Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Helen Mori Interview
Narrator: Helen Mori
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Concord, California
Date: April 14, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-mhelen_2-01

<Begin Segment 1>

RP: This is an oral history for the Manzanar National Historic Site. This morning we're talking with Helen Mori. And Helen and her husband Sam reside at 1377 Sussex Way in Concord, California. The date of our interview is April 14, 2010. And we'll be interviewing Helen about her experiences as a former internee at the Manzanar War Relocation Center and also be talking about her life before and after camp. Our interview will be archived in the site's library. Kirk Peterson is manning the camera and controls. Richard Potashin is our interviewer today. And, Helen, do I have permission to go ahead and record our interview?

HM: Oh, yes.

RP: Thank you very much for taking some time to, to go back in time a little, and explore World War II history with us. First of all, let's start with some, some basic biographical questions. Can you give us your given name at birth?

HM: Given name at birth? Yasuko Koide.

RP: And can you spell Koide for us?

HM: K-O-I-D-E.

RP: D-E, uh-huh. And where were you born and what year?

HM: Seaside Hospital in Long Beach, November 11, 1933.

RP: 1933, I just remembered, there was a large earthquake in 1933.

HM: That was before I was born.

RP: It wasn't that big was it?

HM: I was in... I was still inside, incubating. [Laughs]

RP: Okay. Do you have any knowledge of the meaning of your Japanese name?

HM: Yes, my... I was born on Armistice Day so they gave me the character for peace. When you write Yasuko, it means peace. And ko, they used for all girls. Ko, the character ko.

RP: How about your last name at that time, Koide? Does that have a meaning that you are aware of?

HM: I don't know because my father died when I was five and a half months old, so... and my mother never talked about stuff like that, so.

RP: He died when you were five and a half months old?

HM: Five and a half months old. Yeah, I was a little baby.

RP: Where did he come from in Japan?

HM: He's from this area in Sakaiminato, Tottori-ken, Japan. It's on the Japan Sea side of Japan.

RP: And can you give us his full name?

HM: Teiji, T-E-I-J-I, Koide. And I think he went by Edward or something. Which I found out way later. It was in a book. Somebody had written a book.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

RP: And tell us a little bit about your father. His family in Japan? What, what do you know about his situation there?

HM: Well, we met them. Since the war we've gone twice to Tottori, but, so I don't know really know about the background before the war. But he did, he had another brother and a... that was it too? You know my mother never talked about it so I don't even know. But he came to United States. After he was educated in Japan he came to United States, you know, to study. And he went to a college in Denver and then he went to, back east. I think he went to, what's that college in New York?

Off Camera: Where?

HM: New York, he went to a college in New York. I don't even remember the name of the college.

Off Camera: I think it was Columbia.

HM: Huh?

Off Camera: Columbia.

HM: Columbia. Is that in New York? I think that's where he went. And also I had heard, my auntie had told me that he was invited to go to Oxford, England. But he decided to come back to the West Coast and then they got married. [Laughs] And I was born. But see, I was only five and a half months old when he died.

RP: So he was one of, one of a very few Isseis that came to the U.S. for college?

HM: Yes, yes. He also was very advanced. He played tennis. He golfed. You know, very...

RP: So would he have, would have...

HM: He was in a, a chemist. And, and before the war they wouldn't hire Japanese even if they had the college degrees, you know. So he worked for a Japanese company and what they did was they would send soil, the farmers would send soil samples to the, to him. And he would analyze it and make a fertilizer for it. And that's what he did.

RP: He did that for the Mutual Trading Company?

HM: Yes.

RP: Uh-huh, and so he had, had he attended college in Japan before he came to the United States?

HM: Yes, yes, uh-huh.

RP: So, it sounds like he came from a sort of a, a family with some means to support him.

HM: I think so.

RP: Was he the only member of his family from Japan to come to the United States?

HM: Well, to study, yes. I met a cousin way later, after the war, I met her. She, her husband retired so they came to the United States and that's when I met her. And we've seen her since many times 'cause when we go to Japan we try to get together.

RP: If you don't mind me asking, what were the circumstances of his death?

HM: Well, sort of embarrassing. He had a, he had surgery in New York for, I don't even know if I should say it over the...

Off Camera: Why not?

HM: Hemorrhoids. Then he came back and it was still bad so he had a surgery again. And he had a hard time recovering. You know, before the war, they don't have the techniques that we have now and stuff and... so he was only thirty-three when he died. My mother was a widow at twenty-six, or seven, something like that. She had a tough time. In those days they didn't have insurance or anything either, you know. I mean, he was so young. I mean, he didn't have insurance either. So...

RP: He also attended Modesto Junior College?

HM: Oh yeah, before they were... yeah, he went there. I forgot about that.

RP: And all that, all that education was directed towards becoming a chemist?

HM: I guess so. Yeah. He wanted to be a professional I guess.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

RP: So when did he meet your mother?

HM: It was probably the year before I was born. I don't know. She never talked about stuff like that.

RP: Or how they met?

HM: Yea. Oh, she met because a friend, personal friend in San Pedro introduced them. Yeah. Matchmaker like, you know.

RP: Your mother's name?

HM: Satsuki. Her maiden name?

RP: And her maiden name.

HM: Maiden name is Onami. O-N-A-M-I.

RP: Tell us a little bit about what you know about her background. She was Nisei?

HM: Pardon me? She, she's a Kibei, Kibei-Nisei. And she's what you call a Meiji woman. She was born in 1907. And when she, and they, her parents were farming strawberries in Irvine before the war. And when she was about fifth grade, he took the whole family back to Japan 'cause I think they made a lot of money, you know. Went back to Japan, Hiroshima, Mihara, in the Mihara city area. And I guess he was sort of like the mayor of their little town at the time, a long time ago, since he came to America and all that stuff. And she got through, she was, she was the third daughter. They had ten kids, seven of them were born in the United States, and then the rest were born in Japan. She was the third daughter. And she was fortunate because the older daughter, oldest daughter, married a rich guy. Family guy with a, the family had money. They went to Tokyo. So when my mother graduated from high school, she invited my mother to go to Tokyo for college. So they helped out a lot. They were wealthy so they helped out a lot. So she went to the first, I think it was the first women's college. No, no, it was the first co-educational college in Tokyo. I forgot the name of it now but... and she graduated. She taught there and came back to the United States in her early twenties, something like that. And, she went to San Pedro... I think they lived around San Pedro at that time. She taught Japanese school in Terminal Island. So anyways, she had a college degree from Japan. You know, she couldn't teach here. So she taught Japanese school in Terminal Island. And then after she got married they moved to Gardena. They used to be called Moneta, M-O-N-E-T-A. and then that incorporated into the town of Gardena. Now, it's all Gardena now. But it was there, 169th and Western, before the war. And she taught Japanese school there, at the one at that Moneta Gakuen, Moneta Japanese school, 'til the war.

RP: So also very unique because, you know, being a woman, being very highly educated...

HM: Yes, it was.

RP: In another country.

HM: For those days that was pretty good to be so educated.

RP: Did she ever talk about her first impressions or first years in the United States?

HM: No not really because since she went back from fifth grade, she never got the accent either. She speaks regular, without that accent a lot of the Kibeis have, it's like you or me. And, in fact, a lot of times my friends would call me and say, "I didn't know you had a sister." I'd say, "That was my mom." But you know. 'Cause she had no accent. She just always, even learning Japanese you know in Japan and all that, it didn't affect her as far as speaking English. She has trouble spelling 'cause she spelled phonetically when she wrote letters.

RP: So she was away from her family for quite some time in Japan.

HM: The family in Japan?

RP: No, when she was taken to Japan when she was in fifth grade?

HM: Oh, oh, uh-huh.

RP: And then she stayed there, right?

HM: They, the family stayed in Japan.

RP: The whole family stayed in Japan?

HM: Whole family. Yeah. And I think about the time my mother came back the seventh child was a son. Hallelujah, you know. After six girls. I'm sure they celebrated. And so he was spoiled. But he came to, came back to the United States about the same time, or near around that time. But the rest of them stayed in Japan, all of them. The oldest sister came to visit once or twice, just to visit. But the rest of the kids and everybody stayed in Japan. The one brother, we went, you know, Japanese style, you go hakamairi when you visit? You visit the grave, pay your respects? And I saw one in, a gravestone and my uncle said, "Oh, that's Masato," the seventh, eighth child, was a son. And on the side it said he passed away at twenty-six, twenty-five or twenty-six. And I thought he died at Burma, but it was Philippines. He was a Japanese soldier in the Philippines. And it was a month before the war ended. And I've seen films about what they went through. They starved to death. Japan knew they were losing way before that but they just kept trudging along with no supplies, no food, no nothing. They starved to death, basically. And I think he was one of 'em because it was a month before the war ended.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

RP: Give us a little personal picture of your mother.

HM: Oh, my mother?

RP: Physically and her personality.

HM: [Laughs] She was a strong-minded woman. Fairly attractive, wore glasses. Loved, unlike me, she loved jewelry and fancy clothes and all that stuff. Me, I'm just a plain Jane. But she, she tended to be dressed nicely. She didn't wear too much makeup but... she was, I would say she was pretty fair looking. In fact a couple times she'd be walking in downtown L.A. or Japantown, and they thought she was Madame Chang Kai-shek. [Laughs] Isn't that funny? She didn't really look like her I don't think. She didn't have sunglasses on or anything but they thought she was Madame Chang Kai-shek, couple times. Not the same person either. So she thought that was pretty funny.

RP: Being well-educated as she was, was, did she have a, a creative side to her? Did she...

HM: Oh yeah, she wrote poetry from, when she was in Japan I'm sure. I don't know when she really started. But many, many, many years. And she wrote tanka poetry, the thirty-one syllables, the old-fashioned one that you see it in the Heike, you know that period? The court, that's the kind of poetry that they wrote. And they don't just read it. They go... [chants]. It almost sounds like a sutra or something, you know. A certain way they have to read it, it's really something. I heard her a couple times and I thought, wow. You don't just read it da-da-da-da-da like that. Yeah. She really enjoyed her tanka. And after the war there were several tanka clubs, various teachers had their students, you know. But she stuck with the same one, Takayanagi sensei. And he was very well-known. In fact I think they picked his poem for the New Year's contest twice I think. But he was born in Japan and raised in Japan and all that stuff, so, he didn't get the hoopla my mother got. Yeah, she got a great big ol' party when she won that, she was picked I should say in the contest, the Rafu Shimpo, you know the vernacular, Japanese vernacular in L.A.? They threw a great big ol' party. And they give her a trophy like this. Big trophy. Yeah. I didn't get to go 'cause I had to watch my kid brother. I had to stay home and watch him but, so I didn't get to go to the party. I heard about it.

