Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Lawson I. Sakai Interview
Narrator: Lawson I. Sakai
Interviewer: Patricia Wakida
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: March 13, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-472-13

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PW: So once you returned, you're in Los Angeles, where's the rest of your family at that point?

LS: My aunt, my mother, my father had come back. Three and a half years later, the same man that they had asked to watch over the property was living there. He would not let them back in the house. So my aunt who was the legal owner, I don't know how long it took, but she got the sheriff to evict them, so she could move back in. That's how they were back in their own house in December when I get home.

PW: So it sounds like you returned back home and the farm is back moving and you're meeting up with some of your veteran friends, you graduated from college by now?

LS: No. I don't think I have requested transcripts from Mesa College, 1946, so later, I enrolled at Pepperdine College, right downtown Los Angeles. I believe it used to be West Texas Bible College, someplace in Texas, and during the war they had come out to Los Angeles and they bought two or three buildings in a lousy district of L.A., but I lived near them, and I enrolled to go to school. But then we're going back and forth, so in 1946, after four or five trips from L.A., I said, you know, "Why don't we get married?" I'm twenty-three, she's twenty-two, there's no reason, that's a pretty dumb thing to get married. No job, no nothing, yeah, let's get married, so we got married in April of '46. We were, at that time, there were only a few families back in San Jose. And we got married, and most of the families living in San Jose were invited to the wedding, which was back on the farm. There was a Japanese house which was the main living room of the house, and that's where the wedding took place, and the wedding photo, and that black and white photo shows that people from San Jose. Norm Mineta, his father was there, and a number of other people that I didn't know. But we went back to L.A. and I went back to school. And in 1948, my father had gotten enough money up to start a produce shipping, farming and so forth, business again, but he needed help. So he got called to us to come up, so we decided I'd quit school and come up, and I've been in Northern California ever since. By that time, we had one child, and this is 1948. I think it was 1949, he was probably, he was born in '47, so he's maybe two years old. And while I was working at the shed, my wife took the little boy in to get a haircut at the local hotel which had a barber shop. And she said when she walked in, the barber looked at her and said, "We don't cut Japs' hair, get out of here." And she was born and raised in Gilroy, she knew almost everybody, who they were. And then later, might have been the same year, she was kind of like an accountant, she was a business major in college, and her college was interrupted, too, when the family came back to California. So she applied for a job at a local dry cleaner, and he was a young man that had been in the U.S. Navy during the war, came home and started this dry cleaning shop, and he hired Mineko, my wife, as the, well, I guess, the office clerk or whatever you call it. And a week later, he told her, "I'm sorry, but I have to let you go. The townspeople are after me, they won't come and patronize me if I have a Japanese working for me."

PW: So it sounds like it was very rough, the Gilroy community was a rough place for retransitioning postwar.

LS: You know, it was true all over. It was rough in central California in the farming community because the propaganda had been so against the Japanese... I don't know if you knew Shig Doi? Do you know who he is? Okay. He lived in, I think, either (Placer County) or that area, north of Highway 80, Rocklin, that area, that's where he farmed, or his family farmed before the war. Well, he came back, and they went back to where the farm was. And at some time, one of his neighbors took a shot at him, but I think he shot at the barn, not at him, but to let him know, "You don't belong here." Shig is a hundred years old, he lives in Richmond. If you ever get a chance to talk to him, you better do it soon. [Laughs]

PW: What about your parents? Did they tell you it was, they had difficulties? Of course there was the man who was in the farm and wouldn't leave the house, but do you know what it was like for them to settle there?

LS: They seemed to transition back quite well. They somehow got their nursery business going again, and he was taking stuff to the flower market again. But we never discussed what I did or the war, nobody talked about it.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.