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2-Post Pearl Harbor Restrictions & Tanforan Assembly Center
Did you lose any contact with any of your friends?
No, I knew what happened to them so they were in the same position I was that they couldn't go anywhere either. It was a very dull life, you just sat around; you couldn't do a thing.
When you were restricted within your neighborhood, so what did you do with all that time?
One of the things that they were doing was I see some older fellows and there was one pool hall there and I noticed those guys were gathering around the pool hall. I didn't know anything about shooting pool, but I went over there to watch them shoot the pool, fascinated how they hit the balls and they were betting among themselves, 5 cents, 10 cents whatever it was. That was the only thing because we couldn't do anything. We didn't have a gym or anything in the area that you could go over to play basketball or anything.
How did your friends feel about being restricted?
They really didn't complain because we were brought up not to complain and we accepted whatever they gave us. In fact, that was one of the reasons that they put us into these concentration camps and it went so well, because otherwise there should have been a riot when I look back at the situation, there should have been a big riot, but there was no big riots really. Everybody was like sheep and they just signed up and did what the government said and that's what happened.
What did you miss most when you were restricted?
I missed, like I said, going to school. That was the only thing that I usually do, was to go to school and we don't go to vacation because we didn't have money to go on vacation so we rarely went on a vacation. The only time I went out was going to Boy Scout camps. It's not like now where I take my kids out to National parks, Wyoming, Grand Cannons, and Tahoe. I'd never been out of this city all of my life until then.
Did you ever have to quit the Boy Scouts due to being restricted to your neighborhood?
The Boy Scout activity was right there at the local church, so we at least still had activities there, but not very much because everybody who lived outside of the area, they didn't come in because lot of people lived outside of the area too. But all activities stopped pretty much. They used to have a language school, that stopped, and the only other thing I think I recall was going to the Raphael Weill school where they had the basketball courts so we went over there and played a little bit.
Did any of your friends outside of Japantown who weren't restricted visit you?
Like I said, living in Japantown, your friends are where you live. I knew a lot of the kids at school, but I never did associate with them because they lived further out, out of Japantown and I never really met them. There was one guy that sometimes gave us a ride, but that's about it. Most of the Caucasian people, I've never been to their homes.
Do you know how others at school felt about the restriction?
No, I never did talk with them. Except for this one fellow that I met at Cal translator and he thought that we had a bad deal, but a lot of people say that now, but prior to that they never came to say "hey this is wrong" and protest the government; that they shouldn't put us in the concentration camps. I think the only people that probably did that were the Quakers. I read that in the papers, but that's about it. Nobody came to our defense, at all.
What would did the Quakers do?
The Quakers actually protested that they should not be evacuated, that we should not be evacuated at all. During the camp, they came to help them out and provide with school materials and then they helped them resettle outside of California.
Where were the Quakers from?
I don't know where they came from; all I know is there were Quakers. In fact, my son married a Quaker girl.
Tanforan Assembly Center
How long were you contained before you went to the actual relocation camp?
I stayed in Tanforan. Tanforan used to be a race track so we stayed there for about 6 months and I stayed in a horse stable there because they were still building what they call "relocation camps" and they built 10 of those through out the United States and the one that I went to is called Topaz, Utah which is located about 100 miles south of Salt Lake City, out in the dessert. So that's the first time I've ever been traveling so far, out of San Francisco.
How did they notify you that you were going to Tanforan?
The first time they did it, was they posted a notice on the telephone poles saying that this area restricted and that you're supposed to report the whole family and then they told you that you had to leave in a couple of weeks. So you had to pack your bags and sell your stuff in two weeks.
How much were you allowed to pack?
We were allowed to take one suitcase. I didn't have that many cloths anyway.
How long were you stuck in Japantown for before you were told to go to Tanforan?
That was around—Pearl Harbor was about December so in February, they had a notice put out all over the Japantown area and they said that you couldn't travel. So from December to February, you were still able to go to school and then in February they said you couldn't go to school and then by March we had to report with our luggage and then went to Tanforan racetracks, where we stayed there for 6 months.
What was your first reaction to seeing Tanforan?
That was the first time I'd been on the racetracks and to me it was a nice racetrack, but then when we stayed in the horse stable, I said "Gee, what's this?" This is actually where horses stayed. You could still see the Dutch doors and the barn; they just white washed it and had mud all over the floors and everything. And they gave us a bag and said, "Hey, fill this up with straw" so that's your mattress. They had one light bulb sitting on top of the ceiling and they told us to bring a plate and cups and forks and knives so you can eat. So we had to go to the Grand Stand and line up to eat and food was just terrible.
What was it like living in those stables?
The stables are just enough for getting the horse in so they were about maybe 10 feet wide and 10 feet long. So, they'll put 2 people in those, and then there was a connecting room in the back, which had no lights or nothing, and the top was open so you could hear every sound that's all the way through the stables. So most of the time, naturally, I'd go see my friends and one of the big things we had to do was run around the racetracks. That was kind of fun, just run around the racetracks.
Were you with one other person in the stable?
No, the stable was about 200 feet long so you'd have.. I don't know how many stables, must be about 15 stables. Now, everybody didn't stay in a stable, but all the stables were there, and then they built some other temporary buildings too. It was tar-paper buildings, because there just wasn't room enough for all the people in the stables.
In the 10 x 10 area, who did you stay with?
We had four, so two in the front and two in the back. My father and mother were in the back and me and my sister was in the front.