RP: Helen, you mentioned when you first talked about your mom that she was a Meiji-woman?

HM: Yeah.

RP: Can you describe what you meant by that?

HM: Well usually the Meiji women are, she was on the cusp, you know, up to about people who are born... around that period by 1910, say, maybe 1907. I really don't know. But all that, from eighteen hundred to, you know, the latter part of 1800 to... it's when the change came. You know when they went, quit having the Shogun and started, imperial families started being the leader of the country and all that. That period is known as the Meiji period. And at that time the women were starting to get educated even in Japan, with culture and arts and all this other stuff, besides literature and reading and writing and all that. They, they started, they were able to go more advanced after the Meiji Restoration.

RP: Kind of an age of enlightenment?

HM: No, it's just it had more equality. [Laughs] You know, Japan's a chauvinistic country from way back when and...

RP: Yeah it is.

HM: And they started getting more advanced with the Meiji Restoration.

RP: Right, and your mom was able to take advantage of that by going to college.

HM: Probably, probably.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

RP: So where, so you grew up in Gardena then.

HM: Uh-huh. Moneta. In those days the homes weren't all solid. So I used to cut through the lots to get to grammar school. And it's, funny thing was one of the friends in our club here, I heard he went to Denker Avenue, which is a grammar school I went to, up to second grade. And he, I said, "I went to Denker Avenue too." He was so surprised. I said, "Well of course that was a long time ago." You know, it wasn't city streets. I just went through the lots and got to the school. But, it's still there.

RP: So what do you remember looking, thinking back to Gardena when you were growing up?

HM: What do I remember?

RP: Like, what kind of community was it? Was it predominately farming? Or...

HM: No, no. It wasn't near farm, farmers were further out. It was like any other community I would say, mixture, Asians, white people, uh, ordinary. It was a small little area. Moneta especially was a small little area. They had lumberyards and that kind of thing still right in that, right there. That lumberyard's long gone, but, that used to be there. Train used to go by, the tracks, train tracks. Other than that, nothing stuck in my mind really.

RP: And, your, did you have siblings? You had a brother?

HM: Well, they got married in camp. My mother in Manzanar, my mother married my stepfather in Manzanar. And so my brother was born a year after that. He was born in Manzanar, 1944.

RP: That's it.

HM: Huh?

RP: Just your brother?

HM: Yes. I says, "How come you didn't have more kids?" And she said, "We didn't know what the situation was going to be like when they let us out of this camp." And so they stopped right there. And they never had any after either because after the war was a struggle. We had to start all over. It was a real struggle.

RP: So, your dad passed away when you were very young?

HM: My natural father, yeah.

RP: And so your mom raised you.

HM: She raised me, uh-huh. And, and she taught Japanese school, which probably didn't pay much. And she would tell me that one family just came with two celery, one on each arm. That was... they couldn't pay the gessha, which is the fee, monthly fee that they pay the Japanese school. Yeah. And what she did was she went, she tutored the farmer kids at night. I never saw my mother. Yeah, there was a Caucasian lady that babysat me. And I would eat there and everything. And then my mother would come late at night and pick me up. But the farmers would pick her up, take them to their house. She'd tutor the kids and then they'd drive her back to Gardena to the house and then she'd come and get me. So to supplement the income I guess. She probably had a hard time.

RP: Did you, did you take the language classes with her?

HM: No. Oh, I think I had her one time. I think it was at the one, the last one we had, second grade. I didn't like that. I never studied at home though with her. I just went to Japanese school.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

RP: And did you go to Japanese school after school?

HM: Yeah.

RP: After public school?

HM: Yes, yes, yes.

RP: And where was the Japanese school located in Gardena?

HM: 169th and Western was the big intersection so I would say it was about 167th or sixth, 166th maybe, between Western and Arlington? I don't know. Off of Western anyway. One of the side streets. It was the Japanese, Japanese school. I mean, I think, it wasn't in a building with other things. It was a bungalow like this with maybe four or five rooms, stucco, very nice. And we'd have what they call undoukai, which is athletic, three-legged races or running races or that kind of thing. They would have that once a year in the... they had a pretty big property because the oval was pretty big. And we'd participate in the undoukai.

RP: Did you have cultural events there? Picnics or parties or...

HM: No. It was strictly a language school.

RP: And how far did you get in...

HM: Pardon me?

RP: How far did you get in, in your language...

HM: Oh, I went to second grade when the war started, so. And then they, they closed the camp. As soon as the war started they closed the, I mean, they closed the Japanese school, period. So, that's all I went, second grade. He went a lot more than I did. I used to write to my cousins in Japanese though. The hiragana, you know, longer... that's the only way I could communicate with them because I forgot all the kanji. Well, up to second grade you don't learn much anyways. So when they write back to me they try to write the kana on the side, the hiragana on the side. 'Cause they know I can't read kanji. But for them it's so much easier to write the kanji 'cause the Japanese language there's one word could have all kinds of meanings. And you know the meaning of the word by the kanji. So, they're prone to using kanji a lot. And, especially the common words. But I still don't even know the common words so they write the kana on the side. [Laughs] At least we know how to communicate. 'Cause I could write English. They can't read the English, so...

RP: So, did you speak Japanese or English with your mom at home?

HM: At home?

RP: Yeah.

HM: Oh, English. And my stepfather spoke broken English. He mixed in broken English with Japanese.

RP: So, your, was your upbringing a balance of Japanese and American culture?

HM: Mostly American.

RP: Mostly American.

HM: Uh-huh, upbringing, yeah. Whereas we're different, see. We, my daughter says, "Our place reeks of Japanese." [Laughs] I said, "What do you mean reeks?"

RP: Do you remember any specific holidays, Japanese holidays at all that you celebrated?

HM: Not really. I know I had a Girls Day display, but my mother, she was too busy to even set it up. You know, we never had it in the house. We bought the whole thing for our kids 'cause we have three girls. So, we, not lately, but when, when our grandkids got old enough we would set it up and take pictures with them and the whole display. The Girls Days has seven shelves. Boys Day has... Boys Day was five? We have a Boys Day thing too but we hardly put that up. One son.

RP: Your, when you had to evacuate, you mentioned something about a piano being sold?

HM: Oh, the piano, the...

RP: So you had a...

HM: She had a piano and a sewing machine and...

RP: So did you play?

HM: No.

RP: You didn't take lessons?

HM: I never took lessons. She couldn't afford it.

RP: She played?

HM: No. [Laughs]

RP: Who played?

HM: She bought it for looks maybe. She, she didn't have the money to take lessons either. But we did have a piano in the house. We didn't have a radio or a TV or a... well, no TV in those days. We didn't even have a radio or phonograph in the house. But we had a piano that nobody played. [Laughs] Probably, eventually she wanted me to get lessons, but then the war came when I was old enough to really start. So...

RP: Did she ever talk about her experiences on Terminal Island?

HM: Did she ever talk?

RP: Teaching Japanese language school there?

HM: I don't.... not really except that she taught at the Christian language school and there was a Buddhist language school. She taught at the Christian one. That was about it. She only taught there about a year anyway, year or two. I really don't know how long.

RP: Did Gardena, if you were, can recall at that time, did Gardena have a Japantown area?

HM: Not really. Uh-uh. Even now. People congregate near our church, Gardena Buddhist Church. But then there's Christian, Japanese Christian churches scattered here and there too in Gardena. So there's no real meaning like a Japantown. In fact I think the only one with a Japantown is L.A., San Jose, and San Francisco, and that's disappearing fast. It's, a shame. And Sacramento, I'm sure they had a big Japantown too but it's barely a manju confectionary store, maybe a Japanese restaurant, maybe one little area. Maybe not even a full block that, Japanese stores and, and what would you call that? Are in this one block around there.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

RP: There was an interesting story you shared with me a while ago about your father.

HM: My...

RP: Had his identity stolen.

HM: Oh yeah.

RP: Tell us about that.

HM: Well, my, I remember my mother said about a month or a week or two before they got married he mentioned that someone had broken... he stayed at the Olympic Hotel in Little Tokyo, downtown, in the Japantown in L.A. And he told her that somebody broke in and took all his IDs, you know, passport, diplomas, I don't know if he drove, I don't... anyway, important documents. They, somebody took 'em. And then we went to a funeral two, three years ago and my cousin was at this funeral too 'cause it was a real good friend of theirs. And the reverend wanted to talk to us.

Off Camera: You gotta talk about the FBI first.

HM: Oh, oh, when I was in high school the FBI came, two guys. And they, they told my mother, "I understand your husband is still alive." And she was shocked. She says, "No, he isn't. He died when she was a baby." And they said, "No, there's a Teiji Koide running around and, and he must be your husband." And she said, she said no. Anyway we convinced them he died. And this guy was a fake. And, at... did we read that book before that funeral?

Off Camera: No, afterwards.

HM: After. Anyway, we, we read a book after this funeral. Well, what the, the reverend wanted to meet us 'cause my cousin told him, "Her father died when she was a baby and this person is using his ID." So then the reverend was so shocked, he wanted to come to meet us and talk to my mother and all that. But once he came to our house he came to our house to talk to my father, the ID being stolen and all that, then he found out she won the, her poem was picked in the imperial contest, every January. So then most of the time he's asking her about getting picked for the, the asazora poem. But he did... so my cousin set him straight. And he said that his stuff was stolen before the war and this guy is just using his ID. And after that we read a book, Ten Most Unusual Japanese Americans. And the last person in that book was Teiji Koide. And this guy was a triple agent, U.S. spy, Russian spy, and Japan spy. He was a triple agent. He trained in Moscow for the Russian part of it I guess. And he went by my father's name and he said he went to college and did all this and that. And we were so... we just, "Oh my god." That's, he's using my father's name. And then it made us mad 'cause he was a Communist. He wrote Communist literature and everything. So we were angry that this all came about, in the open now. Which we didn't even know about either. And...

RP: So this all surfaced after the war?

HM: Oh, yes. Yes. After the war.

