Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Bacon Sakatani Interview
Narrator: Bacon Sakatani
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: August 31, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-sbacon-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay, so Bacon, the way I start this is I just describe where we are and the date, so today's Tuesday, August 31, 2010. We're in Los Angeles. On camera is Dana Hoshide and I'm the interviewer, Tom Ikeda. And so, Bacon, I'm just gonna start with a real basic question. Can you just tell me when and where you were born?

BS: I was born on August 23, 1929, at El Monte, California, which is about twenty miles east of Los Angeles.

TI: And were you born in a hospital, medical facility, or at home? Do you know where you were born?

BS: I'm a home delivered baby.

TI: So was this, like, a midwife that did --

BS: Right. In fact, I do recall a midwife on my birth certificate.

TI: Okay, so I'm curious, I started off the interview calling you "Bacon," but when you were born, what was the name given to you at birth?

BS: Harumi.

TI: Okay, and is there any meaning to that name, Harumi?

BS: It's just, it's more feminine, probably three quarter of the time it's used for women, and depending on how you spell it in Japanese, so I hardly ever use it.

TI: So tell me how you got the name Bacon.

BS: Well, there's several stories. The one commonly told to me is that when I was a little kid I was strung over a bonfire and cooked like a piece of bacon or something like that. Several other people have told me different stories, but...

TI: So it looked like there was a little fire and you were kind of, like, strung over like you're a piece of bacon being cooked.

BS: Yeah, I guess. [Laughs]

TI: That's good. Do you know who, who gave you that name?

BS: No, I don't.

TI: So you said there other stories. What were the other stories?

BS: Well, one old man neighbor said he gave me the name, another Nisei neighbor said he gave me the name, so I don't know.

TI: So from a very young age you were always called Bacon, then.

BS: Yes.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: Let's, let's go, I want to learn a little bit more about your father, so can you tell me your father's name?

BS: Takami.

TI: And tell me a little bit about where he's from and what his family did.

BS: His family lived way, way in the rural area of Hiroshima-ken and I guess they did farming, and so around 1915 my grandfather and the family came to the United States to do some farming and then around end of World War II, I guess they made some money.

TI: You mean World War I?

BS: World War I, yes.

TI: Let me, before you go too far, so, so your grandparents and your father, so the whole family came to the United States around 1915. I'm curious if you know this, so this was after the, the Gentlemen's Agreement, where it was harder for workers to come to the United States. Do you know how they, they came to the United States?

BS: No, I don't.

TI: Yeah, 'cause generally what happened was the United States tried to limit the number of laborers coming into the States, and so that's when the "picture brides" really kind of ramped up because of that, so I was just curious if your, to get into the country, if there was anything special that had to happen.

BS: I don't know about that.

TI: Okay, that's fine. So your grandparents, the family, they brought the family over, you mentioned after World War I, around 1915. Why don't you, what happened next?

BS: Well, my grandparents returned to Japan, but my father and his brother stayed in the U.S. and then a couple of years later my father went back to Japan, married my mother and they returned to the U.S.

TI: Now, why did your grandparents return to Japan?

BS: I assume they made some money because they built a nice house back there in Hiroshima.

TI: And when your grandparents came, from 1915, 1915, or actually before that, I guess, or around 1915, what kind of work did they do in the United States?

BS: They farmed.

TI: Okay, so they were farming.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: Good, okay so 1920 your father returns to Japan and marries your mother. So tell me, what was your mother's name?

BS: Sadako.

TI: And what can you tell me about her family?

BS: She lived nearby from my father's place in Hiroshima-ken and that's all I know.

TI: So your father and mother come back to the United States, or your father comes back and your mother comes to the United States, so what did they do when they got to the United States?

BS: My father was a haul man, person with a truck who went to Japanese vegetable farmers and hauled their products to the wholesale market in Los Angeles.

TI: So, so he had, like, a truck and he would just go from place to place and do this.

BS: Right.

TI: And, and let's talk about the family in terms of siblings right now, because you had several brothers and sisters. So from the beginning, or the oldest, can you tell me your brothers and sisters?

BS: My oldest brother is Tom, Tomomi. My second brother is Katsumi, and next is my sister Kiyoko and then me, and then I had a younger sister named Yuriko.

TI: Good, and your oldest brother, how much older than you?

BS: Oh, two, four, about six years, I guess.

TI: Okay, so it was like a two year difference between you.

BS: Right.

TI: Good. Okay, so that helps me, so in birth order you were the fourth, and then you mentioned your sister, younger sister died at a young age?

BS: No, she died, oh, I don't know, eight years ago or so.

TI: Okay, so, so... okay, so she's died. And are your older siblings alive?

BS: Yes.

TI: 'Cause you were born in 1929, so you are, you just turned eighty-one?

BS: Yes.

TI: Okay. Good.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So let's talk about kinda your early childhood memories. What are some things that you remember growing up as a young child in a farming family?

BS: Well, I remember sometimes we used to go around barefooted. It was just running around the farm, going to group picnics, like my parents were in a couple of Japanese groups and we would have picnics out at some park or go to the beach or sometime we would have movies, Japanese movies.

TI: So tell me about that. Japanese movies, what would, how would that work?

BS: Well, they would rent some kind of hall and they would get some outfit to show Japanese movies, and so the whole community would come out. This is out in the rural area and we weren't living in Los Angeles, and so I guess the rural people hardly went into town to see movies.

TI: And so it was a Japanese movie, did you understand the Japanese in the movie?

BS: No, not that much, but it was fun to watch those samurai films and, and so we just watched them, and it was also like a social gathering. We would go there and play with other kids your own age.

TI: I mentioned Japanese because I was actually curious, too, in terms of the language that you, that was spoken between you and your parents. How did you communicate with your parents?

BS: We had to speak Japanese with our parents, but with our friends it was all English. I think our Japanese, as kids, was very poor.

TI: And so things like Japanese language school, did you attend Japanese language school?

BS: Yeah, at El Monte we had to go once during the week, after the American school, and then on Saturday we would go, I don't know, from nine to three or something like that.

TI: And, so let me make sure, so on Saturdays you went from nine to three and during the week you also went, what, one day or every day?

BS: Once, once or twice a week. But I don't think we learned that much. We had only one teacher for the whole school. I don't know how many there were that, say, there were, like, forty, fifty students, it's pretty hard for one teacher to handle all of them.

TI: So there's a fairly large Japanese community in El Monte at this time, if there were forty to fifty maybe kids. I mean, there were quite a few families to support that.

BS: [Sneezes] I got the sneeze. Well, there were, in San Gabriel Valley, oh, there were maybe, at least half a dozen different Japanese schools, so just about every small community had their own Japanese school. It's amazing.

TI: And you mentioned earlier picnics, so the Japanese organizations, were they kenjinkai or were they Japanese language school picnics? What would, what were the groups, I guess, the organizations in, like, El Monte?

BS: Well, we did have Japanese schools, we had a judo, at a nearby town there was a kendo, and so I have photos of where several Japanese schools would get together and have a picnic. Let's see, so those kind of things were going on. We went to beaches.

TI: And in terms of the population at El Monte, what kind of percentage were, were Japanese, compared to the other groups?

BS: Gee, hard to say, but there were many Japanese farmers.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Well, when you think about your, let's go to regular school. So what was, let's talk about, yeah, what was your regular school like?

BS: Well, my, from the first through the fifth grade in El Monte we had a segregated school just for Japanese and Mexicans. I would say, I have a class photo where there was around half a dozen of us in a total class of, say, around forty students, so there might, there might have been, like, thirty-six Mexicans to, well, not thirty-six --

TI: Thirty-four to six, kind of.

BS: Yeah, right.

TI: So it was a segregated school, it sounded like... so a large proportion, almost eighty percent was, was Mexican, and then maybe twenty percent were Japanese.

BS: Right.

TI: Roughly, just roughly. So segregated school, that, that's a little unusual. So tell me about that, was that common in the San Gabriel Valley for schools to be segregated?

BS: No. There may have been couple of other segregated school and as I recall there were no protests. People just accepted those kind of schools, and it could've been good for, especially, I guess, the Mexicans. I have a photo that shows them barefooted and some of them were not even bringing lunches to school, so perhaps for them it was a good way to get used to the American way of life.

TI: So do you recall, for the segregated school, were there, like, special or different things that were done, an example being maybe the use of Spanish in the school more than a regular school would have? Or you mentioned some kids who didn't have food, were, were lunches provided? Do you recall anything like that?

BS: No, I don't recall any lunches provided. Nothing special. I don't think... the language was all English. There was nothing special, special program just for Mexicans or anything like that, but I think it was just a normal American curriculum.

TI: And so when earlier you said that it might have been a good transition for, for the Mexicans and maybe the Japanese to be in this school, so I'm not quite sure... why would that be a good transition to, to kind of a normal, a regular school?

BS: Well, I think it gets them used to the English language, English custom, to prepare them for higher grades, see. And I don't know if actually they did go to higher grades. My brothers have grammar school photos above the, above the fifth grade, and there's hardly any Mexicans in those photos, so they must've dropped out after the fifth grade.

TI: At the school they had Japanese also, and when I interview other Niseis about school, oftentimes, even at grammar school, the, the Japanese, the Nisei students were some of the better students. They excelled. So why would it be good for the Japanese to be at this school, because I mean, in terms of transition, would the Japanese need kind of that transition, too or what, what do you think about that?

