Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Martha Shoaf
Narrator: Martha Shoaf
Interviewer: John Allen
Date: November 7, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-smartha-01-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

JA: Well, she's wondering about the, whether there was an issue or problem in terms of communicating with Issei parents who didn't know English?

MS: Usually they would come and bring an interpreter. Yeah, that's true, because like that little boy, I told you I was spanking all the way home because of his behavior? His mother didn't speak English, but somebody there did, so she acted as a translator. So I told her what had happened, but they would come down and meet with us and bring an interpreter with them. Or if they spoke some English, but they weren't fluent in it. And, of course, I didn't speak Japanese. I also, in the summer, I taught boys' woodshop, since we had to work twelve months out of the year. [Laughs]

JA: That's good.

MS: I knew nothing about boys' woodshop.

JA: Bet you learned, though.

MS: Well, they had a gentleman assigned to me, but he used to do most of the kids' work for them.


JA: Were there difficulties between kids and parents because of the language?

MS: As they were older, yes, I think there was. They had been learning English, the parents weren't keeping up in the English, and they were not using their Japanese as much as they used to. And so you have children that were losing some of their Japanese language skills, and when it came to -- well, they could ask for basic things in their homes, but when it came to sitting down and having a discussion, then they had trouble with that because neither of them were fluent in the other language, and that did cause problems.

JA: That's kind of sad.

MS: Yes.

JA: I wonder if any of those ever regained that communication after camp.

MS: I don't know.

JA: Did you notice --

MS: Of course, you know, a lot of these children, after they finished their American school, they went to a Japanese school, and they did that not in the camp, but when they left, or before they even came.

JA: Some people we've talked with felt that there was some, because of the freedom that kids have, there was some loosening of family ties that were important to Japanese traditionally. Is that anything you noticed or were aware of?

MS: Well, about the only thing I really noticed was that for once, the children had more friends to play with, and they hadn't had that before, because usually they had to go to school, they'd go home and either go to school or they worked around the house. And they, they were kept busy. It's like the mothers said, it wasn't until they got to Manzanar they ever had time to talk to each other and visit with each other. And they had these coffee klatches that they'd go around and visit with each other, which meant they were cooking in their barracks on hot plates, which were forbidden. [Laughs]

JA: [Addressing AL] Anything else we need to ask Martha?

MS: Shall I tell him the story about my music appreciation class?

JA: Oh, yes.

MS: We were required to teach music appreciation. Well, I'm not too musical, and so the music supervisor laboriously taught me to play "Country Gardens" on the piano, and I mean laboriously. The girl next to me had a piano in her classroom because it was also used as a Sunday School class, so she had a piano in there, and she played rather, quite nicely. So for appreciation, I played "Country Gardens," and then she played "Country Gardens," and we let them appreciate the difference. [Laughs]

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.