RP: And did, did anybody investigate this guy or, was he questioned about it?

HM: I don't know the particulars about that part. But they must have 'cause the guy wrote a book. This guy wrote a book on the Japanese Americans, Ten Most Unusual Japanese Americans, something like that. I sent that book to his brother in Minnesota 'cause he wanted to read about that. And I never, it's probably out of print, you know. We tried to get a copy but you can't get a copy.

RP: Didn't, didn't this gentleman also use your name and...

HM: Oh yes, he named, this guy, I forgot his last name now, he used, he named his son George which is my kid brother's American name, English name. And he named his daughter Yasuko, which is my Japanese name, which we thought was sort of strange. Of all the names, he picks our names. And another thing that was small world is when my kid brother went to junior high school, it was Foshay Junior High, he took instruments. He took all the woodwinds, clarinet, saxophone, all that. And so did that guy's son, George Koide. And this guy used to pick up my kid brother to go to these, they would all perform at different schools and stuff. He would come and pick up my brother, with his son, and take 'em and bring 'em home. But we didn't know who the guy was at that time, that, about his background. Isn't that something? He probably did that purposely because it sort of connected. And I understand my brother, I talked to him I think last year, he said, I said, "Whatever happened to George Koide anyway?" And he says, "Oh, he, he's an attorney in L.A." He changed his name back to his father's real name. He didn't want his family to have that stigma I guess.

RP: And what was his father's real name?

HM: I can't remember. And since you're... no, don't. They're taping it. You don't want to say in case it's wrong you don't want to say. I think I know what it is but I don't know. Since you're taping, I don't want to say in case it's wrong. But isn't that extraordinary?

RP: Is this, is this gentleman still alive?

HM: No, he passed away about three years ago maybe.

RP: Hmm, what a story.

HM: [Laughs] So that was a early stolen identity case. Before the war. 1930s, it would be in the 1930s. 'Cause I was born in '33.

RP: There's another interesting story. You mentioned about your mother running into a gentleman who worked at the same Mutual Trading Company?

HM: Oh.

RP: He was, he was a poor man. He had just lost his...

HM: Well my stepfather worked for Mutual Trading Company too. But my natural birth father also worked for Mutual Trading Company. And when my mother heard about this poor guy who lost his son with pneumonia at one year and after that he lost his wife to cancer or such -- she must have been very young -- and both times he was in Japan. 'Cause he was in import/export. My stepfather was in import/export. And both times he was in Japan when it happened. So, you know, my mother had heard about him. She didn't know who he was or anything.

RP: And then she ends up marrying him in Manzanar.

HM: Yeah. She married him. Fujinos, you know I told you about the Fujinos? They were baishakunin which is the go-between.

Off Camera: Matchmaker.

HM: He got...

RP: They were the ones that got them...

HM: He got my mother and, and my stepfather together. Yeah. And that's in Manzanar. So it would be in '43, 1943.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

RP: Do you have any recollections of Pearl Harbor, December 7th?

HM: No, none. Only thing I remember is... of that day I don't have any recollections. But I remember after that we had to always put black curtains over our windows. And one time I remember they thought it was a enemy plane flying around. We heard, we saw the searchlights and all that stuff. And it turned out to be one of our planes. But they thought it was a Japanese plane. So the searchlights were going all over the place and everything. I remember that, before we had to go to camp. But you figure the war was December of '41 and we went into camp May 15th, '42.

RP: Now, your mom was a language school instructor. And some of the female language school instructors were being picked up by the FBI. Do you remember the FBI visiting your home?

HM: I really don't recall that one, before the war. But I remember she was in the, (back) at the incinerator burning everything, all the pictures, all our... anything that had... especially the pictures. 'Cause in Japan they wore uniforms for school. And she didn't want them to think they were bad. So she burned all our pictures. We don't have any pictures of before the war 'cause she burned it all. 'Cause she knew they were gonna pick her up. The rumors were going around that they were picking up all the teachers, reverends, big shots in the community, stuff like that. So she burned everything. And that's the only thing I remember really. I don't remember the FBI coming. Maybe they did, but not when I was there.

RP: And so what, why wouldn't she have been picked up?

HM: Oh well, she begged them. She says, "What is my poor daughter gonna do? She's only eight and a half. My relatives went some, to some other camp." She says, "What is she gonna do by herself?" I would have had to go to the Children's Village in Manzanar, that's probably what would have happened. Well anyway, she begged them enough. And I guess they realized she's not gonna be a spy, you know, she's not a spy. So they let her go to Manzanar. Actually we were supposed to go to Santa Anita and then she heard... and so she, we moved into Japantown. I lived there, I don't know, I never did ask her how long we were there but I know I didn't go to school like the other kids. It must have been a month or two. I don't know. I didn't go to school. And then we went to camp. And then we went to Manzanar. But she heard this was a good camp so she changed it from Santa Anita to Manzanar or something. Anyway, we ended up in Manzanar.

RP: So she was, when the war broke out the language schools were closed.

HM: Closed right away.

RP: So, what did she do to make ends meet as far as...

HM: Who knows?

RP: Who knows.

HM: Maybe she just helped the farmers. Well, even them, they were probably struggling too. But they're not struggling as much as people getting salary, you know what I mean? At least they can eat and that kind of thing. I don't know what she... I never did ask her what she did to, for a living. Because that was how many months after the war (started)?

RP: I mean, yeah, five months.

HM: That's a pretty long time for a single woman, single mother. I don't know. Gee, I didn't even ask her, "What did you do?" We didn't starve, I didn't starve to death I don't think. I don't remember.

RP: So she burned, she burned all her memories really of Japanese...

HM: No, just, she didn't want them to think she was a spy or anything. She just burned... being a schoolteacher too, you know, she probably had all kind of stuff. She just burned everything, especially pictures. We don't have any pictures.

RP: The other, you mentioned the piano and, and the sewing machine...

HM: Oh that, the piano and the sewing machine, she was making payments, buying it by payments. So they just took it. They just came and took 'em. And her other appliances or anything else she gave away. What are you gonna do? You, you could only take what you could carry. So, she gave it away to our neighbors and friends probably. I don't know.

RP: You had another, you had relatives who were living in Riverside at the time?

HM: Riverside. I had an auntie and uncle and a cousins in Riverside. And I had another uncle and cousins in Irvine.

RP: On which side of your family, father or mother?

HM: My mother's.

RP: Mother's.

HM: My mother's. My mother's oldest sister lived in Riverside. And then... they were onion farmers, grew onions. And, yeah, the one in Irvine was her uncle. Uncle lived in Irvine.

RP: Was there any effort to get both groups of the family together to go to Manzanar together?

HM: Uh-uh. My uncle, another, my uncle, my mother's kid brother, the first son that got born in the family, he lived in West L.A. Yeah, he was a gardener. He taught kendo at their dojo in West L.A. From before the war he was a kendo person.

RP: Did he end up at Manzanar too?

HM: No, he went to Riverside. I think probably what he did was he probably moved to Riverside when the internment story started going around. He probably moved to Riverside. Otherwise he would have ended up in Santa Anita and you know... he went to Poston with my other relatives.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

RP: Do you recall anything about your trip to Manzanar?

HM: All I remember was we went by train to Lone Pine. And the whole time there were soldiers with fixed bayonet rifles, standing on each end of our car, you know. And all the shades had to be down. They wouldn't let us even peek. We had to just leave it down. We couldn't even peek to see what was going on or what was out there or nothing. They really watched us. That's all I remember.

RP: And you, it's always tough to try to recall your state of mind at that time, but can you remember as a child of eight or nine years old...

HM: I just thought it was sure taking a long time. We left L.A. Union Station in the morning. And we were riding and riding... especially you can't even see the scenery outside. You're just sitting there lookin' at the other people in the train. It was so boring and long, real long.

RP: For a kid.

HM: We didn't even get to stop to do our business probably 'til Lone Pine. I don't even remember stopping. Maybe they did, but I don't remember.

RP: Do you remember the first, the first time you saw the camp? When you actually went in and saw the camp?

HM: Went into Manzanar? I just thought, wow. I thought how dusty it was. Dust was flying all over the place. And they made us line up. You know, all of us had to line up to get our shots, so many on one arm, so many on the other, the very first day I think. That's all that I remember. And then we were assigned our block and what barrack and stuff like that. I didn't even notice the beautiful Mount Williamson that day. All those mountains, the beautiful mountains, I didn't even remember any of that the first day...

RP: Well, your arm was probably hurting pretty bad.

HM: Yeah, I know. Oh my gosh. I though oh, I hate needles anyway, even now.

RP: And which block were you assigned to?

HM: I was in 21-8-3. Eighth barrack, third room.

RP: And so it was just you and your mom.

HM: No, our room had eight people, the Maruki family, mother, father, three high school aged kids, my mother and me, and a widow lady.

RP: Oh, Mrs. Denowa?

HM: Yeah, Denawa, Denawa. And she had a cat, which I loved.

RP: How did she get a...

HM: She snuck it into camp somehow. I guess it was in a basket or something. Sort of like our cats I recall, sort of stripey, brownish cat.

RP: Oh, that was nice.

HM: Yeah, we were not allowed pets so nobody had pets but she did. She had a... maybe that's where my love of cats started.

RP: The cats of Manzanar.

HM: Yeah, the cats of Manzanar.

RP: Huh. So, the Marukis, where did they come from? Were they also from Los Angeles too?

