Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Sumi Okamoto Interview
Narrator: Sumi Okamoto
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Spokane, Washington
Date: April 26, 2006
Densho ID: denshovh-osumi-01-0011

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MA: So I guess I wanted to go back a little bit and talk about Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. And what were you doing on that day?

SO: I was getting ready, I was getting ready to get married. [Laughs] And I was getting my wedding dress on, but I never knew that -- because my parents didn't tell me, they knew, but they didn't say anything. My husband knew it, but he didn't say anything.

MA: They all knew about what happened at Pearl Harbor.

SO: Uh-huh, except me, yeah. But I didn't know anything about it. I should have probably known it because we had a little radio, but I guess I was too busy getting ready.

MA: So you were getting ready for your wedding.

SO: Uh-huh, that's right.

MA: The ceremony part of it.

SO: Yes, I think the ceremony was at two o'clock I believe, at the Grant Street Methodist Church. And everybody was there and there was no mention of it, but then when we went down to the reception at the Desert Hotel, after we had our dinner and everything, the FBI came storming in and told us that we couldn't go out, go out until they questioned the people, some of the people that were there. And they took about four or five of the leading Japanese Issei people that were, well, in the community they had done a lot for the Japanese people, and so they sent them right away without going home. I think somebody said they went to Montana, they took 'em to Montana. And after an hour or two, they let us leave.


MA: Okay, so we were talking about your wedding and the reception, which was at the Desert Hotel.

SO: The Desert Hotel, uh-huh.

MA: About how many people were attending?

SO: I think there were about 250 people or something like that. Probably most of the people in town. Because my husband knew everybody.

MA: What was happening in the reception when the FBI came? What was everyone doing?

SO: I think everybody was ready to go home, and they wouldn't let them go home. And so I think they talked to some people, some of the people that were there, and then they took them, the men away. And then they let us leave.

MA: How long were you, did the FBI agents take?

SO: I think we were, I think we were there for about a couple hours.

MA: How many FBI agents were there?

SO: Gee, you know, I can't remember. Maybe there might have been two or three, I don't think there were that many people.

MA: What was the...

SO: I don't remember very much of that. But the party, the party was over and then they came in so they didn't crash it or anything. But somehow they knew that we were having a reception there. Well, they probably saw all the Japanese going to the hotel, so they probably thought it was some kind of meeting or something.

MA: What was the atmosphere like among the guests and people attending when the FBI was kind of holding you all there?

SO: Uh-huh, I guess it was, they were pretty frightened, I think, you know, especially the older people. I don't remember very much of that. [Laughs] But I think --

MA: Do you remember how you were feeling?

SO: Oh, I was feeling all right. You know, I didn't know exactly what's going on, and so I didn't understand, and so nobody told me anything about it. I guess they didn't want me to worry about it or anything. But I think the, I think older people were worried, you know.

MA: And did the FBI single out these few men, or did they go sort of person by person and question?

SO: No, I think they singled out, somehow they knew that these men were leaders of the community, and so they singled them out. And then I think they told us to, you know, don't go too far from home, and I think a lot of the Issei people, I think they destroyed a lot of books and things that they had. And I, I think some of the FBI men did go in, go to the Issei people's homes, but they never bothered us at all. But we all, all thought they we might be able, we might have to leave, too, so we were deciding what to sell, our car and this and that, so it was kind of a scary time. It didn't seem to bother me very much, I think I was too young to understand what was really going on.

MA: How were your parents doing throughout all this?

SO: Well, I think they were quite worried, because I think after that, my dad had a stroke, and then I think... was it my older brothers told me that he had stock in Japan, in the banks in Japan, and he lost all of that And you know, he, I think he, it really affected him quite a bit. So let me see... when did he, he had a stroke and he passed away a year after my husband passed away, and that was, my husband passed away in 1948, and then my dad passed away in 1949. Yeah, he was pretty well, he was pretty distressed. And he was, he was pretty shocked because my husband had passed away. He really thought a lot of him, so he was quite depressed.

MA: During the war years, was your father able to work, did he keep his job?

SO: Yes, he did, uh-huh. He did. But, see, that was 1941... yeah, about, I think he had a stroke for about two years and then he passed away. He passed away right after my husband passed away, and then my, let's see, his cousin, his uncle passed away, too, the same year that my dad passed away, and that was the, the uncle that lived right next-door to where we were, too. It was funny that they passed away at the same time, same year, I think it was. It was quite a shock. But my mother lived until she was eighty-something, so...

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.