Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Sachi Kaneshiro Interview
Narrators: Sachi Kaneshiro
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: May 13, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-ksachi-01

<Begin Segment 1>

RP: This is an oral history for the Manzanar National Historic Site. Today we're talking with Sachi Kaneshiro.

SK: Right.

RP: And our interview is taking place at Sachi's apartment at 3939 Marleton Avenue in Los Angeles, apartment number 349. And our interviewer is Richard Potashin, our videographer is Kirk Peterson, and we also have Dorothy...

Off Camera: Kuwaye.

RP: Kuwaye, sitting in our on interview today. The date of our interview is May 13, 2009. And we will be discussing Sachi's experiences as a former internee at Poston War Relocation Center and Heart Mountain as well. We'll also discuss her experiences relocating to New York as well as her work for the WCCA before, before the camps were actually established. Do I have permission to go ahead and record our interview?

SK: Yes.

RP: Thank you so much for taking some time to go back and visit with me a little bit.

SK: It's my pleasure. My pleasure.

RP: I know it's not a long ways to go back, but you have some very clear and vivid memories of the war years. We're gonna start, again, sort of with your family background and you personally. I have to ask you those very personal questions.

SK: My, my birth date? [Laughs]

RP: Your birth date and where you were born.

SK: January 1, 1920. That's my official birth date.

RP: January first?

SK: In Los Angeles. Yes. Well, actually, in those days I think the information got to the bureau of records, you know, by Pony Express because it took 'em a week. Actually I was born on December 27, 1919. But I use the 1920 because it makes me younger. [Laughs]

RP: And your, you don't mind if I refer to you as Sachi?

SK: (Of course not).

RP: Which is short for Sachiko?

SK: I think my birth certificate has the "ko" on the end, uh-huh.

RP: You never took an American name?

SK: I did but I don't... I don't know why. I chose Agnes at one time and then I hated it afterwards so I decided to go back to my, my Japanese name. I can't change the slant of my eyes, the color of my skin. So I kept Sachi.

RP: Sachi. And your maiden name?

SK: Sachi Tamaki.

RP: Tamaki.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

RP: Sachi, tell us what you can recall about your family background. Your, specifically, your mother and father and their lives in Japan.

SK: Oh, I don't know too much about their lives in Japan because, you know, we always had this language barrier and so we weren't able to converse freely with each other. But I know my father came seeking a better life. And we think he might have jumped ship and ended up in Mexico. And I, we think, he walked across the border to California and began working as a migrant laborer. While he was working, he met another man from Japan, from Okinawa, and he actually promised my mother to my father (...). And (so the other man), my grandfather actually arranged (the union). (...) But when she heard about it she was very unhappy, of course. (...) She didn't want to leave her home. But she (traveled)... I don't know how many days it took, twenty days by ship to get here, to meet a strange man and become his wife. As she told me once, she was considering jumping overboard. But she knew that would be a disgrace to her family so she carried out her promise to her father. So, anyway, after she arrived, they lived on a, well, actually my father worked for a farmer, a Caucasian farmer, initially. That was the Sawyers. (He) after a few years went on his own. But he couldn't own any land. He leased the land. He couldn't own (...) land because of the (alien) land law in 1913 that prohibited Japanese from owning property. So he became a truck farmer, growing vegetables and...

RP: Where did he, where did he establish himself?

SK: Where?

RP: Uh-huh.

SK: Well he first started in Baldwin Park, which is close to Covina. And then moved to Covina.

RP: Where did he get the name of the grandfather who sort of arranged the marriage?

SK: Do you want his name?

RP: Yeah, could you spell it?

SK: Miyahira. M-I-Y-A-H-I-R-A. I've forgotten his first name. But, but...

RP: And your, your mother's first name was Hana?

SK: Hana Miyahira, yes.

RP: And did she have, did she have any other sisters and brothers that eventually came to the United States?

SK: Yes, my uncle (Chasuke Miyahira), who was fourteen when he came here. Oh, actually, he came with her. That's right, they came together. Then he went to the same... no, wait a minute. He went to (the) same elementary school I went to. (Where) he learned English and then left here, L.A., in 1927 to go to New York.

RP: That's the uncle who went to New York.

SK: Right. Uh-huh. And then she had two older --

RP: What was his name?

SK: -- sisters who went to South America to live because by that time, that was, you know, 1924, they banned all emigration from Japan. And so (although) they intended to come here, they bypassed California and went to Brazil. So that's where they (established themselves).

RP: Is there still a family presence in Brazil?

SK: Yes, yes. In fact, I've visited with my mother twice in the 1980s. Her sister had passed away but the children are all still there and live. (They now have) grandchildren. But they're doing well.

RP: And did they, did those families establish themselves as farmers in Brazil? Or what did they do there?

SK: No. Well, it's kind of like what happened with the Japanese here. The first generation were farmers and second generation became professionals. And, so the family I met were mostly, the second generation, were doctors and bankers. Our cousin is a banker. And, yeah I guess...

Off Camera: Businesspeople huh?

SK: Oh, I'm sorry, the second generation were business people and the third generation were the professionals. That's right.

RP: Professionals, uh-huh. It would be interesting to, to look into how Japanese Isseis were accepted in South America as, in contrast to the United States.

SK: Yes.

RP: Did they face similar obstacles?

SK: Uh-huh.

RP: Like the land law and other things like that.

SK: Yeah. No doubt. Yeah. But they, most of the Japanese were doing very well, where we went anyway. They had nice homes and...

RP: Uh-huh. Were they in cities or rural areas?

SK: They were in a place called Campo Grande, which is a city. But we also went to Rio and we went to... anyway, I can't think of that (place). Very uh...

RP: Sao Paolo?

SK: Sao Paolo. And, and then to Campo Grande.

KP: What was your language of communication with your cousins?

SK: Well, it, it was difficult because they speak Portuguese, right? I had a cousin who worked in a bank in Bolivia. And so she spoke some Spanish so I, with my rudimentary Spanish was able to communicate with her. But mainly by dictionary. I had my Portuguese-English dictionary and, and my cousins had their English-Portuguese, well, vice-a-versa, anyway.

KP: So no Japanese spoken at all?

SK: Our parents, my mother spoke Japanese but (the Issei in Brazil) spoke Japanese better than (Portuguese). They spoke no English at all. So I did speak to some of the cousins in Japanese. But that was an interesting experience.

RP: Can you give me your, your uncle's name again? The one who was in New York?

SK: Yes, his first name was Cho.

RP: Cho?

SK: C-H-O. It was, it's kinda cut short for Chosuke Miyahira.

RP: Miyahira, okay. So he went to New York. What was your, were your parents married in California?

SK: Yes, uh-huh. Yeah.

RP: Your mom came over and they married?

SK: Right, yes. I remember seeing their marriage certificate.

RP: Uh-huh. Okay.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

RP: And, Sachi, tell us a little bit about your siblings, brothers and sisters. Maybe by, you know, oldest first. And give us a little, you know, maybe just a little snippet of information about them. What do you remember about them? Maybe what, what they...

SK: Well, as you know, there are six of us. And I always wished that I was an only child. [Laughs] Being the oldest of six, of course, after we became adults it was totally different. I'm so happy that I had five siblings and all of us are living and have our own teeth. [Laughs] Anyway, the one next to me is Aki who, who lives in Hawaii. She was, did you want to know something about their traits or what?

