page 2 of 10
Please report errors to: email@example.com.
2-From Pearl Harbor to Pomona Assembly Center
What was your first reaction when you found out about the relocation order?
But before that, let's see, there was the curfew. Our first reaction when war broke out? I'm still just in college, not very politically aware. I would say I was naive. Not well-educated in terms of politics or what was going on in the world. All I could think of is, as we heard of the FBI sweep of the men, what would happen to my mother who had been teaching the Japanese language? We were very much concerned. Of course, she had the picture of the Emperor, she had the Japanese flag, she had statues of the admirals and generals. She buried all that. We just hoped that would take care of it. We assumed that women were not taken, but I found out in later times that I was wrong. That depended on the area and the FBI agents I guess. In some areas, Southern California, women teachers were taken as well as the fathers. I often wonder what happened to the children then. Nothing happened to my mother, other than, we just buried everything she had.
You mentioned there were pictures of the Emperor and statues. in your home. Can you explain that a little bit more?
Because she's teaching the Japanese language, and then along with that the Japanese textbooks would have what's going on in Japan. You know, written Japanese textbooks for the Japanese children. So it would have the Emperor's picture, the flag. I think that maybe they would have a cross, the American flag and Japanese flag hanging up on the wall.
What things did you bring with you when the executive order was issued?
When I had to pack my suitcase? I remember taking a book called Vamoon's Lives, and then the Bible. Those were about the only books I remember taking; other than that it would be clothes. What clothes do we take? We are going to camp. Those were the early days when we could wear, we didn't call them pants, they were called slacks. My mother was a—she could sew—she taught sewing at one time. I remember we made clothes: pants and blouses to go with it. We don't know where we're going, we don't know for how long we are going to be there. What do we take? We would take clothes, not dress-up clothes for sure, sweaters, I'm sure, and pants.
What happened to all the items you left behind?
We were lucky in that the house and the property that my stepfather had, was turned over to a friend. He turned out to be a really good friend who took care of the property and probably whatever crops were there. Our things were just put into one room. I went out from camp to St. Louis. Then when my younger sister finished high school, then with my mother, she came out to St. Louis. Then, eventually all the things that we had stored in Campbell were shipped to us in St. Louis. The old trunks that they had were full of our pictures so, that's how I still have all those photos.
How did your Caucasian friends react to Pearl Harbor, and the entire situation going on?
The family I was with wanted to know how they could help. The teachers that I had wanted to know how they could help. I find out, though, my dearest friend from high school was questioned by the FBI about me. We were, as I said, totally politically unaware. The war didn't mean anything much to us other than my brother, who had been in the artillery, tells us that all his—whatever rifle, or whatever thing like that he had—was taken, and he had an office sit-down job. The Caucasian friends, they were helpful to me.
What was the reaction of your family when you had to be relocated? Was it sad?
We don't know where we're going; we just have to get ready. Seems to me that was pretty much the feeling. We have no idea where we're going and just get ready for it and try to, what my mother did, or I think this, I remember this, she sold the piano. Sold what she could so she could get money so we could get clothes.
How long did they give you to pack up your possessions?
I would say about less than a month, a couple of weeks anyway.
What are your memories of the trains going camp like?
We were to meet at the San Jose train station and that's where we get on to first to go on to Pomona. Then, that must have been an all day ride. It was the ride from Pomona to Heart Mountain which was the long one. That's all I remember. It was an old train, it could be hot, it could be cold. I don't remember much about the food that was served to us, but I think we went to the dining hall. We couldn't have taken any food because we didn't have food that we could've taken with us. It's whatever was served to us was our food. How did we sleep for how many days and nights? Propped up I suppose, maybe we had pillows with us. What I think now is, what did mothers do with little ones? See I am eighteen or nineteen, so it's an adventure as it were, but someone with family, or someone who's not well, I think they were the ones that had the hard time. Here we are, we're going through El Paso and now we're going through somewhere. Where are we going? We just don't know.
Were you scared?
No, no, what was there to be afraid of? It was just we were being shipped, sent from one place to another, another more permanent place.
