Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Frank K. Omatsu Interview
Narrator: Frank K. Omatsu
Interviewer: Sharon Yamato
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: October 24, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-ofrank-01-0010

<Begin Segment 10>

SY: So when we were, before we broke, we were talking about evacuation, the day it happened, and then you went to school on the next day, and everything was pretty much the same?

FO: Oh, yeah, the same.

SY: There was no...

FO: You know, the student body, they accepted us, because the majority of these people were Jewish. But the ball team, they captured me.

SY: Made fun.

FO: Yeah, they were trying to make fun. So we had a good time, but when the evacuation came, we got the order, and we all assembled. Let's see. There was two days that we were told to register. The first day, the people registered the first day, and then the people who registered the second day. Well, we registered the second day, I don't know why. But we all assembled at St. Mary's. And I gave St. Mary's a copy of the evacuation notice that I found.

SY: You actually found the written papers that you were given?

FO: Yeah.

SY: Each family was given...

FO: My dad had saved it. So after the war, I found it, and made copies and gave it to members of the church. And then I found the copy, the evacuation order saying that, about Union Church. You know, to evacuate, meet at a certain place and stuff like that, so I gave it to the Union Church when I was the president of the AARP.

SY: Why... I wonder why your, did your father have the Union Church one, too?

FO: No. I found that someplace. But the thing is, all the Japanese Christians, they had a group, they all knew each other, the Fujinkai and the fathers, they all knew each other, so I thought, "Hey, they might be able to use this." So when I was the president of the AARP, Little Tokyo, I framed it and I gave it to them. They were shocked that I did such a thing. What am I gonna do with it? I got enough of my own things.

SY: But is it a, was it a paper that each family was given?

FO: Yeah, just like this.

SY: It's not the order that was posted on the...

FO: No. Besides that, we got the little, each family got a little.

SY: Kind of in the mail, you got a little thing.

FO: I don't know how we got it, but everybody had it.

SY: And then you... so your parents knew then that you were supposed to evacuate to St. Mary's, that was the...

FO: Well, the thing is, that's what it said. Those people that registered the first day and the second day will all meet at St. Mary's, and that was the assembly area. So some of us went by bus to the assembly center at Santa Anita, some of us drove a car to Santa Anita. You know, you were supposed to only take what you can carry. Well, my dad had a 1926 Buick, and it was like an armored tank. So my brothers and I, Mas Nishibayashi, we loaded everything onto that car. And we were the second one from the front, and we were supposed to be the second car after, I don't know who was in front of us, but after the escort. So we were going to Santa Anita, and I was driving, and I had a blowout in Eagle Rock, my tire blew out.

SY: Good timing.

FO: Yeah. [Laughs] So we pull alongside and they had a couple MPs stay with us while we changed the tire, and the rest of 'em went into Santa Anita.

SY: So I didn't realize that you could actually drive your car.

FO: Well, they said you could carry only what... I mean, you could take only what you could carry.

SY: Right.

FO: But, you know, we didn't know what to do with the car, so we loaded up the car and we saw all these cars lined up.

SY: And there was a procession of all these cars.

FO: Yeah, there was.

SY: And so then what happened to the car?

FO: Well, we sold it to the government. I saw it in the infield of the Santa Anita racetrack, I saw our car in the infield. There was a whole mess of cars there. So I asked my dad, "Did we sell it to the government?" He said, "The government gave us twenty-five dollars." So you know, we got in late, and my parents were worried about us, because they went on the bus.

SY: I see. It was the kids in the car.

FO: Yeah. So, you know, my older brother and I, and our good friend Mas Nishibayashi, we were all in the car together just loaded, and it blew out. Man, what a day.

SY: [Laughs] But you also had all this stuff inside the car. What did you do with that?

FO: Well, we had to unload -- no, we took it into Santa Anita, and then my folks came after it.

SY: To get their things?

FO: Yeah, to get their things and stuff.

SY: And the rest you just left in the car?

FO: No, we took everything with us into camp, everything that was in the car.

SY: That was in the car. So the car was useful, and you got to carry all that.

FO: Carry it all, yeah.

SY: I'm afraid I don't know if twenty-five dollars is nothing for a car at that...

FO: Now it's nothing.

SY: At that time it was an okay price, you think?

FO: No, it wasn't an okay price, but what are you gonna do? That's what the government gives you, you take it.

SY: Right. And your dad actually owned that car?

FO: Yeah.

SY: That was something he had paid, bought and paid for?

FO: Yeah. We had another car that he sold before. It was a newer car, but we sold that and got a better price, but I told my dad that I'm going to drive that Buick. And he says, "You can't do that," and I says, "Well, load it up and let's see."

SY: That was your idea then.

FO: Well, I don't know whose idea it was, but that's what we did.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.