HM: I think they were from L.A., yeah. In fact we went to L.A. this past weekend. And I was talking to my cousin. He's, he's my first cousin that went to, that lived in Riverside, went to Poston. And his wife was also in Manzanar. And I didn't know her then. But Manzanar only had like a few twins, you know, identical twins. And she's one of 'em. And I remember my girlfriend, Fujino, every now and then we'd go sit in the firebreak and wait for the twins to come by. 'Cause they're identical. You couldn't tell one from the other. They're identical twins. And after the war she marries my cousin from Riverside. [Laughs] Anyway, we went to go see her during the weekend, him, and she was telling me that she, after she graduated from high school, she went to Cleveland to work 'cause they were making arrangements for a lot of the older kids to go out of camp and work and all that. And then she got word that, you know when the questionnaire came out? The "no-no" something, whatever that is. When that came out a lot of people went to Tule Lake 'cause they were "No-Nos." And so what they did was, we were in -- 21, 22, 23 -- so block 20, from 24 on they closed the camp where everyone else had to move to the other part of the camp. And she was, and her family was one of 'em. She was in Block 26. So she was one of 'em that had to move to our side of the camp. So when the war ended there was no one to help her, the parents, because they had, the kids, people had already gone out of camp, you know, her sisters and brothers. So she was the only one able to come back. So she came back to help the parents leave camp. But her train from Cleveland to L.A. got here after the bus. She says at that time they used to have a bus that used to go to Manzanar once a day. Which I didn't even know 'til I talked to her. And she said that the bus had already left and she thought, oh what am I gonna do? Eighteen year old girl in downtown L.A. and I mean, you know, near the Union Station probably. She didn't know what she was gonna do. And then she bumped into this guy that was in her block in camp. Lucky thing. So she explained... he says, "What are you doing here?" or something. So she explained you know that she came back to California to help her parents leave camp. So he helped her from there, took her to Koyasan, which is a Buddhist church in Japantown, sort of, you sort of go through, it's, it's further back. Not on First Street, further back. But he took her there and they were using it like a hostel. So she stayed there 'til the next day when the bus was gonna go to Manzanar. And that's how she got to Manzanar. And I didn't even know something like that used to go on. I didn't know they had a bus that went there once a day.

RP: So, you must have been a little...

HM: I got sidetracked. What was your question?

RP: It must have been a little crowded in there with eight people...

HM: Oh gosh. There was just barely room for the beds and the oil stove. That's all. 'Cause you figure the rooms were only about twenty by twenty, if that much. Probably about twenty by twenty I would say.

RP: Tell us about Grace, Rose, and Kow. Did you kind of take to them right away? I mean you were...

HM: Oh yeah, they were nice. They were real nice. But they were so much older than me. They were in high school already and I was what, third grade.

RP: So they kind of looked after you a little bit or...

HM: Not really. 'Cause we're all, you know, all Japanese. No one's gonna hurt you. It was, I mean, we're... age difference was too much. Yeah. [Laughs]

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

RP: So did your mom, did your mom work in camp?

HM: I don't know. I know she helped out with the schools in the beginning, since she taught Japanese school. And I think she helped set up the PTA and that kind of thing. But as far as working, I don't think she had regular duties. Maybe she did. I don't know. And then my brother was born the year after they were married, so, you know, she was busy with him. He was a allergic kind of kid. He was allergic to her breast milk. He was allergic to SMA. So we had to, I had to make a special hypo-allergenic formula. I had to make it in our room for him 'cause I was, by then I was eleven.

RP: Huh. And how did you go about making it? Did you have a...

HM: It was in cans and the...

RP: Did you have a, a hotplate or something?

HM: I guess so. We had to get water from the bathroom. We didn't have running water in the barrack. So I had to get water from the bathroom I think. And they, the thing came in cans, like SMA. And I guess I cooked it and made it... we must have had a hotplate. Yeah. That's so long ago.

RP: Did the Marukis live in the same room with you the whole time you were at Manzanar or did they move out?

HM: No, after my mother got married they gave us our own room. So then we moved to 21-2-1.

RP: Same block or just down...

HM: Same block but different room.

RP: Do you remember some of the other folks who lived in Barrack 8 at the time that you...

HM: Besides the Marukis?

RP: Yes.

HM: Kitayamas lived in Barrack 8. they're the only ones I remember, Kitayamas. At eight and a half, you know, you don't really get to know all... you forget too if you knew it.

RP: So did you get, suddenly you had a lot of, a lot of kids to make friends with. Did you make friends there?

HM: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Made a lot of friends. In fact, three of my very best friends even now are, two of 'em, are Janet Fujino, she's a Kishiyama now, and my girlfriend in Fresno, Amy. She was Yoshimura and she's a Nishikawa now. We're, I still consider them one of my best friends.

RP: And they were in Block 21?

HM: Oh yeah, Block 21. We went to school together. Yeah. We're still close, like when we first met. Yeah.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

RP: What are some of your vivid memories of what you did as a kid at Manzanar?

HM: What I did as a kid?

RP: Yeah, what did you... did you get into some trouble? Did you, what did you do for play, fun?

HM: For play, for play I remember we played jacks. We played marbles. What else? Oh, paper dolls. You know these cereal and stuff now they have the slot and you stick a tab in, well that was paper dolls was like that. So, well you know, I don't know when it was but the co-op, like the general store, moved to our block. So then you could buy different things. They must have had paper dolls at that store or something. And then we used to make our own. We'd get plain paper and make our design dresses for the doll, you know, flat doll. We used to do that too. But, I mean we didn't have anything. We didn't have anything in camp so what did you do?

RP: Do you remember a building called the Toy Loan Library where, where you could go and, and rent out a toy or...

HM: No, no.

RP: Did, did you end up, did you get toys in camp one way or the other?

HM: No, no.

RP: You just had some doll, you had some dolls and that was...

HM: Paper dolls and marbles and jacks and that's about it, jump rope maybe. Yeah. But it was only me. My kid brother was a baby yet, so. Maybe my girlfriend, you know Janet, they had ten kids in the family, so maybe they had all kinds of things. But we didn't, I didn't.

RP: Do you remember, do you recall how your room, did your room change at all over the time that you lived in it, in the barrack?

HM: Not really, not really.

RP: Curtains on the windows?

HM: I don't think my mother even got curtains or anything.

RP: Do you remember when they put in linoleum on the floor?

HM: I don't remember but they must have, yeah. 'Cause the scorpions used to come up the knots, knotholes, you know, from the floor, from the pine floor. Yeah. So they must have put linoleum. I don't remember them putting it in specifically. But they must have.

RP: And do you recall a, the dust coming up into your room?

HM: Oh yes. Even from the window. It just, it was such fine dust. It just came right in the room. And we had dust storms all the time. I mean it was a desert, you know, basically. So, we had those dust storms all the time. But the mountains were majestic. They were beautiful.

RP: How about snow? Had you seen snow before?

HM: Oh yeah, snow every winter. Summer was like a oven. It was like probably a hundred plus during the summer. So a lot of people start -- I shouldn't say a lot -- a few people started making cellars. A little room down below the barrack so they could go down there and at least cool off a little, 'cause it was cooler in those little cellars. Yeah, it was cooler.

RP: Did you go down in one of those?

HM: Yeah. My friend had, her parents had one.

RP: In Block 21?

HM: Yeah in Block 21. I remember going down there. And it was so much cooler.

RP: So was there, how did you enter into that cellar from your room?

HM: Oh they had like steps. They built in steps like. And it wasn't lined. It was dirt. Everything's dirt. But it's just a hole in the ground, big hole in the ground where you could cool off.

RP: And you just sat there on a, in a chair, just enjoying...

HM: We didn't even have a chair. I sat on the ground.

RP: You sat on the ground.

HM: I didn't have a chair in there. Indian-style, you know, sit on the ground.

RP: There was, were there other ways to cool off for you?

HM: No. Oh well, later on they started opening up the reservoir.

RP: Reservoir?

HM: Yeah, there was a reservoir that they used for the farmers I think. You know they were farming the vegetables and food that we ate? I think it was for that. But there was a big reservoir, I would call it a reservoir. And they used to let us go splash around in there. But the MP would be at the gate because you had to leave camp to get there. And we had to have some kind of ID to get back in too. And we had to get back in before sunset, yeah. I only got to go once. Because I had to always watch my kid brother 'cause my mother was off, off doing something all the time. She took up knitting I know.

RP: Oh did she?

HM: Oh yeah. She made beautiful sweaters. Yeah. In fact, I gotta show you the tsubomi that his mom made. He wouldn't let me show you the one over the bed. But I got, I found another one that was nice. You get the idea.

RP: So did you go to the reservoir with a group of kids? I mean it was a...

HM: Probably I went with my friends. But I had to leave early. I couldn't stay. I don't know what my mother did. She was always gone. So I had to babysit my kid brother. And he was not only allergic to the milk, but he was allergic to something there in Manzanar so his middle of his elbows, back of his knees, he'd get eczema. So we had to put wooden planks, yeah, like it was broken, so he wouldn't scratch. Same thing with the back of his knees. So he couldn't do anything. I had to just watch him so he doesn't get in trouble. But he couldn't do anything. So, that was what I had to do.

RP: Do you know, do you know folks who were -- and maybe it was your kid brother -- who were bothered by the dust, you know, the continuous dust?

HM: That probably didn't help any 'cause he was asthmatic. He was asthmatic too. If he caught a cold, oh my gosh. Wheezed and coughed and couldn't breathe you know. So I'm sure the dust didn't help him any.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

RP: Helen, you mentioned about the scorpions. Occasionally they would get up into --

HM: Yeah.

RP: -- into the room and, and they loved to crawl into people's shoes and boots.

HM: There was, there was one near me once but they got it. It didn't sting me or anything like that. But I heard other people in camp where it got into the room. I don't know that it stung 'em, but it did get into the room.

RP: Did you see any other signs of wildlife around the camp?

HM: Snakes. We saw gopher snakes. They were those big ol' things. I don't remember seeing rattlesnakes, not in Manzanar. But maybe there were.

RP: A couple of kids we've talked to mentioned that there used to be a gentleman that had like a, he kept animals in cages almost like a little, a zoo. He had rabbits and...

HM: Not in Manzanar. In Manzanar? I don't know what block. I never saw it. Really?

RP: I think it was rabbits, ground squirrels, some birds...

HM: Really? I wonder whose block that was.

RP: I'm not sure. I'll have to find out.

HM: We were in the middle of camp, 21. So we had the outdoor theater screen, the big ol' screen. They'd show the old movies like with Deanna Durbin, people you never even heard of. They'd show it on this big... and the screen faced Block 21, which was neat. Yeah. That was only in the summer though 'cause winter was too cold.

RP: Right. So, what, would you just kind of scoop out the sand and how would you make a chair out there?

HM: Oh, by then I think we were able to buy the folding chairs at the co-op. You know the kind, the canvas, you just flip it like this and open it and... I think that's what we used. They didn't have seats or--

RP: Benches.

HM: -- benches or I know not that I recall. Or we sat in the sand. 'Cause the screen was huge. That's bigger than our front drape, you know, really big, really big.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

RP: This is tape two of a continuing interview with Helen Mori. And Helen, we're talking about some of your experiences in camp. Did you, what do you recall about the experience of going to the mess hall?

