Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Marian Shingu Sata Interview
Narrator: Marian Shingu Sata
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: September 23, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-smarian-01-0011

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: You mentioned while your father was the camp director, or the assistant to the camp director, that you were going to school. So what are some memories of school at Rohwer?

MS: Well, very cold that first year. I remember that it was just a dismal place, because they hadn't made any desks, we just had these benches to sit on. I don't know if we had any books, even, but I guess we had something that taught us how to read. I was second grade by then.

TI: And so these benches, you would use them to write on and things like that?

MS: I don't know. I brought the book that I mentioned to you that has a picture of my class. So this is me there.

TI: Oh, this is... yeah, I've seen this photograph.

TI: Yeah, I don't see any desks. [Laughs]

MS: No. But I know as time went on, when I was in... let's see, this was second grade, fourth grade, which was the last year I was in camp, I remember sitting in regular desks with the writing arm.

TI: And when you were not in school, class, what would you do to spend your time?

MS: Well, I guess we, the block kids all did the usual things like Kick the Can and play with the meager things that we had. I think we did a lot of jacks, the girls played jacks. We played, made paper dolls, we just drew and made clothes for the paper dolls.

TI: And during mealtime, what did you do during mealtime? Who did you eat with?

MS: Oh, I always ate with my dad and my grandparents, we always ate together, and my cousins, I guess. Well, no, we didn't, because we were in a different camp. I mean, they were in the next block.

TI: And what did your grandparents do during the day?

MS: Well, my... I don't think that they worked, unless they did some of the menial things like cleaning the washrooms or something like that. But I know my grandfather always had a little garden that he would plant morning glories to shade his porch from the hot sun during the summertime. He had -- I don't know where he got the seeds -- but he would plant things. I don't know what else they did, just sat around and enjoyed their non-laboring time, I guess, 'cause they had to work so hard most of their lives.

TI: How about excursions outside of the camp? Did you ever go with your father maybe outside the camp to a town or anything like that?

MS: No. My dad, during camp time, remarried a widower with, a widow with two children. So my lifestyle somewhat changed after a while. And he was out, going out of camp the last couple of years trying to find work so that when we relocated, he would have something to do to support, now, this very large family. But I never went out of camp during the whole three years that we were in camp.

TI: So tell me about your stepmother and your step, sort of, siblings.

MS: Well, she was, lived in L.A., and her husband passed away, leaving her with two children. My stepbrother was three and my stepsister was five at the time. And she tried to support them by living in a friend's hotel in a room, and then she would be the maid, she would change the sheets, and that was her room and board. But she always worried that she would not be able to support them, and that they would take the children away and put them in the Japanese orphanage. So she said she was determined that that would not happen. So when the war started and they had to be relocated, it was almost a relief for her that she didn't have to be separated from her kids. She's a very strong person, a beautiful woman, she still is. She still lives, she's still alive and lives in Keiro. But she came, she was born in San Francisco, but she went back to Japan with her whole family when she was about twelve. She hated Japan because they made fun of her because she didn't speak perfect Japanese, and she had an English accent. So the minute she graduated from high school, her future husband came back to the town, Fukuoka, to find a bride, she said, "Me." So she came back when she was eighteen, and so she had no family here because her whole family, she had many siblings, but they were all in Japan. So when she came back, and her husband, I'm not sure what he died from, something horrible. But she had nobody except her friends. So she had to be very strong to survive.

TI: Tell me about your stepsister and stepbrother. I mean, all of a sudden, now you're kind of big sister.

MS: Yes. She's a year younger, and my brother, my stepbrother is three years younger. We always got along, but I didn't know how to be a big sister, 'cause I'd been an only child for all these years. So I was always amazed when she would be worrying about my brother not coming home right when he was supposed to be there. And I said, "What is she worried about?" But she was always taught to look after him, and I just never did. And to this day, she's still kind of the take-charge person in our family. Makes all the arrangements, who's going to drive Mom to the doctor this time, and I just let her do it because that's what she does well.

TI: Good. Any other memories from Rohwer that kind of stand out for you?

MS: Well, there was one time, you were talking about what we did to play. We were playing something, and there was barbed wire nearby. So I ran after the ball and then got hooked on a barbed wire, and I still have scars on my leg where they had to take, like, fifteen stitches from the barbed wire. So barbed wire didn't, it was not real safe.

TI: Especially for children playing with balls and things, run right into the...

MS: Uh-huh. That was, I always had these scars there.

TI: Do you remember going to the, to the hospital or something to get the stitches?

MS: Oh, yes. And, you know, no, nothing to numb it, they just stitched it. And my mother, my stepmother at that time, she said, oh, I screamed and screamed. But you know, that's the way it was.

TI: Wow, that must have been hard also for the doctor to have to stitch up a little girl that's screaming in pain.

MS: Yeah.

TI: Do you remember, when you run into the barbed wire like that, did you get in trouble, or what was the reaction of the adults about that?

MS: No, I didn't get in trouble. I think they went to get my stepmother right away, and I think they called a, quote, "ambulance" and drove me to the hospital, which is a few blocks away, and then drove me back. That's all I really remember about it.

TI: Okay, that's a good story.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.