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Title: Frank Saburo Sato Interview II
Narrator: Frank Saburo Sato
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: September 8, 2017
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-446-1

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TI: So today is September 8, 2017, and yeah, let's all turn off our phones as we get started. And we're at the Densho office talking with Frank Sato. This is part two of your interview. And so, Frank, I thought we'd start off, last time we were talking about your time at Minidoka, we talked about your siblings and what they were doing in World War II. I now want to just sort of move on from Minidoka. And so why don't you start by telling me how did you leave, or under what circumstances did you and your family leave Minidoka?

FS: There's several things. The government gave us twenty-five bucks to leave, right? And my mom and dad went into the farm labor camp outside of Twin Falls, because they had no place to go. And I came back from Minnesota where I was going to high school one year, finished high school in Twin Falls, and then from there, when I finished high school, I moved back to this area and we stayed at the Ota Farms in their cabins for their farm workers until we could find a house to get settled in.

TI: And who came back to this area? You said "we," so that was you and who else?

FS: My mom and dad. I was the only one with my mom and dad, and we drove just in our car with our personal belongings in the car, and that was it.

TI: And then just to get us up to date, at this point, when you came back to this area, where were your other siblings? What were they doing at this point?

FS: Betty, my older sister, was in nurse's training in Colorado Springs. My sister Bess was in Rochester, Minnesota, she, I think, was in nurse's training yet. My youngest sister Rose was in a little town in Idaho, but she was working as a domestic help. John was at the University of Washington continuing his studies, Bob was in Champagne, Illinois, studying engineering, and I was the only one at home, the youngest of six. So I drove my mom and dad back here to this area.

TI: And this is after you had finished high school, so you're about eighteen, nineteen years old?

FS: Eighteen years old.

TI: Okay, so go ahead and continue.

FS: So anyway, when we came back, I helped my folks buy this one acre place in Puyallup, and we eventually moved in to this place with some raspberries and peaches, and my mom and dad settled working there for, on the farm, and then they were doing some work as farm workers. I applied for and got a job at Boeing's, and I worked at Boeing's for two years before I started college. It's kind of a tough time, we were trying to get settled, and I didn't know where it was gonna take me personally. Like I say, I worked at Boeing's, and in addition, I was doing gardening work on the side, in the neighborhood, to try to save money to go to university. My mother always emphasized education for us, and there was no way I was going to get to college unless I saved enough money. And so I was working at Boeing for, I think, a dollar and fifteen or twenty-five cents an hour, something like that, on the assembly line. And I was doing gardening work in the neighborhood for neighbors to try to save up a few bucks.

TI: I have a question about your parents. Probably most of the Niseis I've interviewed were older than you were, and so they didn't come back with their parents. Either they went into the military service or got jobs or went to school. And you had the opportunity to drive back with them to the Seattle area and then were living with them. What was it like for them, coming back to an area that they knew before the war? What was the same or what was different for them coming back this time?

FS: Well, the difference was, you know, when we left and I was twelve or thirteen years old, my dad had his farm, he had the fertile farm really going nicely, and he lost everything, all the farm equipment and everything. I just can't imagine how that was. When we came back, my dad asked me whether I wanted to farm with him, and I just didn't want my dad to have to go through that again. So I told him, no, I'll try to get to college somehow, and they could not worry about having to start a farm again, because it's just too tough to start a farm, all the equipment and so forth that he had that he lost. You just couldn't replace it. But fortunately, there was a family out there in Puyallup, George Richter was his name, and his grandson still runs that farm out there in Puyallup, and we're still good family friends. But George Richter and his wife came over and they wanted my dad and mom to come work as farmhands with them. He knew my dad was a very successful farmer, and he wanted his expertise, so that's where Mom and Dad worked, and I went from there, Boeing, to go on to the University of Washington. And that part worked out fine. But your question about how was it for my mom and dad, they really never talked too much about it, but I'm sure it was very painful.

TI: Tell me a little bit more about the Richter family. Over the weekend, Puyallup had their seventy-fifth commemoration, so I was talking to some of the local families, and there were a few that said that their grandparents or their parents after the war tried to reach out to the Japanese American community, or during the war, they even took care of some of the farms. So tell me a little bit about this family and what they did.

FS: Well, you know, I didn't know too much about the Richter family from before, but George Richter knew my dad or knew of my dad because in Sumner, there was the Puget Sound Vegetable Growers Association, and from that, they had this Rhubarb Growers Association. And the Richter farm became big rhubarb growers. And somewhere in there, George Richter, who was a much younger man than my dad, knew of my dad, and he reached out to him. And they were a wonderful family, and we still are in contact with them. I knew the grandson, Tim, I stop in to see him periodically, see their family. Both George and his wife Viola have since passed away, of course, but the son and the grandsons, I'm still in touch with.

TI: And do you think the Richter family, during this transition for your parents, it was helpful to your parents to be able to...

FS: Oh, very helpful. In fact, not only did George Richter hire my mom and dad, he did one thing further: he paid for their social security. And he said, "You'll need this," and he paid for it. My mom and dad didn't know anything about it. And later on, when they could no longer work, they were collecting social security because of George Richter. Great family.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.