Densho Digital Archive
Preserving California's Japantowns Collection
Title: Sat Kuwamoto Interview
Narrator: Sat Kuwamoto
Interviewers: Jill Shiraki (primary); Tom Ikeda (secondary)
Location: Fresno, California
Date: March 9, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-ksat-01-0016

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: Okay, so let's go back to the Fresno Assembly Center at the fairgrounds. So when the six of you went to the fairgrounds, what were your living conditions like at Fresno?

SK: Well, I'm sure it's better than Santa Anita. But, well, it's like a regular barracks that we had in Gila. The, it was a long barrack, I mean, they was right close to each other. I mean, we're, I don't know what separated us, must be some wallboard. And let's see, one, two, three, maybe four, four or five down the block. But I spent my assembly center time working in a kitchen as a pantry clerk, and I was never at home so I don't know what the rest of... except my immediate neighbors, I can't remember even seeing some of my friends that I grew up with.

TI: That's right, you said it was so large, so many people there, you weren't able to even see your friends?

SK: In fact, I don't even know where my uncle lived. I don't think I even went to see him. [Laughs]

TI: What are some memories of the Fresno Assembly Center? You said you worked as a pantry clerk, what are just some memories that you have?

SK: Lots of fun.

TI: So describe, what made it fun?

SK: Well, you... let's see now. I, being a pantry clerk, you're in charge of the food and all. So I guess I must have had good food to eat, and I was back in the kitchen. I don't know, forgot what my duties were. [Laughs] But anyway, that's our pantry, you might say. I mean, it was where all the people lined up to have their food, breakfast and the three meals. So I happened to be, I never knew anyone from Hanford then, but I happened to be with a group from Hanford. Everybody from Hanford lived in our block, and so on and so forth. I mean, in other words, another, the next door neighbor would be from, possibly, East Fresno or someplace. Not East Fresno, but West Fresno, and so on and so forth. We lived on the other side of the fairground. We were divided by a street called Butler Avenue, and we lived on the other side of the street, which I know little of, 'cause I didn't spend any time there. But let's see now. For a young man, or young people, really fun time. [Laughs]

TI: Because you were, I think, about nineteen years old.

SK: Yeah. Really good time.

TI: So you're nineteen, and so when you're not working as the pantry clerk, what were some activities you did at the assembly center? Do you remember anything?

SK: Oh, I remember coming home and my neighbor, I didn't know them as a child, but they were, they had a newspaper in town. And she's really well-known in Fresno. She was a dancer, and I don't know what else now. Well, anyway, I remember seeing a group outside their home. Lot of young people a little older than myself, but they played bridge every night. And I used to know how to play bridge by watching 'em. But since that time, I've just forgotten completely, and I couldn't even tell you how they play or anything. But at that time, I knew how they played just by watching.

TI: So lots of card playing, watching. When you were at the Fresno fairgrounds, did any of your non-Japanese friends visit during this time?

SK: No, you couldn't visit inside the camp, but on certain day, I used to be a Boy Scout at one time, and my scoutmaster used to come. And he came to see me once, as I remember. Not me, but the group that... let's see. We had a lot of members, and I remember sitting and talking to him at the entrance to the assembly center.

TI: And so describe, who was the scoutmaster?

SK: Oh, he was a... at that time, he was one of the general managers of the Safeway stores.

TI: And so he was a white scoutmaster?

SK: Yes.

TI: And, but his troop were mostly Japanese?

SK: All Japanese.

TI: And so he came down to see you?

SK: Yeah.

TI: Do you remember what he said to you guys?

SK: Huh?

TI: Do you remember what he said to you, or any memories of --

SK: No, I just... no, he just came to see us, you know. Like I can't remember the conversation or anything, but he did come to see us, though.

TI: Good. Anyone else that you recall that came to see you or your family?

SK: No.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.