Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community

Minidoka freedom in camp – Tats Kojima (OH0028)


Inside we just had a potbellied stove with coal that we kept warm. Other than that, just a cot, and that’s all. Well, you made your own… you had to scrounge up your own chairs or table, and a lot of the people were out scrounging for extra material. I mean, you know, where they’re building and they got shot at because you can’t cross beyond a certain point, but they’d steal that lumber and try to make tables and things.

And lotta that was goin’ on, they were makin’ tables and artwork. And, ’cause, what was out there? Was it sagebrush? They’d cut it, it’d be big and plant and they’d cut it and they’d sand it down and they’d make tables out of it, and they’d put legs on it. But I wasn’t one of them, I remember a lot of ’em did that. They had nothin’ to do, but it was somethin’. I guess all I’d do was playing baseball or football or walkin’ around with a group. Oh, we had to go to school, too. Yeah, we were in school, too. All of the day was taken up in school and little bit of time playin’ baseball, football, or basketball. Other than that… and dancing at nights. Not every night, but, you know, on I think weekends only, they’d have dancing in the… at nights.

At home, we were mostly, you know, like I had to chop the wood at home to, for the fire and to keep warm. I had to saw the thing and then pile it into our, our shed. Then we’d chop it up so we’d bring it inside and keep warm all day, I mean, all night, until it ran out. Then it’s real cold in the morning in the winters especially. But in camp, you know, you had all of that. We had our… well, we had the coal stove would go out, but the coal would last longer than wood stove. And then in the morning, you had get up and go to the mess hall. Dinner was served, and the parents had nothin’ to do with it. You never got together as a group, I don’t think. I never seen families — some of ’em did, ate as a family, but most of us teenagers just ate whenever we could. We had a certain time we had to eat by, though.

And, you know, from seven to I think nine or ten, and then from eleven to twelve or twelve to one was dinner or lunch. And if you weren’t there you don’t get it, you got to wait ’til supper. But you just go to the… that’s all. I mean, other than that you were free to do anything. And to me it was, it was pleasure. [Laughs] Boy, at home when I was at Bainbridge, I had to… man, I had to work. And it was cold in the winter, you know, we were so poor we didn’t have good clothes. And my hands would be… couldn’t even grab anything it would get so cold, weeding, you know. But in camp, when you got in camp, it was like another world.

Video Interview — October 2006
To see this interview in its entirety, go to the Densho website archives. You will have to register to be allowed access to their archives. Once in the archive, visit the Visual History Collections: Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community Collection.

Tats Kojima

Tats Kojima was 18 years old and in the twelfth grade at the time of evacuation. He has two younger sisters. Tats' father was taken by the FBI and interned in a Department of Justice Camp in Missoula, Montana. He rejoined his family after they were in Manzanar.