Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Gene Akutsu Interview
Narrator: Gene Akutsu
Interviewers: Larry Hashima (primary), Stephen Fugita (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: July 25, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-agene-01-0026

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LH: Well, I'd like to go back, 'cause, as you mentioned, we've skimmed a little bit about sort of the surface events in camp. So let's go back to Puyallup and the social conditions in camp in terms of all the people who were gathered there for the four or five months that you were there. What was it like, sort of the interactions you had with other people and the... how your life went with that during that period?

GA: Fortunately, there was some groups that were pretty active. Basically, I guess you are, they are the church group that had participated in all sorts of events so that they would carry on parties, they would carry on a dance, something to keep the kids happy or interested. And they even had taught dance classes and first time I went there to find out how, what it was all about, dancing, and I didn't, I was too shy to dance with anybody. But it took me quite awhile. Eventually I did, naturally. But the activities, they had all sorts of activities, various programs. Community singing was one of them that was pretty popular in those days. And so they have all sorts of events for the younger kids to keep 'em interested and happy. So in that way they helped us to pass our time.

LH: Do you have any particular memories of any of those events while you were there?

GA: I think, I've talked about dancing. I finally got courage enough to dance, I mean, date out a girl to go to a dance and it was held -- this is Area D where they have the fairgrounds so they have concrete floors and it was nice to dance to. Anyway, I went there to dance with my girlfriend and I think I danced about two or three numbers when I looked up at the entrance and who do I see? I see my mother standing out there. And what could I say but to tell my date, "I think we'd better go home," and so that was the first and the last date I had with a girl for quite some time to come. My mother and father, both being teachers, they, they discouraged intermingling with the girls because they said school and girls don't combine. That when you get into a fight with your girlfriend, your grades are gonna go down and things like that and so, I shied away from the girls. Not only that, I think the Niseis in those days, they used to razz each other a lot and they'd catch you talking to a girl, they'd razz the daylights out of you. And so we kind of stayed away from it and just because of that to this day -- I guess it's something that just grew in me -- to this day, the Bon Odori that I went to just to see the other day, I cannot find myself saying I'm going to dance in that because in the younger days they were calling each other sissy and that's still deeply embedded in my mind so I just can't see myself going out there.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.