower. We had a community shower and since it was during the day I was the only one in there. But then every once in a while they'd give me a duty for, making hot water for the bath. It was in the back of the boiler room, and if you fed too much -- well, in Tule Lake we had coal, if we had too much coal in there it, the boilers would stop (burning), so you had to feed it a little at a time 'til you got a good fire going.

KP: Did you have a bath in Manzanar? In the...

GM: Oh, yeah. What the workers did is they made a Japanese bath and about five or six people could get in there.

KP: This was in Block 18?

GM: Yeah. I think they had it in other blocks, too. But it was made out of concrete and you put hot water in there and put a wooden lid so it'd keep it hot, and that was part of the duty for whoever had the duty for that... and it seems like every holiday it was my turn. You know the latrine colonel, what you call him, and you have to clean all the toilets before the big rush and then they, they make it sloppy after half a dozen people come in; it's a mess.

KP: I wanted to ask you one more question, you said you had a big walk-in refrigerator?

GM: Uh-huh.

KP: Did it look anything like that one? [Hands GM a picture]

GM: Yeah, they had different kinds. They had some (with) doors all the way to the bottom.

KP: There's a door on the side of that one. There's, you can't quite see it.

GM: Okay. And these were the shelves. Yeah. We would put some of the produce and the leftovers and things like that... yeah, this is before they put in the ceiling.

KP: Well, it's, actually, that's today.

GM: That's the one that came...

KP: Yeah, that's one of today's pictures. That's the mess, that's the, that particular picture I just showed would be refrigerators, the refrigerators in our mess hall today.

GM: Yeah, we didn't have hats like that. We had hats that looked more like the soda jerks.

KP: And a couple more things about the kitchen... oh, baking. You...

GM: We had these black sheet metal pans, flat, and we used to make layer cake, flat cakes, and that was done by our baker. We had a baker.

KP: Didn't you, weren't you involved in making pies and things like that?

GM: Yeah, well, most of the pies and things we used to make at night, after everybody closing down and gone home. And that was, Mr. Honda was our baker and on the QT he would teach us how to make pies and, like donuts, some nights we would make a thousand donuts and after we deep fried 'em, my sister used to hate 'em because she said they were greasy, but all we had was lard. We didn't have any vegetable oils, so we had to deep fry 'em, and then after we drained off the oil I put 'em in a paper sack with sugar in there and we'd shake 'em and get 'em sugarcoat.

KP: How were those accepted by the people?

GM: Oh, the kids loved 'em. Yeah, they used to come from blocks away.

KP: How would they know?

GM: Word gets around. One of 'em tell the other one, "Hey, they got donuts." So as far as I know we were the only ones that were making donuts. We used to do 'em about once a week.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

KP: A couple more questions about, did you have any interactions with the guards?

GM: No. I seen some guards talking to kids and one of 'em even showed him his gun, so I was like, "Wow." But the only time we saw 'em was when they patrolled by jeep, but that was only for about the first year or so and then internal police took over, so we didn't see too many soldiers.

KP: Did you have much interaction with the WRA staff, Caucasian staff?

GM: No, not very much. The block managers took care of that. We had a block manager for each block and they would distribute the news and whatever, take care of the housing and...

KP: Also in your memoir, you talk a lot about a lot of names of the people that were in Block 18 and we've already kinda documented that, so I won't have you go through that. There's a name I'm looking for, I'm just wondering if you've heard of an Adelaine Asai. She was a hakujin woman who was in camp with her hapa daughter and family. Do you remember anybody like that?

GM: No, I never...

KP: Okay, I just, that's one of the questions I asked.

GM: Lazo, he was a Mexican guy.

KP: Where did you, did you know him, Ralph Lazo?

GM: Well, my, my brother went to class with him. He graduated from the same high school. I used to see him out walking around the camp. He lived in, in the Children's Village. They gave him a room there.

KP: And one more thing about the kitchens is you mentioned in your memoir that there was a woman in particular who worked as a waitress in the kitchen.

GM: Yeah, which one was that?

KP: That was Hiroko Ikkanda.

GM: Honda?

KP: Hiroko Ikkanda?

GM: Oh, Ikkanda, yes.

KP: She worked as a waitress.

GM: Yeah.

KP: What was that job?

