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-01-0017

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SF: Going back just a little tiny bit, in terms of, like all those activities that you had, like the dances and things of that sort, how was that organized, who set those things up? How did they come about?

FY: Yeah, it's... each mess hall would have a staff of waitress, waitresses and dishwashers. And I worked in Mess Hall Two and there was a whole group of us, in fact, John Okada who wrote that book, "No-No," [Ed. note: Narrator is referring to No-No Boy by John Okada] was even with us. We were all friends and we would more or less say, "Hey, let's have a dance." We'd talk to the girls and the waitress, so you've got about twelve waitresses and even more boys, so you already have a group to dance and then others would come. But again, it just makes me... how did they get the PA system? Who brought the records? So there was lots of things they say we can't do, and yet it was there, available.

LH: Now were you able to associate with the same friends that you had in Seattle? Did you have the same friends in Puyallup, at "Camp Harmony"?

FY: No. Some were located to -- I don't know why. Let's see, where... isn't that strange? No, as we did our work, we were assigned, our friendship developed among ourselves, among the fellows we worked with. And then when we'd go back to our barrack, there is another group there, sort of... and I don't mean to generalize, because I think I was a, kind of a semi-loner or... I used to... I was interested in women, girls, and activities and sports. So, I was kind of, went on my own a lot. Except we would, after -- in-between washing dishes, like you have your breakfast and then you have to come back for your lunch -- in between there, we would play poker and there was the regular like John and Pete and Mutt, all these interesting names. [Laughs] We had regular poker sessions.

SF: What kind of person was John Okada, since you mentioned that. What kind of a guy was he?

FY: Well, he's quiet. He looked very studious with his glasses and playing poker, he was very analytical. So in poker, you watch for whatever trait, and I used to watch for a certain trait he has, which means that he has a pretty good hand or, and things of that sort. He was generally quiet, not as outgoing as most of the people. Because even when we were singing, I don't recall his voice as much as others. He loved poker; he was a chain smoker.

SF: Then you two were, kind of, good buddies?

FY: Well, not necessarily buddies, because I was, I loved people. And I loved all people, so I'm moving around to people that interest me. There was one in Minidoka, there was one fellow... we stayed friends for a long time even after the war. He enjoyed playing chess and so I enjoyed playing chess. So we become good chess partners. And this is jumping ahead, but there is a period where we'd play chess and I'd make a move and he would look at it. And then I offer him a cigarette. We were both chain smoker, too. And then, somehow, something happened where he wouldn't move and every time he looks down, then I look down at the board, too, thinking he must really plan something. So we get up, look at each other and he'll smile and I'll smile, and I'll look down again and I'll say, "Hey, Roy, it's your move." And he would smile and anyway, we went back and forth like that and I didn't know that he couldn't hear. So, before, he was reading my lips all this time. This is why he pays so, he looked at me whenever I used to talk. So it was about twenty minutes before he was, made a move. [Laughs] But aside from his chess playing which I was interested. Also, I learned some Nihongo, Japanese, from the Isseis to where I was interested in the game called go, G-O. So I used to play a lot of that, so my friendship would vary.

LH: So you were friends, did you become friends with some of the Issei?

FY: Oh yeah. Sure. I used to know... in fact, some of the kids, they'll say... well even my son-in-law, Tom's father. I used to play go with him; this was after the war. They had a hotel right across the street from the Japanese go club, across on Jackson Street, years ago. And so yes, I met a lot of Isseis.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.