Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: George Maeda Interview
Narrator: George Maeda
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Santa Ana, California
Date: October 13, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-mgeorge_6-01-0009

<Begin Segment 9>

KL: Anything else that is a significant memory of yours from before the trip to Manzanar? Well, yeah, your visits to your father, what happened next?

GM: My father was imprisoned in a makeshift prison at Tujunga, and we had visiting rights there. Except we had to speak and see each other through a huge chain-link fence, so I remember our goodbyes were just sort of touching fingers through the chain-link fence. And again, when we visited him, we had no idea if he was going to be there for the rest of his life or one month, two months, three months. So while we vacated Northridge to go to Manzanar, he was in prison, so my mother handled most of it. I remember there were things like a bugle and a bicycle. I didn't know what to do with them, so we put 'em in the living room. The bugle I remember was on top of the table, and we just left it there, we didn't know what to do with it.

And we met at the Burbank train station with only the luggage we can carry. And my mother and my two sisters, and we boarded this bus that had drawn window shades, and we took this seven-hour drive to Manzanar. We had no idea where we were going, except we were going north. And we stopped at Manzanar and it was so windy we could hardly see more than 10, 20 yards. I don't know, could I tell you a little bit about the first day?

KL: I'd like to hear that, but before we do, I wondered if you could give me a description, a visual description of what you saw in Tujunga on those visits? You said there was a fence, what else?

GM: That's about how... I don't remember the buildings they were in, it was a huge, tall fence. And they had to come, the prisoners had to come to the fence and we were able to talk to them through a chain link fence. It was a makeshift prison, so it wasn't a formal...

KL: Did you have contact with any personnel there, any army or other staff?

GM: I don't remember any of them.

KL: What was your dad's demeanor?

GM: He's always been sort of quiet, so in that respect, I didn't see any change in him except the Japanese immigrants were not that... not that they didn't love you as much, but there wasn't a lot of hugging and kissing going on in those days anyway. So I didn't notice that much difference in my father except when we said goodbye, I do remember when we said goodbye, we could only stick our finger through the chain link fence and sort of click fingers together.

KL: How many times did you see him there?

GM: I remember twice, but my guess is maybe three times. We weren't there much. After he was arrested, between the time he was arrested and we were evacuated, there wasn't that much time.

KL: Do you remember your emotions when you saw him there or over those visits?

GM: Sort of subdued. I mean, there was no crying. My guess today -- and I'm speaking for my mother -- there was more of a disbelief. I imagine she just couldn't believe what was going on. And my poor father, he didn't know what was going on, except he was being questioned a lot. He had no idea if he was gonna stay there or be released or what, but after some interrogation and questioning and so forth, he joined us in Manzanar about, my guess about three or four months after we went to Manzanar.

KL: Did he give you a description of what questions people were asking him or how they acted toward him or anything?

GM: No. Those postcards that I'm donating to you, those are the letters that he wrote to me from Tujunga prison.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.