BS: No, I don't think the Japanese needed that transition, although probably when they were, before grammar school they probably spoke a lot of Japanese and not much English, but still, the Japanese as a whole did very well in school, so you have to give credit to the prewar Japanese people on how much they excelled.

TI: Okay, good. So, so tell me a little bit about the other school. So I'm guessing the other school was white, and do you have any, what can you tell me about that? Was that close by? How large was it? What do you know about that school?

BS: Well, I went from the fifth grade through the seventh grade I went to a normal school when my family moved to Puente, and that school had about twenty percent Japanese and a few Hispanics and the rest were whites. I would say it was just a normal situation. I think all the Niseis were just as American as the whites and I think so were the Hispanics. It was just a normal situation. I don't think, at my school there were hardly any discrimination. We all got along very well.

TI: Now, you mentioned, so you went from El Monte to Puente, now the kids, the Japanese that were at Puente, did they attend a segregated school or were they always with the same classmates all the way through?

BS: Yeah. Right, they were the same classmates. There were no segregated schools to, in the area that I went.

TI: Okay, so that's, so for you, you had a different schooling from first to fifth. How well prepared, or how, what, did you feel like you were at a either advantage or disadvantage with what you went through versus what, say, the other Japanese who had been -- it's almost like an experiment, almost, in terms of you have one case where you went to one situation and these Japanese went to another and then you came together in these, what, sixth grade. I'm just curious if you felt like there was a difference in schooling between what you got and the other Japanese at Puente.

BS: Well, I think at that point, I don't think it made that much difference, but I think I sort of blame my lack of vocabulary to my going to that segregated school with all the Hispanics. My vocabulary is very poor.

TI: And that's in comparison to other Niseis, you would say? I mean, what, just in general?

BS: Right. In general people my age, I would say my vocabulary, compared to others, is on the poor side.

TI: Okay, interesting. And how, and how would say in terms of, so by being in a segregated school from one, first to fifth grade, you didn't have as much exposure or interactions with, with white students. How did that, do you think, change you or made you different than maybe other Niseis? Do you think there was a difference by not having that connection in the first through fifth grade?

BS: Maybe so. I do not mix with whites that much. Most of my friends are Japanese, although I do have a few white friends, but most of my friends are Japanese. I think this probably is the result of getting out of camp in 1945 and the feelings that, that came to me from leaving the camp.

TI: Okay, so I'm gonna ask you about that later. I'm gonna try to stay chronological.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: So, so we talked a little bit about school. I want to go back to, kind of your family life. Earlier you mentioned your father was a haul man, haul man who hauled the crops, but then I think later on he became a farmer and, and had his own farm?

BS: Yes.

TI: So can you tell me what kind of crops and the size of the farm? Or just describe the farm.

BS: Oh, size, I don't know, maybe twenty, thirty acres. At first his main crop was raspberries. I remember he had rhubarb. I don't know why rhubarb was so popular in those days, but farmers were growing rhubarbs. And then the other normal vegetables of cabbage and cauliflower and cantaloupes, romaine, those kind of things.

TI: And what was your role, or what kind of chores did you have as you got older on the farm? What kind of things did you do?

BS: Well, I just, I remember I started to learn how to drive a tractor and I... and then we used to grow a lot of cauliflower and I used to put the lids on the cauliflower crates, and I guess I did all kinds of things. I was kept busy on the farm. One thing I do remember, come to think of it, is that my neighbor was a white man, see, and he was a retired person and once a week he would work in Los Angeles City and so he had me feed his chickens, and so he gave me a nickel every time I fed the chickens, once a week. And I thought that was pretty good. A nickel, I could buy a ice cream cone at school, so it, it was a pretty good job.

TI: So that was like your first paying job. You got to keep the money and do what you want.

BS: Right. Right, and I used to save it.

TI: Well, so sometimes you bought a ice cream cone, but what would you save the money for? I mean, what you buy with the money?

BS: Well, I guess ice cream cone. I wouldn't buy clothes or anything like that with it. [Laughs]

TI: And so what would be, let's just talk about a typical day, say when you're, I don't know, like nine or ten years old, like, about how early would you rise and what would the typical chores and school and... just describe that for me.

BS: Must've got up six to seven o'clock in the morning, I think, and then get ready for school and get picked up by the bus.

TI: Well, like breakfast, did you have breakfast before?

BS: Right, right.

TI: So describe that, like would the whole family be there for breakfast or, describe all that for me.

BS: Yeah, okay. I think breakfast, we would all eat together, and I remember my mother used to make miso shiru for breakfast. I guess it wasn't the normal American style eggs and stuff like that, but it, it was sort of Japanese style, and I still remember that miso shiru in the morning. So then we would get ready to go to school and so my two sisters and I would go on the same bus to the same grammar school. Then we would attend the school, and I remember after the war started that we had a victory farm where we were asked to plant vegetables and I remember I had my own small piece of plot and I remember I grew spinach and it came out quite well, and we took it to the cafeteria. There was, I remember we put on a play, a Christmas play and we would have to memorize our lines and put on a performance. I remember having open house where we would display written materials that we did and have our parents look at it. I remember one day, yeah, this was just before the war started, we had a Japanese day in our class, and so the Japanese students brought Japanese things, some food or clothing, things like that, so we put on sort of a class, class thing and informed everyone in the class on, about the Japanese culture.

TI: And before the war, when you're doing things like this, how did you feel about being Japanese?

BS: I wasn't that conscious of being Japanese or being that different. Well, I guess we went to Japanese school, but I didn't feel like a minority at that time. I knew we were, we had our own separate picnics and things like that and we did not mix with the whites, but I didn't think anything of it at that time.

TI: Or how about, were there expectations by your parents or maybe Japanese language students that because you're Japanese there were certain things that, that you had to do or be careful about, or were there certain, yeah, added expectations by being Japanese?

BS: Well, we had to behave and we had to be good kids. They taught us all that kind of thing, to be honest and all, all that kind of thing, so in a way that was very helpful, and I think, and because of that, and I guess all the Isseis, knowing that they're minorities, they taught us these things to behave and to obey. That was a very good point for us Niseis and so I would say that we Japanese people were a very good group. We, we were good citizens.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Before we move on to the war years, I want to go back a little bit to El Monte, because we talked about that you attended a segregated school, a school with Mexicans and Japanese. Were there other things that were segregated in El Monte during the same time?

BS: Yes. We had a segregated swimming pool. Well I guess, I don't know if you call it segregated. It was open to Japanese and Mexicans just before the pool was to be cleaned. I guess that would be segregated, yeah. And then --

TI: So let me understand, so the, you have one swimming pool in the city and normally Mexicans and Japanese could not swim in it.

BS: Right.

TI: But then the, the time or the day right before they're gonna close it to be cleaned or drain it, that's when the Mexicans and Japanese could swim?

BS: Right. And then they had the movie theaters that I heard were segregated. I guess by the time I was going to movies there were no segregation, but I've heard of, of Mexicans and Japanese had to sit on the side.

TI: But, but you never got to go to the movies, so you didn't see that?

BS: No, I went to the movies, but by the time that I was going I didn't have to do that.

TI: Okay. Yeah, because by the time you went then you could sit anywhere.

BS: Right.

TI: And that was the same with Mexicans, too? You, do you remember that?

BS: I don't know if I recall if I saw Mexicans at the movies or not.

TI: Now, during this time, was there kind of a, almost a hierarchy in terms of the races, in terms of how people were treated? So you mentioned it's almost like we had already the segregation between the whites and then you had another Mexican and Japanese. Were, how were the Japanese perceived vis-a-vis the Mexicans during this time? Was, like, one placed higher than the other?

BS: Well, we thought that we were better than the Mexicans. Usually the Mexican people were, like, farm workers or something like that and they had their own barrios or little clusters where there were solid Mexicans, and that, that's the way they lived and I guess maybe it was good for them.

TI: How about treatment by, by the white population? Did you notice anything in terms of how they treated Japanese or Mexicans and if there was a difference in that?

BS: No, I was too young before the war to notice that kind of thing.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: So let's move to December 7, 1941. Do you remember that day?

BS: Yes.

TI: So describe what happened that day for you.

BS: Well, my oldest sister heard it on the radio, and so I remember her and my youngest sister discussed it outside the house and so my sister went into the field where my father was working and informed him, and that's all, about all I remember of December 7th. I don't think the full impact, I didn't feel it because it didn't mean that much to me at that time because I was so young. I didn't know what would happen to us, or I didn't even think about it. I was just twelve years old and it, that's all I thought about it.

TI: How about when you went to school the next day? Was there any difference or any comments or anything happening?

BS: They were, the students were discussing about the start of the war and... but soon after, everything was back to normal. I think we were just too young to really understand what was going on.

TI: Do you remember, like a, maybe like teacher or a principal ever saying anything to the class about what happened and anything about the Japanese?

BS: No. There were no assembly called or within each class, in my class nothing was said and it was just back to normal.

TI: Earlier you mentioned that after the war had started, they encouraged people to do victory gardens and so you, you said you started your own victory garden. Was that pretty common for other classmates to do the same thing?

BS: Yeah, I think the whole school was involved in something like that, and they were selling stamps, instead of war bonds which would, might cost like twenty dollars, I think they were selling war stamps for like ten cents, and so we would help the war effort by buying these stamps. And I guess we used to fill a book. You'd paste each stamp in a book and then if you got twenty dollar worth, then it's like a twenty dollar bond and I think you would eventually get twenty-five dollar for that when it matured.

