Densho Digital Archive
Japanese American Museum of San Jose Collection
Title: Eiichi Sakauye Interview
Narrator: Eiichi Sakauye
Interviewer: Jiro Saito
Location: San Jose, California
Date: February 8, 2005
Densho ID: denshovh-seiichi-01-0031

<Begin Segment 31>

JS: You told me, or I heard about Walter Cronkite contacting you when you first got back. Could you tell us a little bit about that?

ES: Well, when they come back in January '44, Walter Cronkite, out of the blue sky, called me, and he said, "You took some footage of camp, and I'd like to see it." And of course, I was kind of reluctant to say, "Yes, you can have it," because I just began to wonder how he's gonna use it. Anyway, after a number of telephone calls from New York, so I finally said, "I'll loan it to you." So after he's seen the picture, he says, "You fellows had a swell time." I says, "Well, you gotta see the other side." And so he said, "Well, I'm going to title my story 'Pride and Shame.'" So that's, he took the better side, and that's what he called it.

JS: I remember seeing it a long time ago and not realizing it was your footage. How did you manage to get a camera in there?

ES: Well, that's a long, long story. I've been taking pictures ever since I was a kid, and when I went to San Jose Teacher's College, I took photography class, and I learned a little bit how to take pictures and how to print and developing print, and learned about different papers I could use. Then that wasn't enough, I wanted to take a little more, so I took a course from University of California, and I learned a lot. What he took during the World War I in Germany, he said it was illegal there, but he had a big coat on and a big buttonhole, so through the buttonhole the lens showed out, and that's how he took the picture. So I knew that, and I was just about to do that myself, but the jobs that I got and the people, the Caucasian personnel respected me, I just didn't have the guts to do things like that. Even in Santa Anita when evacuee stuff had in the truck, I was just about to do it, but I said, "Gosh, if I did that, I'd probably cry the rest of my life," so even at camp. Well, I like to record history, been all my life trying to tell the story of the Isseis, our fathers and grandfathers and grandmothers. So I had little knowledge what was taking, happening in Japan, how difficult it was to get food and so forth. Every living creature in Japan was killed for, about food, so when I went back three years later there was not a bird in the air.

But you know, there was a ruling, WRA, the ten camps, were not permitted to take pictures. But Arkansas, way out in the boondocks, were able to take pictures and have 'em developed and so forth. But they took just pictures of family activities, and only pictures that show a great interest to community life was sawing wood for their wood stove. But after staying in camp, I wanted to record some of this, because I'll probably never see it again. So I went one day to the project director and told him my story, that I'd been a historian. This is a kid who wants to record things, and I wanted to, said, "What do you want?" I says, "I want a camera to take pictures to record these things. I've taken courses at San Jose Teacher's College and also University of California, and I wanted to do this." He says, "I am not able to tell you, but I'll wire WRA and ask Dillon Myers if you can have a camera." So I went next day and got called in the office and says, "You may have a camera," so that opened up a camera for Heart Mountain Relocation Center. But I was just about ready to come back home here, so a lot of winter activities and some of the lesser activities I wasn't able to take.

JS: I also heard that your pears became an ingredient in the Del Monte fruit cocktail.

ES: Oh, yeah.

JS: How did that come about?

ES: Well, we belonged to this pear organization, and that's the reason how that came in. I belonged to the Pear League, and that takes in all the growers here that belongs to sort of a educational club.

JS: And that's how you got your pears into the Del Monte fruit, fruit cocktail? [Laughs]

ES: [Laughs] Yeah, we, in fact, we sold some pears to Del Monte.

JS: Okay, okay. All right.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.