RP: Personality, yeah, traits. Uh-huh.

SK: Oh. Well she was the, the gentle one. The one that was very obedient to our parents and she did a lot of the work that Mary and I somehow, conned her into.

Off Camera: Pestered...

SK: Yeah. Mary is the third daughter, right. And she's probably the most outgoing of all of us.

Off Camera: Aggressive.

SK: Yeah. And more assertive and, and she's been in jobs where, you know, that was (an asset). She did very, very well. And, she's very bright and a take-charge kind of person. George was an engineer for Hewlett Packard. You see, most of the time when we were growing up, I was in close touch with Aki and Mary. But with the others, (because) I was in college for four years (living) on campus, and then after that, I went to camp. So I didn't really get to know them until we became more mature. But George must have been bright. He was in the Signal Corps when we moved to New York and then (...) was teaching radar at the time, and (after being discharged) by Hewlett Packard and was with them for about thirty years until he retired. He's married, no children. Then Dorothy, you don't want any more information about her. [Laughs] You had enough. (...) Paul is the youngest one. (...) I always think of him as having a quiet presence. You know, he's there. (He speaks softly but) has a very dry sense of humor. (...) The kids always love him. Maybe being the youngest one he always loved babies. And so he had four of his own. And, anyway, he's always been there for all of us. In fact, I think we've all been there for all of us. But he's very special. That answer your question?

RP: Yes.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

RP: What are, what are some of your earliest memories? You grew up on the farm.

SK: Yes.

RP: With, with your older sisters, early on.

SK: Uh-huh. (Younger sisters...)

RP: You mentioned that your father raised a lot of strawberries.

SK: [Laughs] To this day I don't eat strawberries because I had to pick 'em. And if there's any back-breaking work, that's it. Yeah. But, uh, your question was...

RP: Tell us a little bit about what you can recall about the farm.

SK: During the summers we worked pretty hard. We were picking berries, all kinds of berries my father had. But during the rest of the year I know I tried to get out of whatever work, I should have been doing, by telling my parents I had homework. And that was number one. The priority for them was that we do our homework and do well in school. So, I did a lot of getting out of farm work.

Off Camera: Can I say something? Annie and Ira used to say that was she was out in the field, she would have a book open in the field. I don't know how true that was, but that she was so into her studies. That's what they used to tell me.

SK: [Laughs] Well, that might have been an act. I don't remember.

Off Camera: Why aren't you more like Sachi and do your homework. Maybe it was a book about strawberry growing? No?

SK: Did I write a book about strawberries?

RP: Was it? I was saying you were reading a book about strawberry growing. No?

SK: No.

RP: Okay. What, what other, you mentioned education was important in the family. Were there other values that were, tried to be instilled in you from your parents, or things that they taught...

SK: Well I remember my mother telling us over and over again, "You've got to be much better than your white friend if you want to be respected. You have to be on your best behavior all the time." So I think that most of us Nisei anyway were brought up with that feeling that we had to give a hundred percent, you know. Other values I guess would be loyalty and honesty. Is that what you mean?

RP: You said that you attended a Japanese school for a while?

SK: Yes. I hated it. [Laughs] We (attended), because we were forced to. We'd go five days a week to regular school and on Saturdays we went to Japanese school. And I wish I had taken it seriously but my friends and I would bring along comic books and read them when we were supposed to be doing some work in Japanese. And the teacher would come around and hit us with the ruler if he found out what we were doing. Anyway, I regret that I didn't learn more Japanese when I was in school. But, as I said, our parents forced us to go. They were hoping that we would learn something.

RP: So you could communicate a little better?

SK: Yes. Yes. Didn't happen. [Laughs]

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

RP: Tell us about the community that you grew up in. Was it, Covina, was it predominantly a farming area or rural area?

SK: Yeah. It was, I guess you would say farming. A lot of citrus groves, ranchers. Well, the Japanese were all farmers, who were living there, but we were definitely in the minority. Mostly Caucasians.

RP: Did you, did you get to know other Japanese families?

SK: Oh, yeah. Yes. We, we would have our groups and we had girls' clubs that were started actually by this lady. Her name was, we called her Aunt Hazel Roberts. But she got us interested in going to church and she created these girls' clubs by age. She was just a saint. She (...) did everything to teach us the American ways. Like we learned to eat hot dogs and hamburgers and (hand-churned ice cream). Her husband had a dairy (...). Things like that we tasted for the first time. But she taught us American ways.

RP: Did you go, did she take you out on any field trips or outings around the area?

SK: Did she take us?

RP: Yeah.

SK: Oh, I went to see Ramona. (...) You know that play in Hemet?

RP: Hemet?

SK: I remember going there. I remember going to Mission Inn in Riverside. These were big outings. And she would have us perform, "her girls," in Japanese kimonos, Japanese dances and song, for the local women's clubs. She exposed us to the community. So I think even after the war began, people were not as hostile to us. They were very critical of (...) Aunt Hazel, and Uncle Ted Roberts. So much so that they found it necessary to move. They moved to Carlsbad after that.

RP: They got a lot of flack, as you'd say.

SK: Ostracism. Yes. Yes.

RP: Ror promoting Japanese culture.

SK: Right. Yeah, yeah. Well it 's just like the Lanphears. They became "Jap lovers" (to critics. People like them) helped us keep (our) faith in America, people like that who underwent so much on our behalf.

Off Camera: Sachi, wasn't our group called the Girl Reserves?

SK: Well, we were called the Cherry Blossoms.

Off Camera: Yeah.

SK: Yeah well, it was kind of an offshoot of the Girl Reserves, or Camp Fire Girls. We just had our own name (with other groups) went to camp, you know, in the mountains. Because of Aunt Hazel (said) we were exposed to American ways and activities.

RP: How about, was religion a force in your life early on? Religion?

SK: Yes. Well, as I said, she introduced us to Christianity. And our mothers, well, I can't speak for all the mothers, but our mom, because she saw what a wonderful person Aunt Hazel was, became a Christian herself. But the Roberts used to deliver milk to the Japanese families, free. Give them milk free. You know, among the other things that they did for the families. We celebrated all the holidays, because they showed us how it was done, Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving.

RP: Was this girls group predominately Japanese American girls?

SK: Yeah. They were all Japanese Americans, yes. Uh-huh.

RP: That's amazing that you had that, that she gave you that opportunity to sort of...

SK: Yes, right, right. Yeah. Well, that was good because we weren't invited to join any of the white groups in school. (...) I always say that's what caused all the problems after war was declared. The people in general didn't really understand us. Didn't really know us because they didn't make the effort, except for these few people that went all out.

RP: Right. Those are the people that would normally speak out against something like that, too.

SK: Right, right. Well nobody ever said anything to Mr. Lanphear. Of course, he was so huge, nobody would call him a name. But, but we know that they were targeted.

RP: There was, yeah, hostility towards them.

SK: Uh-huh, sure.

RP: Uh-huh. You were president of the girls league? Is that...

SK: Yeah, uh-huh.

RP: Is that part of school?

SK: Yeah. All the girls in, in the high school belonged to it. I guess I did well honor roll-wise and I participated in sports and things like that. Anyway, they elected me to be...

RP: All the girls?

SK: To be president, yeah, of the Girls League. But otherwise, socially we never interacted. I mean, they were fine to me on campus, but nobody ever invited me to their home, you know what I mean? And, so we were, we were excluded in that way. But, academically if we did well, we were recognized.