TI: And, and who would you sell the stamps to, or where would you get the money to buy a ten cent stamp?

BS: Well, I guess I had to ask my parents and then the school, someone at the school was selling them. There was a lot of talk about helping the war effort, like the victory garden and the stamps and other patriotic things that we could all do to help with the war efforts.

TI: And so how did you feel during this time when you had all these patriotic actions like buying stamps and other talk about things like that? How did you feel when that was going on? Did you feel like you were a hundred percent American, or was there sort of this lingering sense of, of being Japanese or that the Japanese did this? I mean, how did you think about this?

BS: At that time, I didn't think of myself as Japanese or white or American or what. At our age I think it didn't matter and we didn't get into that kinda adult things. We were just kids and we went to school and studied and played and just did what normal twelve year old did, and the war was not our problem.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: Let's, let's move now into the spring of 1942, so a few months after the bombing at Pearl Harbor the FBI visits your house. Can you describe what happened and why they were there?

BS: Well, one day, on a Sunday, two men, two, yeah, two FBI men came, one, I guess my mother was inside, one stood outside the door and one went inside and I guess he rummaged around the house looking for anything that made my father look like an enemy spy or whatever. Back on December 7th my mother put away Japanese things and she left out a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, see. So anyway, on this Sunday when the two FBI men came, my father was not home and so one man looked around inside the house, couldn't find anything, so before they left they told us to have my father report to the police station. And so when my father came home he went to the police station and then they took him to this Tujunga internment camp in nearby Pasadena, and, and so he was taken there, and...

TI: Now, so the FBI didn't pick up everyone, they just picked up a few select people at this time. Why do you think they picked up your father?

BS: Because he was a member of this Japanese group, some kind of farmers' group, and he was probably one of the last to be picked up because he was a younger Issei. I imagine the older ones got picked up first, and so he was one of the last.

TI: And when this, when this was happening, what was the reaction of your mother?

BS: Well, I don't remember exactly what she went through, but I remember once a week a friend of ours whose own father was at the camp, he came down to our farm to pick up my mother and go to the Tujunga internment center. And I believe that particular action was the worst action that the government did to my family, of taking my father away from the farm and having my mother run the farm. My brother was a senior in high school, so he quit high school to help with, on the farm. We had some farm equipment, a tractor and those kind of things, and then when the evacuation into the camps started in the surrounding area, then my mother had to dispose of the farm and get ready for the --

TI: Well, tell me about, so dispose of the farm? So what does that mean, like selling the farm or, what did she do?

BS: We didn't own the land, okay. We leased the land. We owned the house on this leased land and so it entailed disposing of crops, growing crops, our house... I think that was the worst terrible thing that happened to us, up to that point, I guess.

TI: And part of it was just how hard it was for your mother because all of a sudden she had to take on the responsibility, and you older brother who had to quit school, kind of take on the responsibility of, of running a farm that your father was doing? Was that...

BS: Right. Right.

TI: And part of it, so your father was part of this farming, Japanese farming group. Was there ever an attempt by the family to get, like, legal representation or do anything to get your father out, out of the camp?

BS: Well, my father told my mother that if she could get affidavit, affidavits from our white friends pertaining to his good citizenship then he could be released, so she started that procedure, but before it was finished my father was transferred to the Santa Fe internment camp in New Mexico.

TI: And so you mentioned your mother was able to communicate because she visited your father at Tujunga?

BS: Yes.

TI: Do you know how many times she was able to do that?

BS: No, I don't remember.

TI: But it was more than once? You've mentioned a weekly kind of visit.

BS: Oh, yes. She was going every Sunday.

TI: Now, did any of the children ever get to go also, like your older brother or your older sister, anything like that?

BS: No, I don't remember that.

TI: And when she came back, did you ever get a, did she ever explain to you or the others what, what it was like at Tujunga?

BS: No, I don't remember that. Since I was the third son, she didn't speak to me about those kind of things. She probably spoke to my eldest brother.

TI: Okay. And then you mentioned that he was then transferred to Santa Fe before she could collect all the affidavits and get them there, so, so he went to Santa Fe, your mother had to dispose of things and get ready for leaving the farm, so describe that. I mean, how, like your house belongings, beds and dressers and all that, what happened to all that?

BS: I think we stored that with our landlord in his shed. That's all I could remember. I... that's all I could remember of what we did. It was only later that I found out the exclusion order on what is stated, that we were to report with only with what we could carry. See, I didn't know about that.

TI: And before we go to when you actually left, were there any farewells that you remember? Did you say goodbye to anyone like a teacher or any white friends or anything that you remember before you left?

BS: No.

TI: Was there anything said at school when, knowing that all the Japanese are now gonna be leaving, do you recall a teacher saying anything?

BS: No, I don't. I wish I had kept a record of all that.

TI: I'm just curious how those last days and, and kind of what it felt like for all of a sudden, twenty percent of the class to, to have to leave and what it was like. And whether or not any of the classmates said anything about what was going on.

BS: I think you need to talk to older people on that. I think that would be highly interesting.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: Okay, so let's talk about, so you have to leave, so where, where does your family go?

BS: We were taken by our workers to this park nearby. That was the assembly point where there were many Japanese there, and then we were taken by bus to this nearby Pomona Assembly Center.

TI: So how close was the Pomona Assembly Center to your farm?

BS: It was just over the hill, six, seven miles away.

TI: Okay, so not very far. Six, seven miles away, you go to the Pomona Assembly Center. And what was it like there? What was, how many Japanese were there?

BS: Well, there were fifty-five hundred of us there. It was, it was a fairground, Los Angeles County fairgrounds, and I remember it had high fences surrounding the place and there were guard towers, and just... we had these barracks. I guess they were something like twenty feet by hundred feet. I don't know how many rooms, there must've been four or five rooms in those barracks. Oh, the first day that we got there, we were given these canvas bags to fill them with straw and that was our mattress.

TI: And you were, like, twelve years old when this was all happening, so for you at twelve, what was it, was it like an adventure almost? Or what, how was it --

BS: Yeah, it, that's the word. It was a big adventure because I was not told I committed any kind of crime, so I'm just tagging along. I'm just, the group's going, so I went with them and... [laughs] just tagging along with the group.

TI: And so describe some of the, the things that you would do at Pomona. I mean, here you are, twelve years old, did you hang out with other boys your age or what, what did you do?

BS: Yes, I got together with my friends from where we came from and we used to just, well, there was nothing to do. We just got together and talked together and maybe roamed around the camp, and pretty soon they formed a softball team and so I got on the team and was able to play softball for the first time and that was a lot of fun. But I think the, the thing I remember a lot is the mess hall line. The mess hall was the cafeteria where we were fed three times a day and there were only three mess halls for fifty-five hundred of us, and so, you know, couple thousand people for each mess hall, so there'd be a long line for each of the three meals, and so one hour ahead before it was to open people were lining up, so it seemed like we spent all of our time there lining up for something.

TI: So they didn't do things like have people eat in shifts, like you have early shift, mid shift, late shift or anything like that?

BS: No. They didn't, they were not organized, and so at the very beginning we just lined up and if we didn't have enough to eat or didn't like the food that we were fed, then we would get in line at another mess hall. And I tried that several times, but then the authorities got wise to that so they issued us a little tag that we had to have to enter the mess hall.

TI: Now, when you were waiting in line and ate, did you do this with your family or with your friends?

BS: I guess at the beginning I ate with the family. At the, short time, then just all, you ate with your friends. You don't want to be caught with your parents. [Laughs]

TI: And so how did that affect the family when you and probably your older brothers also probably start eating with friends? I mean, how did that affect your, your mother at this point? Did she want the family to eat together?

BS: Well, maybe she did, but we all went our separate ways because we were old enough. People who were old enough to go around with groups of friends and that's what they did all day long, and so it was a big adventure. And I might mention the, another thing that was really enjoyable was the weekly talent show. They got all these musicians and singers and performers and they would put on these weekly talent shows and, oh, it was very good. There were many talented people. And so that was highly enjoyable. Of course, we're sitting in an open field on dirt ground, but overlooking all those kind of things, having to stay in a room twenty feet by twenty feet and sleeping on straw mattresses, there was some things that were enjoyable. Well, most of the things were bad, but a few things were enjoyable.

TI: And so when you say bad, what were some of the hard things about living there?

BS: Well, I mean, first of all it's the room. Just a room with our cots and nothing else. I don't think we even had a stove because it was summertime, and so with only one light bulb, no screens on the window, open ceilings where you could hear the noise of your neighbors, and in fact, they had those boards that you could see through to your neighbor. And there were no water or bathroom or anything like that in the room, and so I think that was probably the worst thing of that camp. And another thing it was we were confined in this small area with guards around the place, and so we had that loss of freedom. But despite that, I played softball, had fun doing that, enjoyed the talent show, and then all the adults had a softball league. They were amazing, the, the softball that they played, so it was really nice to watch all these very good ballplayers play softball. It was a first-time experience for a farm boy to get in this kind of situation, but of course, we had no money to buy things or no bicycles or nothing like that.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: Did you, at Pomona you have all these different communities coming together. Some are like, like you from farming communities, but others are from a more urban, like Los Angeles. Did you notice differences in kind of culture or how they did things based on whether they were farm versus city?

BS: Oh, that was apparent right away. Those Los Angeles people were really different. Well, I guess who were different were the young adults. Boys and men, they wore zoot suits, you know the pegged pants and long coats and pachuko haircut, long haircuts, and so those people really stood out and made us even afraid of them, like they were gangsters or what. [Laughs] So it was really something for a farm boy, to see those kind of different types of people.