GM: She just most of the time served or cleaned up around the kitchen.

KP: So in serving, that means serving at the front counter?

GM: Serving at the counter, yeah. They, they didn't take your order. [Laughs] People came, lined up, and then they, they stopped, so she would serve them coffee and tea, this kind of, if that's what you call a waitress.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

KP: And then the other job that you talk about is the dietician?

GM: Yes. They took care of the people with babies, or if they had health problems. Some of 'em couldn't chew. You had to make a gruel kind of thing. This kind of thing.

RP: Was a dietician assigned to each mess hall?

GM: Yeah, there was one for each.

RP: Do you know who was your dietician?

GM: Yeah, I got the names.

KP: Yeah, I think that's in the document.

RP: George, who actually ladled out the food, say it was oatmeal, in the morning? Was it the junior cooks?

GM: The cooks, yeah. Sometimes I did it, but most of the time junior cooks.

KP: And the waitress?

GM: Would just, they would help out.

RP: Now, were there specific seating times in the morning for breakfast, like was there a seven o'clock seating, a seven-thirty?

GM: Well, the, we would ring a bell, a big, ding ding ding, and they would come running. I forget what time it was. Eight o'clock and twelve, something.

KP: How long would it take to get everybody their food?

GM: Well, there'd be a long line. It'd take at least twenty minutes, twenty, twenty-five minutes.

RP: Were you subject to periodic health inspections?

GM: No. Just the, initially the quartermaster would come around and check the kitchen, but after that hardly anybody.

RP: No health exams for the employees in the mess hall?

GM: No.

RP: Now, you said that you recall mostly getting powdered milk. Was there any occasion where you actually got fresh milk from local dairy?

GM: No, the only time we got fresh milk was in Tule Lake. They used to bring it in a big five gallon thing, metal containers, and first thing I used to do -- they used to give us two of 'em -- I used to take a cleaver and knock the cover off and I'd just scoop the cream. You know the, it wasn't homogenized like now and all the cream would be in the neck of the can, and I'd drink that. Boy, just like ice cream, vanilla ice cream. Then I'd save some for the cooks and we used to have it with the coffee.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

RP: You also mentioned that you made home brew in the mess hall.

GM: Oh, yes.

RP: Tell us about that.

GM: Well, one of the things that they used to deliver were apricots and plums and prunes dried, and people didn't know what they were. One time I took some pineapple juice -- we had cans of pineapple -- and I took the juice and put it in a gallon can, or jar, about so much, I was gonna drink that and I took it home and I put it on the shelf and I forgot about it. About a week later I says gosh, I got some pineapple juice, so I started drinkin' it. It wasn't bad, but I started getting warm. What's going on here? And actually I was getting intoxicated. It had fermented. And I thought gee, it, it brings me back to my kid, days when I was a kid and I was in L.A. at the time visiting with one of our family friends. His, his son was staying with us and we were, his father had become a cook in downtown, so we went to visit him and he fed us and then we went wandering around by the subway terminal, if you know where that is, Fifth and Hill Street. And we came across this place where they were selling, it was this big bowl with the bubbles, and they had grape juice in there, so we said we'd like some of that. For a big cup, for about two cents. We each had a cup of that, then after a while we got real warm, hot. We were, we're kids about ten years old and we were drunk. We start walkin' around; we lost our way and pretty soon it was getting dark and we said, "Gee, how do we get home?" So we saw a policeman and we asked him, "Hey, we want to get to Fifth and Hill Street." We were down by Crenshaw area. We had walked all the way. And he says that's too far. He took us to a Japanese couple and they took us to my house, drove us. But his father was frantic and he put a notice in the Japanese paper. And I forgot all about it, but a friend of ours reminded me years later that he had read this, and that time, when I thought about it back in camp, that's when I said hey, maybe there's a use for these fruits, dried fruits. So I started to experiment, putting water and sugar and yeast and it came out clear, once you took the residue and threw it out, but the top part, it was clear. It looked like apple vinegar, about that color. So every time we had a party I'd bring out these jars of home brew, and then after a while the other guys, Japanese cook said, "Why don't we make sake out of the rice?" So we, they started making rice sake. So we were always having something or other.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

KP: One more thing about the materials in the camp, the, could you tell us a little bit about the cooperative store? You said initially the cooperative store was run by, it was like, who ran that originally?