RP: And where did you go to elementary school?

SK: I went to Lark Ellen, the same one that Dorothy went to.

RP: In Covina?

SK: In Covina. And as she mentioned there were very few minority groups or people that were ethnic.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

RP: Sachi, you talked about this, about getting a grounding in American culture. Did, did your parents, well of course they tried to get you to go to, they sent you to Japanese language school, but did you also have any other awareness of Japanese culture with, for instance, holidays or...

SK: Well, our parents watched what the other people did and they tried to emulate what they saw. Like the Christmas tree and the presents and all that. Japanese culture, I wish we had been given more knowledge about Japanese culture. We were trying to deny, actually, our heritage. And so even though we went to Japanese school, as I say, we weren't interested in learning. Whey should be learn Japanese? We're gonna be Americans and we're gonna learn English. That attitude carried through. So, why should we understand Japanese culture? Now I find, I wish I knew more because it is a beautiful culture.

KP: No Boys Day or Girls Day or New Year's celebrations?

SK: We, yeah, I remember Girls Days. My mother baked, I mean not baked, she made...

Off Camera: Manju?

SK: Manju, mochi. Yeah, sweet cakes, sweet cakes for us. She always did that. And then on Boys Day, we flew the carp. But that's all I remember. It was just a very...

Off Camera: But New Year's was always a big celebration.

SK: What? New Year's. New Year's was the big, big holiday.

KP: And what was that like? What did you, what did you do?

SK: Well, we always had our celebration in Japanese school. (...) They'd have a big picture of the emperor and empress (...). None of us (Nisei) understood (the ritual), but we tolerated it, I guess. And I remember once my girlfriend and I, we got the giggles during this very solemn ceremony because the man (who) was carrying the picture of the emperor and empress had on new shoes. I guess they squeaked. (...) It was so quiet. [Laughs] But Yoshi and I, we broke up. We couldn't contain ourselves. We got scolded afterwards. It was so funny. But, that was how seriously we took the ritual. It meant nothing to us.

RP: That's bringing shame on the family, the giggles.

SK: Yeah. That was the, the thing, I think my mother said, "You're never supposed to act like that in a ceremony as serious as that."

Off Camera: But New Year's, food was always...

SK: Oh, yes, yes. My mother would start cooking three days before and she'd have all these different dishes. And invite...

RP: People would come to the house?

SK: People... the men, only the men. Women (and) girls stayed home and did all the work. You served the men. You had to warm up the sake and feed them. And then they would go from house to house. So that was the way we celebrated New Year's. Was that what you remember? Yeah, uh-huh. And as I mentioned in my book, one year my dad had too much. Because (he drank) so much sake he drove our Ford into the irrigation ditch. But that, that's in the book.

KP: Two more holidays, Tanabata, do you remember that at all? Tanabata?

SK: No.

KP: And Shichigosan?

SK: No.

KP: Okay.

SK: I think there are other Niseis who were more into the culture. That sounds like a kenjinkai thing.

KP: Yeah.

SK: Could it be?

KP: Well, Tanabata is, it's the Night of the Stars, in July.

SK: Oh, oh.

KP: Of course there are no stars here.

SK: Oh. I never...

KP: And Shichigosan is, I think it's Three-Five-Seven. It's for the really young kids.

SK: Oh. Oh right, right. Three-five-seven? San, Go --

RP: Yeah, Three-five-seven.

SK: -- shichi.

KP: Yeah, Shichi-Go-San.

RP: Shichigosan.

SK: Oh, that's interesting. I learned from you.

RP: You mentioned kenjinkai. Was there a Okinawan Kenjinkai?

SK: Yeah. Yeah, that was part of our lives, too. Every summer they had a big picnic, the Okinawa Kenjinkai. And we always enjoyed that. They had races for the kids, and they had a program. And, and our moms used to prepare in advance for that, too. We had great bentos. Yeah, that was part of our lives.

RP: That was, was that a, a picnic for the whole city of Los Angeles? People would come from all over for that?

SK: Yeah, from all over. Uh-huh.

RP: Where was it held?

SK: Well, I remember Arroyo Seco Park in Pasadena? And Elysian Park. Different places, but those two places I recall.

RP: Was your father, I know he was busy farming. Did he take any interest in community activities or affairs?

SK: Not so much, not too much, yeah. He was not an educated man. Most of his activity was related to his Okinawan friends. They would get together once in a while and have a big drinking party. And they'd sing and dance and we were so embarrassed... play the shamisen. We were so embarrassed when (he) got up to sing because he had a horrible voice. I remember that. But I think he must have really looked forward to those occasions.

KP: That was an outlet.

SK: Yeah, right.

RP: Another, another staple of farm life was the bathing ritual. The ofuro?

SK: Oh, New Year's, before New Year's you mean?

RP: But, you know, after a hard day of work just to soak?

SK: Oh, yeah, yeah. Right.

RP: In ofuros. Did you have an ofuro or some type of a bath?

SK: We did. We did at one time. I remember my mother making the fire under the big tin thing. And, yeah, we would wash off before we got in that tub. Yeah, we had that. But I thought you were referring to New Year's. My father made us take a long bath on New Year's Eve. (...) Normally, because there were so many of us using the one bathroom, we would just rinse ourselves and get out of there. But he insisted that each one of us take a bath. And I remember (the) hot water running out before we finished. But the idea being that you wash off the grime of this old year and you're ready for the new year, clean and (spotless).

RP: Purification.

SK: Pure, purified, yes.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

RP: So did you have any specific interests or academic goals during your high school education?

SK: I wanted to be in the foreign service. My senior year in high school, that was my goal. Or a foreign correspondent. And, of course those plans were dashed because of the war. But, I did major in International Relations in at UCLA. (...)

RP: You had several teachers in high school that were very supportive of your goals?

SK: Yes, I had two teachers that I can think of. In fact, one was our neighbor, Mrs. Drendel. Remember her? (...) They encouraged me to, to apply for scholarships which I think I mentioned. I did get a two year scholarship to USC and four years to UCLA, so I (decided on) UCLA. (...) In those days it didn't amount to too much I'm sure, because tuition was so low. But I lived in this dormitory, a (...) girls dormitory, right on campus. And I worked in the kitchen for my board and room. So...

RP: Where did this interest in the foreign service come from?

SK: I guess the teachers must have told me, well maybe you can... even back then there was trouble brewing between Japan and the United States, and they thought maybe I might make a difference someplace. I really wanted to be a foreign correspondent. (...) I wanted to report what was happening overseas, and, never dreaming that, yeah, that was completely out of the question. When I graduated, I couldn't find a job. (...) I couldn't scrub floors. Nobody would take me. But I did take civil service exams and I did get hired a month before Pearl Harbor. [Laughs] So, that was for the State Department of Employment. And (they) moved me to, as I mentioned, Wartime Civilian Control (Administration) had a picture from the Times but I couldn't find it. I know I have it someplace.

RP: Is it in the book?

SK: It's, yeah, no, it's not, I didn't mention it. But...

Off Camera: Were you interviewing...

SK: I'm interviewing, well, I'm issuing permits to a couple of ladies and... I'll find it. And if, if I do, do you want me to send you a copy?

RP: Yes, yes. We'd be very interested in that.

