Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Frank S. Fujii Interview
Narrator: Frank S. Fujii
Interviewers: Larry Hashima (primary), Beth Kawahara (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: September 3 and 5, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-ffrank-01-0011

<Begin Segment 11>

LH: Well, let's talk a little bit about that process of actually going to Puyallup. Getting everything ready to go. You talked a little about putting stuff into storage and selling the car and having to sell the tavern and things like that...

FF: Yeah, they took a financial loss there. But I think for a young kid, it's sort of an adventure in a sense. But I knew what barbed wires were, I knew what sentries were and you kind of wonder if the sentries are carrying real live bullets or, you know. And then you know you're not supposed to go beyond the barbed wires in Puyallup playgrounds were. I was in Camp A, which was the parking lot, and I never forgot it 'cause I was in section six, and we were mixed with some of the Alaska people, and the Alaska Japanese Americans. And the thing that I couldn't figure out, too, was there was some Alaskans who couldn't even speak Japanese and they, they were there, they were fishermen. And the interesting name that came up was F-o-o-d-o-o -- no, F-o-o-d-e-e, Foodee brothers; they were very large built Alaskans. And they were real fine people, but they were so hurt to, to be in camp. They couldn't understand why they have to be mixed even with supposedly us. And I think that 'cause to me Foo, Foodee isn't a Japanese name, you know. And I think it was the way the government was able to just, maybe because they were fishermen, to just maybe get, move them on or take their business or whatever. Because, as I understand, they took some of the business away from a lot of the Alaska people. And especially these people who were real -- when I got to know them, I wanted to 'cause they were very huge, large and mean-looking, but nice guys. And they had no wives, they were all brothers, four brothers. And it was sad. But I noticed they didn't go to Idaho, when most of the Puyallup people went to Idaho for internment, the Foodee brothers, I think, went back to Alaska for some reason. And I like to think that, I don't know the details, but all I know is that, that they disappeared. They just didn't go to Idaho, I think they went back to Alaska, because the government realized maybe they did make a mistake. So I bet you there's a lot of cases like that.

And so being in, getting ready for even Puyallup like, like you were asking me about getting your luggage and stuff ready. I visualized my folks -- my mom especially, rather -- Dad was gone already. Dad -- Mom didn't know what to do with Dad's stuff, because he's gone and he's in Missoula, Montana. And I think she pondered on what to keep of his. And I think you can't, because if you want to bring some of your personal stuff... and Mom was such a sensitive person, I think she was, really had to kind of give up a lot of the personal stuff that her husband, my dad couldn't take with him. 'Cause I don't think they gave anything to, to my dad. I think the government issued the essentials, the blankets, the sheets, the toothbrush, the soap and everything once he got to Missoula. But Puyallup was a togetherness place, 'cause most of the Japanese communities being close before the war, I think there's a tendency to be close together when you're in camp also. And although we were dispersed in different camps, there's a tendency to visit each other, 'cause you were able to go intermingle, to go from Camp A to Camp C, to B and D. And some were in sad situations, like my brother Joe lived in Camp D, which was in a horse stall. And I went in there, and it smelled like horses, and I said, "Hey, this is, hey, is there a horse around here? 'Cause is this a stall?" And they nod their head, and they didn't want to talk about it, 'cause I think they were so upset. But it's amazing how humans being cope.

And I think for myself, all I remember is filling up a mattress with straw. And I think a couple of my sisters were -- had hay fever -- and they couldn't use straw, so they just had to put a blanket for a mattress and then the pillow and the, pillow by using cloth or clothing 'cause you can't use the mattress, I mean, with the hay. And there was so much inconvenience, and even as young as I was, I thought of the hardships in a sense. And I think the privacy is lost, and I think that pride is lost and... but it's amazing how resilient the Niseis were. I really feel a lot of 'em made the best of it and I think we were, you know, having to line up for mess hall, and to cheer each other on, and they had classes for art, classes for people. There was a guy named Sato, Sato. I forgot his first name, but he was a cartoonist. And I remember he gave a class. And man, I was so happy, I could go and learn how to draw Donald Duck, and Dick Tracy, and what have you. And so as much as I, I knew I had a kind of an interesting fold in this whole picture. As I reflect back, I know it sure wasn't easy for my folks, and my older brothers, who understood what was happening, you know. And I sort of understood what was happening, but you don't get the impact until you get older. But I'm able to reflect back because, I knew it was in the back of my mind what I thought, but I didn't... I wasn't that glib enough to say, "Here's how I feel right now." But, so as I got older, I continually spoke about internment camps to friends and teachers since I was in education, I talked to teachers and friends. No matter what, if I had an opportunity, I won't impose a question on them about, "Did you know that I was in an internment camp, or concentration camp or...?" But if it gave, if I had an opportunity to talk about that, I did. I spoke at the college, and sociology classes, and law and justice classes, and then in high school there's a law and justice class that I partake at Franklin where I taught. And Rick Nagle, who's one of the teachers who taught law and justice, really was sincerely interested in the movement, the Japanese American movement. That's why I kind of always went back after I even left Franklin in '72 and I went to the college to work. I went back to talk to students about what camp I went and how the process went from Puyallup, to those that went from Puyallup to Minidoka, or Puyallup to Tule Lake like my, our family.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.