Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Shosuke Sasaki Interview
Narrator: Shosuke Sasaki
Interviewers: Frank Abe (primary), Stephen Fugita (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 18, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-sshosuke-01-0014

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FA: When you arrived at the camp, what conditions did you find at Puyallup?

SS: Puyallup? It had rained that day. And so the main streets of that concentration camp were seas of mud. I expected something like that so I wore my heavy weather, waterproof boots. I was glad I had those boots, because other people went in there wearing just oxfords. They sure got their shoes filled with mud in short order.

FA: You were housed in the grandstands that night?

SS: No, not in the grandstands. We were housed in Area A, which was the parking lot.

FA: Describe the building you were housed in.

SS: They were sheds. The partitions between the sections only went up to as high as 7 feet and above all that was the ceiling. And so if any child was not feeling well and would awaken during the night and start crying for water or whatever, it kept everybody else in that shed from sleeping. I remember there was one child who had a peculiar cry, I remember. It sounded, that sound reminded me of perhaps some woman, some unhappy woman who was, who was sobbing. That's the way... that crying, it was a baby who was crying, but the noise she was making was, reminded me of some unhappy woman who was sobbing.

FA: And how did you feel?

SS: Naturally, nobody who lived in that particular shed was happy to hear that child. It almost drove everybody crazy.

FA: In general, how did you feel about your first days there, being put in a shed?

SS: Well, for one thing they didn't have proper toilet facilities, all they had was a pit dug. And the toilet seats were, was just a board with holes in there. And so the place, the stench was overwhelming. No real preparations had been made. In time, after about a week, maybe it was two weeks, grass started to grow up between the cracks in the boards that were on the floor.

FA: In those first days and weeks, what did you see about how people would organize themselves? Who would become leaders? Who would be the followers inside the camp?

SS: Well, there wasn't any real leadership. Of course, there was the JACL group. Well, some of the more sensible ones and I remained personally on friendly terms. Others I just looked upon in total scorn. I wouldn't talk to them anymore. In those days, the first few days, my God. They put us... they had, there was no space between the floor and the lumber. They put the lumber, wood boards flat on the floor and as I said, the grass started growing up in-between the cracks and the knotholes. And the food that we got was practically one hundred percent starch. For breakfast we had, well, they used to give us toast. And for lunch, they probably gave us noodles and for supper they probably gave us boiled potatoes, something like that. No vegetables, no meat. And that lasted for just about a month. And I remember in going there, my mother had the foresight to take a package of radishes, radish seeds. And when we got there, that's the first thing she did, she buried those seeds just outside the door, the wall. And in one month, those things had become radishes. And I had also brought with me a fairly large bottle of shoyu. I remember we went one morning after they started serving rice -- oh, yes, they did give us rice once in a while -- and when they had the rice, my mother and I, we'd take our dishes and get the rice ration and then bring it back to our room and dig up those radishes that had grown up and we'd take it to the washroom and wash the dirt off and then we'd pour the soy sauce on them and eat that with the rice. Boy, better tasting vegetable I've never ever eaten in my life.

FA: What job or position did you take in the Puyallup?

SS: In Puyallup, well, the Nisei being unaccustomed to office work, all of them wanted a desk job. And I thought it ridiculous that they should want, all would. So they had a surplus of volunteers for desk jobs. Probably the first time in their lives some of the Nisei ever worked at a desk. Most of them were doing stoop labor and so forth. And... the... you will have to excuse me. My mind has gone blank.

FA: What job did you volunteer for?

SS: Oh. I didn't volunteer for a job. It was ridiculous to me to volunteer for a desk job and so I decided to spend my time brushing up on my Japanese. I had taken a number of Japanese textbooks, readers and history books and so forth, and dictionaries into camp. Oh yes. These JACL idiots, they decided to make that illegal for anyone to have or to be reading Japanese books. I thought, "Holy smokes." That rule no doubt was originated by the Nisei of JACL. And every time they would come out with some other equally stupid rule, I just instinctively realized that that was coming from JACL sources. I disobeyed them, of course.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.