SK: 'Cause there were only two Niseis. Ben Yoshioka was working there and I was working there. Just two of us and we were issuing permits for people to travel five miles beyond their homes for necessary appointments like medical, which was a farce because in the first place, people had to, some of 'em had to travel twenty miles to come to L.A. to get the five mile permit, you know what I'm saying? Anyway, we did that. And then we kept people informed of what the evacuation target dates were and which areas had to leave. That sort of thing.

RP: How did you, how did you get that job?

SK: Okay. I told you I worked for the State Department of Employment? Okay, they moved me when I became too visible (as an interviewer) to doing tests, typing tests for people who were applying for jobs, in the back room. And then from there they moved me into the WCCA because they said they were setting up this agency that was going to help with the orderly evacuation.

RP: Evacuation.

SK: Right, and they needed workers. So that's, that's how they, they transferred me there.

RP: So you knew about this evacuation or that something was coming down the pipes before it actually happened.

SK: Yes.

RP: Remember Executive Order 9066?

SK: Yes, yes, uh-huh. Well, everybody had heard rumors about it. But we didn't really believe it until February 19th.

RP: Do you remember how you felt about that?

SK: I felt betrayed, very disappointed. And I think it's kind of connected (to) my father's feelings. My uncle had written my mother to say he wanted two of us (...) to work for him in his business. And it was up to us or my father to choose which two would go. He decided it would be Aki and Mary because he thought that (with me), working for the government, our family would be exempt from evacuation. Anyway, he kind of thought that we had special privileges because of my job. And when 9066 came out then he knew that it wouldn't happen. That we would have to go and he would have to go, too.

RP: So how, when did Aki and Mary leave to go to New York? Was it just before the evacuation orders started to be issued?

SK: Yeah, it was March, well actually, it was Girls Day, March the 3rd. [Laughs] Yeah, they had to leave. I remember because that was the first year that my mother did not make those sweet cakes. That was a (sign) of what was happening.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

RP: Did you have, I know you mentioned you said you felt betrayed not only by your country but sort of by your father in a way because he had this idea that you'd be exempt from going to camp. But did you have a lot, during this time of working for the WCCA and seeing what was starting to form, develop --

SK: Yes, yes.

RP: -- did you have any inclination at all to challenge any of the orders?

SK: No, no. I didn't.

RP: Did you take a really strong position?

SK: In a way I was hoping that I could go because it was such a tense time for us. There was so much, like I mentioned, hostility from the, from other people. And, and I just wanted to leave this climate that was so difficult for us.

RP: And did you see that, that atmosphere of tension and hostility really ratchet up after Pearl Harbor?

SK: I don't quite understand your question.

RP: Did, did the hostility increase after Pearl Harbor?

SK: Oh, yes.

RP: The anti-Japanese...

SK: Oh definitely, definitely. And so we would hear reports, like in the Japanese bilingual newspaper, about people being attacked, people being run off the street, people being killed because they had Japanese faces. So when I approached my mother to say I was thinking about volunteering to leave to help set up this relocation camp, she was so relieved. She said, "Now I won't worry about you being (run off) the road." So, in a way, yeah, yeah. Although I was angry at the government, I still wanted to get away.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

RP: Can you tell us a little about this other gentleman who worked with the WCCA?

SK: I don't know much about him except he was very good-looking. [Laughs] He never noticed me, but yeah, he was a really handsome guy. He looked like a movie star. His name was Ben Yoshioka.

RP: Yoshioka.

SK: But...

RP: And what did he do? Was he kind of the coordinator for that particular office?

SK: No, he was doing the same thing I was.

RP: Oh, he was.

SK: Issuing permits. I don't know, I don't know where he came from. We never talked. But he had the same...

RP: Was he a college graduate, too?

SK: Yeah. He... but I don't know where or...

RP: Couldn't find work.

SK: No. Could be, it could be because a lot of college graduates, the men, were working in the produce markets.

RP: Or as gardeners.

SK: Yeah. Whatever, whatever you could get.

RP: Where was the WCCA office located?

SK: It was on Spring and, Spring and Fifth? It was a former bank building that had been converted into this agency office.

RP: But you had folks coming from all over Los Angeles to...

SK: We had lines and lines of people every day because they're so concerned. I mean, people wanted to know, "What's gonna happen to my business?" "Will I have to take my kids out of school?" You know, all those millions of questions that people have when they're forced to move from (...) the only home they know. And we were, in general, pretty well-established at that time. So, it was very difficult thing for everybody.

RP: How long did you work for the WCCA?

SK: Let's see... three months. Yeah, that's about it.

RP: Uh-huh. And you said you were, one of your jobs was to keep people notified of the evacuation... if there, if an order was sent out to evacuate a community...

SK: We presumably got the information first.

RP: And then did you send out press releases or...

SK: Oh, well, the newspaper probably, someone notified them.

RP: And then the, the evacuation posters would be put on...

SK: Yes, right.

RP: In that community and...

SK: Right, uh-huh.

RP: From your point of view, generally how much time did people have between the time that the orders were issued and when they were supposed to gather and...

SK: It depended on where you lived. If you lived close to the coast, you were the first to go and some people only had forty-eight hours, like the people in...

RP: Terminal Island?

SK: Terminal Island, right. The further you lived inland, the more time you had. So, in our family's case it was June, I think, it was June. I went as a volunteer to Poston in May and it was about June or July when our family was supposed to move and to join me, which they never did.

RP: Did you, did you have requests for... you mentioned the Terminal Island situation when people had only forty-eight hours, were, did you have any involvement in trying to located housing for displaced Japanese Americans?

SK: What I learned later was that most of those people were taken care of by churches in East L.A. They were housed there until they were sent to Manzanar. Your question was about those people in...

RP: About displaced people and being able to...

SK: (...) My friend, Maki Ichiyasu, was also transferred from the (position of) director of the Japanese YWCA to our agency to take care of people who had situations like that who lost their earnings, who lost their homes, whatever. But she knew what the resources were and she took care of those people on an individual basis. But when you mentioned Terminal Island, that was a whole bunch of people that had to be resettled...

RP: Move quick.

SK: Uh-huh.

RP: A lot of 'em, I think, ended up in Boyle Heights.

SK: That's what I meant, East L.A, yeah right, uh-huh.

RP: And...

SK: The churches...

RP: The churches, the Quaker groups?

SK: Yes. Uh-huh.

RP: So you were aware of all these other organizations providing support and assistance.

SK: Right, uh-huh.

RP: Uh-huh, yeah. There was also a curfew that was established, too.

SK: Yes. Yeah. We had to be home eight to five in the morning, something like that, yeah. And that was no problem for us.

RP: You were traveling from Covina to Los Angeles?

SK: Yeah, well, I always got home before eight.

RP: The other situation that developed after, just after Pearl Harbor, was the rounding up of the Issei community leaders and anybody who had any standing --

SK: Uh-huh, right.

RP:: -- in the community. Do you remember, did that, that, didn't touch your situation personally, but do you remember other men in the community being take away?

SK: I don't remember any. Most of (the Issei I knew) were farmers, I guess the people who were taken away were mostly (from the city of) L.A. ... you know, they were leaders. They were heads of Japanese American associations, Buddhist priests and Japanese school teachers. But I don't remember it happening to anybody in our community.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

RP: This, this situation of volunteering, you talked about a conversation with your mom or about going to volunteer. And, there was, was it Maki who was the woman who was the social worker...

SK: Yes, yes.

RP: ...who approached you about going to Poston?

