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-01-0017

<Begin Segment 17>

KP: So back in San Francisco you became an Eagle Scout.

AO: No, that was before.

KP: Yeah, when you, before the war, in San Francisco you were an Eagle Scout.

AO: Oh, yeah.

KP: How... Scouting played a role in your life again in camp, how did that come about?

AO: Well, when people got into camp there were no organized, organizations to, for the kids, and there's no school for, like, six, almost a year, so the parents, group of parents in San Jose were worried about their kids running wild, maybe out of control, so, I don't know how they picked me out since I was in San Francisco, but, but some message must've gone out saying I was an Eagle Scout in Troop 12, San Francisco. It was a prestigious troop. So they came to see me and ask whether I would be a scoutmaster for Troop 343, and I told 'em, well, I'll think it over. And eventually I said yes, I will.

KP: What was your decision making process? Do you remember why you said you would?

AO: Yeah, I guess sort of a loyalty to what I got out of Scouting myself, how it helped me.

KP: So you took over the troop, you became the scoutmaster.

AO: Yeah.

KP: And what, what sort of things did you work with the kids with?

AO: Well, we tried to do as much as we can in camp. We're restricted because, no one in our troop made Eagle Scout because they couldn't go hiking on long, long hikes and camping and all that, so we were limited to what we could do. Until towards the end of the war, then the barbed wire fences came down and we were able to go hiking, things like that. But the interesting thing is, I guess I told Richard, we had a Camporee in camp and a troop from Cody came, came to the, inside the camp to participate with the boys in camp, and they had an overnighter, sleeping in tents. And one of the scouts of the, Alan Simpson from Cody, he was a senator, and he happened to stay with Norm Mineta and they got to be good friends, and so Alan Simpson really helped Mineta when he became a member of the Congress. And until this day they still had that relationship.

KP: So this was a Scout trip, troop from Cody?

AO: Yeah.

KP: Which was the town where you experienced some discrimination. How do you think that that visit...

AO: They must've had a good scoutmaster. Yeah. And I imagine Alan Simpson probably had a voice in it, too. Well, he was young then, though.

KP: You think it changed the opinions of some of the folks in Cody, by having the kids visit the camp?

AO: I don't know. I have no idea. But Norm Mineta was in my troop, by the way. I didn't hear about this until later. I didn't know it was going on at that time.

KP: So how many, how many did you, how many scouts did you have in your troop?

AO: about twenty.

KP: What ages?

AO: Oh, from twelve through, like, fifteen or so. Fifteen, sixteen.

KP: Boys?

AO: Yeah, all boys.

KP: Were there Girl Scouts in...

AO: Oh yeah, they, they had Girl Scouts, Camp Fire Girls, Cub Scouts. Yeah.

KP: So you decided to take your troop to Yellowstone. How did that come about?

AO: I don't know how it came about, but one day we got the news that we're gonna have, we're going to Yellowstone, the troops. And it wasn't for a vacation. We had to build a bridge across that, the stream, and that's what we did. We were there for, I think the troop was there for, our troop was there for, like, couple of weeks.

KP: How was that?

AO: Oh, that was great. I mean, freedom, you know?

KP: Did you work with the park's staff building that bridge?

AO: No. I didn't, well he must've been around because there was a headquarters. They had a cabin up there. But I never personally saw him.

KP: What other activities did you do in Yellowstone?

AO: We went hiking, and the main object was to build this bridge and until recently it was still there. When I went about five years ago it was completely gone. I guess the stream just washed it away.

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