Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: May K. Sasaki Interview
Narrator: May K. Sasaki
Interviewers: Lori Hoshino (primary), Alice Ito (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 28, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-smay-01-0018

<Begin Segment 18>

LH: Now was your family able to be housed all together?

MS: Yes, well, no, let's see. I had a half sister, but she was already married already, so she stayed with her family, her married family. Whereas all of us were with my mother, father, my two brothers, and myself were all in one barrack, actually one room.

LH: Did you all eat together?

MS: No, that was the one thing that was very strange that we had to get used to. My mother took on the waitressing at the mess hall because they wanted a lot of help there, and they asked the camp internees to take those roles. She eventually became a head waitress, which meant she spent more hours away from home. The meals... she knew that I was supposed to go to the mess hall and so we usually went with our girl friends and boy friends, little ones that went with us. Or the (obasan) would see that we got there and we ate. But we never could eat with family because my dad became a block manager, which then took him away to other responsibilities. So both my parents were no longer always around as they had been, and now my brothers and I were kind of left to our own devices. My, I was young enough so that I could still be told to behave by the friends of my mother and father, (obasans) and (ojisans). But my oldest brother loved this freedom, and he felt that now he could do what he wanted with his cohorts, and they became kind of like a gang in camp. They were not bad boys, but they certainly liked to do things that were not always things that their parents wanted them to do.

LH: By "gang," nowadays we understand "gang" to mean something where maybe young men are causing mischief and maybe criminal acts.

MS: Oh no, this wasn't anything of that. I guess you'd just call them boys sticking together, then, maybe. But in their minds they were this gang. And there were often many little gangs that sprung up, and they would have their own meetings and their own kinds of things, rituals that they would go through. But I just knew that my parents were always so upset about the way Jimmy was sticking with his, those bad boys, and they were making him bad, you know. And yes, he wasn't as obedient. I remember him talking back to my dad which he never did before.

LH: There was a tension between your older brother and your father then?

MS: Yeah, I think that occurred in a lot of places there. The Isseis used to be the leaders of their family, but once this whole thing came about, they didn't all have the ability to speak the language, so that the people in the leadership positions in camp became largely the older Niseis. So the Isseis had to take a lower role, which was kinda hard for them. My dad was able to maintain a kind of leadership because he spoke both English and Japanese, which allowed him the ability to work with the camp authority and still work with the people in camp.

LH: So some people, some of the Isseis actually had a lot of free time?

MS: Yeah.

LH: But on your father's case, he was quite busy.

MS: Yes.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.