SK: Yes, uh-huh, uh-huh.

RP: Can you tell us a little bit about that?

SK: Well, I had so much respect for her I think I would have gone with her anyplace. But she just asked me if I would be interested. And I said, "Only if my family can go with me." So she contacted somebody with the Western Defense Command and they said, oh yeah, they'll make sure that my family can follow me if I volunteered to go to Poston. Well, I went to Poston, (my family) went to Wyoming. So, maybe (it was) the logistics, the whole complicated situation. Anyway, they did not follow through on that. But, it wasn't Maki's doing, 'cause she had gotten the approval of somebody in the Western Command. But she couldn't follow through either because we were way out in the desert.

RP: Lead us through the events that happened in getting to Poston. Did you, did you travel just with Maki or did you travel with a large group of volunteers?

SK: Volunteers. Yes, busload of volunteers.

RP: Where did you, where did you leave from?

SK: We left from the International Institute in L.A. And, it took us a good part of the day to get to Poston because we hit (...) a sandstorm, a real bad one, before we got there. I guess it was pretty close to the border of Arizona. I know the bus driver pulled to the side for a while and then after he thought that it would let up a little he started going again. And, but by the time we got to Poston there (were) still waves of sand so that you couldn't really (see the camp), it was surreal. I mean, you just see tops or pieces of barracks through all these waves of sand. And, yeah, it's kind of a blur in my mind now.

RP: Welcome to Poston.

SK: Yeah, right. Yeah. And there was a guard there who took down, well, he spoke to Maki 'cause she was the, the head of the, the group. And...

RP: Do you know anybody else who was in that group of volunteers that went to Poston?

SK: That I'm in touch with or...

RP: Or, did you know any of the other people at that, during that bus trip?

SK: I didn't know anybody.

RP: Just Maki?

SK: (Yes). (Just) Maki. She had brought with her ten girls from Hawaii who were living at the YWCA residential facility (as) they were in L.A. to go to school. And, when the war broke out they (were) prohibited from going home to Hawaii so she brought them along with her to camp. But, we occupied what they called a girls dorm, dormitory. It was just another barrack except there were no partitions.

RP: The group of volunteers was composed mainly of young people?

SK: Oh, yeah.

RP: Young Niseis?

SK: Young maybe some middle aged, but they were all people who had skills, some skills, except for us. You know, carpenters and people who volunteered because they wanted to contribute something. Because we were to set up the whole camp, she was selective in asking people to go with her.

RP: So Maki was the person who --

SK: Yeah, uh-huh.

RP: -- actually sort of recruited people to--

SK: That's right.

RP: -- with these specific skills.

SK: And she knew a lot of people because she was a leader, a Japanese American leader, probably the most well-known female leader in the community.

RP: What was her last name?

SK: Ichiyasu.

RP: Ichiyasu?

SK: Uh-huh.

RP: Can you spell that?

SK: I-C-H-I-Y-A-S-U.

RP: I see, okay. Was she also involved in the Japanese American Citizens League?

SK: I'm not sure. I don't know about that. But she was always with the Y and then she was the director of the women's Y in Honolulu for a while 'cause she and I lived together there for about six months. Then she returned to San Francisco, the headquarters in San Francisco. She died in 1970 or '71 after she had come to visit me in L.A. Well, she was actually visiting the different Y groups in Southern California. But she had a heart attack.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

RP: So what did you do to help establish the camp at Poston? What were your early duties?

SK: Oh, okay. All the (administrators) were Caucasians, right? The employment administrator, since I had experience working in the Department of Employment, three or four months, picked me to be her assistant. So we set up the employment office there. That's what I did.

RP: And did you, did you conduct interviews --

SK: Yeah.

RP: -- with people as they got off the bus?

SK: Oh, no.

RP: What was the process?

SK: Well, we, we did the induction also. I mean, this was before we set up the employment office. We did the induction process, checking everybody in and making sure that they had a place to stay according to the number of members in their family and that sort of thing. It took several weeks before everyone was housed. Because then we went to Camp II and Camp III. Because we did...

RP: Same induction.

SK: Same thing, uh-huh, uh-huh.

RP: And this is all happening at Camp I?

SK: Yes, right, uh-huh. And...

RP: Did you have translators, too, available to translate for the Issei and the Kibei?

SK: Oh, yeah. And at that time many of the Niseis spoke Japanese fluently, too.

RP: You might have been recruited for that skill, too.

SK: Yeah.

RP: Uh-huh. And so how, how did the process work in terms of placing people in jobs? Would you get orders from...

SK: Oh, yes, yes, from the block managers because they were like the bosses of each block. So they would submit an order, "We need a person to clean the latrine. We need somebody to work in the mess hall." (...) So we would fill those orders by interviewing. Everybody, eighteen (and) over had to apply for a job. Most of the population in Poston was from farms so (that's all) they knew how to do. So we put them in jobs like in the mess halls and...


RP: This is tape two of a continuing interview with Sachi Kaneshiro. And, Sachi, we're talking about some of the preliminary steps in setting up the Poston camp, your involvement with the employment office at Poston. The lady that you worked under, do you remember her name?

SK: No, I don't.

RP: She was Caucasian?

SK: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: And how did you get along with her?

SK: Fine, uh-huh. I should have remembered her name but I'm sorry I don't.

RP: That's all right. The camp was, was the, was Camp I still being constructed when you, when you actually came in there?

SK: I believe it was. I was at the other end of camp, so I don't remember the work that was going on there.

RP: You said that you were housed with a number of other girls in, it was with like in a dormitory type, one large long building?

SK: Right.

RP: Uh-huh. Were you assigned to another barrack over time?

SK: Yes. Oh, actually, Maki and (...) another social worker who, who joined us, were given a unit by themselves but (...) it was a four-person unit, real small but had to accommodate four people. So they asked me and (...) another girl from California to live with them. So four of us had an end unit in the barrack.

RP: Do you remember what block you were in?

SK: Six.

RP: Six?

SK: Block 6. That was the first block to be occupied, a volunteer block, uh-huh.

RP: Were there other volunteers besides the busload that included you? Were there other groups that came a little...

SK: Not that I know of, not for Camp I.

RP: Uh-huh. What was the mood of people as you sort of inducted them into the camp?

SK: Oh, very depressed. I just know that they were very unhappy. (...) This is Poston we're talking about. It's like 120 degrees. People from Salinas were sent to Camp I and they were just dropping like flies as they got off the bus. It was very sad. (We had to provide) a makeshift hospital to take these people and have them rest inside. (...) Does that answer your question?

RP: Uh-huh. So when did you get the news that the, that your rest of your family was going to Heart Mountain? Was it...

SK: Well, it took a couple of months before I got a letter from my mother. It was postmarked Wyoming and that's the first time --

RP: Oh, sorry.

SK: You okay?

RP: Yeah.

SK: Yeah. That's the first time I knew that they were not coming to Poston. So, again, I felt very betrayed. But, as always, I went to talk to Maki and she said, "Well, apply for a transfer." So immediately I did. I applied for a transfer but it took another five months before it was approved. That's how quickly the wheels didn't turn.

RP: It's still not turning too quickly.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

RP: Can you tell us a little bit more about other observations of life in Poston? Your vivid memories you have of the camp or certain people in the camp?

SK: It's a big question.

RP: Mess halls.

