Letter from Kenji Okuda to Norio Higano dated June 24, 1942

Letter from Kenji Okuda to Norio Higano dated June 24, 1942. Higano Family Papers, Acc. 2870, Box 1, folders 9-11. University of Washington Libraries: Manuscripts, Special Collections, University Archives.

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June 24, 1942
Raining again

Greetings Norio,

What lousy weather-it’s dripping cats and dogs again after three or four days of sunshine, and I guess I must go into hibernation. Life here continues in the same old vein, but your letter certainly injected a big kick as far as I’m concerned. You make me envious as hell, but I'll be going your way soon (I hope), so until then enjoy yourself. It’s certainly good to hear from someone who has a little freedom.

By the way, was this girl who gave you the stationery the same girl whom O’Brien met and thought, confidentially, to be the most attractive nisei girl he had seen--also the music major from U. of Cal , who , if I have the name straight sang with the illegible when they went South last summer? Or am I getting half a dozen persons mixed up? I’ll be asking for an introduction, and I don’t mean maybe.

I’d be interested in hearing further of your experiences in Chicago. The lake, a car, a girl, a moon/ you sound as though you’ve really gotten romantic. But I’ll bet Misako taught you something--and no more cracks about never having kissed a girl now. It’s certainly interesting to hear of the first impression and last of Misako--if I recall correctly, you’re letter bawled me out, or at least suggested that I needn’t criticize Misako, for mentioning some of the comments I had heard about her. And they weren’t disseminated by rumor mongers but by girls who usually saw the good points in another girl first. At least we’re on or almost on the same level concerning our attitude toward her--but I’d still like to see for myself. Maybe I’ll still have a chance yet.

Life in camp has its exciting and interesting moments--also its agonizing, heart pulling emotions. I don’t mind the life too much--I’ve just seen one couple necking in Area A--not a very frequent occurrence, and especially now that the long grass along side the fence has been mowed. This bad weather keeps everyone indoors and out of mischief--it’s only when the ground is dry that these young swains and swooners take charge. The juiciest story yet is that of a young man and woman taking a shower together up by section 6--at the east end of this area--and of several young ladies parading down Burma Road (the main drag) in night clothes at midnight after everyone was supposed to be fast asleep. This area and area D across the street in the main fairgrounds are the most exciting of the four areas. Area B & C are small, cozy, and DEAD, with no nice scandals or rumors flying around. Physically the camp is not the best of the four, but it seems to be the most or at least next to the most exciting.

I’ve managed to keep myself under control pretty well--only kissed two girls since I came here 8 weeks to the day ago--but I often wonder how I managed to do it with the lack of privacy so prevalent. Every day at the office I am razzed continually about a girl with whom I’m seen occasionally now--she is pretty old but darn nice and tall--and just seems to attract. But we always have a third party around so that nothing has happened--please do not worry, dear sir! Last night and the evening before, we put on a performance of the ”Haba Haba” (term originated, I think at the Rivoli), Revue in B & then C. The revue lasts about 2 hours with all sorts and odds and ends of novelty numbers. Gosho, Mike Hagiwara, & I had two acts--one a Japanese evacuation romance (it’s a scream, especially the heroine Hank), and another a hill billy act climaxed by singing Johnny Schmoker.1 We brought the house down with that act last night. Since travel between areas is almost impossible, this show gave me the opportunity to plan in and visit B, C, & D. We opened the show in D, waited for good weather and held it outdoors in A having censored two or three acts from the original and substituting. Last night, on our fourth performance, I was, and the whole cast with me, almost sick of the whole thing. The audience reactions, also, are very interesting to observe. B had the best audience, A, the coldest but most likely because of the cold weather. C was the noisiest and rowdiest--but a poor listening one. Getting to feel like a veteran actor now too.

Mike Hagiwara is one swell fellow and very different from your description of illegible. He’s comical but can be serious, a good actor with a nice voice, and all around, an easy one to get along with. Abe’s living in Area D with the Sakais--almost married to Esther by now--and Morale and Recreation officer there.

