ORAL HISTORY HIGHLIGHT –
In June 2016, Yoshiye Okimoto Hayashi reached out to us at Manzanar to let us know she would like to record her story with us in an oral history interview. We’re so glad she did. In this brief excerpt, Yoshiye, who graduated with Manzanar’s High School Class of 1944, describes how she and her parents and brother felt when they first saw Manzanar:
“It was very windy, just as it is today. Desert all around us. It was April so it was kind of cold. And we looked at the barracks and the places we’d have to sleep, straw mattresses. I mean, we were poor, but at least we had a fairly clean place. My mother worked very hard at keeping the place clean. So this was really a disaster for us, and being stuck in with so many strangers, to me, it was the worst part. We didn’t have a big enough family to get a room of our own . . . We had one side of the room and there was a couple and two bachelors on the other side.”
After a few months, the living situation grew even more uncomfortable for her family.
“The fact is, one of the bachelors had an affair with the married couple, the woman. So my dad goes down to the housing department and says, ‘I have two impressionable young children, teenagers, and there’s something going on. There’s business going on in my room. I can’t have that.’ We were in Block 16 and we moved all the way down to 31, which . . . was a new area that was opening up. They had just finished it. So there at least we had the same size room for the four of us rather than the eight of us, and we had a little bit more privacy.”
This photo of Yoshiye, her brother Jun, and her parents Yoneji and Miyano was taken in Manzanar a couple of years later.