SK: Oh, well, one thing I noticed about the mess halls was that, when people first came in, they would sit with their families and they would eat. But after a week or so, the kids would make friends and the kids would eat with their friends and the older people would eat with their peers and the whole family structure was destroyed like. The fathers had no more (...) authority over their children. They couldn't discipline because (the) kids were running (free), you know, doing whatever they wanted to do. (...) You were no longer a family. I know my brothers, when I went to Heart Mountain, were just there early in the morning and then late at night. So my mother used to call them the asaban boys. Asa meaning morning and ban meaning evening. So, it was... and our fathers kind of faded into the... they were the disciplinarians, right? They (...) had no longer any sway over the family. I think that was the biggest, or one of the biggest losses of the whole internment thing.

RP: How much did you receive for your work as a, in the employment division? Were you considered a professional?

SK: Oh, I was a professional. So I got nineteen dollars a month, yes.

RP: That's because you had that college degree.

SK: [Laughs] Well, block managers got nineteen dollars. Doctors got nineteen dollars. Oh, dear.

RP: Who did you hang out with in, in camp in Poston?

SK: Well, mostly with the girls that I lived with. I guess that's it. I didn't...

RP: Did you attend social activities at Poston?

SK: (...) I was there for seven months. And at the time they didn't have dances. They (...) started to have movies. You bring your own box and sit out in (...) the firebreak. But no, I can't think of anything that I was involved in.

RP: You were pretty busy, but did you, did you have any interest in any guys there?

SK: No, I don't remember. Anyway, I... no, I just remember that I worked all day and the evenings were the hardest because there was nothing to do. And I didn't have a boyfriend. And we didn't have any radio, we didn't have any books, we didn't have anything that would be a distraction, so it was... and then I kept thinking about my family. So I wrote letters. But that's about it.

RP: In the seven months you were at Poston, did you see any significant changes from when you got there to...

SK: Oh, yes.

RP: What were they?

SK: Oh, people had started their own gardens. And the whole area around us, which was nothing but just vast sand and scrub brush, was all green with vegetables. Yeah, so it was a huge change. The barracks were still there, weather-beaten by all the sand storms. But people had taken pride in their little place, I said, they made gardens, they made furniture for their quarters.


RP: Mary, how, how did the --

SK: Sachi.

RP: I'm sorry, okay. Sachi, how did the, the latrines affect you in the camp?

SK: Oh, I was initially very shocked to see it because in Poston the women's latrine, the toilet side was just one wooden plank with holes in it. There were no partitions at all. And then the shower -- [coughs] excuse me -- the shower was on one side. But then of course that was all open, too. (...) I thought (I'd) go first thing in the morning before anybody got up. I mean it was still dark and so I would try going early (to) do my business. And wouldn't you know, there was a whole bunch of people already there thinking the same thing. So it didn't work. So, you decided you can't fight it. You might as well just lose your sense of modesty, which we had to do. And, oh, subsequently, they did put in partitions, but no doors, just the partitions. But anyway, that was I think the hardest part of living in camp for all of us to get used to. I don't know about the men, but for, for the women especially and the girls. Lack of privacy.

RP: Now, you worked with some of the Caucasian staff.

SK: Uh-huh.

RP: How would you characterize their involvement in the camp? Were some of them there, did you really feel a, some people brought with them a sincerity to try to help out Japanese Americans where others might be a little like --

SK: It's just a job. Uh-huh.

RP: -- it's just a job kind of thing?

SK: Yeah. I didn't get to know most of them. But I know that Maki's administrator -- Maki was a recreation director and Dr. Powell was her administrator -- but he seemed so emotionally with us and wanting to do as much as he could to help, to help us out. I think my administrator, my supervisor, did her job. But I didn't get the feeling that she was there to make a difference. And I think it was an individual thing. I applaud the ones who were willing to leave their comfortable lives to go into the desert to help us out. But, of course, they were getting good money for that. So I really can't say.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

RP: So your transfer five months later finally came through to go to Heart Mountain.

SK: Oh yes, right, uh-huh.

RP: How, do you remember...

SK: How did I feel?

RP: Yeah. Do you remember the day that you --

SK: (...) I expected to jump up and down for joy. I felt very down. Because I had already, well, I had developed another family with Maki and (the social worker) we called (...) Miss T. They kind of took me under their wings and... when we were in that one unit we spent so much time just talking. And there's two social workers and, well, this other gal and me. They were so rich in experience that I learned a lot from them and I really felt like I was leaving (my) family again. But once I got over that initial feeling I began to look forward to, to going to Heart Mountain. It was strange the way it worked out because I had been longing to see my family and worried about them and everything. (But when my transfer was approved), it was a letdown. But, anyway... Maki said, "Well, this is your first step to freedom." Then she told me that she herself had received a letter. She was given a scholarship by the American Friends Society in Pennsylvania to attend school there for another graduate degree. (...) She hadn't told anybody yet but she was telling me that she would be leaving soon. So that made me feel a little better.

KP: Can I just ask a quick question? One of the things that they talked about in camp, or a lot of people talked about is here you are, a college graduate, and a lot of times just being in the camp, that stimulation that you're used to in terms of conversation and intellectual stimulation just wasn't there. But it sounds like you kind of found a group of people that allowed you to kind of continue that... but what do you think about the rest of the people of the camp? Do you think that was a concern?

SK: I don't think anybody was as privileged as I was because (they were) two top social workers. They were leaders in their field and, and they just shared so much with me. It even made me choose social work as a profession when I got out of camp. (...) They came from a different kind of environment. Like I said, everyone else was from the country. They were from the big city. And they not only were educated but they had a lot of experience under their belts. So, it was just a real learning for me.

RP: How did you travel to Heart Mountain? Was it by train?

SK: Train. Oh yeah. Boy, it took a long time getting there.

RP: Did you travel alone or did you have...

SK: No, I was alone and I just remember the last lap was so hard because it was snowing and I had bought a three-piece suit from Sears. I had mail ordered it. And I thought, oh, that'll keep me warm. But I was freezing by the time we arrived there. (...) I was inside the coach. But it was so cold. When I got out (...) into the truck (...) that was waiting for me, at least he had the blower on. I don't think they called it heater. And it felt warmer. But I think I mentioned to you that once I got into the (family's) unit I couldn't talk because of my, I was... do you remember that?

Off Camera: Yeah. You were cold.

SK: I couldn't talk until I got thawed out. It took about half an hour I think around the stove to get thawed out. My lips were (chapped), my teeth were chattering so much. I was probably purple by that time.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

RP: So can you take us back to that moment when you were back with your family and your...

SK: Oh, yes, it was, it was a wonderful feeling, yeah. Because then I knew I was really with them. And just to see the changes in seven months. My brothers had grown so tall. And to see Dorothy with the family. But my father had changed the most. He had aged so much. Although he was twenty years older than my mother, when he went to camp he must have been about sixty, but... from working as a farmer he was really strong and his hair was still black at the time. And he was in really good shape. But in camp, after seven months of doing nothing, he was all gray and fleshly, I guess that's the word. He wasn't firm. His body wasn't firm at all. And something had happened to his mind. I don't know whether it was senility setting in (...). But when we would sit and talk, he would be off someplace else. And so the greatest change I'm sure was in our father and probably most fathers because they (had) lost their pride, (...) their status in the family, (...) their dignity, everything. So, yeah, I often think about that.

RP: Was you father able to recover that after camp?