HM: The mess hall?

RP: Yeah, and eating.

HM: Oh, long lines. Rain or shine we had to stand in that stupid line to get up to our, to get our food. The food was not bad. I mean, what are you gonna do. Cooking for three hundred people or so, you know, a meal. And I know towards the end I couldn't stand it 'cause they always gave us squid and I can't stand squid even now. And, 'cause they don't know how to cook it. They just cook it for so many people it's just rubbery and tough. And in the beginning I didn't like it because they served us food on the army plates. You know, and then all of a sudden it'll un-snap, and everything is on the floor, or same thing with the cups. I can't remember when the ceramic stuff came. They started using the ceramic stuff but...

RP: Were there any foods that you really enjoyed for the first time in your life?

HM: First time?

RP: You'd never eaten before and you said, "Oh boy, this is good."

HM: Not really. [Laughs] Not really. I can't recall.

RP: Did you, did you eat with your mother or did you eat with your girlfriends?

HM: In the beginning I must have ate with my mother but once they got married I'm sure by then I ate with my friends. Yeah. It was a strict thing where we all had to sit at the same table like that. We all knew each other in Block 21 and we were all friends. They never said that I had to eat with them, as I recall. I don't recall that.

RP: So, so squid would have been the most objectionable food you had?

HM: Yeah. I would say so.

RP: How about mutton?

HM: I don't think we had mutton. If we did I didn't eat it 'cause it smells so bad. I don't think we had mutton. Did you ever talk to anybody else at Manzanar?

RP: People have, yeah, people have mentioned mutton.

HM: They did? I must have not ate it then.

RP: The smell wafting out of the --

HM: Really?

RP: -- the little chimney.

HM: Huh, no.

RP: No.

HM: I probably said, "I don't want any." I don't remember eating it.

RP: Do you remember the, how they used to call people to --

HM: To go eat?

RP: -- to go eat? Do you remember the bells or the...

HM: I don't remember even the bells you know. Not really. I probably just was with my friends and they said, "Oh, it's time to go eat." So I just, we all went together.

RP: How about another... somewhat, a very objectionable experience was the, the communal bathrooms or the latrines.

HM: Oh, yes. That was terrible. Talk about lack of privacy. They didn't have any partitions. They didn't have any doors. You just... all these toilets were just lined up and you had to do your business in front of everybody. And everybody feels the same. Shower, same thing, it was like a army shower, spout, spout, spout, like that. Later on, the men in our camp built the Japanese bath, you know, Nihon furo, with cement. Ours was cement and a pretty big one. about like from the wall to end of this table. It wasn't real small but it wasn't big, real big either but big enough for like us kids, four or five could get in at once after we showered. Yeah.

KP: And where did they build that?

HM: Oh, in the, the shower room was one big room and then it was in this one corner. Yeah. That's where my mother wrote that poem about being in the Nihon furo but yet she realized she was still a prisoner. That was one of the poems that was in the bathroom. Anyways, what my cousin was telling me Sunday was, and she was already in high school so much worse. You know, I was so young yet. She says what they did was whenever they had to make a change or whatever, they'd take a towel and hold it under their chin... stuff like that. Or take a shower, they would take a towel to cover their front, stuff like that. And some people... or she said they'd go late at night, when they think no one else is there. But you know I was gonna... I told her too I don't know if she knew it, but when they closed the portion of the camp after the people went to Tule Lake, the Maryknoll moved to our block. Maryknoll was on Block 25. And from 25 on they closed the camp. And when the Maryknoll moved to our block they made a curtain for the nuns, a white curtain for the nuns. So when they weren't there we used it, you know. I mean, why not? Here, you just draw the curtain like this. But they did make a curtain for the nuns for privacy.

RP: So the, all, the, everybody in Block 25 moved in to Block 21?

HM: No. Twenty-five... every block -- we had thirty-six blocks -- every block from Twenty-five on, twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty --

RP: Oh, I see.

HM: -- moved to the --

RP: Moved to the...

HM: -- empty rooms that were in the rest of the camp.

RP: Right, they occupied all the rooms.

HM: Yeah. Yeah.

RP: A large number of people went to Tule Lake.

HM: Yes. Yes.

RP: So you had an influx of different people into your block.

HM: Yes. Oh, not our block. Most of our block, we all stayed. I don't think anybody went to Tule Lake, in our... oh, there was a couple a families that went to Tule from our block. Very few, as I recall.

RP: You mentioned the store was --

HM: General store?

RP: -- relocated into Block 21.

HM: Oh, uh-huh, the co-op, uh-huh.

RP: Do you remember going up there for ice cream or soda or...

HM: I'm sure we did. I don't know if they, they had soda. I'm, I'm sure we went for ice cream and candy. And I think they sold clothes too and simple stuff. That's about all I bought. I don't know if my folks bought anything there or not but if I bought anything it was just that kind of thing. We didn't have any money, you know. You figure the salary ... the professionals were getting what, nineteen dollars a month? And then other, other workers were getting what...

Off Camera: Sixteen.

HM: Sixteen or less. So, and I don't know what my mother did for a job in camp. Maybe she didn't even work. But my stepfather, he was a policeman in the winter and a mounted policeman in the summer. And after, I think it's before Tule Lake even, our block manager left camp for, I don't know how he got out. He was from Hawaii. He left camp and my father became a block manager for our block. So he must have got... he was paid the whole time, policeman and block manager.

RP: We'll talk about that in a, in a little bit.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

RP: Tell us about Mr. Abe. What kind of guy was he?

HM: My stepfather?

RP: Yeah, your stepdad. Did you get along with him?

HM: Yeah. I used to call him "ojisan, ojisan" for the longest time, even after they got married. Ojisan means gentleman friend or what's the, what's the definition for ojisan? Mister.

Off Camera: Mister.

HM: Mister. [Laughs] And I didn't call him Daddy 'til my brother was born and he started talking and we had to teach him to call him Daddy so then I started calling him Daddy. I thought what's this stranger doing in our house and living with us? You know, I was thinking. I was already what, ten? But he was nice.

RP: And he was from...

HM: Strict. Very strict.

RP: He was from Fukuoka?

HM: He was from Fukuoka, Kasuya-gun.

RP: And tell us about this, Kasuya-gun was kind of pretty much active in getting together, I mean, staying together.

HM: Yeah, there were apparently in Manzanar there were a lot of people from Kasuya-gun so they had like a club. And they're still an active club even now. Last year they published a hundredth anniversary and they had a big party too in L.A. for their hundredth year since forming. And Mr. Fujino and his older brother and some of the other old-timers, they formed the club. And they were the initiators of the Kasuya-gun in, before the war even. Yeah. And of course in Manzanar too.

RP: And so you gathered to take a photograph of the --

HM: Oh, for that group?

RP: -- group that was in Manzanar.

HM: Yeah. Yeah, we, we took a group picture with Mount Williamson in the background. Then we had Toyo Miyatake in camp so he came and took the pictures and... they were, it's nice.

RP: So your mom really got to know Mr. Abe while they were together in camp.

HM: Oh yes. Oh yes.

RP: Right, uh-huh.

HM: Yeah.

RP: She, she remembers that poor guy who lost his...

HM: Huh?

RP: She remembers that poor guy who lost his...

HM: No, she didn't realize it was him 'til later, way later when they were talking and then she realized he was the guy that she had heard about. Yeah.

RP: Were you, I imagine you were part of the wedding? The wedding in camp of the, of your mom and...

HM: Are you kidding? I didn't even know they got married. She didn't even, she didn't even let me go to the ceremony or nothing. They must have went to a... there's no mayor in camp so I don't know who they went to.

RP: Justice of the Peace perhaps?

HM: I don't even know that we had a Justice of the Peace, maybe they went to the camp director. I don't know. You know, I never did ask her. But I wasn't invited to their wedding or nothing.

RP: So you don't really know that there was a wedding in camp?

HM: No, I... no, there wasn't a, no, there was no wedding I don't think. I think they just got married in front of somebody. You know, "I pronounce you man and wife," that kind of thing.

RP: Yeah.

HM: No, no reception, no nothing.

RP: Maybe a priest or a...

HM: At that time my mother was Christian and my father, stepfather was Tendai Buddhist so I don't know which priest they would go to.

RP: They can get married twice. One is for Christian and one for Buddhist.

HM: [Laughs] I really don't know how they did it.

RP: There might have been a, they might... I know of couples that were allowed to go to Independence...

HM: No, they didn't go out of camp.

RP: They didn't go out of camp?

HM: I don't think they went out of camp. We weren't allowed of camp at all compared to some other camps. I was so... I see, I see documentaries on other camps... I thought gee, they didn't even let us go out of camp at all, you know. They were really strict with us. Maybe 'cause we were in California, huh.

RP: How about school trips? Did...

HM: No, never.

RP: Never went out of camp --

HM: Never.

RP: -- for class?

HM: Never. Some, I remember some white kids came to our camp for Thanksgiving or something. But we were never, we never went out at all.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

RP: Did you get, did you get around the camp very much or did you kind of stick close to your block there? Or did you...

HM: Basically stuck close to our block, aside from school. After a while they consolidated all the grammar school classes into Block 16. Block 14 and 15, well at least Block 15 was high school, you know where the auditorium is? That area was high school. And Block 16 was the grammar school, one through six I think. So we used to go across the firebreak to Block 16 for school.

RP: Right, you're pretty close to school.

HM: Uh-huh.

RP: And what was school at Manzanar like for you?

HM: In the beginning we didn't have school for about half a year. We met at the, in front of the end of a barrack where they would try to do... but what can you do? Really, there was, you really don't learn anything during that period. And then they started having a classroom in a barrack. And that was... let's see how old, fifth grade, maybe from fourth grade. Fourth grade I don't remember too much but fifth grade, that was in our, our block. Fifth grade was in our block before they consolidated. And there were a lot of Terminal Island kids in our class. So, that's why they would come to our reunion, 'cause a lot of 'em are still in Long Beach, that area. But, it was, you know, I don't know that I learned that much really.

RP: Do you remember any of your teachers?

HM: Mrs. Lutton. I remember the fifth grade teacher. And when we used to live in Carson, before we moved up here, when we bought up there it was unincorporated. The freeway, Harbor Freeway went to Alandra only. And we were way farther out. But anyway, one day the door knocks and it's her, her and her husband. I recognized her. And I says, "Why didn't you tell me you were coming? I would have called, tried to call a lot of the other people." 'Cause they're, a lot of 'em are in this area. And she just stayed briefly. She said, "I just wanted to see you again." 'Cause she's from back east or someplace. I don't even remember. But I remembered her and her name, Mrs. Lutton. Oh, and then she was miss then, Miss Lutton. Yeah.

RP: Did you have any chairs when school first started? Desks or anything?

HM: No, not, not when it first started. For about a half a year it was unorganized. But after, once we got into a barrack we had tables and chairs and paper and pencils. When we were outside I don't remember... we didn't have anything. I think they just wanted to keep us out of trouble.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

RP: We were talking about Mr. Abe and you said that during the wintertime he worked as a policeman.

HM: Policeman, uh-huh.

RP: And in the summer he was riding a horse.

HM: Mounted police.

RP: Mounted police.

HM: He was mounted police.

RP: And do you remember the name of his horse?

HM: Yeah, his horse's name was Tommy. He let me get on it once but I was scared because it was tall. I was surprised. Once you get on it you're way up there. You're looking down. So he let me ride it a little then I wanted to get down so.

RP: Do you know where they kept the horses?

HM: No, I don't. After I talked to you I was thinking where did they keep the horses? I think there were only two though. Mr. Saeki rode the white one and my father rode the brown one.

RP: Mr. Saeki?

HM: I think his name was Saeki, the other mounted police. I think he was the captain of the whole police. 'Cause winter time, he seemed like he was the boss, big boss.

RP: How would you spell his last name?

HM: Saeki... probably S-A-E-K-I. He wasn't in our block though. I don't know what block he was in.

RP: And ... you may not know this, but did Mr. Abe have previous experience with horses at all?

HM: I think he was in the calvary in Japan. Yeah, I think so. He didn't like... whenever we'd bring it up he doesn't like it, but he had a uma tattooed on his arm, forearm, the character for horse, uma, was tattooed on his arm. So whenever we'd bring that up he used to get mad. He was ashamed of it. But that was in his young days. Yeah, I mean, how many men have tattoos of a, from that period. He had uma tattooed on his arm. [Laughs] I think his folks owned a pool hall in the Hakata, you know, his family, my stepfather's family. But...

RP: Where would he ride his horse? Where, did he have a patrol area that...

HM: I think they had a patrol area. I know after a while they used to let us leave camp in the hot summertime. So the, we splashed around in Bairs Creek and there was another creek... George's Creek, Bairs Creek and George's Creek. And since we were able to leave camp he used to just patrol with his horse and make sure everything was okay and that kind of thing. So I think it was basically to patrol the perimeter of the barbed wire.

RP: So folks who were, would be allowed to go out and swim or picnic or...

HM: Not necessarily picnic, we just went there to splash around in the water. I don't remember having picnics out there. Maybe some other people did but we didn't.

RP: How about other recreation? Did you and some of the kids play softball or...

HM: The older kids got to do that. They had the diamond and the basketball court and stuff like that.

RP: And you got to watch them?

HM: Yeah, we watched. We watched baseball...

RP: Kow Maruki became a pretty --

HM: Kow? He was athletic. He was very athletic.

RP: -- celebrated baseball player.

HM: That's right. He was good. Very athletic. Shi Nomura was also athletic but he got hit in the head with a... what do you call it, shot put ball or something? Something like that. I can't remember now. But he was injured.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

RP: So other than the poem that is in the restrooms at Manzanar, did your mom wrote other poetry in...

HM: She wrote a lot of poetry.

RP: In Manzanar?

HM: She used to win a lot of contests. Yeah. Rafu Shimpo and a lot of the other Japanese vernaculars, they had poetry contests every year. Like, sort of like the imperial family one. And she won many of those too. Yeah.

RP: Did, was there an organized group of poets in the camp that you're aware of?

HM: Yeah, the different tanka clubs were like organized group.

RP: In the camp?

HM: In Manzanar. No, no... I don't know about Manzanar. It was after, after the war. L.A. had various tanka groups.

RP: So she wrote poems about her experience at Manzanar.

HM: She wrote many poems about her experiences and quite a few are about how she felt going to Manzanar or how Manzanar was or, yeah. My brother made that little booklet. We want to publish a book. When he gets it all together. And I want her handwriting in it. This booklet he made for us doesn't have her handwriting in it, of the poem, actual poem. But, he's working on that. I said, "We're not getting any younger. You'd better hurry up 'cause I want to see it before I die." I'd tell him. I always tease him. "How's it coming along?" [Laughs]

RP: So you, do you have her original poems that she wrote?

HM: She, he has it. 'Cause he's gonna do the book.

RP: Wow, that'd be great.

HM: Yeah, he has it.

RP: So if you could explain to us a little bit more about this, this amazing award that your mother earned after camp.

HM: Oh, well, every year the Imperial family, well, the private... every year the Imperial family issues a title or a theme for the poetry contest, which they have every January. And the year my mother's poem was picked it was 1951 and the theme was morning sky, asazora. And she wrote a poem with that as a theme and her poem was one of fifteen out of twenty thousand, I think she said twenty thousand poems, that came from all over the world to the Imperial palace. And hers was one of the fifteen picked. And it was the first Japanese American to have a poem selected. And I think there was one, only one other Japanese American selected, the poem was selected from Watsonville and I think that was ten or fifteen years ago and I don't remember her name. Other than that I never heard of anyone, any other American poems to be picked. So it was quite an honor. She had a big old party and I didn't get to go to that either because I had to watch my brother. I had to... I lost out on a lot things 'cause I had to babysit. Eleven years between us, you know. But, it was quite an honor. Even when I think about it now. Even my kids, they're starting to realize what a big deal it was for our mother to get her poem to get picked. And they're starting to appreciate it now I think. 'Cause when she was alive I don't know that they even appreciated the fact that it was such an honor for her. She always said, "My takara," my... what's takara? What's that word? Takara is treasure. Her (Imperial paperweights) for that was her treasure for life.

RP: What did you think about the National Park Service putting your mother's poem in the restroom at the site?

HM: Oh, to tell you the truth, I was very disappointed it was in the restroom. I was very disappointed. And when I told the kids about it they said, "Oh my god, are you kidding?" They couldn't believe it. They said, "Why didn't, why wasn't it somewhere else in that museum?" And I said, "I know."

KP: Well, it probably gets more noticed in the restroom than anyplace else.

HM: They don't care about the notice. They just think it was insulting for it to be in the restroom. 'Cause, I mean, she's a, well, in Japan and other parts of the world she's world renowned, you know. It's just that the people here in America don't appreciate the, what a big deal it was.

RP: You don't go around boasting about, "I've got poems in the restroom."

HM: Yeah. Well, not even boasting about anything. It's just, we just thought it was insulting that it was in the restroom. It could have been someplace else, I think. Not with the picture with toilets and all that stuff.

RP: Right.

HM: You know, 'cause she was talking about her being in the Nihon furo and then realizing well she's still a prisoner, you know what I mean. That's a concept that's completely different so. I shouldn't even complain.

RP: Well...

HM: But, you asked me so I'm telling you.

RP: Sure.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

RP: There was a, a real tragedy that struck the Maruki family --

HM: Oh, Maruki family? Oh.

RP: -- while you were... were they living in the room with you at that time that...

HM: No. Ruby, their older sister Ruby, was married and she was in another barrack. I don't remember if it was in 21 but she was in another barrack and she had premature babies, twin babies. I don't remember if it was a boy and a girl or what, but they died at birth, all three of them. And we always think if it wasn't for camp, if she was outside of camp at a regular hospital with prenatal or what do they call it, neonatal care or whatever. I mean, we didn't even, I don't think we even had incubators in camp. And this was fairly early on. 'Cause I was still living with the Marukis then. So my mother hadn't even gotten married yet so that was pretty early on. And... you know, we all went to the funeral and it was the saddest funeral 'cause Ruby's coffin was in the middle and the two baby's coffins were on each side. Oh god. Heartbreaking. Very, very sad. And they were young. That couple, Ruby was young yet. It was the first babies. Ruby and her husband, they were both young, yeah. It was heartbreaking. And I was only what, eight and a half, nine maybe when it happened. That was sad.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

RP: I know you were pretty young to recall maybe any of the, anything about the riot, you know the...

HM: Oh, the riot?

RP: The violence...

HM: The riot is all what I heard.

RP: And what did you hear?

HM: Well, I heard that there was a riot and I thought I heard that they were complaining, the block managers and all those people were complaining because they thought the army was pilfering sugar or coffee, a lot of that kind of stuff, and selling it on the outside. Because the camps weren't getting enough for their, what that they were supposed to be getting, something like that. And so they all had this meeting at this assembly hall and it was getting all rowdy and loud and everything. And then the army started shooting the crowd. That's what I heard. I wasn't there so I don't know. I didn't see and I was so young I didn't realize. Later on you see films about what happened in Manzanar. And I think one or two died, something like that. But, you know, right after the camp you don't talk about camp because it was such a bad experience, you just didn't talk about it. And now that we're older we're starting to question, gee, how come this? How come that? You know.

RP: Like how come...

HM: And now our parents are gone. We can't even ask 'em how come anymore. So, a lot of it was what I read, you know, books and things.

RP: Did you ever have an idea of how your mother felt about all this? Did she ever...

HM: She never said anything, she never said anything.

RP: Could you read her non-verbal cues, her face, her...

HM: Of her what?

RP: Could you, could you kind of get a sense about how she felt, non-verbally?

HM: Not really. I mean, after all, she got married in camp, starting a new family, you know. So, only thing is my stepfather was not healthy. He was asthmatic so he always had, whenever he caught cold his asthma got really, really bad. And I went to City College one year and the... in fact, the year I graduated from high school he was so sick he barely got out for my graduation, from the hospital. And the following year I went to City College one year and then, and then it was bad again, enough to be hospitalized. So I quit school to help support the family 'cause... my mother was working as like a maid for this Chinese herb doctor, dollar an hour. Which, you don't get much, you know. Here she's a college girl working as a maid. But, and then my father couldn't work then. He was working at a mattress company, Sealy Mattress Company, something like that. And I think that dust and all that other stuff was not good for his lungs. 'Cause he would get real sick. But I quit school to help support the family. They said, "Oh, one year, one year." Well, I knew it wasn't gonna be one year. It was gonna be for the rest of my life. They said, "Oh, one year, one year."

