Densho Digital Archive
Emiko and Chizuko Omori Collection
Title: Shosuke Sasaki Interview
Narrator: Shosuke Sasaki
Interviewers: Chizu Omori (primary), Emiko Omori (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: September 28, 1992
Densho ID: denshovh-sshosuke-02-0008

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SS: But it was later on, after I got to Minidoka, they had us... they were paying us, what? Twelve dollars for manual labor, fifteen or sixteen dollars for clerical work, and nineteen dollars if you were a doctor or something of that sort. So when I looked at the list of jobs that would be available, I decided I'd stick strictly to physical labor. And the job I tried to get at camp was that of can-smasher. In those days they were trying to save iron and the empty cans, somebody had to smash them and pack them in boxes to be recycled. Anyway, I applied for that job but there were too many people ahead of me. I had no chance. So they wanted me to get in and do some clerical work. I preferred to stay home and read. But eventually I decided to take physical labor, so I applied for the, on the ditch, the ditch repair crew and we used to get up in the morning and the camp engineer would lead the group of us out to the irrigation ditch. And I used to go down, all of us would get out of the truck and go down to the, to the bottom of the ditch and follow the engineer's instructions on what we were supposed to do there for that day. Well, it was mid-winter, the temperature was down around, what, oftentimes below zero, and we had all the pickaxes and shovels there but the ground was frozen solid. There wasn't anything we could do. And in time the engineer got tired of watching us, so he'd get back in his truck, and then he'd get cold there. And so pretty soon we'd hear him start his car up and his car would leave. So one of our group there would climb the banks of the canal and get up and when he saw that engineer's car go around the bend, he'd signal us. Then we just dumped all our tools and clambered up the side of the bank and the first thing we did was to gather sagebrush around, dead sagebrush, and build a fire, warm ourselves. I always brought a book with me there to read, so I had something to read all the time. And the other guys on the irrigation crew, therefore gave me a nickname: Professor. And so the other fellows warmed themselves around the fire and played, played cards, I sat there and just read. Well, this continued day after day. The engineer would show up to take us out in the morning and he'd say, "Gee whiz. This is the same as I saw here yesterday. What happened? What'd you guys do?" "Well, there's nothing we can do. That ground is frozen solid. See if you can do anything with the pickaxe yourself, if you don't believe us." I remember I spent a month just going out there. Every day.

CO: Tell us who Jimmy Sakamoto was.

SS: Well, Jimmy Sakamoto was... for one thing, he never went to college as far as I know. He was a professional boxer. He lost his vision by injuries he sustained in the ring. And then he decided to... well, he got into this publishing business. He owned the Courier, as they called it. And for a long time, that, since the JACL began in Seattle, that Courier was sort of the, the official JACL paper. It was the forerunner of that pathetic Citizen that we have today. But Jimmy... I don't know what to say about the man except that he was completely in agreement with anything the government was willing to do to us. He started, he and the other leaders of that day started that policy and Masaoka now, of course, now that he's dead, but when Masaoka really joined the JACL it was only... he was brought into the JACL only less than a year before the war began. And when the war began, he was just considered a sort of an assistant to the real big shots, the organization, like Sakamoto, Clarence Arai, and some of the others, a few from California. But the response of the JACL was a bitter disappointment to the Issei. They felt that they had been completely just abandoned.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1992, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.