- Historic Sites
During three harrowing years as a prisoner of the Japanese, an American woman secretly kept an extraordinary journal of suffering, hope, ingenuity, and human endurance
April/May 1979 | Volume 30, Issue 3
Instead of church in the barrack room, I went to visit the shop. A list of the things that they have manufactured and that are important to our existence are: a solder holder made out of part of an electric-light fixture; the portable grinder and buffer are made from a windshield-drying motor from an automobile, the pistol grip on it is a piece of carabao horn; a charcoal burner has been constructed from the base of an old road roller, with an Army field safe for a door, a base of rocks and dirt; name plates for camp members and a copper soap dish beaten by hand were made from a whole fire extinguisher; numerous frying pans have come into being from cable reels and parts of old safes; watch crystals have been ground from window glass, old light bulbs, and celluloid—they took a ten-cent glass cutter and ground the wheel so as to cut the glass; the hinge for eyeglasses was made from trophy plates and the fire extinguisher; knives have been evolved from auto springs and old files; the ladle to stir rice was conjured from an old trench shovel, with its handle an old athletic javelin; a knife blade is from a ballbearing cup, the hilt a plate from a National Cash Register, the handle of leather disks from cartridge pouches, the end knob from a rifle cleaning rod.
July 21, 1942—Jim Halsema was announcer for Major Bozo hour, our first Amateur Night, with Concentration Rice the sponsor—“in seven different flavors—burnt, coconut, caramel, perspiration, cockroaches, fish, and syrup.” Carol sang hillbilly songs and yodeled; little Francie sang “Smile Awhile,” each winning first and second prizes, which are said to be a ride on the garbage wagon to Trinidad. Rae recited her concentration version of the poem about the tropics, ending “Oh, how I want to go home!” Mr. Perry fluted and Alice and Gerry sang in spite of an attack of stage fright. There is a new theme song with words and music by Marvin Dirks, “Have you tried rice? It’s the best food in all of the land.” This brought thunderous applause and cheering no end, with the evening a howling success.
Aug. 5, 1942—After the evening lecture came the fashion show with the parade of Concentration Modes, Inc. Much curtain material was in evidence. Delia, Inc., made up two denim work-suit models for the hospital staff that were very snappy.
We had a package from Miss Ramos with a pineapple pie at which we gazed and gazed. There were sausages, lemons, and candy. Daddy came to eat the pie with us on the front porch, with sub-coffee (grounds used more than twice) with milk. We gave the children each a full glass of milk, their second in eight months.
Sept. 14,1942—Toyko rages over our inhuman treatment of internees in America, moving them from camp to camp making a seventy-year-old man work, kicking a thirteenyear-old boy in the stomach, etc. It sounds like our complaints.
Sept. 25, 1942—Jerry’s disposition is certainly not normal. He has no appetite or pep, looks thin, just pushes around and has no hope of any American approach or deliverance. It is low-ebb morale in camp right now anyway. But he is no comfort to us or himself unless immersed in poker, where he forgets the present world of inaction.
Sept. 27, 1942—Jerry brought sub-coffee, fried mush, and pomolo in sugar for early breakfast. I tied my hair back, unbraided, which seems to make me look younger, with Sunday lipstick. I had to do something to take off that ten-year-aging feeling of the past fortnight. It has been the worst time in camp as to morale.
Bedie seemed homesick so we sat on the porch talking till he finally had a cry, which snapped the tension. He said Daddy had a boil now and had had so many things the matter with him—“Remember that first day when we were all so hungry and Daddy gave you and June and Tish and me the last crackers, and when we tried to make him take some he almost cried and said, ‘Don’t be damn fools.’” So Bedie remembers it all too—funny little boy who never seems to be taking in such things. This evening he was feeling full of omissions and sins. We held hands tight, and the tears washed away some of the sins.
Oct. 15, 1942—By chewing on my front teeth I can enjoy one peanut at a time. A number of New England habits have been invaluable in this parsimonious and pioneer existence, habits I didn’t have to acquire. Kidded about them in the past, now they are normal.
Several are showing symptoms of lack of Vitamin B—pains in the hands, numbness of hands and arms as though they had gone to sleep. The doctors give tikitiki. Massage may help, but it is chiefly dietary.
Now there is said to be a battle going on down in the valley below, machine guns and pounders and fighting. It can be seen from the hospital. It may be just ruthless mopping up of a village. Thunder and guns, which is which; we had both today. By dinner time, it had become landings and battle in Lingayen Gulf. While they fight and die in the valley within our sight, flower-arrangement class adjusts bouquets exquisitely on the porch and the choir practices in the nipa shed. After supper, drama, scandal, made its entrance. Mattresses were seen going to the guardhouse, and the word went around that one of the venturesome, young married couples had been caught out of bounds and commingling, both major offenses at the moment.