Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Katsumi Okamoto
Narrator: Katsumi Okamoto
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Date: November 7, 2007
Densho ID: denshovh-okatsumi-01-0009

<Begin Segment 9>

RP: Did you have to turn in any, there was a number of items that were considered contraband like radios and cameras. Do you remember having to turn in any of those?

KO: Well, my dad, I remember, had a .22 rifle, and he also had a shotgun. [Laughs] He took the firing pins off of those and got rid of 'em.

RP: Just sold them?

KO: Well, he didn't sell them, he just got rid of them. I don't know what he did with it.

RP: How about the swords?

KO: Huh?

RP: How about the swords?

KO: He stored them. Now if I recall, I think a lot of the, all the items we stored they claimed was lost in a fire. But the idea, my mother was very strong into flower arrangements as an instructor, and all her lacquerware, all of those things disappeared by the time we had in storage, and they were gone.

RP: Where did you store them?

KO: I think they were stored in a public warehouse, plus some were stored on Bainbridge Island, I think. We had very good friends in Bainbridge Island, but most of that all disappeared. They claimed it burned down.

RP: You never got any of that back?

KO: No, we got some back. In fact, we got some furniture back that, some of my dad's customers at the second store, in fact, I think there were a couple of German families that felt some empathy for him and said, "We'll store it." I think it was that way, and they even shipped it out to us in Chicago.

KP: Oh, really? And that was the samurai swords?

KO: What?

KP: The samurai swords.

KO: They disappeared.

KP: They did?

KO: So we got another set officially from Japan. They got it for us, to replacement. And it's in my brother's keeping down in Tampa, Florida.

KP: Did your folks pay rent on the storage for the duration in camp?

KO: I don't know what they did, I don't know about that arrangement. But they stored it with, they had a government storage, which wasn't kept up. I mean, it was all, it was a joke, I think.

RP: Not too many folks at that point trusted the government to store anything.

KO: Pardon?

RP: Not too many folks trusted the government to store items.

KO: No, well, it's no different today. [Laughs]

RP: Yeah, we can't find things at Manzanar.

KO: That's right.

RP: What happened to your father's business?

KO: He sold it, the goods. I understand that business didn't last very long. But some people came up to him and said, gee, they don't understand what's going on, really. I don't think the average person did, any clear-thinking people, you know. But I don't know what you do. I felt sorry for my dad. When I left Seattle I was fifteen, so you know really, I didn't have a real deep understanding of what was going on.

RP: Right. It's pretty well-acknowledged by most of the, most of the Nisei and everybody else, that it was the Issei that really suffered the brunt of the...

KO: Oh yes, uh-huh. When you work all your life for things, yeah. All taken away at the stroke of a pen. Then my dad had a heart attack right before he went to camp. I think it's all the stress. He had a stroke, so...

RP: And was he hospitalized?

KO: Yes, he was, and when we went from "Camp Harmony," which is a joke, "Camp Harmony," Puyallup, we went before him and he came with the hospital people. He was confined with a stroke. I think he had suffered it while he was in Puyallup, because all that stress got to him. Of course, I think he had high cholesterol levels but we didn't realize it. So he was rather an invalid, not real bad but he couldn't do anything strenuous after that.

RP: During the time you were in Puyallup he was kind of laying low?

KO: Yeah, even afterwards. Take it easy.

RP: Did your, did the whole family go as a group to Puyallup?

KO: Yes, we did. Yes, and we even took our, made sure my grandmother and my uncle came up from California.

RP: Oh really? Where?

KO: They were in Los Angeles. The two boys ran a fruit stand, and I remember him saying they were regular customers, the one they loved was Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. I don't know if you ever heard of him, very famous. But he would take a morning walk, and theirs was the stop. I guess he might have stopped to talk a lot also.

RP: So there was a real effort to gather up all the family and go as a unit?

KO: Yes, we wanted to do that. I stayed, yeah, we were lucky to be, retain the family unit.

RP: Together.

KO: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.