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Can you describe the first thing you saw as soon as you stepped off the train in Santa Anita?
When I went to Santa Anita the first thing I saw when I went off the train were long lines of Japanese Americans who were there before from the Los Angeles area. We saw them standing out looking to see if there was somebody they knew coming off of the train. We saw the American soldiers and there were quite a few of American soldiers with their rifles standing by so you saw the soldiers and you saw the "welcoming committee". People who were looking for their friends.
Can you describe the physical aspects of the camp?
Santa Anita was a racetrack and all of the barracks were still not built. We were about the second group that went to Santa Anita and they put us into the horse stalls. My mother began to really cry when she saw the horse stalls and she said, "Look where they are putting us," because these were horse stalls. We went in April 7th, which was my sister’s birthday, so I know that's when we started. Then it took us another day, April 8th that we went to Santa Anita.
Already it was getting warm and the stables got very, very hot especially in the summertime. The first thing we saw were the fact that they brought us and told us we were with our suitcases and they told us where we had to go. They looked for our room and we were assigned, but I don't remember the number of our horse stall. We were assigned two of them, one for the boys and one for the girls. My mother went with the boys and my three sisters went in one of them. We were sleeping in the place where the jockeys. The horse stalls have a place where the jockeys sit or whatever. They put up cots. We had to go over to a whole pile of hay that was stacked up all over and we had to go over there. Then we were given a coverlet of cotton and we were told to stuff it with hay that was down there. So we went out there to put the hay in. We were very busy trying to get ourselves settled.
5What made it difficult for my sister was the fact that there were so many insects crawling around and you didn't want to put your bag down because if you opened it the insects would crawl all inside your stuff. That was very difficult and I could remember my sister shrieking, "Oh my God, another one!" That experience was an unsettling experience.
How big was the horse stall?
You know I have know idea how big it was. All I know is that it seemed very small for us. Three girls with three cots in there and we had to put our suitcases in where the horse stalls where because there wasn't enough room for us in the other part. In fact when we go to Tanforan, we're going to Tanforan some time in June, I'm going to take a look at their horse stalls if they have any around. I think they had one that they were keeping just to see and to remind me how big it was because it does look awfully small to us. When it got hot, my sister had a hard time with the heat—my second sister—and so she would get a bucket with water in it. I still could see her sitting on the cot with her feet in the bucket of cold water to kind of make things a little bit easier for her. The one thing in Santa Anita, I worked in an air conditioned building because that was the place where the offices were so I was very fortunate that I worked in an air conditioned building. But then when you got out it got very hot.
Can you explain your daily routine? What you did everyday? Is it the same?
The daily routine was—we would usually get up around seven thirty because I think you ate at around eight o'clock to nine or nine thirty or something like that. People would be in line along time and people like my mother, all through the camps, both this camp and the other permanent camp, I feel she spent most of her life waiting in line. What happened was that the lines became social activity. They began to talk to each other while they were in line, they began to gossip, and share their feelings and all so that I think it was one of the ways—it was very interesting because we didn't go till the last minute because we would stay in bed for as long as we could because we were sleepy. We would rush out and Issei would be in line already. We would come later, but it never occurred to me 'till later that my mother was having a good time in the lines because she was talking to people.
Then after breakfast. We would eat breakfast and all I remember about the food was that we had a lot of what they called apple butter and today I cannot look at apple butter. Nobody wants apple butter whoever went to camp because we had that every single day of our lives. We had toast, apple butter, and maybe we had porridge of some kind, which we did not eat at that time. So we would actually have toast and coffee. Milk was reserved for children under six so we didn't have milk so we just had coffee and toast. You could have as many toasts as you want. When we first went to camp, they didn't have enough food so that the army was totally unprepared for us so we had, what they called hardtack. I think this is something that sailors at sea must eat. It's like toast that's fairly thick and maybe it's what's called (sweebag). Something that you had toasted and we would have that at the beginning but later they got bread. sweebag?