TI: And how about boys your age from the city? Did you get to know any of them as, as friends and, and see differences that way?

BS: Yeah, I think that the younger ones were, were just like anyone else. But those older people, there weren't that many, but they really stood out and it was a big shock.

TI: And, and tell me, did they hang out together and were they always at a certain place? I mean, when you think of the zoot suiters, what, describe kind of, yeah, where they were.

BS: They, they did stick to themselves, as a group, and that's how they stood out. And so it was, it was really an education for me. And what was amazing, there was, I saw a few white people in the camp and I thought that was kind of strange, but later on you find out they were married to Japanese people.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: You mentioned earlier your father, so he went Tujunga, then to Santa Fe, but he joined the family at Pomona?

BS: Yes, he was released and so he joined us at Pomona and so we were all together again.

TI: Now, did you notice any changes in your father after spending time at Santa Fe and Tujunga? Did he seem different in any way?

BS: No.

TI: So physically he looked the same, and, and in terms of his character or his personality, nothing changed?

BS: Nothing changed.

TI: Okay. Did he ever talk about what happened at Santa Fe or Tujunga, what it was like?

BS: No, I don't remember him talkin' about it. He probably talked to my elder brothers. See, I'm the youngest son and so I was left out on a lot of the family talks.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So around August 1942, after several months at Pomona, you then are moved to another camp. So why don't you talk about the journey, from leaving Pomona and what that was like?

BS: Well, we boarded this train at Pomona and we headed south toward the desert. I, just by reading the signs as we went through various towns, so we went south from Pomona into Arizona and into Texas for a little bit, and then I remember going through the hills of New Mexico to Colorado into Wyoming, through this beautiful place called Wind River Canyon, then we came to Wyoming. I think at one of the stops at Colorado there were groups of Japanese there greeting us, and I don't know how they found out, but they were there, a group of them. And then one thing that I do remember about that train ride is the MP came around and told us to pull the blinds down whenever we passed through a town or passed an oncoming train. I guess they didn't want people to see trainloads of Japanese in them.

TI: Any other memories on this, on this trip?

BS: No, just watching the sceneries.

TI: So I noticed by the, the date and when you were born, you turned thirteen about this time.

BS: Oh yeah, right. I became thirteen on that trip.

TI: So you became a teenager on, on this trip. How did you celebrate turning thirteen?

BS: We don't celebrate too much on our birthdays, so it was just another day.

TI: Did anybody at least say "happy birthday" to you?

BS: I don't remember that.

TI: Do, did you remember? Did you know that you turned thirteen?

BS: Yes, I did.

TI: Any, any memories of what you thought when you were turning thirteen about what was happening or any, any thoughts?

BS: No. It was, well, it was getting exciting, this train ride, going through all these places I never been to. It was a good occasion like, because I was not charged with a crime, I'm just tagging along.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: Okay, so Bacon, we're gonna start the second section, and what we had talked about the first hour was kinda your early childhood all the way up to Heart Mountain, so let's talk about when you first arrive at Heart Mountain. What, what did you see? What was it like?

BS: Well, it's a big place with all these barracks, these tarpaper barracks. It, I didn't know what to think of it. First time I'd been to a place like that. We had this room of twenty feet by twenty-four feet for our family of seven. I guess we accepted it at that time, but when I think about it it's, I have a different feeling. But anyway, when we got there we accepted what was given to us. Within my family or even within my friends, I didn't hear complaining, and so we just accepted the situation and it's amazing that we didn't protest or have marches or all that kind of thing. And, and luckily I guess, we were the one that were put into the camp.

TI: I'm sorry, say that one more time. You, luckily you were? Or, I didn't quite get it.

BS: Well, luckily that the Japanese race was put into the camp. I think if it were maybe some other race maybe there would have been a different reaction. I think we just went, we obeyed, we thought that what was happening was legal and so...

TI: So that's kind of an interesting comment. So it's almost like the Japanese were maybe the only group that would've gone, would've allowed this to happen, that other groups would've kind of stopped it, or not gone along with it, you think?

BS: I don't know. Other groups may have protested, destroyed the place, set the place on fire or something like that.

TI: Well, think back, 1942, I think of America, United States being a very different place, too, that pretty much a lot of people, there was maybe a larger respect for the government or authority back then than today. Or do you, do you think that the Japanese were in particular more, as a group, to go along with, with things like this?

BS: I think Americans in general at that period of time obeyed the government and thought that whatever it did was correct. It wasn't until much later that they started to question what the government did, and people --

TI: Right, and so that's why I was thinking, when you made your comment that, that the Japanese, luckily it was the Japanese because they would go along with it, I was just wondering if you thought other groups would have done something differently back in 1942. Like for instance, you grew up with a lot of Mexicans, Mexican Americans. How do you think they would've handled the situation?

BS: I don't know. Depending upon their leaders, I guess, how they led the people. Maybe they would've gone along, too. I'm not sure, but it seems that maybe some of the group would have protested and, and maybe tried to burn the place down or rushed the armed guards or something like that -- which did happen at the Tule Lake camp and somewhat at the Manzanar camp, but it never did happen at Heart Mountain. I mean, there were small protest, but not large enough and not publicized.

TI: And so why do you think there was differences in the different camps? You mentioned Tule Lake and Manzanar and then you were at Heart Mountain, why some camps and not others? There were ten of them and there were only a few instances of sort of protest like this.

BS: Well, I think, I don't what to fault the Kibeis, but I think within that group there were probably a few who were anti-U.S. and would have done something radical, but I guess that's due to the questionnaires we had that they were segregated into the Tule Lake camp, and so who were left at Heart Mountain were mostly the peaceful type. But, although there were a few protestor within the Heart Mountain camp, they were not, what they did was not publicized. I mean, we had people who threatened to leave the camp and, just to test the authority, but those kind of actions were not publicized. It was through later research, looking at the administrative papers that those things happened were brought to light.

TI: So this brings up an interesting kind of issue or question for communities when something like this happens. So, 'cause I think you, you've said this already, that what happened to the Japanese and Japanese American community was an injustice. It wasn't needed. It wasn't necessary. And yet when something like this happens, what should the appropriate response be? I mean, should there be protests or should the community sort of go along peacefully? I mean, there is kind of this, this split in terms of some people saying, "Well, no, we should protest, fight it," versus others, "Well, no, we just have to make the best of the situation and, and go peacefully." I mean, what's your, your sense of what, of what happened or what should have happened?

BS: We should have protested more vigorously at the time. I think, looking back at the records, we could have maybe stopped the evacuation into the camp. Because during February when President Roosevelt signed the executive order, there was feelings that perhaps we shouldn't have been, we didn't need to be sent to the camps. It was, looks like the pressure from outside group, you know the white farmers and the people who wanted to take over the Japanese business or people who just wanted the Japanese out of the West Coast, they pressured the authority into getting this executive order signed.

TI: And so your feelings are if, at that point, if more Japanese Americans had protested and raised their voices, the whole, the camp situation wouldn't have happened? It could've been avoided.

BS: I think so.

TI: But so, and now, going into the camps, now that the camps have happened, there were these disturbances or these protests at, at Manzanar and Tule Lake, were those good things? Now that you're in the camp, what do you think about that? Do you think more of those things should've happened also? 'Cause here you're saying it's good to have, if we had protested before the camps it may have stopped it, but now that you're in the camps, should there have been more protests also inside the camps?

BS: Well, like at Heart Mountain there should've been. I don't know too much about what happened at Tule Lake because there was pro Japan groups within there. We didn't have that kind of group at Heart Mountain. I think at Heart Mountain we had groups that protested the unconstitutionality of the camp and I think if the actions of what they did were more publicized, then we could've gotten better results.

TI: So more organization like, I think you're referring to the Fair Play Committee that was organized in Heart Mountain that, sometimes they're associated with the, the resistance to the draft, but as you, as you mentioned, I think if you look at what they wrote it was more about the, trying to regain their rights as U.S. citizens. It was what they were, it was more of a civil rights action in terms of their, of what they thought.

BS: Right. Well just, just before the Fair Play Committee was formed there was another group called the Congress of American Citizens or some group, something like that. It was formed to protest the unconstitutionality of the camp. If that group was more publicized then maybe some action would have been taken. And even the draft resistance, I think the word "draft" in there gives a negative connotation to what they were trying to do, but essentially they were trying to right a wrong of what the government did and maybe if they were successful something could have been done at that time. Although it was, by the time they started doing things it was 1944.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: We, we sort of got off on a tangent, which is really interesting. I love this discussion, but I want to go back more to your life. Heart Mountain, you talked about arriving, going into a barrack twenty by twenty-four for a family of seven, so let's, why don't we start by just, so how did a family of seven organize itself in this, in this room?

BS: We spread out the seven beds. I think to save space we put two beds together and to use common blankets over the two beds, and so we had to kind of put them in the corner. And we had this coal burning stove and we had this homemade little table and I guess we had a couple of benches, so it was a really a crowded situation. But we ate in the mess hall and we went to the laundry room for our showers.

TI: And how was life different than Pomona?

BS: Well, I, we started to have school at Heart Mountain. I guess Heart Mountain was better organized. We kids had more things to do. At first we used to just roam around in gangs. I'd say a dozen of us boys would get together and just roam around the camp because we had nothing to do, and so then we would get into trouble, then... it really was a bad situation.