GM: Originally it was done by Caucasian people and they turned it over to the internees.

KP: Was it military originally?

GM: Well, it started out as an army canteen, and when I first worked there, in the mess hall, they used to give me a scrip and it was only good to, in the canteen and all they had was razors and gum and candy and magazines, stuff like that.

KP: So that was your pay for your work?

GM: Yeah, it was a voucher. We used to, not a army, I mean government voucher, but it was just a regular... and then the army relinquished to a civilian unit, the WRA took over and, the camp, and the army disappeared. They went outside of the camp, so we didn't see too much of the army after that. But these white people, they, they organized it and then they turned it over, and I guess this co-op was pretty popular in the Midwest and the East, so they, they assessed us somethin' like five dollars a head for the initial start up and they started with a small canteen. It had soap and towels and stuff like that, and then they kind of expanded and pretty soon they had a barber shop and beauty parlor and, and they had meat and sashimi. You could get anything you, if you had the money. But most of the stuff was relatively cheap because the base pay was twelve dollars and if you were semi professional you got sixteen and professional, they got nineteen dollars. That was top for cook, or not cooks, but doctors and dentists and administrative people. And I got nineteen dollars because I was a head cook. Yeah, I think that paper I gave you, there's a copy of my, in the back...

KP: Copy of the scrip?

GM: It's in my assignment.

KP: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, yeah, with your pay grade. Nineteen dollars, yeah. Back to, you said you could get just about anything you wanted from the co-op store. What about the black market in camp?

GM: Oh, yeah, my timekeeper, he used to count the number of people that ate and stuff like that and he used to hand out the paycheck. He had a link with a part of the black market system and whenever I needed something out of the ordinary you couldn't buy in the camp, like chocolates or something, I'd tell him, "Hey, I know this girl who's having a birthday," and for a dollar, he'd give me a box of candy. He used to get it from Lone Pine or some place and there were people comin' in and out of the camp all the time, bringing things. Most of it was cigarettes and booze.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

KP: And the other thing that you talked briefly about was, you talked about getting your high school diploma after you came to camp, also your high school letters. You also mentioned briefly that you carried on correspondence with former teachers.

GM: Oh, yes.

KP: And what kind of connection, did that kind of keep you connected with your community?

GM: Yeah.

KP: And how did that work and how did that, how did that make you feel?

GM: They, my teachers told me that study was the only thing that I could do, so first thing I did was when they established the library I was first in line. They got the books from donations and sometimes they just, some libraries, they'd just throw out old books, so I just, we just latched onto those. And some of 'em, I used to buy paper, paperback books used to be a quarter and I used to have a stack of 'em, but my sister kind of, I think, took over. They're kind of her heirlooms now.

KP: And did you continue your education in camp?

GM: Yeah.

KP: What did, what'd you study?

GM: Well, they, after high school and junior high school and grammar school got started they started Manzanar Junior College. It wasn't accredited, so even though I went to, took courses, I wasn't able to use any of that later on, but we had professors and instructors that were former UCLA and other schools' instructors.

KP: Were these internees?

GM: Yeah. And there was a Dr. Kodani, he taught me zoology, so it was kind of interesting. And then there was a Suzuki, two Suzukis, brother and sister. One of them taught me German, still have the book here. And the other one taught me physics, (math) physics and there was no chemistry, but, we didn't have any equipment.

KP: Did you, did you go on with school after camp? Like did you go back to, go to college?

GM: Oh, yes.

KP: And how did those, how did those experiences in Manzanar help you?

GM: Well, I was able to, since I was older, I was thirteen years out of high school when I went back, that I was more mature than average so I had more experience and I was able to write different things about my life that kids right out of high school didn't have access to.

KP: And you said you couldn't get accreditation for the classes you took in Manzanar.

GM: Yeah, it wasn't --

KP: But did they help you at all when you went to college? How did they help you?

GM: Well, I think most of it, it was from a good high school education. We had good teachers in Santa Monica High School, and first thing we had to do is to take entrance exam and I never studied this essay and all this stuff, but I passed. And there was an English requirement, too, and some people couldn't pass the entrance exam for English and they had to take what they called "dumbbell English," and one engineering student, he was brilliant. He was getting' all As, except he couldn't pass that "dumbbell English." After three semesters he finally passed.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

KP: One other note about trying, this connection that you kept with Ocean Park and your friends and teachers, a name that comes up is Wayne Severy?

