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-01-0004

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TI: So what are some other childhood memories of that area, Colton? I mean, what, as you grew up, who were your playmates, what kind of things did you do?

GS: Oh, we had, one guy I used to run around with is Bill Turner, he was six foot tall, and I was only four-foot-ten, and we were Mutt and Jeff combination. We used to roller skate to San Bernardino, it's three, four miles north of us, and then we'd skate back. And then I used to run around with two, a Spanish boy, Henry Porteo, we used to, and then there was two black boys, Willard and... I don't know what the other fellow's name was, but we used to go to school together. So we all, they lived south of the tracks, so they used to come across and meet and then we'd go to school, walk together to school, and after that we'd come back. And in junior high school, we would go to, we had to go to -- the highway was the next block over from where the Shimazus' market was, and then the Main Street, and the highway, ten, I forgot what street the tenth was, must have been Tenth Street, would run east and west from Los Angeles to Indio, the valley. And so we used to, when we were kids we used to make skateboard skates, and we got a two-by-four and put a skate on the other one and one, skate on the other. Got an apple box and put it on top, so we made scooters. Put the handles on, and tin cans in front for headlights, we used to skate around the whole block with, with these scooters. And Willis grocery, I mean, clothing store was on the corner of Main Street and where we lived, they used to get mad because every time we go by them we'd make so much noise. [Laughs]

TI: And so it sounds like a rich sort of childhood, lots of friends, lots of different races, mixing of races between white, black, Japanese. Did you ever notice in Colton that, was there... what's the right word? Kind of maybe discrimination or maybe prejudice in terms of the racial minorities from the whites or was it all mixed? Or how would you characterize that time?

GS: All mixed, 'cause we all got together. It was fine, we all knew each other. And then the townspeople knew that, where we, the Japanese was in this one block area, actually, 'cause where we lived, from the Willis, Main Street, and then the Willis store, and there was a beer, a small beer joint, and then the Nishida's chop suey house, and then our house, and then next door to our house was a wrecking yard. And then the corner street was the, Shimazu's was on the highway. And then the bank was on the same... so it was, this whole block was... but we all got together fine, it was no problem.

TI: And when you think of Colton back then, how, how large was Colton?

GS: Oh, it was a small town.

TI: So how many blocks, kind of, like you just talked about? How many would that be?

GS: Oh, north I would say about a mile, go north, and then the next three or four miles, you're in San Bernardino. And then west, you're on to Ontario, Pomona, and going towards Los Angeles. South we had to go towards Riverside, and when you went east, nine miles was Redlands.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.