After that we went off to work and one of the things that happened was that they did have work for us. I went to work and I think as I explained in the other part that I worked with the recreation and education department. We were there from nine o'clock to five o'clock. Then we came back. We had lunch—we had to go back to our lunch place. We would call it red, blue, and yellow. We all had colors and we would go to our assigned lunch place and have our lunch. I think we had something that indicated which we should go to. Well my brothers used to collect these things so they would look to see what's on and whose lunch place looked the most inviting. They would go to the next one and to the next one to see. Then they'd come back and say, "You should go to this one because it's really good." It was lunchtime and I made a lot of good friends in Santa Anita. I really enjoyed the people, but didn't enjoy the circumstances. It was for us again a learning experience because there were people from Los Angeles who came. I think I talked about the (zoot suiters) who came, which we have never seen before in San Francisco or at least at Cal. Again brought us in with a different element in Japanese life—gangs. We had gangs in San Francisco but they were like groups, they were not gangs. But this gang, they were tough and people had to be very careful about how you treated them because by tough I mean they would beat you up. I think knives were taboo. We couldn't bring knives in camp anyway and certainly no guns. I think of today and I think it's too bad it's just not with fists.
Then after that we went home. We would go to take our showers. I think I wrote about the showers too, but it was a very funny experience. I used to teach Sunday school when I was in camp and to have all my Sunday school students lined up and watched me take a shower—I'm totally naked! I mean it was not a good experience. I said to them, "Go away! Go away!" But they would peak around. It was a funny experience. In the end like today we laugh about it because it was very funny, but in those days we felt degraded, I think, more than anything else. You felt like you were really living at a level that you never expected to be in. After that we took our showers and then we went to bed. We didn't get much electricity. We had electricity from a wire that came from some place and you just had a light that came on. Of course it was difficult to do anything at night but we would hang around outside and all our friends. My mother used to be very upset because we would sit outside with our friends until after it got dark and then we would come back in. It was strange existence.
What did you eat for lunch and dinner?
Oh, for lunch. I can't think of what we ate. All I remember is apple butter, but I can't remember. Again I think they said something like twenty-one cents for the whole meal for the day or something like that. That's very low so we got whatever the army could put together. I think we ate maybe worse than the army mess food, but you're young and you eat anything. Actually things got better when we got into the permanent camp, but in this other camp it was pretty poor. At night I think we had a lot of Japanese style hamburger cooked with rice so that it would feed a lot of people.
Earlier you said that you only ate coffee and toast for breakfast, but not the porridge. I was just wondering why you didn't eat the porridge?
I don't know why we didn't.
Did they look through your suitcase to try to find the knife?
I don't remember.
How about fingerprints? Can you tell us about that?
Yeah, we were fingerprinted I think before we went into camp. We had to report and when we were reported - I'm trying to remember when did they fingerprint us - I'm not sure. For some people they had to get fingerprinted when they got to the camps, but I think we got fingerprinted before.
What did they do with the fingerprints?
Who knows? Probably in the FBI office some place. They collect these things.
How did the other residents of Chinatown, the Chinese, how did they react when all the Japanese people were shipped off to the camps?
The Chinese who are our friends who are living near us are very sympathetic and sad that we were going to be leaving. But there had been a period of time because Japan invaded China and because Japan was so harsh in its treatment of the Chinese people that the feeling of anger against the Japanese came out in Chinatown also. So they were very, very strongly anti-Japanese so that at the time of the camps, we saw people with big signs saying I'm Chinese, I'm not Japanese or things of that kind to let people know that they were not part of the enemy syndrome. We felt that in Chinatown per se there was no reaction to our being put in camps. Among our Chinese friends, who were close by, our neighbors, there was a feeling of empathy and sympathy for us. But it was long standing ever since I think way back in nineteen thirties when Japan first started its imperial conquest that the anti-Japanese feeling began to grow and grow. Many of the stores in Chinatown were run by Japanese businesses so when they left the Chinese took over.