Used to the temperate Coast, internees had to adjust to Wyoming’s searing summer temperatures and freezing winters. The wildlife was also foreign. Nine-year-old Shigeru “Shig” Yabu, from San Francisco, spent his first day at Heart Mountain exploring the barbed wire fence around the camp’s perimeter. Yabu noticed a bug that he felt sure would be his pet, until it tried to sting him with its tail. He quickly learned to stay clear of scorpions.
After several months, camp guards relaxed the rules, and hundreds of people could leave camp boundaries in their free time to swim in the Shoshone River, hike, or eventually go into nearby Cody to shop. Inside the camp, children played baseball, marbles, and capture the flag. In the winter, adults flooded a rectangular mound with water to make an ice rink. To combat gang formation, camp leaders organized Boy and Girl Scouts and music bands.
While children played, life for adults was stressful. They had left businesses, land, and possessions. Many were bored and hopeless. Life in close quarters was hard on individual family life. Bacon Sakatani remembers the lack of a family dinner table. “The family life broke up at the mess hall.”
Sometimes medical care in the camp was inadequate. Sam and Nobuo Mihara’s father suffered from glaucoma before coming to Heart Mountain: Without any specialist in the camp, he went blind. Their grandfather did not receive proper medical care and died of colon cancer.
But life for most went on, and 550 babies were born in the camp hospital. Kathy Yuille was one of them. In 1943, her mother walked a mile and a half from her barracks to the camp hospital to give birth. Unlike her older siblings born in San Francisco, Yuille has just one baby picture.