When the proclamations were issued, did you recognize the injustice?
Yes, because I was going to San Jose State, and Saratoga was more than five miles out. I took public transportation in those days. The bus driver said he knew where I go—went—and he said, "I can't take you. I can't take you on this bus." I had to call the man of the household who worked in the next town, in Santa Clara, and he came and picked me up to take me home. Somehow we made arrangements so that there was transportation for me to get to school and back. There must have been special dispensations because Campbell is more than 5 miles from San Jose where the doctors, the dentists were all. I tell the story of I had a ticket to go hear Marian Anderson at the Civic Auditorium in San Jose. Her concert was at night. I could not go.
Why? Did they not let you in?
We could not go out after eight o'clock at night.
Tell them who Marian Anderson was.
Marian Anderson was a beautiful soprano, an Afro-American woman. If ever you get a chance to hear any of her singing, you must. She want to sing at Washington D.C. and the DAR would not allow it. So then, who was it who allowed her to sing at the Lincoln Memorial? That's on a video somewhere.
Was it Eleanor Roosevelt?
Who allowed? Yes, who intervened. Was she the first Afro-American Opera singer? She could be.
Was there any emotional confrontations with your family before the camps?
No, I think we were just busy. We know we have to go because there are these posters that tells us what to take, gave us our directions. We were just busy following that. I had to drop out of school, and I think that's the hardest part.
Walking around in the street did you feel self-conscious after the posters were put up?
No, well see, I lived, we lived in Saratoga, which was a small community at that time. Campbell, also, I lived on the farm. No posters, I never saw those posters. But somebody had to because they went into town to register us. I don't remember anything. They were told we're going into camp for our protection and I thought, "I don't need protection." There were signs or badges: "I'm Chinese" or "I'm Chinese-American," just so that they wouldn't be mistaken for Japanese. In those days there were not many—there were hardly any Koreans—so you were either Chinese or Japanese.
In the assembly centers, what did you do during the day? How long were you there for?
We were there, I guess, three months. I'm trying to think, what did I do? My mother was not well, and so she spent her time in the hospital which meant then my sister and I could go to visit her. She was at one corner, diagonally opposite from where we lived, so that was how we spent our time was going to see her. Then when she was released, then we had to go to the hospital and get her food three times a day. That kept us busy. Other than that, like for laundry, there's a laundry place where we go with our washboards. I'm just trying to think where did we even hang the clothes? I know when we went to Wyoming there was a place for hanging clothes; I can't remember what we did in Pomona. We could hear the neighbors because the walls were thin. All kinds of commotion one night and it turns out the boy, the young boy there is a sleepwalker, walks in his sleep. So there was a lot of commotion there.
What did it look like? Did it look like barracks?
It's barracks. They built these temporary buildings on the parking lot. There were people, our neighbors were from Los Angeles and San Jose so there were those two groups. Then, among those from the Los Angeles area, there were those they called them the "Valley boys" and the "City boys," and there's a lot of conflict there. Again, it was just like with me a city kid going to the country. It's the same thing: the "City boys" not getting along with the "Country boys". They would talk about gang fights, and there might have been.
Did they get really violent?
At most it would be punching each other.
What did you do during the day? Can you explain a typical day in the temporary Pomona camp?
Temporary Pomona would be picking up the food for my mother from the hospital. I don't think I had made any friends there. I don't remember. What else would I have done? My sister—my younger sister—went to work in what they called a milk station because there were mothers who needed milk for the babies. My sister was one of them who helped prepare the milk that was distributed. I had started college and they said something about my—I was hypothyroid, so I didn't have to take P.E. That was my excuse for not working in camp because then I didn't want to be a waitress in the mess hall. So I have this excuse that I don't have to work. So, I know I didn't work so I could just sit and read. There were books sent by churches and so there could be like a library, if I could do that, and I could write to my friends because all my friends were outside.
Do you still keep in touch with the friends that you wrote to?
What type of books did you like to read?
What type? Anything I could get my hands on.