Sunday Caleb Foote, Donna Hine, Harry Dewey, Ruth Haines--and several more of the Y.M. & Seabeck gang were down here to see us. Caleb stopped here again on his way south & left me some F.O.R reading material--he’s a swell fellow. And his article about the nisei in the May issue of the “Fellowship” magazine is certainly worth reading. Half of the joy camplife will be removed when we are shifted to some permanent camp--visitors will be rarer and more precious occurrences. Hadley & Schweea ? were down here too--what a sense of joy and relief to know that they were still with me and working for me. It seems likely that Tule Lake will be our destination.

My dad is now in Spokane on parole, but I guess he’ll have to come here for I received a communication today from San Francisco stating that there was no possibility of us leaving camp to go to Spokane. And student relocation plans still seem to be bogged down. In the back of my head, I wonder if we'll be allowed to get out at all, but as long as O’Brien, Mike Masaoka, Joe Conard and the whole bunch of them are still working persistently, there is room for hope. Tom Bodine has been moved to San Francisco where he is working on student relocation plans. I guess that Tosh Fukushima’s request is the most adequately supported and may be the first to go through. I’m afraid I took at face value the reassurances that we would be able to leave assembly centers immediately and took things too easy, but my papers are now all in shape so that I can push my request to get out.

I met Jeanne Kanno last night--she grows more attractive every time I see her, and Mary has started summer school at W.S.C. Wait til Jeanne grows up a little more, and then--

Food in camp improves slightly, then deteriorates, then improves--and seems to go by spurts and dashes. For lunch today we had hamburger steak, strawberries, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Dinner will, I hope, be up to par. But cases of diarrhea are still cropping up. I haven’t had an attack yet--some have suffered two or three already. Fresh vegetables and fruits which were lacking up until now will be more frequent--thus promises the mess warehouseman. But there are still plenty of kicks.

Medical facilities, with only four doctors (I wonder if some can be called doctors), for 7,000 people, are very inadequate. The hospital cannot handle operations or OB’s, and it is not being improved "because of the imminence of our removal." Tule Lake is said to have a illegible hospital and very adequate facilities. After all these are very temporary residences.

We had a plebiscite recently which is described in the camp paper I’m enclosing--but the manner of holding the election was so undemocratic--a “Hitler plebiscite in a Japanese Socialist camp set up by a democracy to be run as a dictatorship” to quote Esther Schmoe. This election was held at the 9:30pm roll call with no advance notice and the citizens requested to answer immediately to a very ambiguously worded proposition. We have a petition circulating now to have another vote of confidence because of the manner in which the first was held--ought to get at least 1,000 signatures out of 2,704 persons in Area A.

And that twice a day roll call which was instituted out of the clear blue (gray) sky some two weeks ago--I revolted and resigned my job--but my resignation was not accepted so I’m still on the staff. The roll call will now be held once a day. The curfew regulations in camp were relaxed--curfew 9:30 & lights out 10:30 enforced by only 5 patrolmen for this huge area!! People cooperate quite well except for one or two chronic trouble makers who are accused and do everything from gamble to refuse to obey any and all restrictions.

Gordy is still in the King County Jail after being indicted and awaiting trial which may be in June or rather July or August. The wheels of justice are so slow--oh so damn slow. C.T. Takahashi & Ed Osawa are still in jail after a mistrial because of the jury deadlock. They may get out on bond soon for the gov’t seems to prefer to have the case die quietly--they’ve lowered the bail from $25,000 to $10,000 and may lower it some more. But absolutely no publicity is given these things--and only naturally.

Woody is working enthusiastically to put over the J.S.C. clubhouse as the International House of the U. of W. I think that they have made excellent arrangements and probably will make a great success of it. But one can never tell. Bill Makino is working hard as head librarian--and he seems to have a new heart interest located in Minneapolis--a girl he met back at National Assembly from College of the Pacific, Stockton, California. She’s very attractive--saw her picture--a singer, but that’s about all I know. And so does life continue its merry whirl.

I’ll try to give you the latest every time--ask me all the questions you can think of--and tell me more of the girls--


P.S. Xcuse the writing
P.S.S. where’s Harry?


1. Johnny Schmoker is a Pennsylvania Dutch folk song.