New Skills

To combat the boredom of their forced leisure, many inmates learned new skills through classes taught by fellow prisoners.

Sadao Oka joined a bird-carving class while at the Poston camp and created this box to display pins and hold tools. Supplies were scarce, so he used the ends of wooden egg crates and surplus wire mesh from window screens to create the pins. He purchased Audubon books and cards to get realistic images to copy. Some pins took two weeks to paint to get the color and intricate feather patterns just right.

Sadao Oka attending a bird-carving class at Poston camp, around 1943

This handmade raspberry-shaped boutonniere is attributed to Frank and Dorothy Takahashi who were incarcerated at the Poston camp in Arizona. A dry lake bed near the camp provided a rich supply of shells and other natural materials.
In the camps, new clothes were a luxury. This pink dress was hand-crocheted for Lois Sakahara by her mother in the Heart Mountain camp in Wyoming.

George and Frank C. Hirahara Collection at the Washington State University Libraries, Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections