Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Ed Tsutakawa Interview
Narrator: Ed Tsutakawa
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Spokane, Washington
Date: June 8, 2006
Densho ID: denshovh-ted-01-0016

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: So any other memories of Puyallup that you can...

ET: I think Puyallup was, for me, it was a very learning process, because Keith Oka kind of picked his own team, and I was one of 'em, and I was very grateful for that. And our, our thing was creating more recreational things for people, and he was very good at it. Particularly, we could do illustrations, we could do some games, and we could do quite a number of things like making signs and things like that. So kept ourselves fairly busy. And we were free to go to any area, we had A, B, C, D area, we were D area, that grandstand area. And then, and then A was kitty-corner on the outside, then B was on the other side. So we were in the center location. So we were able to go to these places and work with people. That was kind of a fun time in a way, and that's what he was good at, is try to entertain...

TI: What, what were some of the activities that you guys organized?

ET: We had a lot of dances and I think the Mikado was a great group of people that helped us on that effort. We had a lot of hobby groups like people --

TI: Going back to the Mikado, where did people get their instruments? Did people bring them, or...

ET: They brought the instruments, but then they bought, the government bought some instruments, too. And like us, we needed art material, and they bought the best. We asked for best, and they got it for us. So those things really was, I, we all appreciate that.

TI: And so with the art supplies, you would use them for activities, signs, would you, what else, would you actually do drawings of the camp and things like that?

ET: Yeah, and I did quite a bit of watercolor sketch, and then also sketches, too. But this is a request from a newspaper, like Oregonian newspaper, the Seattle Times newspaper, and we did that. And of course, the paper acknowledged a lot of things we do, and even war bond posters we did. That was kind of a secret inside the camp, but then there was a last, we must have done several, ten big posters. And we have a clipping from the Seattle P-I showing that this is what the internees in the camp do. So obviously I didn't hesitate to do that, and Keith said, "Hey, this is, we gotta do it for our own sort of satisfaction."

TI: Now, did anyone ever keep any of these materials, like these posters?

ET: Well, we don't have any posters, but we have clipping of it. And maybe that's one of the things I should give you.

TI: Yeah, I'd like to see that. Well, after Puyallup, then what happened?

ET: Then Puyallup was only about three months, and it seems like a whole year because of the fact that besides the recreational things, we did weddings, we made a wedding very elaborate and very plush wedding ceremony.

TI: So, how would you do that? How would you make a wedding plush inside --

ET: We had, we had the food service to cooperate, we had, we had a lot of people to cooperate, so it didn't cost the newlyweds a penny, but yet they just got a very good wedding and a reception.

TI: So you'd get the food, the decorations...

ET: Music.

TI: ...the music, and it's all for free.

ET: All for free. [Laughs] And so those things really kept us, well, let's say that, alive in camp. The things that people enjoy.

TI: Because when you think about it again, you mentioned Keith a lot, because he thought it was really good to keep busy and keep people active doing positive things.

ET: He has that certain kind of, you might say, stratagem of human relationships or human engineering. He's just a master of that; this guy was amazing. And I think I would say that he's about the only one that I really considered mentor... well, I have some of the other ones like Neil Fosseen, the old mayor here, was my good mentor, but for the Japanese American, I would say that Keith Oka is probably my only mentor, and probably gave me more help in my business also. Because, well, this is in the future, I could tell you more about this.

TI: Well, I'm just curious, when we're at Keith, is there, were there any times when you saw him discouraged, when he just sort of said, "It's too much," or, "it's not working." Did you ever see him like that?

ET: He never got discouraged like that. He just kept on going and did some funny things. We had a window and a beautiful, the place where people walked back and forth all the time, and we even made a silhouette of a nice girl. [Laughs] And people couldn't believe it: "Oh, my God, those artists." [Laughs]

TI: So do you think in camp, the artists were, were looked, people looked up to you?

ET: Oh, yeah. In fact, as far as the job was concerned, of course, Keith was another one that fight for our professionalism, and I was just a college student. He was already a professional. But doctors were getting nineteen dollars, the head of the kitchen was getting fifteen dollars, chief security officers getting fifteen dollars, and, but Keith demands nineteen dollars because of our profession. [Laughs] But anyway, that worked, and because the people said, "Oh, yes, we have to have those guys."

TI: Now, I'm curious, a lot of people, when I talk about Puyallup, they talk about the smells. Was there any way from an artistic standpoint that you could capture the smells in terms of your artwork or anything? I mean, did you...

ET: Well, I think, I think that's something that I didn't notice at all. I think it's probably my, sensitive part of my nose probably got used to everything so quick. But if anything, it's nice to smell my paint, nice to see that beautiful sable brush that cost too expensive to buy, but requested and we got it. And so I still have some.

TI: Now, did they give you a special place also to have all the art supplies...

ET: Yeah, we have an office, and this is the office we were talking about, we decorate with some funny things that people could look at.

TI: And do you recall if anyone ever took any photographs of the, of your office or anything like that?

ET: We had no camera.

TI: Oh, so no one ever took pictures?

ET: No one ever took a picture.

TI: Oh, that's too bad.

ET: Yeah.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.