Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: George Yano Interview
Narrator: George Yano
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda, Steve Fugita
Location: San Jose, California
Date: December 1, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-ygeorge_4-01-0014

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TI: So George, I kind of went through, kind of the areas that I wanted to, I mean, in terms of the history. Is there anything else you want to talk -- I mean, I want to kind of shift to the reasons why you do as much research as you do in this area. But before I go there, is there any other historical things you want to talk about, about the family or anything?

GY: Not that I could think of.

SF: We didn't cover the actual trip. Maybe we could ask George to...

TI: Oh, sure, okay.

SF: Can you kind of hit the highlights of the trip, actual...

GY: The evacuation?

SF: Yeah, actually from San Jose to...

GY: Well, again, I got the information from others. I wasn't born yet. And it's in that report that I gave you a copy of. But it's, it was frantic the day that they started preparation and heard that it had to happen. And in our family, (Sam) Tanase was a student at San Jose State, fluent in English, knew what was happening. So he was the one that sort of got the word out to our, the other families that it's gonna happen, and we've got to leave tomorrow. So I don't know what time that was, but I'm sure they worked through the night to get packed and then left in the morning. 'Cause they gathered, they left at nine o'clock. They must have had several gathering places, 'cause some people say it was at the Buddhist church here, and some people say that it was at my, at Kameo's ranch. But that all happened at nine o'clock or so, according to my dad's diary. He kept short notes on each day. About nine o'clock they left. And the preparation, I mentioned that my grandmother wanted to have rice and sugar or some key things that they didn't want, some people didn't want to carry, but she wanted. And the thing about, we're always carrying water around, there's water all over. And I said, "What did you do about water?" "Geez, we didn't even think about that. We can't even recall thinking about it," but they probably had, like, tea in thermoses or something. And I said, "What about food? What preparation?" They made the usual onigiri and few okazu and packed it like a picnic. And they put it in the cars and took off. So when I think of it now, it's geez, that's right, that's what you could do. At first when I think, "What are you gonna do about food? What about water? Where do you stop for toilets and stuff like that?" And they managed all that, seventeen vehicles. So in hindsight, it might have been, it happened, but if you tried to preplan it, it'd probably be a nightmare.

SF: Do you think that they thought about going in smaller groups because that might be lower-key or whatever you want to call it?

GY: Well, I guess they had until a certain time to be past Highway 99. And it seemed like everybody wanted to go together. And so they decided meet and then caravan over, so they, I guess they stood out. But in a couple of cases it seemed like even the highway patrol helped them move along. Yeah it's hard to imagine in those old vehicles.

SF: What kind of discrimination did they bump into along the way?

GY: The only one that I heard is after Salt Lake City, they're going on their way to Colorado, I think, Keenesburg. And going through Laramie... was it Laramie? One of the towns in Wyoming, they heard the caravan is coming. So there was a lot of people along the road in town that were saying, "Japs," and, "Get out," or something. And they couldn't find housing there, so they had to find it someplace further out, a hotel, motel. But that's the only one I heard. Otherwise, back in those days, it was probably not like today anyway. So people were probably used to some discrimination. But blatant discrimination, that was the only one I heard of.

TI: There's one good story about one of the kids being left behind?

GY: Yeah.

TI: Tell me that story.

GY: That was May, May Watanabe. And she told the story that, yeah, everybody decided to have breakfast. The whole Watanabe family had breakfast at this coffee shop or restaurant, and they only had so much time to do that before the caravan took off again. And in the rush -- and I don't know how many brothers and sisters she has, but there were many. She was left there, and she didn't know what to do, she said. But they came back for her. [Laughs]

TI: [Laughs] That's probably a kid's worst nightmare. You know, they always kind of take, I mean, with my kids, you always say, "Hurry up, we're gonna leave you behind," and then to actually be left behind. Anything else that just stands out in terms of your report or anything about the trip?

GY: It's like, even though it was this horrible trip that they had to make, each sort of went on its own way, like Jimmy Shimizu, who's in here, he tagged along way behind, they had to wait for him up on top of the Sierras, probably freezing temperatures, and he's coming along and he finally gets there, and so it wasn't like you're in the military and you had to march along. They probably even lost sight of each other at certain points, signals and things. But they made it there, it's amazing. And the one story about Tanase leaving his money at the motel. They had to take money out of the bank, cash, probably lots of money, so that it wouldn't be stolen, he hid it under the mattress at the night in Elko, and when he got up he forgot to pick it up, so they had to go back after it, stuff like that. And it was still there. So they got it, got back, and because of that, now, Chester Tanase, that's the son, Mr. Tanase's son, and my dad, went back. And Chester was usually the guy that spoke, translated for Kameo and others, Mrs. Tanase being another key person. But because they had gone back, Jimmy Shimizu was the translator. He's in L.A. So he knew what conversations happened in Salt Lake City. Jimmy Shimizu was the only guy that knew. And I just lucked into that when I called him. And he's pretty rough, he was a truck driver, so he's pretty rough-speaking, as you could sense in there. But that was, that was very lucky. And being able to know, because we had all thought that the JACL and the Zimbleman family... one of the stories was that the Zimbleman family sort of felt like helping, 'cause they had gone through this same thing and sympathized, and they made this offer: "If any of you need work, come to our ranch." Well, that wasn't so, otherwise, they would have had tens of thousands -- not tens of thousands, but hundreds of people there, 'cause there were a lot of people that evacuated. But the contact point was in Salt Lake City. And so the people, a lot of people went to Salt Lake City, and then they found out that it wasn't the case, it was a labor contractor.

TI: Do you know if there were any repercussions to that labor contractor for doing that? I mean, was there any, did anything happen to him?

GY: No. You know, he was doing his business, he was doing his work, I guess. And what Jimmy says is that Tanase and my grandfather put out a lot of money to get the, his efforts, and got nothing in return. But I think Jimmy Shimizu is still alive. I haven't talked to him in a long time, but his wife passed away recently, about a year ago, I guess.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.