SK: Never, never. At our family gatherings he was just like a shadow in the back of the room. Do you remember any differently Dorothy?

RP: So, you, you attribute the camp experience for him losing his vitality.

SK: Oh, I'm sure. I'm sure, uh-huh.

RP: Nothing to motivate him.

SK: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. 'Cause we were all afraid of him because he had pretty bad temper when he got riled up and we were afraid (of him). He kept us on our toes just by being there. But once he went to camp, he was just a completely different person.

RP: How about your mom? Did you see any changes in your mom?

SK: Oh, yes. The opposite thing happened with her. Because she was always very submissive as a Japanese wife should be. But when she no longer depended on him she became a different person herself. She began to take classes, they had classes in English, and in needlework and so she went to those classes and yeah, learned a lot, began to socialize with other ladies. And it was like she was emancipated. She was free to do whatever she wanted. The first vacation she'd had in her life. (...) She was just a different person. And she would reveal, like to Dorothy, things that she never told us. She was much bolder about discussing her feelings or telling us about what had happened to her. And, so she, she was a very different person. (...) To the end she was the matriarch. (...) She was in charge.

RP: Heroic change.

SK: Yeah. Uh-huh. See, she was in charge. Yeah, uh-huh.

RP: How did you take to Dorothy, when you, when you got to Heart Mountain, in the time that you...

SK: Oh, it was great to, first of all, know somebody there. And to, like she said, be able to converse with her and talk about all kinds of things. She told me all about her school and her friends. It was really nice. We spent a lot of time together. Well, there was nothing else to do. [Laughs] And most of the time the weather was so bad you had to stay in anyway.

RP: What changes are, I should say, what differences did you see between the Poston camp and the Heart Mountain camp, even in the short three months you, you were there, other than the weather.

SK: Yeah, I was gonna say --

RP: You mentioned you went from one extreme to the other.

SK: -- snow instead of sand.

RP: Right. Was it kind of the same situation?

SK: Same, yeah.

RP: With maybe a few variations?

SK: Yeah, yeah. I was disappointed because I thought in my mind Heart Mountain should be a beautiful place, right? (...) But to me, it looked forbidding. 'Cause it had the very sharp craggy sides and just kind of sitting there like it's kind of spying on all of us like a silent sentinel. They called the Heart Mountain paper the Sentinel. That's the feeling I got. I don't know, I didn't see it as, as beautiful in the same way.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

RP: Did you see Heart Mountain as kind of a way station on, on your way out the door to freedom?

SK: Well, I kept that in my mind 'cause Maki had told me, "This is your first step to freedom." So I did think of that and just a few months, just three months after, or maybe less than that, my uncle sent the letter to the administration saying that he would see that I was adequately supported. He was my sponsor. So then I left three months after that. But it wasn't so sad because I knew then that they would be joining me in New York. The first time I left, everything was so uncertain. Nobody knew if they were ever (returning home). (We knew) we would get together, so that was not a real sad parting.

RP: Uh-huh. And, what was your feeling like when you first got to New York and...

SK: Oh, very excited, very excited. Because, first of all, I'd never been in such a big city with tall buildings and all the people and all the noise and the sirens. It was really, really exciting. I was happy to be there and to start what I thought would be a new life.

RP: And, what did you start doing? How did you get yourself sort of settled in in New York?

SK: Oh, because my sisters were there before me I was very fortunate because they kind of paved the way. They had this apartment and so I just moved in with them. And my uncle had a job waiting for me. He thought that because I had a college degree, I should have a job better than assembling gift things, so he made me his secretary. So I wrote his business letters for him. But I also, when I had time, helped them assemble things. But, as I said, he had changed from exporting to domestic gift items, I mean, gift items that could be made from domestic supplies, sources. So, that's what my sisters were doing.

RP: Oh, your sisters were, were assembling?

SK: Yeah, yeah.

RP: Family enterprise?

SK: Yeah. And then he had several people working for him and one was a German lady, Hilda.

Off Camera: Hilda, yeah.

SK: And then one was an Italian lady. And so we called ourselves the "Mini-Axis." [Laughs] So, anyway, it was, it was nice.

RP: You said that your uncle had gone to New York in 1927. So he was pretty well established.

SK: Yeah, yeah. He was, he was established.

RP: Did he have a wife too, or...

SK: Yeah, uh-huh.

RP: And kids?

SK: Well, his wife had a daughter. She had been married before. So, anyway.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

RP: Did you have any, what are your, what are your recollections, Dorothy shared her recollections of this boarding house that was converted into a hostel --

SK: Oh, yeah.

RP: -- for internees coming out of the camps?

Off Camera: You didn't, you didn't live there though did you?

SK: Huh?

Off Camera: Did you move in?

SK: Oh yeah, uh-huh. Yeah.

RP: You lived in the hostel?

SK: Yeah, right. Yeah. We had our own room.

RP: Did you share a common bath?

Off Camera: We shared with Mary.


SK: But it was, kind of a family atmosphere because all these people had come out of camps, kind of looked to our mother for guidance like.

RP: Would she do all the cooking or have other people...

SK: No, no. Everybody did their own cooking. They had their...

Off Camera: They had little a...

RP: Hot plates?

SK: Hot plates, I guess it was.

RP: In their rooms?

SK: Yeah, uh-huh.

RP: Oh.

SK: And...

Off Camera: And Mama also worked for Uncle. She went to the shop, too.

SK: Oh yeah, she did, yeah.

Off Camera: 'Cause it was just around the corner.

SK: Right.

RP: So it was a long line of small rooms in the hostel?

SK: Well, there was four, four stories, right?

Off Camera: Four stories.

SK: So...

Off Camera: Four of 'em was on each story.

SK: There were two or three on each floor, I think.

Off Camera: There were four.

SK: Four on each floor?

Off Camera: Four rooms, yeah.

SK: Four rooms. Uh-huh. Are you counting the basement?

Off Camera: No, not counting the basement. Yeah, the basement is, was a big room, too.

RP: Do you remember some of the families that lived there for...

SK: Yeah, I remember the, there was a couple and several single people, men and women. And, I know, I know our mom was really, really good to all of them.

RP: They spent, how long would they stay usually? Probably 'til they found a job and a place to live?

Off Camera: Some were there for the duration, I think. 'Cause after Mama left they were still there.

SK: They were, yeah, some were still there. Uh-huh. That had become home to them.

Off Camera: And no elevator. They had to walk up.

SK: Oh, yeah, walk ups.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

RP: Dorothy shared with us some of the things that, some of the sights and the wonder of New York that she discovered. How about you, Sachi? What did you find stimulating about the Big Apple?

SK: Oh, oh yeah. Everything, yeah. But I especially liked the Broadway plays and missed that, missed that most when I left New York. Although we've gone to plays here too, but it (wasn't the same)... there's just such an excitement about, about New York. Oh, when, what else did we do?

Off Camera: You went with us a couple times to see Perry Como.

SK: Did I? But we used to go to the movies. We saw all the good big bands, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Tommy Dorsey, and all of 'em. We did a lot of going out in those days. And then when the soldiers came into town. My sister was married to, to one of the 100th men. He would refer people, he would refer his buddies to us. We'd go out, we'd go out as a group or...

RP: You had your own personal USO?

SK: Well, yeah, that's what they called us. Yeah. And our, our apartment happened to be on the street level so in the summertime the windows were all open. People would walk by and they must have thought it was a USO 'cause all of these khaki uniforms there. (...) We and our friends, girlfriends, would entertain them. At least they got something to drink and something to eat.