GM: Severy.

KP: And who is, what's his name?

GM: Wayne. He was one of my best friends and when I went to camp and I told him we only have apple crates and orange crates to sit on that I got from the mess hall, he sent me a saw and nails and hammer and stuff. And I said, yeah, there's scrap lumber around, so I made things. Clogs, we call 'em getas. I got a couple of 'em here. Maybe I'll donate 'em to your museum.

KP: Oh, we'd appreciate that if you'd like to do that. The other thing was, so you made furniture?

GM: Uh-huh.

KP: What kind of things did you make?

GM: We made, like, mostly it was like closet and real simple things. Some people made elaborate chests and things. I didn't have, I didn't bother.

KP: Did you take up any other art while you were studying?

GM: I had snuck in a piccolo. I tried to learn that, but I wasn't too good at it. But I practiced on the harmonica. I still have that harmonica. I'll give it to one of my kids one of these days.

KP: Can you still play it?

GM: I haven't tried for years.

KP: And you also mentioned something in your memoirs about the trains in the valley.

GM: Along the Inyo Mountain, there was a narrow gauge train that used to take couple of ore laden cars out every afternoon, this was during the war, and they're doing, they had some expensive ores comin' out, and I used to see that chuggin' along and it looked like a little miniature trains from the distance. It was steam engine, so you could see the engine puffing away. And it was real slow because it was carrying a lot of cars. It was narrow gauge, chugging along, so I used to say here comes the Toonerville trolley. I don't know if kids nowadays understand Toonerville trolley. Used to be a comic strip.

KP: And you also mentioned that you got out once to visit the sewage treatment plant at Manzanar.

GM: Yeah. It was, a friend of mine, he started as a dishwasher and a porter in our mess hall. He was a Kibei, but he had majored in chemistry, so he got a job as a (sanitary engineer) purifying the sewage and he took me out one time to show me what he was workin' on. And all the toilet stuff, everything from the bath and all the kitchen sinks, they all came to this settling tank and he put in the chlorine, and after a while the chlorine would kill the bacteria and then it went to a settling tank. It was just a concrete slab there and it would evaporate and sink into the ground. But that was kind of a brackish lookin' thing. He took a cup one time, he says, "Here, drink it." He said, "It's potable." I said no thanks, after you know what went in there. [Laughs]

KP: Do you have anything more for that section of the camp?

RP: George, was there any effort to recover some of the grease or fats that you produced in the kitchen?

GM: Oh, yes. The sink had a settling tank. It was about like so, and we had a guy that was, first we used to do it ourselves, but then there was one guy who was, he had a strong constitution 'cause when you took the cover off, oh, it just smelled and you would scoop the top, the residue off of it. And then the fat he poured into a can and put lye in there, and the fat turned into soap, so it was kind of a brown, soft soap and we used to use that quite a bit to wash pots and pans. But oh, it was smelly, but this one guy, he did it. He went around to the different mess halls. He came around every two, three days, scooped up that mess and...

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

KP: One other question I have is did you see a change in the food as the camp started going along? I mean, from the beginning to when you left?

GM: Well, we had more variety of vegetables. We had chicken and that kind of thing, pork. The pork was, had a lot of fat to it. It wasn't lean. It was more, I don't know what kind of pork, pigs they had, but they used to bring it to us, the heads and tail, everything intact, split right down the middle. We had to boil, I think. It would make good stock, but you'd see the eyeballs staring at you, lookin' at you. Kinda weird.

RP: Did some of the Issei cooks teach you how to make special Japanese dishes?

GM: Yeah.

RP: Like what type of dishes did you learn to make?

GM: Mostly sukiyaki and tempura, these kind of things. Nothing fancy.

RP: Did you have anything resembling sushi at all, sashimi?

GM: Yeah, sometimes. No, no sashimi, but sushi they'd do.

RP: Did you get fish on a regular basis or just once in a while?

GM: No, once in a while, a great while.

KP: What kind of fish was it?

GM: It was nondescript, to say the least. Mostly like mackerel. Mostly it was canned, like canned salmon.

RP: There was a fish market in camp for a little while.

