Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Art Okuno Interview
Narrator: Art Okuno
Interviewer: Kirk Peterson
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Date: September 1, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-oart-01-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

KP: Did you ever leave camp, once you got there?

AO: The only time I left was, they let us go -- oh, yeah, I went as a, to help out in the war effort. They took, they asked volunteers to go out to the local farms and I went with a group to, let's see, Montana -- no, where Minidoka, yeah, that's Montana, isn't it? Yeah, near there, to pick potatoes.

KP: What time of year was that?

AO: It must've been like summertime. In fact, the owner of the potato farm was a Japanese American.

KP: What was that like, getting out of camp, even just to go work?

AO: Well, it was great getting out of camp, but the work was, like, ten hours a day and it was hard work, back breaking, back breaking job, because you picked these potatoes in your bucket, then you had to put it into bags. Yeah.

KP: How long were you doing that?

AO: About a month. This was sort of called a war effort. And the other time we were able to leave was, we got a pass to go to Cody, which was about twenty-five miles west of our camp, and at that time the Codyans or whatever you call the people were very antagonistic towards us, the camp. They figured people in the barbed wire, they must be criminals, done something wrong, so they didn't want anything to do with us. So there were signs at some stores saying, "No Japs allowed here." And day I went, we saw a movies, two of us went, and then coming out we thought we'd stop in the local fountain, have refreshments. We sat down at the, around the table, counter, and we just sat there. People were coming in on either side of us, ordering and getting their order and leaving. We were just there, so we got the message and we just left. We were not welcome.

KP: And that was in Cody?

AO: Yeah.

KP: Did you ever go to the other town?

AO: I went to Powell for my Boy Scout troop to buy some chicken and no problems there as far as I remember. I was kind of hesitant because this was after the Cody incident. In fact, there were Japanese American farmers in Wyoming, and professionals, too.

KP: Where were they?

AO: Around the camp, like Powell. Powell and beyond. I was surprised. I found out later.

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