Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Richard Sakurai Interview
Narrator: Richard Sakurai
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: July 24, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-srichard-01-0013

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RP: Now you mentioned your sister Betty had cerebral palsy, and were they any modifications made to your barrack to allow her --

RS: Later on they put a little porch outside the door so she could come out and be outdoors. She couldn't go any further than that because the wheelchair wouldn't go up and down the stairs of that porch. And if she got down to the ground, of course it was either muddy or something like that so she couldn't leave the room. There weren't any bathroom facilities in the barracks so my parents asked me to build a little chair for my sister that they could put a chamber pot underneath it. So I built... somewhere or other I found some tools, of course there's lumber, pieces of lumber all scattered around, so I gathered pieces of lumber together and built a chair and cut a hole in the seat of the thing there and measured underneath it just enough so that the chamber pot would just slip underneath there, underneath the hole and that my sister could use that as a toilet. I did that at the assembly center and I did that at Minidoka, and I also made another chair for Betty, for her to sit on the rest of the time. There was no other furniture you know. The only furniture was these army cots, nothing to sit on. So I made a chair for Betty and all I had was pieces of lumber, one by fours, okay, and a hammer and some nails and a saw.

RP: Where did you get the hammer and the saw from?

RS: I don't remember where I got those. Somewhere or other I was able to get a hammer and saw and some nails and the lumber. I asked myself, how can I make a chair so that it won't just be a wobbly old chair with these pieces of wood, which that wide and this thick and so forth. And you just nail things together like that, they're always going to be wobbly and so forth. I can't have my sister sitting and suddenly the chair collapses. So I got to design a chair in such a way as just using nails to hold the lumber together, it will still be stable and won't wobble and fall apart. So I thought about this and finally come up with a way to make a chair. And years later I discovered that I had re-invented a famous chair called an Adirondack chair, you know what an Adirondack chair is like?

RP: No.

RS: It's a chair that has a slanting seat, and there's a back to it that stands up and those are connected together with... the back legs of the chair are a piece of wood that goes down and hits the floor and this other part, if you put another piece of lumber this way, that's the front leg, right. So we have a piece like that and piece that goes down like that and same on the other side so it rests on this leg, that leg and the ends of the two slanting ones, okay. And then you run some lumber this way and then you put some lumber this way and run another piece of lumber across the back like that and then across from there you run a piece of lumber over here to the top of this front leg, okay. That acts as an arm for the arm rest like this and also holds this thing in place, also holds the back of the back in place. You do all that with nails and not have to put pegs in there to hold it steady. I discovered that's very close to what an Adirondack chair, how it's built.

RP: That's great. Did you have a chance to leave the camp to go into Twin Falls or any of the neighboring communities while you were at Minidoka?

RS: Once I went into Twin Falls when I was a senior in high school and we were allowed to... the whole senior class went into Twin Falls to get pictures for the yearbook. Three times during those three years I got released for about a month to go out and do the harvest.

RP: Is that potatoes?

RS: A couple years it was sugar beets and one year it was potatoes. I have some stories about those things but I won't have time to describe those but there was interesting things going on with those trips as well. And one other time, one other time my sister and I and Betty were released to go take a trip to Boise for Betty to see a orthopedist or somebody like that, some specialist, and somehow or other we were able to get on some buses and travel here to there and so forth and we got to Boise and the three of us, and we saw the orthopedist and then we came home. But other than that I don't think we... at least I don't remember going out.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.