TI: So when you say get into trouble, what would be an example of a group of boys getting into trouble?

BS: We roughed up the youngest member of our group and so he told his parents and so we got called into the police department and we were bawled out by the police chief, but luckily he didn't tell our parents, and so, and so nothing bad happened to us. But just a situation where we had no facilities --

TI: So I want to go back to that story. So here you get pulled into the, the police station and the police chief bawls you out, so that sounds like a reprimand, but you would be more afraid of your parents than the police chief on something like this? You said at least you didn't get in trouble, that your parents didn't know? I mean, what would your parents have done?

BS: I guess they would just bawl us out and that'll be the end of it and maybe we would behave better. But we weren't that bad of kids.

TI: Okay. I was just curious if, if your parents were worse than the police chief in terms of discipline. I was just curious how that, how that played out. So what were, like, besides school, what were some other organized activities that you did?

BS: Well, because we didn't have anything to do, then the authority came to us. They would see a group of kids playing around and they said, "Okay, we're gonna form a football team," and they would supply us with a coach and we had a football team. And there would be other teams around the camp and so we had football games. And that was pretty good. Then later on we had basketball teams. We had softball teams. The authority came to us; we didn't go to the authority and say, "Hey, how about doing something for us?"

TI: So do, they were just worried about you guys. They were concerned that they don't do something then you'll get into trouble, so they tried to do something proactively, I guess.

BS: Right.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

BS: And so that's how Scouting started, and so we started a Boy Scout troop and it turned out to be a very good thing.

TI: And so did you do, like, camping and hiking outside of the camp?

BS: Yeah, the first camping, just right outside the fence, the Boy Scout officials put up a big tent and they even had cots in it and so that was our first camping trip, right out the, outside the fence. And the parents cooked for us. [Laughs] So we just spent a couple of nights in that tent. But then later on we boys got together and we, we decided that we would go camping out to the river. There was a river nearby. And so we went to the mess halls and begged for wieners and bread, and then we took our blankets and we went down to the river and made a small tent out of our blanket. And there was a watermelon patch right there by the river which was part of the camp, and so one of the boys had a knife and so we started to look around that watermelon patch to find a ripe one, and so we would plug it to see how ripe it was and if it wasn't ripe enough we just left it there and kept plugging watermelons. Then when we found a good one then we took it back to the, to our tents. And then later on that day it started to rain a lot, and so our parents at the camp got worried and they came looking for us, and so we had to go back to the camp. And then a few days later there was a camp bulletin, a mimeograph newsletter that came out during the week, and it said some people got into the watermelon patch and destroyed some of the melons. [Laughs] I could laugh now, but boy, I was scared when I read that and that's one thing that I'm really ashamed of being a part of. It was that guy that had that knife.

TI: But don't you think most people would just see it as a group of boys just being kind of mischievous boys in doing this? I mean, do you think it was...

BS: Yeah, we were just stupid.

TI: I mean, was, was there, in some ways it sounds like a really rich time to be thirteen, fourteen years old with boys exploring. Was it ever dangerous? Did anyone ever get hurt when you guys were off doing things on your own?

BS: No. I think the first thing we did, I remember, when we got to the camp was we got these cardboard boxes and from, from that we made shields and we threw dirt clods at each other. That's about the only thing we could do. There was nothing for us. And so we could have hurt each other on that. And then another time we went hiking. We were, at first we had this barbed wire fence around the place and we were not allowed to go outside, but later on we were allowed to go beyond the barbed wire fence and wander around and go hiking all over, and so I remember one day we were hiking and we ran across this rattlesnake. And so I had a hiking stick and I whacked it, and it broke my stick with a sharp edge so I was able to cut the head off. I should've saved the head and I should've saved that rattler. That would've been a really, a good souvenir. Yeah, and then I guess one of us caught one of those ticks, little ticks that bite you.

TI: How about the nearby towns, did you guys every go hiking or visit the towns nearby?

BS: Yeah, they, they allowed us to go shopping at a couple of nearby towns, so we had an advisor to our group and he said, "Oh, you guys should go outside to know what the outside would look like." And so one day we got a pass and we got on this bus and went to this town, and we looked around and, boy, these mini stores had these "no Japs" signs. I believe that's the first time I saw the word "Japs" and it really scared me. And so maybe that was about the first instance where I felt I'm a minority or I'm the enemy, and I still remember that.

TI: So you saw this sign, how did the white people treat you in the town?

BS: Well, I guess some of the shop owners didn't like us and didn't want our business, but other shop owners wanted our business because, because of war time and there were no more tourists in the area, but mostly, according to the newspapers and all that, they didn't want us and they didn't like us.

TI: Okay. I wanted to go back in terms of the schooling. How well do you think the schools operated? How, I guess how good was the education at the school you went to?

BS: The first year we had classes in the barracks, and these rooms were sixteen by twenty, twenty feet by twenty, and twenty feet by twenty-four feet, and they had open ceilings so you heard noise from all the classrooms. We had no, what do you call, the, the board to write...

TI: No black, blackboards?

BS: Yeah, no blackboards, no books. We had teachers from the outside, white teachers, but I think the first year was a waste. Then the second year we had a brand new high school, and so that was a lot better. So I guess the schooling there was pretty good.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: Any other memories of Heart Mountain you want to talk about?

BS: Well, when I was in the Boy Scouts we went to Yellowstone, in 1944. The camp director felt that we youngsters were too much under the control of the, our Issei parents with the Japanese ideas and so the camp director contacted Yellowstone National Park and found these empty barracks, and so five hundred Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts spent one week at Yellowstone.

TI: So five hundred all from Heart Mountain camp?

BS: Yes. I mean, that was one of the good things the camp director did.

TI: Tell me about this Yellowstone experience. What did you do? What was it like?

BS: Well, it was a beautiful place. We went on trucks and we came to this barrack and then we were taken for a tour of the, Yellowstone. I remember there was a place called Grand Canyon with a beautiful fall and we saw all those geysers, and so it was a pretty good trip. My father made me a fishing pole, something like a five foot pole, and so I, when I got to Yellowstone I dug for worms and I put it on the hook and I couldn't catch anything, so I left the worm in the water overnight, and the next morning there was a trout on it, so then I took that to the cafeteria. But then later on I found out that that's against the law to leave a line in the water unattended.

TI: That's good. So how long were you at Yellowstone?

BS: One week. So it was a, really a good trip.

TI: And did the, the camp, well, not camp, but park rangers and all that talk to the group and things like that?

BS: Yeah. I believe at night we did have a big bonfire and have some talks.

TI: And was it like a typical camp experience where there's singing and things like that, camp songs?

BS: I believe so.

TI: Okay. Yeah, I didn't know about that. That's a new one for me. Any other memories of Heart Mountain?

BS: We did all kinds of thing. It was snow country. First time we seen snow and we went ice skating, sledding in the snow, hiking all over, so it was a big adventure for the teenagers. We had no worries, no responsibility. It was a different world for us teenagers.

TI: And was, was it harder for your parents or for older Niseis, being in the camps?

BS: Well, I think it was hard for them to lose their properties and their homes, and they lost everything. But once, I guess, they got adjusted to camp life, my parents were going to all kinds of different classes. My father went to a singing class, a penmanship class. My mother was going to some kind of sewing or knitting class, and, and so it was a time, a sort of a vacation from what they were doing before the war. The word "vacation" is a bad word to use, but it was a forced vacation. We would have been better off if we had been left alone where we were at.

TI: Okay. So let's, let's now kind of move away from Heart Mountain --

BS: Oh, there's one thing I got to put in here. In 1945 -- my father is a drinker. He loved to drink, and he even used to make his own Japanese wine before the war, and so in 1945, I think when he went out to work in Colorado, he brought back with him some special wine rice. You can't just use ordinary eating rice, but you got to get this special rice to make wine, so he got this rice and I helped him make these special boxes to steam cook rice on the, top of the stove, and once you cooked the rice we would dump it in this big vat, and then he would let that ferment and after a while it'll start smelling and my, I remember my sister saying that she didn't want to bring her friends over because it was so smelly. And then once the rice was fermented to the right stage, my father put it into a big canvas bag and then we made a box, size of a apple box, and he got some paraffin wax and we got the wax and melted it on top of the stove and then we coated this box so it'll be waterproof, and then we got this canvas bag full of this fermented stuff, put it in that box and put a weight on that bag, and then this pure sake, the wine would come dripping out. And my father was pretty good in making that, so I helped him make that. I read in the newspaper later on that people were getting arrested for making wine, but that was pretty good of my father because alcohol was not allowed in the camp.

TI: And when he was all finished, when the two of you were all finished with it, how, how did he celebrate, or did he have friends over? I mean, how did he drink the sake?

BS: Well, he brought a few friends over and they would drink together. Other time I remember when he went outside to work, he would sneak in liquor because my father just loved to drink.

TI: Now, because you helped so much, did he let you try any of...

BS: No, I didn't even try. I guess I wasn't interested. I should've tried it.

TI: [Laughs] After doing all that work, I'd, I think I would be curious to try it. So anything else before we, we leave Heart Mountain? Anything else, any other stories or memories?

BS: No, that's about it that I could think of right now.

TI: If you remember something else we can come back.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: So where did you go after Heart, where'd the family go after Heart Mountain?

BS: Well, the war ended in 1945 and so the camp was closing, and so my father found a farm in Idaho to pick potatoes, so I remember that bus ride that we took to Idaho.

