HORSE’S MOUTH: My Mechanic Friend



(Published April 14, 2015)

The name Isao Kawahara may not ring a bell with too many people, but I got to know him many years ago when he operated a mechanic business where the Harbor Freeway is now located.

When the Harbor Freeway planning was near completion, businesses like Isao’s had to toss in the towel or move to another location.

Isao started his new place in Gardena. That’s where I met him when I was having problems with one of my cars and a friend told me, “Why don’t you try Isao, the new mechanic in Gardena?” So we became good friends and he looks after all the problems my cars may encounter.

I guess you can say, “That’s life.”

Well, for one thing, I never thought I’d be writing about a mechanic who has become one of my good friends.

Isao used to be a Las Vegas fan like me, but in recent years he doesn’t make the trips like he used to.

Ditto for me.

As I mention occasionally, I do get to Vegas when I can find someone to drive my car, which means, of course, that I’m not making the trip too often anymore.

I would guess that almost all the people who do visit Vegas do so by car. It’s really not that bad a trip by vehicle, a lot better than riding a bus or flying, especially the expenses involved.

Well, as we age, I guess staying home isn’t that tough to take. Most people my age will probably agree.


I am curious that after all these years, how many of those who were interned in camps are still with us?

I know I’ve lost a lot of friends from Heart Mountain days. Hey, let’s face it. Nearly 70 years have passed since we were tossed in camps. So, if one was in the mid-20s to early 30s, figure out how old they would be today if they were still with us.

I was 17, so you can guess how old I am today.

I’m waiting for some of the oldsters to write about their experiences while living in a relocation center.

Yeah, I’m now an “oldster,” so maybe I should write my story.

During camp days, I found a lot of fun things to do with my friends. Yeah, I played football in camp.

I can’t imagine what I would have been doing if I was, say, 35 to 40 years of age. Hey, someone in that age range in camp would be pressing the century mark today, including many of those who held titles of “editor” at the camp newspaper, The Sentinel.

Perhaps someone could seek out those in this age group and get their views how they survived camp life, especially eating the kind of food they served us in what they called the “mess hall.”

Hey, I can still remember the taste of mess hall food even today, or should I say the “tastelessness” of the mess hall food.

I worked in one of the mess halls during my stay, and I can say I don’t know how I was able to consume most of the stuff they served.

Along this line, I don’t think I ever read or heard about the kind of food the internees were forced to eat. I guess the only thing I can recall is the rice they served with all the meals.


WOW! I just glanced at the clock hanging over my desk as I write this column and am surprised it’s already 8:30 p.m., so I’ll have to assume that it will be close to 9:30 p.m. by the time I finish today’s chatter.

Of course, I could talk about my experience at Heart Mountain, but would there be enough people interested in that era of Japanese American life?

I thought that one of these days, if I am to continue writing about our evacuation experience, I might uncover some facts that many JAs may have forgotten. Well, maybe they didn’t forget but are trying to forget.

Since I worked on the camp newspaper, I did come across a lot more stories than the average internees at Heart Mountain, especially since I worked with people like Bill Hosokawa, who was the editor.


Many may not acknowledge it, but how many people who held jobs during camp days can tell you how much of their pay they saved?

I know there weren’t that many places to spend money in camp, but I knew quite a few who did save what they earned.

What did they earn?

Well, the starting pay was 8 bucks. After that, 12 bucks, followed by 24 bucks.

Doesn’t sound like much, but there was no place to really spend money, except at the post exchange (PX).

I know I began working for the camp newspaper at 8 bucks a month but got 16 bucks after about six months of employment.

The bottom line is that money didn’t mean much in camp. Since I ended up getting paid 16 bucks, I guess I could consider myself pretty well off.

Although over half of my friends’ (all my age) smoked, I didn’t have to concern myself about buying tobacco in the PX in Heart Mountain. My friends used to kid me about not smoking, but it just didn’t appeal to me. Cigarettes were not that expensive either.

I used to save up coins that I got my hands on and after two years, I was surprised at how much I had piled up.

So, when I was drafted into the Army, I guess you can say I was one of the richer GIs, whatever that means.


Oh well, I guess I’m running out of gas (or words), so maybe I’ll have to cut off my chatter about here.

As I get older I find myself struggling for words. Well, filling the space is kind of difficult, especially since as I always mention, I don’t get around as much as I used to.

Perhaps if Editor Gwen will give me an assignment, I might be able to rattle off a few more pages.

In the meanwhile, I’ll be working on my next column.

Domo arigato.

George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.



Leave A Reply