How long were you in Tanforan for?
Can you describe what was in Tanforan?
Tanforan was really nothing, like we say. The stables, especially, I didn't want to stay in a stable, so we'd go out with our friends and walk around and just run around. Then finally, somebody made some basketball courts, so we started playing basketball again, right on the dirt floor of the tracks. And as far as meals go, we had to go to the grand stand—where the spectators go. And they had a big hall where you had to line up for meals. And the meals, you bring your own plates and cups and everything. Everybody just lines up and just tossed some food into you. There was nothing; you wouldn't get any ice cream or milk or anything, you just get beans and potatoes and livers and things that I never was used to.
Did you get to choose your food?
Oh no, you just get what they just slop into your plate and that's it.
How did you adjust to the food?
Food is something that you like right? So I was never used to eating beans and tripe and fish and stuff like that, that were not in my diet and I don't think it was in too many peoples diet.
Who served the food?
In the camp, they finally started to assign people and they were paid to do it, like they would get paid 8 dollars a month to serve food or work in the camp area because it was just too much for the government, so what they did was they hired the interned people to do the clean up, and serve food, and fixing up the areas and so forth.
Did your parents ever work for the camps?
Yes, like my mother, she worked as a server, you know, food. Eventually, they started to open up some other smaller mess halls they call it because there were 8,000 in that camp so you couldn't serve more then one under the Grand Stand so they started to make some mess halls in the surrounding areas.
Did you meet new people at Tanforan, or did everyone stick with the people they knew?
I don't know how they set the people up for living quarters, but it was primarily all from the Bay Area, all the Japanese Americans, because the people that were living around me came from either Berkeley or Oakland and they just.. I don't how they assigned them, but they just put them in.
How did your mother spend the money that she made as a server?
I think she was getting $8, and I think they had, I'm not sure because I didn't see any money, you know. I don't know where she could have bought any food because there was no place to buy food. I noticed in Utah they finally opened up a canteen where you could have bought some food, but not much. It was just candies and stuff like that. But most of it they finally started looking into what they call, "Sears & Roebuck Catalog" and then you do a mail order. In fact, the funny thing about it is everybody ordered the same type of shirt so pretty soon everybody had this plaid shirt and then the fellows all ordered boots because we never had boots. So everybody had the same boots. It's kind of funny everybody had the same clothing it looked like.
What was it like to not have privacy for the first time?
I come from a big family, like i said. I was used to no privacy. Everybody was—to me it was no big deal. But I'm sure there was a lot of uncomfortable feelings because the showers and the toilets were all open. You could see each other and I'm sure something embarrassing could happen but I was used to it because I went to school and Washington men's shower was open for everybody so all went in bare-boned. I'm sure some of these people were rather uncomfortable about that.
Did having open showers and toilets affect you in anyway?
To me it was no big deal because I went to Boy Scout Camp and we had the same thing. Open toilets, we built a pit we all sat down in. To me it was no big deal.
How did your family react to the lack of privacy?
They were very uncomfortable. But like i said, you know, I didn't go shower with them. I'm sure they didn't like it.
Were there separate shower and bathrooms for men and women?
Yeah, that's for sure. In fact, I know there was one place where they had a private toilet. You used to see the line on that thing. Everybody wanted it. Because it happened to be already there, it was one of the buildings that had a private toilet. The other thing about using the toilet was once in a while the food isn't just right and everybody gets the runs and oh god, because they all got diarrhea they lined up. It was really something.
What was it like waiting in line to go to the bathroom?
Everybody is looking at each other. I noticed at this one place the ladies actually had a cardboard box so they could put it in front of them when they sat down. Because i see them carrying a big cardboard box, you know, a big cardboard box that stands so high so that it could cover you while you sit there. I didn't see the boys or men do that. They kind of shrugged it off.
Do you have any scarring memories from the camps?
See I'm from a different age. I was born in the Depression, I come from a big family so it didn't really bother me. But it bothered our folks because they couldn't make a living. They had to go out and buy groceries, that was a tough part. I didn't have to work to feed my family at that time. All I did was line up to go eat. Even then the family kind of broke down because you never ate together anymore. So I would just go out with my friends, you would probably do the same thing. You would probably say "Let's go out to McDonald's together." You wouldn't take your mother and father to go eat at McDonald's. So, the family broke down quite a bit. But at the same time I became more independent and matured real fast. I lost my childhood because I was able to do things by myself because of what happened. I was brought up right, I didn't have to worry about getting food and stuff because I knew how to get things. I didn't rob a bank or anything. I knew how to go work and feed myself and go out in the world and live by myself. After I left camp, I had to live by myself. That's when I found that working was really no life for me. Because I worked in the farms and I worked in the factories. I said, "This ain't for me," so I got me a profession.
How did your social life change when you got to camp?
My social life changed in that I learned how to dance. That's the truth, I didn't know how to dance. They were having these dances because they had the young people show them how to dance. I'd say, "It looks good, you know, what's this?" I learned how to dance, learned how to play cards, learned to play bridge. That was some things I learned.
Who taught you to do these things?
The people there. We got a lot of older kids and they showed you how to do that.
Were the kids who taught you also internees?
Yeah, yeah. You know, in fact, when we started school the people that were going to college became the schoolteachers.
Were there any schools in Tanforan?
In Tanforan I didn't go to school. No, there was no school. No school. Then even at Topaz they started school but there was no books or no pencils, papers or nothing.