Densho Digital Archive
Whitworth College - North by Northwest Collection
Title: Fred Shiosaki Interview
Narrator: Fred Shiosaki
Interviewer: Andrea Dilley
Location: Spokane, Washington
Date: 2003-2004
Densho ID: denshovh-sfred-02-0002

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AD: What kind of restrictions were placed on you guys? After Pearl Harbor happened, there was a lot of curfews, limitations. What, maybe you could tell us about some of those and what it felt like.

FS: Well, first of all, they immediately... I can recall that, as I recall, the bank froze my dad's assets. Of course, we didn't have a hell of a lot of assets, so, but you know, the cash accounts and the checking accounts, that to start off with. But we, we were -- and oh, I know. My mother and dad had to go down, had to register as "enemy aliens," and register as children, registered children. Well, and one of the things that I recall is that we had, he loaded us in the car, we went downtown and went to the FBI office, and they were interviewed by, by the FBI. And I recall that, just absolutely terrified that they would never come out of that office. The other thing, of course, for every, all the Japanese Americans, Japanese and Japanese Americans, the... we were, of course, we couldn't go out after nine o'clock at night. There were certain places in town that you could not, we could not go. For instance, we could not walk or drive past the telephone office or the Washington Water Power office, or the Upriver Dam. I, and of course, we had to get a permit if we went, if we had to travel more than ten miles away from home. And so I recall, I used to have to use the library downtown, and of course, of course I took the bus, but of course we were -- that was about the limit of the places we could go.

AD: How did you feel? I mean, how did, how did you and your family respond do that? What did it feel like to have those restrictions?

FS: Well, I guess we just felt like we were, we were... I think when you think back on it, we were kind of a pariah. Although they didn't, the kids I knew in the neighborhood, they didn't pick on me, they didn't, they didn't do anything overt or covert against me, as far as I know. I recall one incident, though, early in the war they had blackout restrictions. You had to, had to cover your windows, and nobody was really ready to do that. And of course, this very officious fellow who was our, was the neighborhood, neighborhood... what do you call it? Air raid warden or something, and gosh, he said, God, he came up to the door and he pounded on the door and he says, "I can see a light through your window up there." Of course, my mother had covered the windows with blankets, but I thought... I felt like we were being treated as enemy agents at that time. It was, it was really a strange feeling 'cause he was a guy we knew for years. But I guess he was drunk with power or something.

AD: Were you attracting enemy planes?

FS: Well, I don't know what, what we expected, but it was, we, we had to practice blackout.

AD: Tell us the story about when you got your camera confiscated.

FS: Oh, I was a, I was a senior in high school, and reasonably active in the, in the class. We, I was on the annual staff, we were putting together the annual, and I was the, actually the snapshot editor that year. So right after the war, they confiscated cameras and sporting guns, and we even had a little shortwave radio, my brother and I, and they took that. And I still had pictures to take around the school, so I borrowed a guy's camera and I was taking pictures inside. And then I went outside and took a picture, to take pictures of the entranceway to John Rogers High School. I was standing out there under the trees taking a picture, and that was fine. Until a few days later, I get a call in one of the classes to report to the, to report to the principal's office. And there was this guy in a suit and tie, and he said, "You were seen taking pictures of the school. What are you doing?" Obviously somebody had seen me doing this and called the FBI. And I said, "Well, I'm photo editor of the, of the annual, and I was taking pictures. And he said, "I want you to cut that out." [Laughs] And so I cut that out, you know. I said, really intimidating, first experience with the FBI.

AD: And tell, I mean, tell us how did it feel? You were seventeen, you're a kid, and you're being treated as...

FS: Well, I don't know what exactly, what they thought I was doing. I was just, thinking back on it, right then I was just terrified. I thought, well, God, they're gonna haul me off to jail or something. But thinking back on it, I thought, well, now gosh, don't you think somebody else is... [laughs]. Go pick on somebody else, I guess.

AD: What did, what did it feel like -- and I kind of asked this before -- but what did it feel like to be treated as an enemy, and that you were, were all these little incidents and sort of restrictions that were placed on you? You were, I mean, even looking back on it retrospectively, what...

FS: Well, you know, mostly being a young guy, you're really intimidated, so you walked a really, really fine line, you know. You didn't, you didn't overtly or covertly intimidate anybody. As I recall, I don't remember any overt actions against us. I don't think I was ever called a bad name. But the, the sense that this could happen was enough to, enough to scare you.

AD: Does it make you mad when you look back on it?

FS: What happened to me and my family really, we were not, we were not badly used, I would say. We'd lived in that same area for all our lives, and those people who were my friends stayed my friends, I think. I did not venture far from home during those days, early days.

AD: What about your parents? Do you think that, what, what do you think -- and obviously you're sort of conjecturing here -- but what do you think they felt at the time?

FS: Well, my, I know my father, listening to my father, he was first of all concerned. I recall his conversation at supper or something, that first of all, the laundry was right next to the railroad tracks, we were just half a block from the railroad tracks. And so he thought we were vulnerable, and he said, "I don't know what I'm going to do if, if they, if they pick up, pick us up," parents, "and move you, because you guys obviously can't take of yourselves." He was concerned about that. As far as the war was concerned, he was Japanese, of course, and he understood, but he didn't understand why, why Japan had gone to war. He just, he, for the life of him couldn't... of course, he was, he was not politically astute, just a dumb farm kid. But they were scared, but they were scared for us. And the one thing that was really of great concern to my mother and father was that, that they had sent my oldest brother George to Japan to go to college, and he got hung up there. And I don't think a day went by that my mother didn't, didn't worry about that, 'cause we didn't know what happened, what had happened, and we did not hear about him until 1946.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.