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2-Remembering Pearl Harbor & Relocation
Do you remember where you were on the day of Pearl Harbor?
I, actually, was chopping wood. That was one of my duties. It was in winter, December 7th, and it gets quite cold where we live. We had a wood stove and we had these logs of oak, I guess they were. But they would come like this, and I would have to chop them to smaller pieces so that they would fit into the stove and also burn. That's what I was doing when I heard about Pearl Harbor.
And do you remember how you felt?
It was a surprise. I guess we began to wonder what would happen to us. There were rumors and all kinds of news reports and reports on the radio, especially, where they said that there were Japanese spies and they were apprehended and so forth. It was kind of... well, we didn't know what was going to happen. And, I don't know, that's how it was.
What was your reaction when you learned about the relocation process?
Before then, there was a period where we could move voluntarily. So, many people who lived on the coast moved inland to be part of our area, which was a different zone. We were thinking also of moving from our zone out towards the other states, like Utah and Colorado and so forth—eastward. So we went to buy a car. We didn't have a car, we had a pick-up. There were four of us in the family. We needed a car if we were going to move at all. We went to buy a car and I was the one that had to go and look at the car. Of course I was about nineteen at the time, and I had never bought a car before. That was quite a transaction.
I was sold a car and we drove it awhile and then the order came that we would all be moved out. I had to go back and return the car and I write about that. The dealer says, "Well I'll leave the car and I'll sell it for you." And that was the end of that and I thought, "Well, we're rid of the car, we lost some money." But after we went to the first camp - the temporary camp. We had visitors. Whenever we had visitors, we would be notified and we would go to the gate and the visitors would be on the other side of the fence. There was this stranger actually, but the car dealer waving a check.
He had sold the car and that was one of the nicest things that happened. He thought enough of us that he would sell the car and bring the check to us. So, I remember that.
Do you remember his name?
No, I don't, I don't remember. It was just kind of a vague figure of who he was. So I call that story or bit, "Even Car Dealers are Human."
Do you recall anything that happened on Moving Day? Like the actual day that you moved?
Oh yes, Moving Day was a rather traumatic day. We had to be prepared to leave early in the morning. The night before we were all packed and I guess our beds were put away and so forth - stripped. I think we slept on the floor and we got up early. Of course we had some breakfast and we were all packed. We had duffle bags and things were stuffed in it and we had our suitcases all ready packed. And then, we had to go on our own. We had to provide our own transportation.
We had sold the car. We were on a tenant farm and we had a boss. He was willing to buy the car and sold it to him for fifty dollars. But we needed the pick up to transport us to the departure point, which was about three miles away at another town. We loaded up and we drove ourselves there and unloaded. And then, the boss and I agreed that I would leave the care at a car dealer's place in town. Later on, after we had left, he would come by and pick up the car. Everyone did this. They went on their own. There was no way that - well, maybe they had friends who took them, but that's the way it was.
I have a poem here, if I could read it. So, that when we left, we left from Loomis, which is where I grew up. We were living in another town three miles away. But, Loomis was where I grew up. My boyhood was spent there. Across from our store there was a drugstore. Sometimes I would go there to buy a milkshake or something. So I knew the druggist. But, on the day we left, this is what I remembered:
the razor blade
So that was Mr. Stevens.
Tell us that story now without the poem
The poem says it all. I felt that I was at an age where I shaved every morning, but I felt that I needed an extra razor, some razor blades, so I went to the drug store. Since I had known him and I had been there before, I went there to buy a razor and some razor blades. He didn't want to deal with me. He sneered and he didn't sell to me. He said, "What do you want? What are doing here? You're supposed to be leaving," etcetera, etcetera. He didn't say all that, but he refused to sell me what I wanted to buy.
Do you remember what you took with you, what you and your family took with you to the camps?
Oh, yes, we took all our clothing. My mother made three duffle bags. These were made out of tent material. I should tell you that my father had Tuberculosis. Before he went to the hospital, the sanatorium, he had isolated himself because he knew that Tuberculosis was contagious. He had bought a tent and he set it up in the pasture area away from us. When the order came -- of course by that time he was in the hospital, the tent just stood empty. So my mother took that tent material. She cut it up and made these duffle bags, hand-sewn duffle bags. These bags were huge, as tall as we were. You could stuff clothing, an endless amount of clothing, but we also put in some of the utensils, cooking utensils.
We had a flock of chickens. One of my duties was to kill them all, butcher them. We had about eighteen or so, and I killed them. My mother prepared them and dressed them and so forth, and she cooked them down with soy sauce and sugar. And eighteen or so chickens became six jars of cooked chicken. We put these in the duffle bags among the clothing to protect them. They were in mason jars. I don't know what else we took, not much other things, books we left behind, clothing we wore. I don't remember, my birth certificate and stuff like that we took.
How old were you and your siblings at the time?
At the time I was nineteen, I was two years out of high school. I had a brother who was a senior in high school so he was seventeen and my sister was sixteen. My mother, as she claims, was thirty-nine. Actually she was about thirty-eight or nine.
Did your father go to the camps with you or did he stay in the hospital?
He was in the hospital all during the war. His TB was so advanced that they couldn't treat him, only bed rest. Even--was it the sulphur drugs?--Or some kind of drugs that were developed during the wartime, that didn't help him at all. So he was in the hospital and we were in camp and he would write. He was quite a letter writer so he wrote more than any of us. We didn't see him for almost four years and after we came out we saw him. So he was at the mercy of the white doctors and nurses. I kind of imagined that it must have been very difficult, especially since we were in Tule Lake which is not a camp of patriotic Americans. Those who were there had opposed the loyalty registration. We were kept there as long as the camps were open and we were regarded as non-loyal Americans.
Did you, on the papers that they asked you to answer the questions on, did you say no or did you just not--?
No, at first I refused to answer it. I mean we were put in camp without cause, without anything. And then they were asking us "are you a loyal American?" I mean we were loyal Americans from the time we were born. Yet they were questioning us. They were asking us also if we would serve in the armed forces and we would disavow our connection to the emperor of Japan. We had nothing to do with the emperor. We had not been there in the first place. We had heard stories about him and about Japan, but we were Americans. So I thought that that was an insult to be asking us. So I refused to register. Eventually, later on to release us, we would have to commit and say "no" and "no" to the questions. At first we didn't comply at the risk of being put in jail, another jail, or a big fine, which was all a lie. Actually the registration was not compulsory, but they never told us that until I learned about it years later. All the agony and pain that we went through, you realize years later that it was not compulsory. But to save face, they never told us and that was another betrayal.