TI: So who, who was now still with the family at this point? So end of the war, it was your father, mother, you and who else?

BS: My oldest brother was in the army. He was in Europe. My second brother graduated high school and he was working in Cleveland, Ohio, and so in the camp were my parents and my two sisters, the five of us, and so in 1945 in the summer, we boarded this bus for Idaho. And I remember it was sort of strange and sort of scary to go outside. I was almost sixteen. And so we got to Idaho, and we, we were put into this house, very small house. It had a coal burning cooking stove. That was the only source of heat. It had running water. The water, I guess it's called the cistern, underneath the house was this concrete, concrete something holding water. The water was coming from the ditch, irrigation ditch next to the house. That water was coming from the river, and so that water from the ditch was going into the cistern. And so it was this small house that we lived in and one day the irrigation ditch was shut off for something, and I remember there were puddles of water and I went down into the ditch and I caught several trout. But that's the way it was in rural Idaho.

TI: And how did it feel for you to be out? You said at first it seemed a little scary and different, but now that you weren't at Heart Mountain, what did it feel, just being out?

BS: Well, it wasn't too bad in Idaho because when I went to school, I saw a couple of my friends from the camp, but there were some Japanese at the school because there were a lot of Japanese farmers in that area, so it wasn't too bad in Idaho. But later on after the potato harvest was done and there were no more work, so we decided to go back to California. And so we got on this train and, oh, it was full of these returning servicemen in uniform, and so that was a scary situation to me. We, five of us, man, we just sat in our -- no, there was four of us. My father went ahead. We just sat in our chair in that train, didn't hardly speak. Now I remember that when we left the camp, I don't know who it was that told us not to speak Japanese in public, and so we were always aware of that, so going back to California in that train was a little scary. So anyway, we got to --

TI: When you say scary, was, did anything ever happen? Did anyone say anything to you or make any comments?

BS: No. No one said anything to us, but just seeing those soldiers in uniform made it a tense situation, and so luckily there was no incident and so everything went okay.

TI: And you felt this way even though you had a brother who was serving in the military? He was in the army, but you still felt this, this tension, this stress?

BS: Right. Well, I mean, we didn't think about that.

TI: Think about what?

BS: A brother being in the army.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: Okay, so you return to California. Was this back to the Pomona area?

BS: No, we went, actually, we had no place to stay and so my father got a army squad tent, which is, I don't know how, very small, twelve feet by twelve feet or something like that, and he put it up in the backyard of our former landlord, right across the street from where we used to live. And I guess my father, I don't know, was trying to get our farm back or we had our stuff stored in the shed. They were all gone. I don't remember hardly anything about living in that tent. I think that just got blocked out of my mind. I tried to get some information from my, from my brother and sister, but they don't remember hardly anything at all. But boy, I'm telling you, we lived in that tent. I don't know how we survived. We had to go to the bathroom and cook and eat and... so anyway, we found this farm in Pomona, so we went there and it was just an old shack, so, so we got, we started farming again and it was a big struggle. I guess we didn't have that much money and it gets, it takes money to start a farm. We had a icebox, I remember. Every day this white man would come with a big cake of ice on his shoulder and come into the house and put it in the icebox. See, this was right after the war and you couldn't buy appliances, no refrigerator or washing machine or anything like that. And we had no washing machine, so I remember getting a washtub and making a fire underneath it to make warm water for my mother to do the laundry. We had one of those old style Japanese bath house, just a little house and in it was a tin tub, might measure three feet by five, six feet. I remember I had to light the fire, firewood. That was my chore. Before dinner, light the fire. Boy, that was really something.

TI: When you, when you remembered that you got a little emotional about doing that.

BS: Well, that's something, yeah, that we did. We didn't, there was no gas, natural gas line going to the, our farm.

TI: But we've gone kind of through your life and it almost sounds like this, this period right now may have been the hardest.

BS: It is. I think after camp, so far as I'm concerned, as my interpretation of what happened, was the worst part of my experience. I think it started, well, I guess somehow, I was told not to speak Japanese in public, getting on that bus to Idaho, living in the house, that train ride to California, how we lived in Pomona, and not only we, we had this shack and then we had this garage, open garage like... a friend came looking for a place to stay and they saw that garage, it was just a open garage where we put our tractor and some stuff there, and gee, they, I don't know if my father said it was okay for them to come or not, but they came over and they started to fix up that place and they moved in. And then after a few months they found a better place, so they left. As soon as they left, I guess word got around that there's a place at Sakatani's place, open house. It's just a junky old place. Then another family came, lookin' for a place, and so they moved in. And then they had a relative that didn't have a place, so they moved in and they worked for us. And then they moved out. They found a better place. And then another family came in, always word getting around about our open place. And then another family came, driving in this 1935 Chevrolet coupe, just a front-seater, but behind the seat was this ledge. They cut out the ledge so that a couple of kids could sit there and they put some benches. They were in Idaho with us, so they came driving down looking for a place. So we had this, another shed, just a small shed, so they moved in there, so we let them farm some of our acreage. And then we were using our tractor during the day, so then they would use the tractor at night. We put headlights on the tractor. But I'm telling you, those... well, we got through that.

TI: This was, as hard as it was for you, it sounds like other families had it even harder.

BS: Yeah. We had it pretty good compared to others. But there were, well, we, we just... that's the way it was. We didn't protest or nothing.

TI: But so much is made of, of the camp experience, but I think what you just shared is, in some cases -- and I've heard this with other people -- it was really after the camps was, was the hardest time, that because one, a lot was taken away when you had to leave your homes initially, and in living in the camps you had food and housing, but then after that you were just left on your own with nothing, and that was such a hard time especially for the Issei.

BS: Right. You know, and I didn't hear my parents complain or anything like that. I think what we went through was just what happens when countries go, go to war, and Japan is the enemy country so it seems like they accepted it as just the way it was in those days. And so even we Niseis, we didn't know any better, so I guess we just went along with it, too. We were pretty stupid.

TI: I wouldn't say stupid. I think, you know, it was just, you weren't really given much, much other, many other choices. I mean, I think you were put in that situation.

BS: Yeah, you're right. We had no other choices. Well, we just thought differently in those days than people today.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: How did people in Pomona, after you, you're living there, how did the white community accept the Japanese after they, now that they're back, they're coming back?

BS: We were accepted because there weren't too many Japanese in the area. When my sister and I went to high school we were the only Japanese there, and so we were not discriminated against or anything. We were just ignored. At the high school I hardly knew anyone.

TI: So when you say ignored, you mean like, like not included in activities and social functions, kind of like that?

BS: Right. But maybe it was because of choice. I'm not an outgoing person. I don't... and so I guess that's the way I am that I was not included in a lot of the activity. The only thing I do remember about that high school is that when I was a senior we had to go up to the front of the class and give a short talk about something, so, so I remember I went up, I gave a, I gave a talk on "I am an American, too." And I spoke about going to the camp and I guess they didn't know a thing about it. I don't know what made me do that. I'm just surprised that I did that. "I am an American, too." Stupid.

TI: And what was the reaction of your classmates or the teacher?

BS: Oh, they just didn't say anything, which was, I guess, a good thing. I mean, they didn't jeer me or anything like that.

TI: But you said that many or some didn't know anything about the camps. How did you know they didn't know anything about the camps?

BS: Well, there was no reaction. I just said what I said and sat down and, and that was it.

TI: So after high school, what did you do?

BS: I went to two years of junior college there.

TI: And what did you study in junior college? What was your...

BS: Drafting. So then after I graduated I couldn't find a job and, but soon after the Korean War started and so I was drafted right away and I took my infantry training, and then I was pulled out of my group. The rest of 'em went somewhere. I don't know where they went, but I was pulled out and before I knew it I was on this ship to Korea, and so I ended up with this combat engineer group. And so luckily for my drafting training I was made a draftsman over there in Korea, so I got a good job. So luckily for my training, I served in the combat engineers, I drew bridges back there in the... it was a good experience.

TI: While you were in the military, did you ever hear about things like the 442 or the MIS or any of the older Niseis and what they did during World War II?

BS: No. I didn't read that much and I barely knew anything about them. I do remember that when I was on guard duty that I was thinking, gee, I wonder if these, my fellow soldiers know that I was in a concentration camp during World War II, that I'm guarding them? I thought, I actually thought that.

TI: That's, that's good.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: So what happens after the, your military service? What do you do next?

BS: I went back to the farm and then my brother and I opened up this produce market, and we did quite well.

TI: And this is in Pomona?

BS: No. We moved back to West Covina where we were before the war. So my brother and I opened up this produce market. We did pretty good, and so we opened up a larger grocery store with another partner, but we were too young. We didn't know how to run a business and before long we were ready to go broke, so we sold the business. So then I went back to the farm for a short while. Then I became a gardener. Gardeners were in big demand, Japanese gardeners, so I became a gardener, but that was hard work. So I started to go to night school to learn computer programming.

TI: So what year would this be in terms of learning computer programming?

BS: Let's see, I got married around 1957. Oh, '63 or four or five, around there.

TI: So this is very, very early in the computer industry then?

BS: Yeah, they just had that, one of the first computer, 1401 something, IBM.

TI: So what programming language are you learning in the...

BS: It's called 1401 Assembly Language.

TI: Okay, well... okay, so this is, so you're in night school, and when you finish night school what happens?

BS: I found a job at the, at first as a computer operator. Then I got me a job as a programmer, and so I went from company to, from company to, from different companies to get ahead, and so finally I retired in 1992.

