Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Saburo Masada Interview
Narrator: Saburo Masada
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Fresno, California
Date: September 11, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-msaburo-01-0024

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KL: This is -- excuse me -- tape four of a, we're wrapping up an interview with Saburo Masada. And I wanted to ask you about your and Marion's talks that you give. Can you tell us where you've been and what the talks are like, what kind of response you get?

SM: I think one of our very first was in Stockton. We spoke at University of Pacific, and since then we've, I've been invited to speak at Rotary and Kiwanis, and because they have only like fifteen, twenty minutes, it's sort of difficult for both Marion and I to give our talk. But in the schools we have maybe maximum, not maximum but minimum of forty minutes to an hour and a half, so we both get to share. We have a professor friend at the University of Fresno who always invites us to two of her classes, let's see, four of her classes, and then she tells other professors about us, so they invite us and so that's been helpful. And then Marion's one of those who, when she sees an opportunity she really latches onto it, and if it was up to me it would never happen. So her, our trip to Nebraska is because Marion said, "We're going to go." And a trip to Minnesota we met Gina Winger at the Tule Lake. She stayed here for a couple days. So if it wasn't for Marion, we wouldn't have gone to Minnesota either, West Virginia and all that. So I sort of ride her coattail, but she makes me do all the work, says I have to do most of the presentation, but it's been wonderful to share a story. And we get a lot of responses saying they didn't know that that happened and they can't believe that it happened, how America would've done such a thing, and so that's been interesting to hear that, and how they feel so badly about it, as if they had not known about it before, which they didn't. One person, out of the blue, told Marion, "I apologize." And of course she knows that he wasn't living then, but she appreciated it 'cause nobody had ever said that. But since then, we've had several people say, "We're sorry that our country did that to you." So that's good that they're, that they identify with our country's mistakes, or crime. Since last September 'til the end of June of this year, we've had about sixty-five classes or service clubs we've addressed, so we've been very busy. But it's no problem for me. We love it, so we accept any invitation that we could fulfill. And this year already, our friend at Fresno State has us come to four classes, and another high school invited us, another one in Madera, and so they're starting to roll in again now that school has started.

One of the interesting things is there is a National History Day, and students have interviewed us on internet to try to get the story so they can do the project. And Marion may have told you, a student, eighth grader -- I didn't think he was an eighth grader, he was so astute, but he was only an eighth grader -- he interviewed us and he presented his project and his video, and he came in second place in Long Island. And he competed for the state, but he didn't place. A group of four girls from, I think Houston, interviewed us, and they came in third place for the state in their competition. And then, because of our friend in Tulare County, in the educational field, she referred us to a group of sixth graders in Bakersfield who won co-champion of California National History Day Competition, in their particular category. And so this teacher wanted us to have a private audience of her students, so it just so happened that we were going to Irvine, so on the way, at noontime, we looked up the school and they gave us a private performance of these five sixth graders. But they had a local TV there to film them and us, interview us and things like that, and I was just so impressed. And since I was a sixth grader, I thought, wow, I would've never spoken out like that that they did, but they had me in tears because they were so good. In ten minutes they were, told the history from way back, 1900s, all the way to after camp, in ten minutes, and they spoke like a mile a minute. So they were going to the National in Maryland, so we donated just a little amount to support them, and they interviewed us. The kids asked us questions and all that, and I suspect that that helped them to get a sense of what they were portraying. But we got an email saying, for the category, they announced, "Bakersfield." They had won first place in National. That was, yeah, that was amazing. And so they emailed us, said, "Well, this is part of your victory, actually." And not, it really wasn't, but they really appreciated our being in touch with them.

So that's been really interesting, and it's strange that the camp experience is one of the popular things for National History Day, because I think it has to do with justice. I'm sure the redress, or the educational fund, to help educate, I'm sure that has helped spread the word around that this was an event that helped, happened in American history. So we get a lot, we get a lot of requests for that kind of support, to give information. Let's see, other than that, well, we had to speak four classes in a row -- well, one time, actually, six classes -- but by the time the third class came, I said, "Marion, did I already say that to this class, or was that the other class?" [Laughs] And so I told the teacher after, "My gosh, one of the hardest thing is I don't remember which class I said this."

KL: I think we've actually done really well this week, remembering what we've said on camera and off, and trying to cover everything from the record.

SM: [Laughs] Right. And the teacher said, "I have the same problem." So I said, oh, okay. Especially when we ad lib.

KL: Were there other things that I didn't ask about that you wanted to include in this recording?

SM: Let's see... well, it always surprises me that this is such a popular topic, seventy-one years after it happened. That just blows my mind, just to think about this. And it's unfortunate that most of our, my generation have died, and those who were willing to talk. I wish we were much younger, and these people who died, who had so many stories to tell, that they would, were available to tell the stories. But never too late, I guess, so I appreciate the focus on it.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.