GM: Yeah.

RP: But that's not where you got your fish?

GM: No, no, that was, you had to go buy it yourself.

KP: Luxury item.

RP: The other question I had, George, is when the camp was built, you mentioned that everything was bladed off.

GM: Yeah.

RP: And what changes did you see in the landscape in Block 18 from the time you were there?

GM: That was kinda shocking because the trees and shrubs and... I should have took pictures of it.

RP: Lawns, too? Were lawns planted?

GM: Yeah, we had the one next to our barrack. People used to come and lay down because it was a novelty, to see grass.

RP: There were a number of mess halls that built gardens.

GM: Yeah.

RP: These mess hall gardens, was there ever a discussion on your block about building a garden like that?

GM: No, because I was only there for about couple, two years, less than two years. I was one of the bad guys and they threw me out.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

KP: Well, let's talk about that, the "loyalty questionnaire." Do you remember when that came around?

GM: Oh, yeah, that was '43, somewhere around there.

KP: And what was, what was the discussion going on in camp at that time?

GM: See, it was kind of a shocker because the army was gonna take over after they had the riots and things, so WRA was kind of in a quandary. Do they want to just let the army take over or get the people to enlist? Because they, after a while, after Midway the threat about U.S. being invaded kind of diminished and they decided that they would use Nisei soldiers, induct them. So a lot of people, they started to look into that and they said that, "Well, we're gonna have a loyalty oath to screen out the loyals from the disloyal." We were all disloyals to begin with, but some of 'em are more loyal than others, I guess. So they had a question of, some twenty-eight questions, and most of 'em was "Where did you live?" and "What did you do?" "What was your education?" Trivial things. But twenty-seven said, "Will you be willing to serve in United States Army?" And a lot of people said "What for? You stuck us in this camp; why should I go fight?" And the other one said, "Would you disavow loyalty to the emperor of Japan?" And when they asked me I said, "Well, if you left me alone I would've gladly gone in the army and been drafted, well fine. And then as far as disavow loyalty to the emperor, I never had any connection with him. Why should I... that's an insult. I refuse to answer." So the interviewer said "no," put down "no." And as far as a qualified answer for enlisting in the army, he wrote down "no" because to him it was either yes or no. No, black or white, that's it.

KP: So these questions were administered by...

GM: Civilians.

KP: And how did, how did that work? Do you remember the day you went in to have the questions?

GM: I have a general date, but I don't recall the exact date.

KP: But you went in, how, could you walk us through going in and doing that? Or do you remember?

GM: Well, you were supposed to register. They told us everybody had to register, so we just registered and then we were called for an interview. And my, my brother was on the other side. He said "yes-yes." So the interview --

KP: Which brother was this?

GM: Hideo. The other ones were too young. They weren't subject to question. But he said that no way was he going to Japan. Everybody thought that once you get in that category, "no-no," that you'd get thrown out of, out of that United States, so that's what everybody expected.

KP: Did you try to argue with the interviewer at all?

GM: He, he was very calm and didn't say anything, didn't give me any flak. Just took down the, my responses and that's it. Said goodbye.

KP: How long did it take to administer all those questions to the whole camp? Do you have any idea?

GM: No.

KP: Did you know the questions were coming? Did you...

GM: Well, we heard that, rumors that it was either that or the army taking over and head of the WRA didn't want that, so he, they used the army screening, but it said "request for leave," so a lot of people thought they were gonna get thrown out of camp if they refused to register. It got so that they said, "Well, where will we go?" And they got word that a lot of people that had left, that people were against having Japanese, lot of students, they were accepted for one school and then when they went to school there they were, they were thrown out. Said we don't, it happened to Joe Nagano. He was accepted for a while from one and then, then the people around him said, "No, we don't want any Japs around," so he went to another one. He went to Chicago Institute of Technology.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

KP: So what was it, you were, at this time when the "loyalty questionnaire" came around, you were living in an apartment, a kind of a bachelor apartment with your brother, right?

GM: Yeah, my brother. Yeah.

KP: Yeah, and what, since you were a "No-no" and he was a "Yes-yes," were you guys...

GM: No, that was a different brother.

KP: Okay, that was a younger one. I mean, in your family, what was the discussion? Was there discussion?