TI: All, and you stayed pretty much all doing computer programming during all this time?

BS: Yes.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: Let's, let's talk, so let's switch gears, and around the early '80s you attended, I think, your first Heart Mountain camp reunion?

BS: Yes.

TI: Do you remember that, in like 1982?

BS: Right.

TI: So describe that. What was the first reunion like?

BS: Oh, it was, it was really tremendous to have, I don't know, we had a full house of eight hundred, nine hundred people. It was really a wonderful feeling to get together with all of your friends from the camp. It was, it was really tremendous. So I was part of the committee that put that on, and my job for that reunion was to put on a slideshow about the history of the camp and I didn't know too much about the camp, so I went to the library and looked up in the books about the camp, and boy, I was just amazed at what was written about the camps. I didn't know a thing about all the illegalities and all of that about the camps, and, and so I guess that was the start of my research on the camp.

TI: So now you're becoming much more aware of, of the reasons why it happened and all that, but going back to the reunion, though, why a reunion? Why in 1982 did people want to put on a reunion?

BS: To get together with their friends. It was a place where we were not the minority. We were all the same. We got to know a lot of people, and so for the teenagers it was, well, it was a different kind of experience and we had this bond, and we just had to get together to, to see our old friends.

TI: And so where, where was the first reunion? Where'd you hold it?

BS: In Los Angeles.

TI: And where in Los Angeles? Do you remember?

BS: I believe it was the Hotel Regency.

TI: And do you recall what kind of program you had for the first reunion?

BS: We had Norman Mineta as speaker, Bill Hosokawa as another speaker. I think we, one of the orchestra, we had a orchestra at the camp and one of the members of that orchestra put together a band to play for us, I put on a slideshow, we had exhibits. So it was a, really a successful event.

TI: Now, how did, this was the first one, how did you get in touch with people to let people know?

BS: Well, I guess through word of mouth, newspaper, and so we had to turn people away.


Okay, so Bacon, we're gonna start the third hour now and where we ended up that last segment was you had just described the first Heart Mountain reunion, which, I didn't hear about this, it's pretty amazing how large it was, how many people came, how much fun and then later on how it continued over time. So I guess my question is how did that reunion change you?

BS: Well, since that reunion I would say I have not stopped working on Heart Mountain. I have not stopped. Just one thing or another led to other Heart Mountain activity and it has been a continuous, just continuous since that 1982 reunion.

TI: And, and what changed for you that made Heart Mountain become so important to you?

BS: It's a fascinating place. It really has a fascinating history, not just the place itself but all the people connected with it.

TI: So that was about twenty-eight years ago, that, that reunion, 1982.

BS: Wow.

TI: It's, yeah, twenty-eight years. So describe some of the things that you did that, you said you haven't stopped working on Heart Mountain, so after that first reunion, what else did you do?

BS: Well, so I have to go to Heart Mountain. I met these Caucasian people who came to our reunion who were from Heart Mountain, so in 1984 I went to Heart Mountain and, boy, I could feel my heart pounding when I got close to the camp and I saw this chimney that was part of the camp. I recognized that chimney and I, I remember I, the anticipation as I got --

TI: So Bacon, why don't, before you tell the story, when you do that with your mike, it hits the mike, so we can't hear you, so, so tell the story from when you saw the chimney again, but don't, but don't hit your mike.

BS: Yeah. I felt it within my body that I was returning to this place. It wasn't a place of all the bad things that we went through, but I was going back to my boyhood home of three years, and boy, I really felt it. I don't know why, but I really felt it. And so I got to the camp area, looked around. I met, the friend whom I met at the reunion, and the first thing I wanted to do was to hike to the top of Heart Mountain. See, Heart Mountain is this high peak. And so we did that.

TI: And why did you want to do that?

BS: Because I couldn't do it while I was at the camp and this friend had a four wheel drive that could drive most of the way up there, see.

TI: And how did you change by visiting Heart Mountain?

BS: Well, I don't know. I just did a lot of research, I went to the University of Wyoming six, seven times to look at the original camp administrative papers, I looked at all of the newspaper accounts of, Wyoming newspaper accounts. I was just totally amazed at what was written. It was, it said the war was ready to start. It's all in the headlines. I couldn't believe it. And all these headlines of "Jap this" and "Jap that," "ten thousand Japs gonna come through Heart Mountain to this concentration camp." It's all in the headline and it was just amazing, and so I, I just copied everything and put everything into my computer and got this tremendous, large file on all these papers of Heart Mountain. And not only the research, all these activities that came around Heart Mountain, just a endless journey since that 1982 reunion. And it's still going on. I can't believe it.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: Well, in addition to the, the research you're doing, you are speaking out more about, about Heart Mountain. I mean, in particular, on one of your trips to Wyoming you spoke at a Republican fundraiser. Do you remember that?

BS: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I remember that.

TI: So describe, describe what that was like and some of the people you met at that fundraiser.

BS: Senator Alan Simpson was there. The only congressman from Wyoming was Dick Cheney, and I remember that event Senator Simpson was just making fun of Dick Cheney, just ripping him apart. Anyway, the main thing about that fundraising thing was to auction off this dinner plate that Senator Simpson was to sign, and so we had this auction. So I wanted that plate and so I made the highest bid, and so then I followed Senator Simpson to his house and he and his wife signed this plate for me. Oh, at the, at that fundraiser they asked me to say something since I was from the camp and I remember I said, "I hold no bitterness toward you people here in Wyoming, and I want to honor the soldiers who were killed from the camp." And I guess I didn't know too much history about the camp at that point. I would've blasted them. [Laughs]

TI: [Laughs] But what was the reaction of, of your talk, your speech?

BS: It was a good reaction. People came up to me, I guess seeing a Heart Mountain person for the first time, so it was a good reaction. And at that time I met Senator Simpson for the first time and so I have seen him a number of times since then.

TI: And you mentioned that you, you wanted to acknowledge the veterans who came out of the camps, so what did that lead to? Wasn't there a, like a monument or something that happened because of --

BS: Yeah, so after I got back, well, I got hold of my classmates, the high school class of 1947, and so we raised the funds, we found the names of those soldiers who were killed during the war and we got this plaque made and we had it placed on a big boulder. And in 1986 we had this dedication ceremony at Heart Mountain, and so we had Congressman Norman Mineta who was at the camp during the war and we had our editor of the newspaper, Bill Hosokawa, and we even had the great Minoru Yasui come to our dedication, so it was a pretty good event that our Heart Mountain High School class of 1947 did.

TI: That's a good story.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: At Heart Mountain there was a woman, a Caucasian woman who lived at Heart Mountain during the war, Estelle Ishigo, and, and I know about her because there's been books and, and movies, but there was a time when people didn't really know her story. Can you tell me your, your role, your part in helping to get this story told?

BS: Around 1985 or around, in the '80s, the Bureau of Reclamation in Montana contacted me and asked me to find Estelle Ishigo because they wanted to use one of her drawings for the plaque at Heart Mountain. So I asked around Los Angeles and I found Estelle. She was living in a broken down apartment, basement apartment, some of the windows in her room was cracked, broken, she had both of her legs amputated, she was in a wheelchair, she was penniless. She was, she signed over her social security to her landlord. She was getting fed one hot meal a day. She was penniless. Her bed sheet was dirty. She had a hotplate that she would heat Campbell's soup. She had stack of Campbell's soup. So I had a talk with her and I left her a twenty dollar bill; she picked it up and looked at it like she'd never seen money before. So I got home, I got on my computer and wrote everything down, and I sent a copy to Bill Hosokawa, so he sent me twenty dollar and told her, told me to give it to her but don't say who it was from. And so this Estelle needed help. She didn't have any friends. She was sort of, I won't call her a nasty woman, but she didn't have hardly any friends.

TI: On this first visit that you took to her place, what was her reaction when you, when you first got there?

BS: Well, she accepted me. She, she wanted a friend and, well, so we became friends, so I went to see her and she wanted her book republished. She had this book called Lone Heart Mountain that she published, I don't know, some years earlier and was out of print, so she kept pestering me and about getting her book republished and, "We got to tell this story to the whole world of what we went through," and she was so, her feeling was so strong about the injustices of the camp and she was, she was just like a Japanese. So anyway, I got my classmates again and we raised the money to republish her book, and then we put on a fundraiser for her. We put on a small reunion, got friends over and raised some money for her. But then her cat got sick and so we had to spend a lot of money at the vet for the cat, so all the money to the cat. And then this Steven Okazaki, a film producer, found out about her life story, so he wanted whatever I had about her. Well, from Estelle, she had all these original drawings, pencil drawings for her book in this apartment and it was next to this broken window where rain could come through, so I told Estelle, "Hey, let me hold these drawings," so luckily I got those drawings off of her. So anyway, Steven wanted to make a film about her, and I thought, gee, why make a story on this woman, you know, hard to get along with and all that? But that was the story. I didn't realize that. And so I got whatever I had from Estelle and sent it over to Steven and he came up with this story, very good story. I had no part in the, her story, so he came up with this very good story and so in 1990 he won the Academy Award for best documentary.

TI: Yeah, for the film, what, Days of Waiting?

BS: Days of Waiting, right. Turned out to be a powerful story.

TI: And what happened to Estelle Ishigo during this time?

