Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: George T. "Joe" Sakato Interview
Narrator: George T. "Joe" Sakato
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Denver, Colorado
Date: May 14, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-sgeorge-01-0016

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: You know, I... once the camps in Arizona got established, was there any contact that you had with the camps, like at Poston?

GS: Yeah. Then they were able to, the people in camps, would come out to work on the farms. They would be able to work on the farms, so every different places, farms, they would hire these kids from the camps, from Gila to Poston, that would come into the camps. So then my younger brother, he decided, when after the farm, the crops were over, they would have to go back to camp, so he went back to camp with him. How he got in there, I don't know, just as a farmworker, and he stayed with one of the fellows that worked on the farm. He wouldn't come home.

TI: So your brother went in the camp, and why did he go into the camp?

GS: He wanted to see what the camp was like. [Laughs] He was, then he says all the girls were there, all the girls you could see, all the different girls, so he would go to the block dances and stuff like that in the camps. It was fun, he didn't want to come home.

TI: So when you heard these stories, what did you think? Did you want to go in the camp, too?

GS: So then the farmers would, the workers would come in, and they would buy Japanese goods, order Japanese, Koji rice and all this. So we would truck it into Poston. I would, me and my, the Yoshitake, the owner's son, would drive his, would drive me into Poston with the Koji and all the canned goods, and we had a little flatbed truck that we'd put all the rice and stuff in, and we'd take it into camp. And then we also did a little bootlegging; we would take three cases of booze, and we'd get out to the area that the truckers, water tank would water the roadbeds, rocky, wooden paved road, rocky road, and he would pave down the, water down the, so the dust wouldn't fly. Soon as he emptied his truck of water, put the booze, cases of booze in his truck, we went in with Kojis, delivered the fruits, vegetables, canned goods to Poston, then the water truck would come in.


TI: So we're in the second hour, and so we had just gotten to the point where you were talking about deliveries into the camp, I guess we're talking about Poston.

GS: Poston.

TI: And so you had just mentioned how you had put three cases of liquor into the water, sort of, truck.

GS: Water tank truck.

TI: Water tanker truck. But then now with your supplies, you're going through the gates. So I wanted to ask how, what kind of checking did they do in terms of as you went into the camp?

GS: As we went in through the gate, they'd look at our, says, well, we have, people had ordered food to be able to move in and out. Same with, like the workers in the camp would go out to work on the farms, they would have a little pass to go back in. But how my brother got through, I don't know, but he got into... and so we had a little permit, like we were coming into Poston with canned goods and rice and stuff like that, people had ordered. And so they allowed us to go through camp, into camp and deliver the goods.

TI: And then they would check, so they'd look at your list and they'd see what you had?

GS: Yeah. They would just, "Oh, you got rice here and got canned goods there, okay."

TI: And would you make deliveries directly to the, the barracks, the individual barracks? Is that where you would go?

GS: Yeah, different barracks, 'cause different groups came out of camps, what barracks they were at and what camp they were at, so we were able to go through the camp. And I see my (brother), I told him, "You gotta come home." [Laughs]

TI: Before we, before we go to your brother, I want to ask, okay, so then the water tanker truck follows you with the three cases. So how, how do you distribute that? How does that work?

GS: That was up to them. They, whoever ordered the booze, he would meet that truck I guess, he would meet that certain area and then they, while the guards were somewhere else, well, they unloaded it.

TI: Okay, so that was all worked out before.

GS: 'Cause the guards were only, you know, on each corner and along the fence line, they were never inside the camp, is what I could see, was never, no soldiers were ever inside the camp itself walking around that I see. So we were able to walk, drive to different camps, different part of the camps.

TI: Did you have a sense of what happened to that, to the alcohol, though, and was it like one person who would buy it and then they would sell it inside camp?

GS: That I don't know. [Laughs]

TI: So you're not sure how it was distributed.

GS: No, after we delivered, that was it. That was their problem. So they paid for that and that was it.

TI: Okay. So let's go back to your, so you're in camp, you're doing deliveries, and you see your brother? So what happens?

GS: I tell him, "You gotta come home. You can't stay in camp and all." So then he was able to come out, but he came out with another group of workers.

TI: So he somehow worked out, or figured out how to get in and out of camp.

GS: Yeah. I don't know how he got in and out. Then one of the other guys that worked, worker, he was a finagler, too, one of those workers, and he would finagle the guys and, "Come on."

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.