GM: Well, my father said that he was tired of the United States and he was going to go to Japan and I was supposed to go ahead -- I was going, I was scheduled to go to Tule Lake anyway, so he said my two brothers, younger brothers and I, the three of us should go. And the reason they didn't go is 'cause my mother was expecting our youngest brother, so after he was born there was no talk about them coming up to Tule Lake. And I used to ask the people in Tule Lake, I'd say, "Hey, when my mother and father coming up?" They said, "No, you guys go back to Manzanar." They were kind of reluctant to have them come up and I couldn't figure it out, and then later I started thinking that maybe it was because of my brother said "yes-yes" and my father, he was there. They changed their questionnaire to, "will you abide by the, the laws," or something. If they had asked me the same thing I would've said yes, but he never made any attempt to, to join us. I couldn't figure out why.

KP: So it was you and younger two brothers?

GM: Two brothers, but since they were minors they were free to leave. So right after the war I sent 'em back, sent 'em out.

KP: So what was that like, going to Tule Lake?

GM: Tule Lake? Well, it was kind of an experience because --

KP: First of all, how did you get there?

GM: Train. We took trucks to Lone Pine and we got in train, but to get to Tule Lake they had to go to the other side of the mountains, so we had to go all the way to Barstow. And from Barstow we went to Tule Lake.

KP: What time of year was this? Do you remember?

GM: February.

KP: What was the weather like? Do you remember that?

GM: Well, it was not that cold. It was crisp and I worked on the troop train going there. That's in my book.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

KP: This is tape three of a continuing interview with George Matsumoto, and we're talking about arriving in Tule Lake. You talked about something on the train. What did you do on the train?

GM: Oh, there were three of us, my two, two waitresses and myself. We were all nineteen, so we thought it was a lark, and we had to -- well, first of all, there was a diner. It was just a freight, freight car with picnic tables attached to the wall, just one side of the table, and then on the other wall they had the other table, so they were nailed right to the wall. And then the first car was the cooking, where all the cooking was done, so while we were in between the meals we helped the cooking, peel potatoes and all this kind of thing. We didn't do actual cooking because they had the army cooks, but there were PFCs and just doing the KP and just like we were. It was kind of an experience because since... we thought we were volunteering to see the countryside, here it was just in the boxcar with two, two windows. Nothing to see. And most of the time that we were in there helping serve and first the MPs came. They were real sharp lookin' and they would stand there at attention and we would serve all the plates and then their commander would tell 'em to sit down and then they started eating. But in between we would serve the internees. They would come in shifts, so many from each car, and in between we would do KP duty. But after each meal we would have to clean the table, and it was spotless, real white, clean. We couldn't figure out, and we soon found out because after each meal we had to wash them, so that, some of (...) the KP soldiers (did also)... you had to use this white soap and then the -- brown soap, rather -- and then the cleanser, Dutch cleanser, and wash it with white, clear water and dry it. And then there was a second lieutenant in charge, he would come with white gloves, rub the top of the (table) and the bottom and look at... and if we passed inspection, then that was (that), we would be free 'til the next meal. But (it) brought back memories 'cause this Dutch cleanser, I hadn't seen that since before the war and that was the first time I'd seen it. And lately, about a year or so ago, I went to a 99 store and they had it on sale. I said gee, I didn't even know that they made that thing anymore.

KP: So how long was the train trip?

GM: It was two, two days and a night, 'cause every time a troop train, another train would come by they'd put us on the siding and all the other trains would go by and then we'd take off, but these were old trains, steam engines, and some of the coaches, they were out of a museum, I think, 'cause they had the plush velvet upholstery and people sat facing each other, four people. And that's the way you had to sleep. You couldn't lay down. And we'd put our foot on the other side and some people had smelly feet, so it's kinda bad. But every time we came to a town we had to pull the shades down and the MPs would lock the toilets, and I was wondering how come they do that? But then I had to go to the toilet one time and when I flushed the toilet I saw tracks underneath. That's how old these cars were. And then down the center they had the top protruding out and along the sides there were windows that they could open for air, 'cause they didn't have any air conditioning those days. And they had light fixtures like my chandelier there with the clear glass bulbs. So it was quite an experience.

RP: George, were the MPs armed?

GM: They had sidearms, but...

RP: No rifles?

