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-1000-472-6

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LS: Well, in the meantime, the Seventh Day Adventist church, someplace in White Memorial, I guess, had asked a church in Delta, Colorado, a little small town, if they would take a Japanese family. Because Governor Ralph Carr in Colorado made a statement, "If Governor Warren doesn't want you in California, you're welcome to come to my state of Colorado." So a number of Japanese families that had the money and strength and willingness to move to another location without knowing where they were going, did move, a lot of them went to Denver, the biggest city in Colorado. Well, my parents said, "Well, if we have to go someplace like a camp, we'd be better off to go on our own to Colorado." So they accepted the invitation, we had a card about this size from the FBI, giving us permission to travel from California to Colorado with a stop in Salt Lake City. Well, we're driving down, we said goodbye to everybody and went to our car and our truck, we loaded it up, went down Highway 99, we're going towards Colorado. We get down there to Bakersfield, and my parents say, "You know, all our friends from L.A. are in Manzanar. Why don't we go visit before we go to Colorado, because we'll never see 'em again?" Okay, so I turn around, and I didn't realize you had to go clear to Tehachapi to turn around. I just found that last year, last April, when I went to the Manzanar reunion for the first time. But somehow I drove all the way back, so I went to the fence and gate, I presented the card, told them we want to go visit, and the soldier just opened the gate and let us in. So we parked by the administration. I went in and asked whoever was working there, "We'd like to visit this list of names, we know they're in camp, so could you call them or get them to come here so we can talk to them?" And they told us to look around, and said, "See the fence, see the tower, see the machine gun, see the soldiers? You're in prison. I don't know if they're going to let you out of prison. So I wouldn't wait to see your friends. Why don't you see if you can leave?" And we thought, "Maybe we better not stay." So we came back, I was driving the car, my dad's following in the truck. Went to the gate, the same soldier was still standing guard, I showed him the pass, said, "Okay, we're through." "All right," he opened the gate. So we were in Manzanar for half an hour. I think we're the only Japanese family to escape. They're probably still looking for us. [Laughs]

PW: Who was in the car, in the truck?

LS: My dad drove the truck, my aunt and my mother and myself were in the car. My sister wasn't with us, that's another story. She got married in 1940, so '39 or '40, I don't remember. But in 1941, she was pregnant with her first child, but only like maybe eight months. And evacuation was around April, the Seventh Day Adventist doctors and nurses kind of hid her in the White Memorial Hospital. You know, no Japanese is supposed to be there, and they kept her hidden in the hospital for over a month, and then she delivered in May, about the middle of May. They kept her for about a week, then the feds found out that there was a Japanese person, and they shipped her right to Poston where her husband was.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.