BS: Oh, let's see, well, she was old. She went from convalescent home to another. She, she was a nasty woman. I guess she couldn't get along with the nurses and so forth. At one place, in fact, they, they gave her some, some kind of drug to quiet her down. So, well, she finally got older and I remember I went to see her, she didn't know who I was. And the next day, I think, she passed away, and then I think she passed away before the Academy Award announcement.

TI: Was she able to see the film before she died? Do you know if she saw the film?

BS: No, she did not see it. Oh no, I don't remember that. I don't, I don't remember. I have to check out exactly what happened during that period, but I don't think she saw the film.

TI: And, and after she died, what did you do with, like with her ashes? Do you remember?

BS: Oh yeah, I was just talking to her and I asked her, "You want me to dump your ashes over the Heart Mountain?" She said yeah, so one year I, we had a hike to the top of Heart Mountain and I spread her ashes. Yeah, turned out to be a pretty good gesture.

TI: It's beautiful.

BS: Yeah, that woman. [Laughs] Yeah, she was a part of my life at that, one time. She had no friends, no one to turn to.

TI: But if it weren't for you, her story wouldn't, never have been known, because I think the film did so much.

BS: Right. Now, now that you mention it that way, so I'm glad I did what I did. That was a good story.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: Another big project was the barracks, the Heart Mountain barracks with the museum. Can you tell me about that story, how, how that all happened?

BS: I've been going to Heart Mountain and I saw these barracks, so one day I was here in Los Angeles at the JACL office, JACL office, and as I was going out I bumped into this woman I know who was at this newly started Japanese American National Museum. So she asked me into her office and I saw this huge drawing of the proposed new museum with a barrack inside it, so I told her, "Hey, Nancy, I know where there's some barrack," and so with that we started ways of getting this barrack into the museum. And it took couple years of planning and so finally we got a crew together and we were going to go to Wyoming, and then we had a meeting at the museum. And they said, "Well, we're gonna bring this one barrack without the tar paper, and then this other barrack with the tar paper, the owner will give us the tar paper to put on this other barrack without the tar paper and we would have to replace the barrack with the tar paper with new tar paper." And so that was a big surprise to me on how we were gonna go after these barracks, so I didn't think that was very good. So I remember I called the museum and said, "Hey, we're having problems with this barrack. Why don't we just get the barrack, make an offer?" But I guess the museum don't buy things, so somehow we replaced that barrack with something else and so that's how at the last minute we were able to get this barrack with the tar paper, otherwise we wouldn't have gotten it.

TI: And, and like where are you finding these barracks?

BS: Right there at Heart Mountain, just, just half a mile from that campground. It was sort of hidden away.

TI: So these were farmers who had bought or somehow got the barracks off the original camp and brought it to their farm?

BS: Right. When the camp was closed all those barracks were sold for one dollar apiece, and so those barracks were all over the countryside in that area. And this one particular barrack was not lived in and used as a shed, so it was really in good condition, so luckily we were able to bring that back because there aren't any more like that out there.

TI: Okay.

BS: So we had this group go down there and we took it apart and we brought it back, so it turned out to be pretty good.

TI: So that was, what, fifteen years ago? I think they're having celebrations now about the...

BS: Oh yeah, we just had a eighteen year celebration, I think it was.

TI: Okay, eighteen year celebration. Yeah.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: I want to shift gears a little bit. Earlier you talked about your, your technical abilities. You took these programming classes, so you knew something about computers. I guess I want you to talk about how your knowledge of computers have helped in various campaigns. I mean, you were probably viewed as someone who was good with computers that could help, whether it's a campaign for fundraising or something else. Can you talk about some of those, those various projects?

BS: Well, I think in any organization or in any event, the computer is the most valuable thing. Chairpersons, you could find them, but the computer person is the most important person, in my opinion, because they could do so much. And so I remember when I first got my PC there were hardly any programs to run at, I mean, you'd have to write your own programs. There were no Excel or no word processing or anything like that. We had something called the compiler where you would write your codes and tell the computer what to do in a particular way, so I was able to do that. And so I remember in the 1980s the JACL started this redress drive to right the wrongs of the camps and this fund drive leader here in the Los Angeles area was gonna start it, and I told him, "Hey, you can't do this without a computer," and so I volunteered to do the computer work for this fund drive. And it was pretty cumbersome using the old PC with no programs, and I remember there were no sorts, sort utility. You had to write your own sort. And I remember we had floppy drives that I had to put the whole database of seven thousand donors on three floppy disks, and I had to write a program to recognize each disk. Oh, it was really cumbersome, but that was the only way we could do it. And yeah, the computers have come a long way since those days. So anyway, we got this fund drive, we raised a lot of money and the redress was a success. I remember Reagan was gonna sign the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, I was invited to the signing, but I couldn't make it. And so that was a pretty good job.

TI: It was pretty impressive because, to be invited because it was a very small group that was actually invited to D.C. for that signing. I've seen the, the footage of that, video footage. There weren't too many people there. The senator was there, Senator Inouye, Norm Mineta was there, I believe, so it was quite a select group.

BS: Yeah, they call me up on a Sunday night to be over on Tuesday, I just, I just couldn't go.

TI: Good.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: And there's another campaign and that was to put a, a monument in Washington, D.C., so there's another group that you got involved in.

BS: Oh yeah, in 1989, Mike Masaoka wanted a national Nisei veterans group to put up a monument in Washington, D.C. so, oh, I don't know, about thirty of us Niseis met in Reno, Nevada, and we formed this Go For Broke National Veterans Association and Mike asked Judge Bill Marutani to head this organization. And so we got started and I became the membership chairman and the newsletter editor. I didn't know a thing about newsletters, and computer, only thing I did on the computer was a text editor, which was just like a typewriter. I didn't have a word processor, and so when Marutani asked me to be the editor, I couldn't say no to him, so I had to learn word processing real fast. And so I started to put out the newsletter, and so we got going. We had Mineta and Inouye and Robert Matsui and the senator from Hawaii, Spark Matsunaga, and we had legislation passed in Congress, but we veterans could not put up a monument and so we formed this National Japanese American Memorial Foundation. We got all these rich people to finish this for us, and so they put up this monument for the soldiers, Japanese American soldiers killed during World War II, so that was pretty good. Yeah, I remember I was, I was selected to, let's see, we got soil from the ten camps and we put it in this container and I put it in this, not a vault, you know, some kind of time capsule, so I put it in the time capsule and we put a lid on it. And I remember we had Janet Reno, she was the Attorney General, she spoke. Norman Mineta was there. Yeah, as he spoke he said something and I was pouring the soil from the tenth camp, he was saying I'm doing this and so I'm pouring this [Laughs].

TI: That's a good story.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

TI: So Bacon, I think I want to end up, my last question, I notice that you're wearing a shirt that says Heart Mountain Reunion with an X, which I think is, means the tenth one, is that the tenth?

BS: Right.

TI: So you talked about the very first reunion back in 1982, and so I take it now there have been ten reunions. Tell me about that. Why, how was that last reunion? How have the reunions changed over time?

BS: Well, it, I don't know if, if you could say it changed over time. It just, people got older, people have died, but we got people together. I think the most we ever had was a thousand fifty, and it's just, an enjoyable event for us who were at the camp to see each other and so, actually we had eleven. We got a group together, I got a group together in 1995 and we put on a school reunion, just for the school people, just the teenagers. 1997, the Los Angeles group put on another reunion. And the last three years, in 2005, 2007 and 2009, the Los Angeles group put the reunions together. It circulates from Seattle to San Jose and to Salt Lake City.

TI: Will there be another one in 2011?

BS: Yes, we're gonna get another reunion, reunion twelve at Heart Mountain for the first time, so we're getting that going right now.

TI: That's good. Which, actually which leads into, I said that was my final question, but there's one more. I know you're involved with the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, which is currently building an interpretive center in, in Heart Mountain. Can you tell me about that and your involvement with the Foundation?

BS: Just last weekend we had a progress celebration where we showed the newly built interpretive center. We just got the shell up and now the committee is working on putting on the exhibit inside, and so by August 20 of 2011 we should have our grand opening and our Heart Mountain Reunion.

TI: And something that I think is unique about the Heart Mountain group in terms of this interpretive center is the, the involvement and contribution of the people in Wyoming, the, the white people in Wyoming and their support for this interpretive center. And so it's a little unusual and it's, it's unique. I don't think any other camp has that. Why is that?

BS: I don't know. We're lucky to have this interest from the white people in the towns surrounding the camp. I really can't say what motivated them to help us out.

TI: 'Cause you're taking such a leadership role. I mean, that's not to say at Tule Lake or Minidoka that there isn't some involvement, but Heart Mountain just stands out in terms of the people there who have taken such a leadership role in terms of really bringing an interpretive center.

BS: Right. I think they want to right the wrongs of the past. The people of Wyoming were really against the camp being there and they forced the authority to make that into a concentration camp. Otherwise it would've been a reception center where we were not to be under guard and we were to be relocated throughout the country, but it ended up being a camp where we were confined behind barbed wires and armed guards, and so I think this is a good gesture on part of Wyoming to, to put out this history of the camp and maybe they can help undo some of the bad things that were done in Wyoming.

TI: Good. So Bacon, I've come to the end of my questions. Is there anything else that you want to talk about, anything else that is important that you'd like to, to just chat or say?

BS: Well, I would just like to say that through my research of the camp, that the confinement or the incarceration of us Japanese Americans was not necessary, that putting us into the camp was a big mistake. So that should be known and that we suffered because of that.

TI: Well, thank you so much for the interview.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.