Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Misako Shigekawa Interview
Narrator: Misako Shigekawa
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Santa Ana, California
Date: June 10, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-smisako-01-0016

<Begin Segment 16>

RP: Now, your, the rest of your family was still in Glendora, right?

MS: No, they were in Terminal Island, 'cause we, we had the drugstore there.

RP: Your parents moved into Terminal Island?

MS: Yeah, so he bought the drugstore, so they moved to L.A. from Terminal Island for a while and so they had to go to Manzanar, so we, my husband and I came to Anaheim because his folks were here, so we went to, on the ranch. Luckily, luckily we had the house there, so when we left camp we had a place to come back to. Of course the house was a mess after almost four years. It was all nailed up and sat. Oh, it was terrible. All the rats had gotten in and... at least we had a place to sleep when we came back. A lot of people in camp didn't have places to go and so those, maybe they made arrangements, like L.A., like army camps and churches, they took them in for people that didn't have homes to come back to. I know a lot of 'em, in fact, my husband was a policeman and he had a lot of problems because they came to him for help, but he couldn't do anything. I know one man in our block hung himself, 'cause he had no place to go. Oh, you should, it was like a small town, they had murders and often they had this family problems, you had to get... and people don't know about it, like they had the army there, camp, that, 'cause all the time they guards in each, they had towers, and they watched all the time so they had an army camp there. And so they would come in looking for girls, you know what I mean. So he had to take care of that and then people wanted to drink, why, the army fellow was trying to sneak it in and sell it to the... so he, policeman, he had to police all that, so he, he was busy. Lot of times he was out most of the night, chasin' around. And then of course, there were fights that he had to settle.

RP: And how did your, your husband become the police chief? Was he appointed?

MS: They, when they first got there, of course the cooks, it wasn't, they didn't have that many officers' jobs. It was just mainly to feed us and take care of us, but they had a listing of jobs that was available, so my husband volunteered for policeman. And they had fireman and a different, you know how Japanese are ambitious. They aren't gonna sit there, so those that wanted to cook took over cooking and like teaching, they all... so by the end it was our own people running the camp. At first the outsider -- still, I think some Caucasian stayed there to teach, I think, that wanted to stay there. And then finally they got a canteen where you could buy things, but you know who made money was Sears-Roebuck and Montgomery. They got catalogs in and I think all the Japanese people ordered everything, from furniture to fix up their barracks.

RP: Did you order any items?

MS: We ordered different things, and we had a friend that had a store in Anaheim, so we got, had them send us things. Like we wanted, electricity wasn't a problem because of the Colorado River, so, like, we sent for electric fans. Our friends would send us that. So at the end it was pretty, people got kind of used to it, so it was hard because then some of 'em didn't have any place to go back to, so it was very difficult for those families.

RP: So you... you, your husband and your husband's parents...

MS: Yeah, we stayed, so we came --

RP: Who was else was in the, in your barrack room with you?

MS: Well, let's see, my, I don't remember. Anyway, my parents lived, his parents were next, next room.

RP: Did you have your own room?

MS: Yeah, we had separate rooms fortunately. Some of 'em, about three couples had, in one room. That was bad.

RP: What do you remember when you first walked into that room? What did you see in there?

MS: It was just before dark, I think it must've been, and I was so thirsty. I asked for a glass of water; I swear, I was drinking Colorado River mud. Since the dam went in, see that's, went in after, so the water... Lake Havasu, beautiful now. It's like a lake, if you've ever been there. And we went there not too long ago, and I thought, my gosh, that river was, is muddy, and we were drinking that water. Of course, they tried to, some way to clean that up before we drank it, but still, it took a while before we got used to that, so we used to drink hot tea to kind of mask it some way. And food, sometimes we would have spaghetti and potatoes, and one day something happened, we were eating neck bones for days, just boiled neck bones. And they fed us a lot of spaghetti, so 'til my mother died, she never would eat spaghetti. We had so much. Cheapest thing they could feed us. And then one day they got, shipped milk in to the pregnant mothers and children, and one day the freight train, some people held it up on the way, you know, black market, they took, they stole the milk, so they didn't have milk there for a while, 'til they were able to ship us some more. 'Cause it was rationed out outside those days, so somebody stole the train or something happened and they didn't have milk. But at the end, like tofu, you're familiar with tofu? Well, people that wanted to, they could send for the equipment and they made tofu there for us. Of course, at first only children, they gave it to old people first, but they, they really, everything, like somebody decided the mesquite bushes were valuable, they made furniture, and all kinds of things. And then they were walking around, they found rocks, good gems out there and they made, they had the equipment sent in, the jewelers, and they made beautiful earrings and necklaces. And I did have --

RP: Did you take up any art?

MS: What?

RP: Did you take up a hobby or an art?

MS: No, 'cause I, then after I had my son I had, I had two children there, so I was raising my kids, so I didn't, I didn't work at all, help any. I just stayed in while I was in camp. I didn't do anything.

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