Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Frank Yamasaki Interview I
Narrator: Frank Yamasaki
Interviewers: Lori Hoshino (primary), Stephen Fugita
Location: Lake Forest Park, Washington
Date: August 18, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-yfrank-01-0013

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LH: Well, before you go on, what were you saying? You were starting to say something, you forgot to...

FY: Yeah, I forgot now, what, what were we talking about?

LH: You were talking about Gordon Hirabayashi.

FY: Oh, yeah.

LH: Did you want to get it on tape? Because we can continue that.

FY: Well, let me think about... most of us, most of my friends' family were... are you on now?

ME: Oh, yeah.

FY: Oh, okay. We were pretty naive about civil rights or our, our right as citizens, particularly us Nisei. We were very naive about this type of legal rights. And when Gordon Hirabayashi stood on his right, I even heard some Japanese Issei make comment that he shouldn't be making all this rumble. It's not good. He should be quiet and we should do as we're told. And this was more or less the philosophy of the Isseis and even the Niseis at that time. So I, we looked for suitcase, cases. And of course, we took the best clothes we have.

And on the day of the evacuation, we were to meet on first -- I can't remember when, I think it was around April 24th, I'm not sure -- we went to, I think it was Western and around Stewart Street. There was a bus waiting there and they had military people in uniform and it was kind of ironical that when we got there, they were, we were just a few blocks away, so we just walked there and carried a suitcase -- and it was almost like going out to a picnic. Everybody was dressed in their Sunday best. After all, either you wear your clothes or you throw it away. So they had their very best clothes on, and of course, all of a sudden you're seeing all your friends and all your neighbors. You just don't -- so everybody greeting each other and there was even laughter, and here we're on the way to be incarcerated. On the bus, I can recall, even now when I turn the portable on, the first song that came on was Dinah Shore singing "Skylark." That was a very popular song in those days.

LH: So do you think the mood at the, during the bus ride was full of anxiety or more of a light atmosphere?

FY: It was... no, far from being light, but there was anxiety. And I think, again I speak for myself as a teenager, there was girls around, so I started conversation with girls, "Where are you from?" "Where do you live," etceteras. That type of conversation and we were all familiar with Puyallup because they would have their annual Puyallup Fair. I don't recall... we went into Area A. That was the first area that was open for the internees. And I can't remember whether it was, because there was so many occasion when the, the ground would be very muddy, but if I recall, it was slightly muddy that day. And of course, we were all in street shoes. So after we, we settled in the camp, of course, we all resorted to the, not the Sears-Roebuck but they call it the "Monkey Ward," Montgomery Ward catalog, and everybody started to order high ankle shoe... work shoes. I'd like to say, they called this assembly center "Camp Harmony." It was very ironical. [Laughs]

LH: How did it get that name, "Camp Harmony"?

FY: I don't know. To this day, I don't know. Its, I don't know whether the WRA that instill that name or whether some internees just called it... maybe they were being facetious.

SF: When you drove up to "Camp Harmony," what did the place look like? I mean, what did you see?

FY: Well, the area we went into, Area A, I was familiar with because that was kitty corner from the entrance of the fairground and that was a parking lot. It was still a parking lot, only they built these barracks in there and a barbed wire fence. They had two towers there and I think they stood up about 30 feet high or so, with a guard up there. And they had another guard on the opposite end, the entrance with a set machine gun, a machine gun sitting on the ground. And it was... they acted... things had gone by so fast, from being assigned barracks and then getting the mattresses filled with straw. The women, of course, these partitions between each room was very poor, the lumber was very poor. There would be gap there, so they would find means of getting newspaper or things to patch, stuff into the crack. Above, the partition I think ran around 6, 7 feet high. Seven feet high, and then it is open on top where the gable came down and of course you can hear everyone. Somebody letting a fart on end, you could hear all the way across. [Laughs] The entrance, of course, was just like going into a chicken coop. These were just structure that was really put up on a temporary basis.

LH: So this is where everybody slept and this was their basic living quarters?

FY: Yes, yes.

LH: Where did everybody eat?

FY: Well then they had on one end, they had mess, mess halls. In Area A, I think they had two. I think they had Mess Hall One and Mess Hall Two. And then they divided the barracks. Barrack number whatever, maybe 5 to 7, or 3 to 4, would go to their respective mess hall. And, of course, Area D, the fairground, that was the largest area. And all around the grandstand, and also the large structure they have now where they display the animals or produce. They had sort of a simulated barrack or a partition within those huge compounds. And then, well, going back to Area (A), and then they had Area B and Area C, which were similar to Area A.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.