RP: Was he hospitalized in the camp hospital too?

HM: No, not in camp. Camp was dry. Dry air, that was good for his asthma I think, despite the dust. Yeah. He didn't have to go hospital for asthma or anything.

RP: So he became a block manager in, in Block 21.

HM: Uh-huh, uh-huh.

RP: Do you remember what he did as a block manager, some of his duties?

HM: I think they just, it was just administrative for the block. If anything happened, they went to him. You know, that kind of thing. And then he had to find out what, what to do or whatever. Only thing I had to do was I had to pass out the Manzanar Free Press and I don't remember if it was once or twice a week, but to everybody. So I remember having these Manzanar Free Press in the wagon, I had a wagon, and I had to go to every room in each barrack and leave the paper, for the whole block. Yeah.

RP: And that was, what, two three times a week or so?

HM: I don't remember. Twice a week, or once a week. I know it was once a week. Maybe it was twice a week. But we had a very active journalism group in Manzanar.

RP: So you got to know everybody in your block.

HM: Oh, a lot of times they weren't even home. I just opened the door and put it in.

RP: Just leave it in.

HM: Yeah. Nobody locked their doors in those days, not in camp.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

RP: There was something else you mentioned you also did in camp is that you used to distribute some of the stove oil?

HM: No, that was just for ours.

RP: Oh.

HM: I had to go... the oil, the place where the oil came out of that thing was at the end of the block. So there was a boy's bathroom, girl's bathroom, laundry room, big ol' barrack, uh... maybe it was something else, and then the oil, there was a big old thing and there was a spigot and you put it in your... and I had, we were allowed two pails of oil. And I don't remember if I went everyday or once a week or what. But I remember I had to carry it home. And we were Block, Barrack 2 so I had to go all the way to the end of the block 'cause it starts at one. One the block, the block manager was in 1, the office. And then we were in 2, living in 2. So, and then the things we had to, I had to carry... But that was just for ours, not for the whole block. They, everyone had to get their own.

RP: Get their own.

HM: Uh-huh.

RP: Was that stove, did that keep you warm on a cold winter night?

HM: Hardly. I mean, that little thing is heating up the room that's... although when we moved, after my mother got married, we moved to a smaller room than the one we had with the Marukis. I don't know what size that was. If the Maruki's was twenty by twenty that was maybe half of that.

RP: Twenty by sixteen or...

HM: There was only room for my mother and father's bed plus my bed and my brother probably slept with them, I would think. He was still a baby. So he probably slept with them.

RP: Do you remember any...

HM: It was much smaller.

RP: Do you remember any furniture in, in your room?

HM: No. I don't think we even had a table. I don't remember. I must have had a table later to make the formula, 'cause I had to do that. But it wasn't a big table. But I must have had something in there to... 'cause I had all the milk bottles and stuff to fill. [Laughs] You're asking me things that happened how many years ago?

RP: Well, you keep answering these questions so I keep asking you things.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

RP: And you also took some art classes while you were in camp.

HM: Oh, yes.

RP: With...

HM: Summertime they let us paint, after a while. I don't know if it was the final year or the year before, but not right away. But later on they started relaxing the rules and whatever so I took watercolor with Takamura sensei. What's his name? Kango Takamura? Yeah, he was wonderful. And then he turned out to be one of our family friends too so. He knew my parents, you know, my father. I think he knew my father... no, yeah I think he knew my father more than my mother because my father used to fix the biwa, you know, he used to tune up the biwas even after the war, he was the only one who did it so all the different biwa teachers would bring their biwas to our house and then he would take all the frets off and put new bamboo. He had bamboo. He would put new bamboo on and shave it down and then tune it, you know. And... but he did that in camp too.

RP: Tell us...

HM: And Mrs. Takamura did biwa so I think that's why.

RP: She played biwa or she, did she...

HM: She, she played biwa.

RP: Did she teach it too?

HM: No, no, no. There weren't that many teachers really, three, four maybe in Manzanar.

RP: Can you describe to us what a biwa is?

HM: A biwa is like a mandolin, only it's longer than a mandolin and it has a long neck and it was, I don't know how many frets. But it starts out you know where the round part of the thing is, it's longer and it gets narrow, narrow, narrow, narrow. So by the time where you tune it, it's narrow, very narrow. But he had a good ear I guess. He'd tune it, you know, and then, and then if it gets all out of tune again they'd bring it back again and then he'd put new fret on or just tune it, whatever. And then they'd use a bachi, it's not a hook like koto, it's a like that, like a paddle. And that's how they play it.

RP: How many strings...

HM: Beautiful sound.

RP: How many strings does the instrument have?

HM: They usually have four but the place where my father's from, it's Chikuzen in Fukuoka, and there's a five-string biwa and they call it the chikuzen biwa. Beautiful sound. Prettier than the shamisen, I think. But very few people play it now. It's a shame.

KP: Where did your father learn that skill do you think?

HM: Oh, I'm sure it was in Japan. His, his older brother was blind and he was famous in Japan. He was so famous that he came to, my father came to United States with his brother twice and toured the United States. They had, not concerts, but performances in various parts of the United States. And I'm sure his brother taught him. 'Cause he was one of the top three in Japan. His brother was considered one of the top three in Japan.

RP: So, the lessons, the classes you took with Mr. Takamura were, was that a personal lesson or a group of art...

HM: No, no. We all met in the firebreak. Yeah. And there must have been tables, like picnic tables. And then he'd pass out the paper and the paint and then we'd paint whatever. And then he'd come around and he'd tell us you should do this or you should do that, you know. I really enjoyed it. I liked, even to this day I like watercolor more than oils. I prefer watercolor.

RP: So that was your start in watercolor painting?

HM: Yes. Well, after that I haven't painted. Who has the time? I didn't have the time after that. But I enjoy watercolor, looking at watercolor.

RP: Helen, were you ever aware of the guard towers that surrounded the camp?

HM: Oh, I saw them but it was just one of those things. I didn't think one thing or another. We knew...

RP: Searchlights?

HM: We knew we had to stay inside the barbed wire, you know. And I was too young to think I'm losing my civil rights and constitutional rights or any of that kind of political thing. I just never thought about it. It was just there.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

RP: Did you have a chance to visit the, any of the gardens or parks in the camp?

HM: Yeah, when we went to Manzanar last year, October, we did... was that October? Yeah it was. We did, you know you have that auto tour? And then a lot of time we'd stop and get off and look around. I didn't even know that some of these blocks had such marvelous gardens. I didn't even know... 'cause our block, nobody had anything like that. Or any of our neighboring blocks, had anything like that, nothing. So I think, I think those are the ones who were on the border blocks of camp where they were able to leave camp and get those big rocks. [Laughs] Probably the biggest rock in our camp is like this, maybe smaller. We just didn't have the room for it or... and we were in, 21 was in the middle of camp, you figure. Nineteen, 20, firebreak, 21, 22, firebreak, 23, 24. So we were right in the middle so how are you gonna get those big old rocks to make a nice garden like that? Plus, no space. We don't have, we didn't have the space. Don't you think?

RP: Oh, yeah.

HM: Weren't the gardens on the outskirts, blocks of camp? I think so.

RP: Yeah.

HM: Yeah, they were on the outskirt blocks of camp. Or those ones in 9? The Terminal Island block?

RP: Uh-huh.

HM: Nine I think had a garden. But see that's closer to the other border, that side.

RP: Right. There was one in 15 I think, and one in 17.

HM: Seventeen? Well, see, 17 is --

RP: A little ways from you.

HM: -- that end of camp.

RP: Uh-huh.

HM: Maybe not.

RP: Uh-huh.

HM: Anyway, we didn't have any.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

RP: So, when and how did you leave camp?

HM: Leave camp?

RP: Yeah, when, do you remember when it was?

HM: Well, since my father was block manager he wanted to make sure everybody got out okay. So we were one of the last ones to leave Block 21. And we left on my twelfth birthday, 11/11/45.

RP: Wow, that is pretty late.

HM: Yeah, it was late. Most everybody was gone. I don't know what we ate. We must have had a kitchen still. I don't remember that part. Yeah.

RP: So on your birthday, boy, that's a memorable --

HM: Yeah, right on my birthday.

RP: -- experience to leave on.

HM: We were one of the last ones from 21 to leave.

RP: So, you were there for about three and a half years?

HM: Three and a half, three and a half years.

RP: So some kids your age look at, look at camp experiences as sort of an adventure or, or excitement or...

HM: Probably, probably.

RP: Did you see it that way, too?

HM: I didn't think of it as an adventure. It was just something we had to deal with.

RP: So how about leaving? How did you feel about leaving?

HM: I was glad to leave, are you kidding? Freedom. Even at a young age you know you're locked up, you know. One square mile for three and a half years? You're glad to get out of that place. Yeah, I was glad I was leaving. And I know I'd be able to see my relatives again and all that too. 'Cause they were in another camp.

RP: They went to where?

HM: Poston. My other relatives... and then on my father's side my relatives went to Amache, Colorado. But they lived in San Francisco when the war started. They, a lot of those people went to Amache.

RP: Did you correspond during the time you were...

HM: No. Oh, I used to get a letter every now and then from my cousin in Poston. She was an artist so she used to send short letters and draw pictures of flowers and people and dogs or whatever. Yeah. And she got to come to camp, our camp, when my kid brother was born. Yeah, she got to come and I think she stayed about a month. And she was so surprised at our... she said everything was white because in Poston, it's near the river, Colorado River? Everything's orange. She said everything is orange. And so when she came to Manzanar she says she was so surprised that our sheets were so white. And then our, of course our mountains, beautiful mountains are there. Poston's a desert. It's on the Navaho Nation, I think. The camp was on the Navaho... yeah, so it's desert. So she was, she thought our camp was pretty neat. But she, I think she stayed about a month, helped my mother. Yeah. She, have you ever heard of Winfield china? They used to have a Winfield china place in Santa Monica. They made earthenware. She designed several of those... you could ask him. They, she designed several of the patterns, big seller. Bird of Paradise was a pattern, Dragon Flower was a pattern, Passion Fruit, Passion Flower was another one. All three of her patterns they used for everything, cups, saucers, dishes... I said, "Oh did you get a commission on all that?" And she says, "No, they just gave me starter sets." Just a starter set, you know, cup, saucer, dish, that kind of thing. She was an artist. She didn't go to school either. It was natural born.

