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-02-0009

<Begin Segment 9>

SS: I did a few more things that were against the rules at Minidoka. One of the things that... well, eventually I gave up this ditch-digging crew job because they said they wanted me to start a, a rationing office in the camp, rationing of shoes and things came into effect. And so they had to have some way of issuing ration, shoe ration tickets to the people of the camp in order for them to buy shoes. And one of my friends came over and asked me to do that and I, I wasn't particularly eager. But he said, "Look, this has to be done and you probably could do it as well or better than most of the other guys that might. Well, why not as a service to the community here in the camp, why don't you do it for us?" So with that, I said okay. So I helped, I set up the rationing office. They gave me a day to go into the nearest large town, which was the headquarters of the local ration office. And I went there to see how they, how they ran the thing. It was simple, no trouble. And so I ran that ration office for a while. We had to issue ration tickets also to people who were leaving camp. And by that time the government had decided they wanted to get us out of the camp as soon as they could, and a lot of people were leaving and we wanted... said, "These people who wanted to go out, and want to buy meat and things like that, they need cards, so they want you to issue those cards here." So I arranged to have that done. That was simple. The, I did that ration office thing for a while, for several months, I guess.

And then one of my friends, Takeo Nogaki, who was a friend of mine from before the war, he had been one of the leaders in getting the co-op established in camp. See, when we went into those camps, the government made no provisions for any stores. So we had no place to buy toothpicks or shoelaces or anything like that, or toothpaste. And we asked the government to supply us, or give us a PX canteen like the army units had, and the government refused flatly. Said, "No, they sell things at a discount and if we sold things at a discount to you, the newspapers would say that we were pampering you Japs. So anything sold in this store, in this camp will be at prices same as prevailing on the outside of the store." And they said, "We're thinking of giving a concession to some of the local merchants living in this area." Well, we didn't, we didn't agree to that and so the other choice they gave us was to set up our own co-op and the co-op had to charge the regular prevailing prices for anything. The savings came in the form of rebates to those who had saved their purchase receipts at the end of the year.

Well, that, the board of directors at that time consisted entirely of Issei, first-generation Japanese. And the government wanted the minutes of those board meetings taken, put down in English so it had to be someone who was, could understand what was going on in Japanese and put the thing down in English. Well, Takeo was well-qualified for that so he did that for the time he was there. And then he was always having disputes with the camp administrator. And he got so much in the hair of the camp, the head of the camp, Stafford, that Stafford got him a job in New Jersey and shipped him off. Well, then they needed a replacement for Takeo. So, apparently I was about the only one left in camp who could do what Takeo was doing, so I agreed I would do that for a while. And, well, when I got in there, I discovered a few things that really made me hit the ceiling. One was the fact that... see, when they built those camps they made no provisions for any stores. So the spaces that we had to use for the co-op was in the so-called recreation unit that they built. In other words, an empty barrack that they built, one for each, each block. And so we asked to use those because they weren't being used. Well, they said, "Well, you can use 'em, but you gotta pay rent." Well, I didn't know about this, and after I became, my title was Executive Secretary to the Board of Directors, and so anything that had to do with the Board of Directors, they had to come through me, and vice versa. And they... oh, yes. They, I didn't know about that, the fact that we were paying rent on that until after I had taken over the Office of the Executive Secretary and I received a bill from the War Relocation Authority for so much money for rent. And I said, "Rent? Holy smoke. In this concentration camp, you mean they're charging us rent?" Boy, I was really, really angry and they said, "Well, quiet down. We had a big fight over this when we started the camp and we fought it all we could and there was nothing we could do. The orders came from Washington, D.C. The WRA administration and the camp have to follow those rules." So, I said alright, agreed to it. I had to... I couldn't hold the check back.

Well, one day, I remember a fellow who was a, who came to my office and said he was a government auditor. He says, "I'm in here auditing your, the camp. And I'm here auditing the books of the co-op. And I want you to show me where these units are which you're using as stores." And I said, "Okay." And he said, "Well, you come and get in my car." I didn't have a car in camp, of course. So he took me to these barracks where, this empty barrack that was being used as a store. And he had a tape measure -- 50 or 60 foot tape measure, you know. He gave me the one that had the ball on it, well, he held on to the end of the thing. So I went backwards. And he said, "According to my books, this is, this says 50 feet. Is that correct?" And I looked at it and said, "No. This is only 45 feet." Well, it was actually 50 feet. [Laughs] So he says, "Oh, okay." And so he scribbles out the 50 feet there and corrects it to 45 feet. So I made him do that on each one of the buildings that he measured. And I didn't stay long enough to really examine the ultimate result of that reduction. I don't know if it really did any good, that cheating.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1992, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.