Memories of Honouliuli

Excerpts from Doris Berg Nye oral history interview with Florence Sugimoto, March 4, 2009

Doris Nye recalls her childhood memories of visiting her parents, who were German internees at the Honouliuli internment camp.

…I liked Honouliuli, and I’ll never forget the cardinals.  There were cardinals all over the place, and sometimes I hear them today.  I had my thirteenth birthday there.  Actually I had it before Honouliuli, but it was celebrated at Honouliuli, and Emick—I forgot Emick’s first name—who was the head chef of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, he was in the camp because it was thought that he could poison all the troops when he was a chef.  So he was kept at Honouliuli.  And he made my birthday cake.  And that’s when I went into the kitchen there.  And it was a big kitchen and it was a big area.  And I remember the halelili (outhouse) and it was like, “oh so shame” to go.  The outside.  If you had to go, you had to go to the outside, and for me, as a young girl, it was (that) everybody could see when I went to the bathroom.  And you’d have people looking as you went in, and looking at you, oh, so shame.  And the guards up there too.  But I made friends with the guards, and the guards were just young kids themselves.  But what I did is, I brought funny books for them.  So I would have that when I came.  There were big plants.  This is the first time I had ever seen them.  (They) were castor bean plants.  And the castor bean plants were on a little slope.  …So I would climb through the castor bean plants and go up the hill, and I would hand the funny books up through the barbed wire fence to the guards who would put the hand down, so I was thinking that our fence then must have been straight, because how would I have gotten those funny books up if we had one those fences like that.  Now I don’t understand that, but I know that it was very easy to hand the things up to them, and when I had birthday cake, it was, “Oh, you want some cake?”  “Yeah, okay.”  Because those guys were hours sitting in the hot sun, watching supposedly spies and bad people…

…I loved to go over to the Japanese side because they were so friendly.  The German side was friendly too but got boring after awhile seeing the same people…. The Japanese side was like a little town.  And there was the PX and there were all kinds of little things.  And we were pretty close because I would go from our, through the main gate, and go out onto the main dirt road there, and go up a little ways and then turn west and go past the German camp, over the little stream, and go to the Japanese camp….  And then I’d go over time after time to the PX because they had nice things there and that’s when I saw the two Japanese, one or two Japanese women, that were in the PX, and they were selling stuff.  Aside from that, I never saw any Japanese women there.  And I know there were but at that time, I didn’t think there were.  It was not until years later that I found out that there were.  But I never saw any.  But when I got over to the Japanese side, the worst part was coming back again, and that’s when I had to go past the prisoners of war, and they were scary.  They didn’t look like the local Japanese that were there.  They were different looking and they were scary looking.  And they scared us too.

SourceOral history interviews, Nye, Doris (Berg), oral history interview with Florence Sugimoto, March 4, 2009
Publication:  Unpublished manuscript
Page #:  pp. 21-22 (reformatted transcript)  (p. 27 in original spiral-bound transcript)
Call No. in JCCH Resource Center:  OH Nye
Note:  A link to the full text (in PDF) of the oral history interview transcript is in the JCCH online catalog record.

MLA citation:  Nye, Doris. "Oral History Interviews, Nye, Doris (Berg)." Interview by Florence Sugimoto, Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i, Honolulu. 04 Mar. 2009. The Untold Story: The Internment of Japanese Americans in Hawai‘i. Web. [date of access]