RP: How did you leave camp?

HM: Oh, how did we leave camp?

RP: Did you go by bus?

HM: We went by bus. Yeah. And I remember when we got to L.A. after... it was dark, darker... we left in the morning but we got there in dark. And I remember that fountain on Los Feliz, you know those big fountain on Los Feliz? That's what I saw and I said, "Oh, we're in L.A." Yeah. And then when we got to L.A. we lived in, we went to a hotel, one of the hotels in Japantown, stayed overnight. And then my cousin, my uncle from West L.A. picked us up in his Model T Ford and drove us to Riverside. So I lived there about a month in Arlington Riverside with my auntie and uncles that went to Poston, we lived with them for about a month. And then he was able to... you know, 'cause when you, when all these people come to L.A. from Manzanar a lot of 'em, they were from elsewhere before but they came to L.A. for, after they were released from camp. You couldn't find housing or anything and he had a heck of a time trying to find a place. And he finally found a hostel in... what part of L.A. is that? Almost near the Koreatown now, you know that area? Olympic and Vermont, sort of that area. He found a house that they were renting out one room per family. That's when the Wakitas were there. But the Wakitas were also in our block.

RP: Were they?

HM: Yeah.

RP: Huh.

HM: Yeah, but the Wakitas were there and we had a little room on the third floor. So I was there about a half a year and then we had to move to, the owner wanted to move back in so we had to find another place and only place my father could find was in Watts, Central and Jefferson.

RP: Was it a house or an apartment?

HM: No, one room in a building. Yeah, it was awful. I was so scared to walk to school because all the bars on Central Avenue, you know. And I'm going down there and they'd whistle and all that. I was what, seventh grade. I went to three different seventh grades. Chinawa Junior High in Riverside, Berendo Junior High in L.A., and then Carver Junior High in Watts. The school was near Vernon and... between Central and some other street, San Pedro I think. All black though, like ninety-nine percent.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

RP: What was it like going back into public school after Manzanar school?

HM: Well...

RP: No comparison.

HM: Like I said, I went to three different, you know, seventh grades. And there was some prejudice but not that much, not that much. I felt that from the teacher more than the kids, really. He would mention all these kind of things and I thought, "What does he have to say that for?" But I was only there for a month, so. After that, you know, normal.

RP: Did you, did you share your camp stories with your kids?

HM: Are we talking... oh gosh.

RP: When they were old enough to...

HM: They know everything. We believed in telling them everything of what happened to us because we were so meek they let us, we let them push us around without saying a peep. So our kids know everything. Yeah, I wasn't ashamed of it or anything. I just wanted them to know what we went through, that's all. So they know, all four of 'em.

RP: Do you even, you even gave them books and things?

HM: Oh I've bought several books. But, it's up to them to get what, you know... I think one of the main ones I got for all of them was the cartoon one, you know, about Poston. I got one of those for all of them. And then...

RP: Block 2-11.

HM: And then one of... yeah, something like that. 'Cause of the cartoons in it, sort of, it tells a story but it's still sort of funny. And I think I got one other maybe that I thought would be good for them to have.

RP: They, some of them came with you when you visited Manzanar last...

HM: No.

RP: No.

HM: I want, I wanted them to go but, you know, they always have their excuses. I really wanted them to go once just to see but, especially now that you have that nice, you know, not visitation, what's that? What's that center?

RP: Interpretive center?

HM: Yeah. Interpretive center. Since you have that, you know, they would get more out of it than us saying oh we did this, we did that, or... they might go one of these days. I hope so. I hope so.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

RP: You got, you were sharing the story earlier, about how you got involved in the filming of Farewell to Manzanar...

HM: Oh, Farewell to Manzanar.

RP: Go ahead and share that story with us.

HM: Oh, well, we were taking a Japanese vernacular, Hokubei Mainichi up here. It's gone now. They, they quit publishing end of last year? I don't know. Yeah, it was around November of last year. I was so sorry to hear that. Anyways, there was an article in there about they wanted extras for Farewell to Manzanar. So I thought, "Oh, I was in Manzanar, I should sign up for that." So before our trip we, I sent this thing in saying I was available with my four kids were available. And then we went to north, we went to go Tule Lake 'cause Sam was in Tule Lake and then they had a guard tower and three ends of the barracks... migrating farmers are using that for housing. And they're all like pastel colors, light pink, light blue, light green. But the ends of the blocks they made it like barracks, black and white tarpaper over the pine or whatever, you know, just the ends, three, three blocks, yeah, three barracks rather. But then Castle Rock was in the background so Sam says, "Castle Rock's in the background but this is supposed to be Manzanar.

Then we went all the way up to Washington? And then we looped around and came back down. We were on, that's, east of the Cascades going out, came back west of the Cascades coming down and then came back home. And when we got home these was this letter saying they wanted us to be extras in Farewell to Manzanar. So meet at a, in front of this insurance company on Shattuck or whatever that street was. And then we, I did that and it was like eight or nine, eight, about eight in the morning maybe. Then we rode this air conditioned bus, nice bus, all the way to Santa Rita prison. And we went through the prison and the prisoners are like this watching us go by. And we're sort of getting nervous but, you know, they were just watching us. And then they had this, Santa Rita had an old building that had a stage. And that's probably why they picked that place. But the scene that I'll... oh, and then another thing that was funny was I dyed my hair the night before 'cause I thought I was, I was gonna be an extra, you know. And the one, the role they picked me for was a mother that lost a son during the war as a soldier. And I says, "Don't you think I'm too young for that?" And this guy says, "Oh, my auntie was really young when my cousin died in the war." And, so anyway, I was in this, we practiced different scenes but the actual thing was on the cutting room floor because the scene I was in I was next to Nobu McCarthy and you see these five or six ladies on the stage and then the next shot is a closeup of Nobu McCarthy and she's crying and she's getting the, accepting the American flag. So, I was on... and then Emi, our youngest daughter, was in a scene. She was learning ballet, she was putting her legs up and down. That ended up on the cutting room floor too. So that was our experience. Oh, and we signed up, we donated our, we got fifteen dollars a day, that day. And it was donated to Kimochi, Kimochi in San Francisco.

RP: And what is Kimochi?

HM: Kimochi Inc, is, they take care of senior citizens programs and stuff like that, feed them, hot lunches, things like that. And the food was good. John Korti was the director. He came by and talked to us. And so they fed us lunch and dinner. It was very good food. I got back about -- it was pitch black -- so it was about nine, nine-thirty, to Berkeley, yeah.

RP: The kids had really gotten involved in the, in the story.

HM: Yeah. Yeah.

RP: They were part of it.

HM: 'Course at that time we didn't know we were gonna be on the cutting room floor so... but it was a good experience. I thought it was a good experience for the kids too. Just to see what goes on behind the scenes, you know, what they do and that kind of thing. So, it was interesting.

RP: How about the redress movement in the 1980s, were you...

HM: We were not active at all. We signed some things that we were at such and such a camp and we thought redress was a good idea and that kind of thing. But we weren't actively involved.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

RP: How about pilgrimages?

HM: About what?

RP: Pilgrimages and reunions?

HM: Pilgrimages, we went to one, the fiftieth anniversary. We drove down to Manzanar. And, and my cousin that I was talking to you about, that, one of the twins, we met her family there. We didn't know she was gonna be there but we met her and the kids there, and my cousin. It was a nice service and everything. But that's the only one we went to as far as, you know... and we went to the Manzanar reunion in Las Vegas last year. But that was --

RP: First time?

HM: -- different. First time we went. First time they opened it to grammar school kids.

RP: That's right.

HM: Before it was a high school reunion so we never went. But grammar school kids... it was an all-camp reunion. So we went.

RP: How'd that feel to see people?

HM: Well you know to tell you the truth, we saw a few good friends and, and two of 'em are best friends, it was planned so we were all together. But other than that... and the Marukis, Gracie and Rosie, we only saw one or two people that we knew. Oh, and Mary, Mary Nomura. We only saw, you could count on your fingers how many people that we knew that we saw there. Everyone else, we didn't know. And poor Gracie couldn't even remember me because I had changed so, I turned in from eight and a half to a gray haired old lady, you know. She still couldn't picture me. Rosie's younger so she remembered me but Gracie still couldn't figure me. [Laughs] Isn't that funny? But she was older so I, you know, I recognized her right away, she and Rosie both.

RP: just a few more questions about...

KP: You have five minutes of tape.

RP: Okay. A couple more questions about camp. Do you remember Mr. and Mrs. Wakita in camp?

HM: Oh yes, oh yes. Mrs. Wakita taught koto, you know. And Mr. Wakita taught shakuhachi. And in fact he's my brother's teacher. My brother learned shakuhachi from Wakita sensei. And now he's teaching. He has students. He makes, my brother makes the shakuhachi. He makes the yokobue. Tanaka sensei from San Francisco dojo asked him to make him one and he made him one, yokobue, side flute.

RP: Is there a memorable person that sticks out in your mind from your time in Manzanar? Somebody you met there that made an impression on you?

HM: Gosh, I don't know. Maybe the only one I could think of was Shi Nomura. He was my girlfriend's uncle too. But he was athletic. He was good looking, tall and good looking, and very nice, you know. Other than that I can't think of anybody specifically.

RP: How about a sight, sound, or smell that you will always associate with Manzanar?

HM: Oh, sight is the mountains, Mount Williamson and the range, the whole range. So beautiful. We were lucky we had good scenery. Although the winters and summers were so cold and you know, extreme. But we had good scenery.

RP: And finally, do you have any advice or insights that you could share with young people about your experience?

HM: About our experience?

RP: Based on your experience?

HM: Oh, based on our experience. I guess the only advice I feel like giving is be aware of what's going on, not just in your own life, but things that's going on in the world. A lot of us forget what's going on in the world which causes a lot of things to happen here in the U.S. you know. They should be more aware. I don't think they have to be that proactive but be aware of what's happening, and in our, everything here too. Does that sound okay?

RP: Okay, any questions?

KP: No, that's great.

RP: Thank you so much.

HM: You haven't had time to...

RP: Okay, thank you on behalf of Kirk and me and the National Park Service.

HM: Oh, you're welcome.

RP: We appreciate your interview.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.