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-01-0028

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LH: So when you were -- moving back towards the trial, when the judge spoke to you and told you... okay, he pronounced his verdict. And what was the sentence?

FY: Isn't that funny? I can't even remember that. I think it was three and a half years. Or was it five years? Three and a half or five. Isn't that funny? I never even thought about that.

LH: Do you recall...

FY: I can certainly look it up, I'm sure. It was three and a half or five. And then and released after three and a half, they have what they call "good time," you accumulate if you don't get in trouble. And released on parole. I can look up that information for you. Offhand I can't remember.

LH: I've heard someone else mention it was about three years and $300. A fine of $300.

FY: Oh really?

LH: Right. Three years, three months and $300. I...

FY: I didn't have a nickel in my pocket. [Laughs]

LH: What did you, can you describe what you, what your reaction was when you heard the sentence?

FY: Well, there is a certain stage of shock. We're going through this experience that we had never, I had never experienced before. The first time I heard the clanking of the door, these iron doors when they close it and going into the cell in Twin Falls. It's almost like a nightmare. It was a nightmare.

LH: Can I ask you, did you have a chance to... after the trial, did you have a chance to say goodbye to your family at Minidoka?

FY: Yes. Because they told us when they were going to pick us up so we made a point to be out there to be picked up. [Laughs] So we were saying goodbye before, even to that.

LH: That must have been hard.

FY: Pardon?

LH: That must have been hard. You mentioned that you had a girlfriend at the time.

FY: Well, I had dates and girlfriends, but we weren't steady or anything like that. My parents, Isseis were able to adjust to lots of things much better than Nisei. Again, akirameru and shikata ga nai and those words. These are safeguard type of expression, I would say. And...

LH: So from the time that you left, left the camp and said your farewells, what happened to you after that?

FY: We were picked up, and I can't remember who all of us were -- I have some written material I can look into -- and taken to Twin Falls, Idaho. They had a city jail there and we were put into a tank. A large cell where maybe they would occupy maybe twelve people and you go into the cell and you go, there's another compartment you go to and there is bunks in there. And it was filthy dirty and you could smell the urine and there were bugs all over, so being experienced in hotels, you know, the Japanese skid row hotels, we knew that the light would kind of ward off some of the bedbugs or whatever that's around, so the corridor light would shine in the entrance we came in so we would huddle around there and when the next batch of fellows came, they were shocked. Because they seen us all huddled around that. And then it gets dark inside, so they thought oh, my gosh, we're cramped into a solid small area and packed like sardines. [Laughs] I could see this guy, one guy's face. He turned pale white. He thought we were going to be stacked on top. See, none of us had this experience. This was all totally new. And it was pretty tough.

LH: Was this a temporary holding facility?

FY: Temporary holding and then we were sent to Gem County and they had a federal prison. And federal confinement is much better than local or state because you get money, budget. Now we were fed much nicer food and the place was clean and somehow they must have known about my record or something because they would let me go out into the sun.

LH: Only you?

FY: Yeah. And at first I thought, "Gee, how come they're taking me out?" And they let me go out. Gee, I even wandered around. They want me to get me out in the sun. They don't know that... they must have found out I had TB. Even when we went to McNeil, same situation. I had a real easy job and if I did -- one time at the McNeil big house, I came down with a cold and I couldn't shake it off, and so the hospital doctor recommended I do yard work, outside work. So again sun and then I'll try to find a closest tree and they had me out there for a couple of weeks to get my health back and then they know they want to feed me good food. So they'd assign me to officers mess hall as a waiter or a what to do you call it, the people who clear the table. And, of course, you eat good food there, real good food. Then I was assigned to education.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.