GM: No. They were very courteous. Everybody was courteous to us. They didn't treat us like POWs or anything.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

KP: So how was, how was Tule Lake different from Manzanar for you?

GM: Oh, it was hectic. There were a lot of rabble rousers, pro-Japan people.

KP: What, what did you and your brothers do?

GM: I worked in the mess hall, so I went to school at night. And since everybody was expecting to get shipped to Japan, well, like this guy (Westbrook) Pegler, he was a journalist, famous journalist, he wanted to castrate all the Japanese (males), whether they're loyal or disloyal, and send 'em to Japan after the war. So, and then there were a lot or racists, like (John) Rankin, these kind of people from the South. They wanted to ship everybody to Japan after the war. So we, we said, "Gee, well, we don't have any choice," "No-nos."

KP: So while you were there you thought that you had a one way ticket to Japan?

GM: One way, yeah, so we were kinda surprised at the end of the war, they said, "Hey, you guys want to change your mind, we'll interview you." So I said, "Well, sure," and I signed up. We were about one of three thousand or so that did that, so about ninety-nine percent of the people got freed, they were changed to, cleared to leave camp, but my brothers, they went from Tule Lake to Spokane and went to Chicago. They had a hard time getting on the train because the GIs coming back, so they had to sit on their suitcase all the way to Chicago, which I thought I'm not gonna go the same way. I went the devious route. I went down to Martinez and then Stockton, Modesto and L.A., back to Sacramento and stayed in L.A. for a couple weeks. Went back to my hometown, saw my teachers and friends, but every time I stopped they'd give me a ticket about that long and the conductor would tear off a piece. Finally it was just down to one. But I told the people at WRA, "I want to stop at these places because I want to look for a job." You can't say, "I'm gonna go sightseeing," otherwise they would say no, but as long as you're looking for a job... so I stopped in Ogden, Utah, and Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Omaha, Nebraska, and looked around the town and had a ball.

KP: Where did you end up finally?

GM: Chicago. Well, I didn't want to go back to Chicago because, after the war my mother said that since we'd been separated for two years, come to visit, so when I went to Chicago I never dreamt that I'd be there for thirteen years. Yeah. And when I went back it was at St. Joseph Day, it's the day, same day as the Capistrano, the swallows come back, but over there is a big Polish population, so they're having this big celebration and I said gee, that's nice of them to have a big day for me. [Laughs] But it was really St. Joseph's.

KP: Yeah, welcome to Chicago.

GM: I was shocked at how dirty it was, coming from California. Oh, it's sooty and, even after the snow, the crust of soot. It's not white.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

KP: I'm about ready to wrap it up and I think we probably should get out of here. Any last questions?

RP: You were separated from your parents and the rest of your family for two years.

GM: Two years.

RP: How did, did you keep in touch with them?

GM: Oh, yeah, every, every week I used to send 'em letters, but most of the letters was to write, I was too busy to write, so I would send them my homework from my Japanese course, so when I went back to Chicago my mother had stacks like this that I sent. I couldn't believe it.

RP: The other question, George, is the government allowed people in Tule Lake, citizens, Niseis, to renounce their citizenship.

GM: Yeah, some of 'em did. Yeah. Kibeis.

RP: Kibeis?

GM: Kibeis. But this guy Collins, he was instrumental in rescinding that. It's as, as if nothing has ever happened.

RP: Were you, were you pressured by any elements in camp to --

GM: Most of the elder... I had three brothers that, Tanaka brothers, that were very into this pro Japan thing, and they, they would run around the camp with their headband and they had bugles and those kind of things, and they told me that I should do the same and I did that a couple times with them. Then they said I should apply to get into their organization, but when I tried they said, "No, you can't join us." I said why not? They says, "Well, your father, for one thing your father isn't in Tule Lake and he has to be a member of the parent group, so you're denied." I said thank you and I left, so I think I was saved because the Tanaka brothers later on, they were sent to Santa Fe.

RP: They renounced their citizenship?

GM: Yeah. But I was saved, 'cause I was lucky that my father wasn't in camp, so I was kinda glad.

KP: Well, I'd like to go on and continue this interview, but we both have to be going, and so thank you very much, George, for spending time to do the interview with us today. And on behalf of myself and Richard and the Park Service we'd like to thank you.

GM: You're welcome.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.