Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community

Manzanar barracks, work, rec hall, picnics – Michi Noritake (OH0009)


Oh, we had to share. We shared with another family called Kojimas, and they were three girls and one boy, and we all stayed, and our family, we all had to share rooms in this small barracks. And then finally, after they got the rooms fixed — they weren’t even ready for all of us to come at one time like that, so we all shared the one small room. And they eventually moved us, then we all got one family room, about a, maybe about a week or two after that.

Then we all had to find job, work, and so my oldest sister worked in the, in the mess hall. And then my sister, Kay, she helped with the kindergarten, and then I helped with the nursery, and my youngest sister Iku went down to work in the office. So everyone, except the parents, had something to do, that’s how we went to work. And my job was up in, towards the end, I worked up in Block 11, so I had to walk. And some days, the sandstorm would come and we’d be covered with dust and sand, and oh, that sand used to hurt our skin and faces. But we still would go to work.

Then I remember… I don’t know whether it was that first summer or the second summer, must have been the second summer, that rec. hall was giving a picnic. And we could take the convoy, army convoy, and they would take us up the, towards the mountain, and there was a stream. And the, it was in July, I remember, when our turn came and they fixed us a lunch. And we got on the convoy came and picked us up, and we went way up in the, you know, in between the sagebrushes. And we got there, oh, it was so relaxing.

But it was packed with young people because the different recreation halls came. We all had a fun, that was the first time we ever had so much fun was, you know, we all got to sing, they brought ukuleles, and we just, we had a ball then. [Laughs] It was so good to get away for a change, ’cause in Manzanar we couldn’t leave the… and then a group of us would walk, and I remember Frank’s father and a bunch of us, us would, from our block, we would walk all along the edges. And there would be those soldiers watching in every corner, it seemed like. But we used to walk, get our daily walking, before they had no recreation or nothing, we used to get in groups and walk, and I remember Frank’s dad used to walk along with us, too.

Video Interview — February 2006

Michi Noritake

Michiko Amatatsu Noritake was 22 years old at the time of evacuation. She is the second youngest of four sisters. Michi was fired from her job right after Pearl Harbor. Before evacuation, the FBI took her father and he was eventually sent to a Department of Justice Internment Camp. At the end of the war, as the Amatatsus were preparing to return home, Michi was in Twin Falls and she ran into her father who had been released from internment camp and was coming to re–unite with his family. Michi sometimes refers to her father as "grandpa." She also calls New Mexico, "Mexico."