Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Masao Watanabe Interview
Narrator: Masao Watanabe
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 19, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-wmasao-01-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: But let's jump now to the Puyallup Assembly Center, or what people have named "Camp Harmony."

MW: That was a hell of a good name.

TI: Do you remember going to Puyallup and what it was like?

MW: Hey, I was a high school graduate. I sure remember.

TI: And what was it like?

MW: Are we on camera?

TI: Yes, we're on camera.

MW: Oh, my God. [Laughs]

TI: [Laughs] That's okay. So what was sort of your impressions of Puyallup when you got there?

MW: I had been to Puyallup a few times when it was the fairgrounds of Western Washington. Little did I know that I would replace the pigs and the cows and that type of stuff, you know, 'cause they, they restructured the fairgrounds and the parking lots into these temporary hovels. And they had a hell of a lot of nerve calling it "Camp Harmony." But, anyway, it was... boy, it was a real traumatic type of living, where you're in the former stalls where the pigs and the cows and everything else were. Temporary shacks, just the walls were so many feet off the ground, and families of six and seven were crowded into one little spot. I think intentionally, I forgot a lot of "Camp Harmony." I hate to use the word "harmony," but it was just not a very good experience.

TI: How were you, what were you thinking? I mean, you were a high school graduate and so you had learned a lot in your civics courses and history courses about the United States Constitution and all those things. What was going through your mind as this was happening to you, a United States citizen?

MW: Well, in retrospect I can say a lot about that, but I just... I just felt that all this liberty and crap was all crap. You know, it just, you read so much about democracy and all this and it was a real eye-opener to see what could happen to citizens and what does citizenship mean. 'Cause it just bothered the heck out of me to think that I tried to be a good citizen and, man, they are tossing me into joints like this. I didn't like it. I can't imagine anybody liking it or having positive images of being locked up.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.