Bob Fuchigami Remembers the Makeshift School at the Amache, Colorado, Incarceration Camp
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Bob Fuchigami Remembers the Makeshift School at the Amache, Colorado, Incarceration Camp

(Yoshimitsu) Bob Fuchigami is a Nisei (2nd generation) Japanese American, born in 1930 in Marysville, California. His family operated a farm prior to World War II. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he and his family were removed to the Merced Assembly Center, California, and later to the Granada (Amache) incarceration camp, Colorado. He currently resides in Colorado. In this interview clip, he describes the makeshift school at the Amache, Colorado, incarceration camp. Along with other former detainees, Fuchigami received a presidential apology and partial reparations in the 1980s for being incarcerated without due process of law, solely on the basis of his Japanese ancestry.

Listen to Audio:

RP: Bob, your family arrived at Amache, was it in August, did you say, of '42?

BF: We, we got there in September, early September.

RP: Was, were you able to enroll in school that first semester? Or...

BF: In Amache?

RP: Yes.

BF: Yeah. They, they... I don’t remember school right away. But they, they did open up a school probably in late September or maybe even early October. The school was in the barracks.

RP: Right, can you share with us a little, a little bit of what you remember of junior high school, as it was in Amache.

BF: Yeah. I was, I was a twelve year. The, the barracks, they didn’t have the partitions in there. They might have had a couple, couple of partitions. But we, we sat on wooden benches.

RP: Benches.

BF: No, no books to begin with. Later on we got, we got some discarded, outdated books. But there was a teacher with a chalkboard in front and they would put the information, some of the information on the chalkboard and we’d just copy it. So we, we had tablets and copied the information from the textbook. Then, lecture and that, that was the educational process for several months. The... we had, there was a high turnover of teachers because these, these were teachers — we had some good teachers, but — I’d have to say that by and large, the quality of, of teachers was, was not very good at first. There’s a high turnover. Because they didn’t know the conditions that they would be living under. Although they lived in Lamar and came by bus to Amache. But they weren’t prepared to, to deal with the population. First of all, they must have looked at us like, how come... these are all Japanese Americans. They had never seen that kind of population. We hadn’t, I hadn’t seen such a population except for the language school. And so there was a high turnover. Some had, some of the teachers had come from Indian reservations some had come from... teachers who had just finished college. 'Course, I’m sure they expected that we would have books and desks and things like that. We didn’t. I can give you an example of... music. They were gonna start a little orchestra or a band, I guess. I remember went to, went to the music room and the only thing they had left was an oboe. Never seen an oboe in my life. And didn’t know how difficult it would be to play such a, such a thing. I remember going home with an oboe. Never did master that. And, it was, it was discarded stuff. I don’t think... well, I guess they eventually had some kind of, of a band or an orchestra. I certainly wasn’t a part of that. Although later on, they, they somehow someone got some instruments and formed a band, an orchestra.

RP: An orchestra for dances and...

BF: Yeah, for dances. There’s a fellow out of Santa Anita named Brush Arai and he had the Brush Arai and his (Kanaka Boys Band) or something like that.

RP: So, the conditions under which education developed in Amache didn’t sound very stimulating academically.

BF: Well, at that, at that... yeah.

RP: Did it change?

BF: It did change over time. I remember, well, another thing that happened was it was P.E. classes. And they didn’t have the equipment so when it, when the weather’s... you got snow and stuff outside, they have to hold P.E. classes inside one of the barracks and the equipment they had was a, was a mattress that they rolled up. And we spent the hour jumping around that and diving over the, over the mattress. I mean, what kind of P.E. class is that? And the, so the conditions were not ideal, by any means.

Source: Bob Fuchigami, interview, May 14, 2008, Denver, Colorado. From Densho Digital Archive, http://www.densho.org/. Interviewer: Richard Potashin, segment 20, denshovh-fbob-01 (accessed October 14, 2009).