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-01-0021

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: So tell me, any other thoughts or memories about Gila River before we move on?

SK: Oh, well, Mrs. Roosevelt, she visited us. In fact, I shook her hand. I guess he, she... I think she was a very nice lady, but I didn't think much of the President. I shouldn't say that. This is on camera, isn't it?

TI: [Laughs] I think that's okay. Other Niseis have said the same thing. But describe the circumstances that you met Eleanor Roosevelt. How did you meet her?

SK: I don't know. I was a receptionist in our, at the hospital, and she suddenly, as far as I can remember, she suddenly came in, or she was visiting. And she was there, I just, I think she's just there. I remember shaking her hand. But I... that's all I remember. There wasn't any, anybody with any high official or anyone really visiting, visiting us, but she was one of the ones, one of the people that actually came there.

TI: Did she say anything to the people there while...

SK: No, she was just... why she came, I don't know.

TI: And what was your reaction when you, when you saw her?

SK: No, I didn't think anything... I didn't think anything of it.

TI: Weren't you surprised see the, the wife of the President?

SK: Oh, yes, uh-huh. One day she was there. I've been in a lot of places, but I never saw anyone that... anyway, she was really active in going around the country, I guess.

TI: Okay. Any other memories or thoughts about Gila River?

SK: Oh, we were in a corner of the, we were one of the last ones in that Gila River from Fresno. And we had, you've heard of Zenimura, the ballplayer? Well, we had the ballpark right in our backyard. Right next to our backyard, we had ballgame, we were watching ballgames every night. Who else was there? Some of the Japanese stars were there from our area, pitcher and a few others. So... oh, and then the people from, we were in the group with Guadalupe and that group of people from the coast. They were ballplayers, they were all good ballplayers. And we watched a baseball game almost every night, as I remember.

TI: And how many people would watch these games?

SK: Oh, there was nothing else to do. There was quite a bit of people. I'm just gonna have to... oh, I'd guess maybe a hundred, just guessing.

JS: Earlier you were talking about someone from Fresno who was a wrestler and you knew him in camp?

SK: Oh, my neighbor? He was one of the early, early stars. I mean, he... let's see. I remember seeing him in the ring with some of the people. Wrestler, I don't know where he got the skill, but he's got quite a skill, too. But, and the community went to see him, they wanted to see him beat somebody. You heard the movie King Kong? Well, I don't know what year that was, but there used to be a fellow by the name of King Kong Ted Cox. And he was one of the wrestlers, and I don't know whether he was the other man or not, but I remember going, going with my father to see one of those wrestling matches on the weekend. And you should have been in there, been real sick with all the smoke. Everybody smoked in those days. One of the... I mean, just nothing but smoke. And in those days, I don't think they knew it was a fake. [Laughs]

JS: What was the name of your neighbor who was the wrestler, who was the wrestler? What was his name?

SK: Hamanaka.

TI: Did he have a name inside the ring that he went by?

SK: No.

TI: Just Hamanaka? That's good. That's an interesting story. Anything else Gila River?

SK: Well, at night, we'd visit each other. Again, we played poker, nothing else to do. Some of the conversation as we, as I went, going to work, there was a family from Monterey, those two boys worked in our warehouse, too. And I don't know what they did, but the conversation was, "How much did you win last night?" "How much did your mother win?" Four in the family, and I think they played poker with each other. [Laughs]

TI: Now, what would you do? You mentioned earlier how with dice you would win money from the people at the hospital and places like that. What would you do with the money?

SK: I don't know. I know I had, well, maybe I went to school after that, and I must have had some money. 'Course, I wasn't broke. [Laughs]

TI: Now, did your, did your parents ever find out about all your gambling?

SK: No.

TI: So how did you keep it away from them? 'Cause they were just doing their own thing and you did your own thing?

SK: Well, I never did anything like that at home, never gambled at home except at a friend's place. I don't think my father even bought one bakape, they called it. Then I don't think he ever bought a ticket or anything. He's one of those guys that never did gamble.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.