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-01-0003

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TI: Okay, good. So this was all kind of preliminary stuff I wanted to ask you, and you were just starting to tell me what your parents did in Colton.

GS: Yes.

TI: So why don't you pick up the story there in terms of...

GS: Once they came into Seattle then he worked the railroad for a while and then he went south, and they stopped in Colton and became barbers. So then my mother also barbered, so we had a barber shop and a pool hall and a bathhouse, because the conductors and brakemen and all from the railroads would come in to get a haircut and would take a bath and play pool and go back on their trips to the other parts of the country.

TI: So I'm curious, when you say bathhouse, was this kind of like a bathhouse in the style of a Japanese sort of furo type of thing?

GS: No, the regular bathtub with, we had three sets of bath, bathtubs that we would have to do all the cleaning, draining and cleaning the bathhouse. And then the, the others would watch the pool tables, so we more or less ran a pool hall and bathhouse and barbershop.

TI: And so this was for, kind of, the railroad workers. I was wondering, did your parents ever, like, cut hair for, like, Japanese families or anything like that?

GS: Yes, but then there's only four families living in Colton at that time.

TI: Oh, so only four. So tell me about the four families in Colton? What did they do?

GS: Next door was Nishida family, they had a chop suey house, Japanese house, and then another, Shimazus had a grocery store on the other corner, and then, and another fellow, he was a single man, he didn't, he worked various places and I think he would help, help at the grocery store with Shimazu family.

TI: So in this case, your parents, the barber, pool hall, bathhouse, then you had the restaurant and the grocery, so were all these catering to the railroad workers, is that who the customers were?

GS: Uh-huh. And the business of Colton, town of Colton. We were just a block from the railroad station, and across the street was the superintendent of the railroad, and behind his house was just this empty lot. And then next door to us they have a wrecking, wrecking yard, automotive, automotive cars, and then east side of us, Main Street, would be the, going north-south where the, we go north to, grammar school was about eight or ten blocks north of us, then we have to walk to school. So when I walked to school, I didn't know how to get back home. So I'm sitting on the curb crying, and the policeman come by and he looks at me and he says, "I know where you live," so he took me back to the house. [Laughs]

TI: 'Cause that's where the four Japanese families lived?

GS: Four Japanese, there's only four places that he could take us to.

TI: So how old were you when this happened? It was just like kindergarten?

GS: Five, about six years old, seven years old.

TI: But it's kind of interesting, so back then, even though you're five years old, you would just walk to school by yourself.

GS: Then my brother, too, John. And I've been, got sick and I missed, held back another year because diphtheria, pneumonia, and all, measles and stuff, so then I went to school with John, so me and John were in the same grade. So we went to school together.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.