RP: And they, were they on furloughs?

SK Furlough, uh-huh.

RP: Did you meet your husband in New York?

SK: No. No. I went to Hawaii when my, my sister had her first child, to help her out. And I helped myself. [Laughs] And I met him, yeah.

RP: And he also...

SK: He was not...

RP: He was not in camp.

SK: In service. No he was not in camp.

RP: So what was his reaction when you... did you share a story or two about camp with him, or fill him in about it?

SK: I don't think I did. We talked very little about camp all those years we were silent about it. And I don't think I told him very much.

Off Camera: They hardly knew about camp.

SK: Yeah. And people in Hawaii, they didn't experience it, so they might have been interested but we never talked about it. It's just recently that they've become interested in camps because they found one on Oahu. Did you hear about that one, Honouliuli? And I just read in the paper that Senator Inouye has requested appropriations to make that into a regular tourist place. There were only about two hundred and fifty people there. So it's a little different, but...

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

RP: You said that your sort of personal connection and sort of intellectual connection with Maki and this other social worker shaped your future in that you decided to go into social work.

SK: Yes, yes.

RP: Can you tell us a little bit about that?

SK: Well, it was mostly because of Maki. She was, to me, an exemplary human being. And she was always thinking about the other person. And I felt I would like to emulate her in some way. And although I could never be the social worker she was, I wanted to be in the field. So that's how I applied... in 1958 is when I started in L.A. and I worked for fourteen and a half years. Then went to Hawaii and worked as a social worker or fourteen years. So, is that what you wanted to know?

RP: Any, any particular field in social work?

SK: Oh, (I worked with families but) I ended up doing mostly crisis intervention with the aged and disabled. I enjoyed that, but it was stressful. I mean, (there) was always something going on. But, anyway, once I retired I didn't miss a day of it. That was all I knew how to do.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

RP: Why, what prompted you to begin sharing your story, your camp experiences?

SK: Oh, in 1985, (...) I was retired already, I joined a creative writing group in Carlsbad. People there had, none of them, heard of the camps. So when I first began writing about it they would ask me questions. And they encouraged me to continue writing about it, especially my instructors. And then that's what got me started. I thought, first of all, well, I'll write this for my grandkids. They should know what happened to us. And that's how I started. And then I was in that creative writing group a couple of years. And off and on worked on my manuscript. Never did anything with it. But just off and on until last year when my siblings had it published. So that's, it's, I cut it down considerably. I had a lot more in there about my boyfriend. [Laughs] But anyway...

RP: Is this...

SK: Yeah I just, I just...

RP: Your boyfriend who became your husband or another...

SK: No, no. Another one.

RP: Oh, we want to hear about that.

SK: No, no. Anyway, I cut...

KP: Tape's rolling.

SK: [Laughs] I cut that out. And it's down to a hundred and fifty pages. So, you should be able to read it in a couple of hours.

RP: It's like Farewell to Manzanar. Go right through it.

SK: Yeah. I hope so, I hope there are no snags.

RP: Uh-huh. Then you also became a docent with the Japanese American National Museum?

SK: Uh-huh.

RP: As a docent?

SK: Seven years ago. Yeah.

RP: And how did that come about?

SK: My sister Mary was very much involved and still is with, with the museum as a volunteer. I had gone to speak at the University of Santa Barbara because my niece was working there and she asked me to speak to the Women's Studies group. So I told them about the internment experience and then my sister Mary said, "Well, if you can do that, you can be a docent at the museum." So, that's how I got started there. And I've spoken to, well, schoolkids. Every week busloads come to the museum. But I've also gone out like when I went to Minnesota to visit my daughter I spoke to her high school. She's a special ed teacher. I spoke all day (to) high school classes. And then to Dallas when I went to visit my niece I spoke to seventh and eighth graders. And then to another private school. Well, anyway...

Off Camera: What about the Arkansas...

SK: Oh, yeah. And then, then when they had that camp reunion in Arkansas? I didn't go to the camp reunion, but the museum asked me and three other docents, we were all guides, to go to Arkansas to talk to the school kids. So we went for a whole week and talked to school kids. And then on the way back I lost my voice. (...) I talked so much I lost my voice. And then found out a little later that I had a paralyzed (...) left vocal cord. But it was such a good experience I said, "Oh, it's worth it. It was worth it."

RP: So you always had a desire to kind of get this story out?

SK: Yes, yes. That's why I started writing in the creative writing class. So, anyway, I think a few people learned about it because of what I've written.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

RP: How did the events of September 11, 2001, affect you?

SK: Well, I went with the people to the museum for the candle lighting ceremony we had and we had speakers, Arab American speakers and Japanese American speakers. And it felt real good. Because I felt like, well, I heard George Bush's speech and I thought, well, this is great, even the President is speaking to protect the Arab Americans and that was a luxury we didn't enjoy. But anyway, I just felt like things are much better. Things have improved since the time... because people were saying, "Put the Arabs into camps," right? Right after it happened they said, "Put 'em all into camps." And I thought, gosh. But to hear the President come out and, and back them up, support them as Americans. (I wasn't) a fan of George Bush's, but that much I really give him credit for.

RP: Did you have any involvement with the movement for redress?

SK: No, no, I didn't. No, except to sign petitions and write letters. But I wasn't personally involved.

RP: What was your reactions to receiving a letter from the other, the other Bush?

SK: Oh, yes. Oh, I was --

RP: And, and the check.

SK: I was happy. Yeah, I was really happy. I didn't think it would happen when they first talked about it, I didn't think it would ever happen. But I was overjoyed to receive it. Bought a car and I'm still driving it. [Laughs] It, but you know, it was a wonderful windfall. But I think we deserved it.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

KP: I do have a question. Let's jump back to during the war... you said your brother George was in the military?

SK: He was in the signal corps.

KP: How did, did he go in before World War II?

SK: No, it was after?

Off Camera: Oh yeah.

SK: It was after, uh-huh, peacetime.

KP: Oh, it was during peacetime, okay.

SK: Yeah, uh-huh.

KP: Okay, so it wasn't 'til '46 or...

SK: He was too young --

KP: Right.

SK: -- to, to be in the World War...

Off Camera: He was still going to school in New York.

SK: Yeah. He was still in school, right. Uh-huh.

Off Camera: High school.

RP: Let me follow up with a question, a similar question to Kirk's. You were entertaining some of these Nisei soldiers in New York who were coming back from the front. What, what was your feeling in terms of their contribution to how, how society later on saw Japanese Americans or how...

SK: Okay, well, before they went -- you're talking about when they came back -- before they went in they were so gung ho and they were anxious to get into the battle, from my experience with them. But coming back they were so different. I mean, they came to visit us but they sort of had a faraway look in their eyes. They had lost a lot of buddies, I guess, for one thing, and (...) they had grown up. They had become almost old men. I noticed the extreme change in them. But I do realize that they contributed a lot to Japanese Americans as a whole. That because of their brilliant military record, laws were passed that our parents could become citizens for one thing. And Japanese Americans could vie for any office in the government or be successful in private business. They could do anything. And I think it was largely due to what the soldiers did (that) we were given these benefits.

RP: Did you also personally feel a, sort of a drive or a desire to prove yourself worthy of recognition?

SK: Oh, I don't know if I ever would drive myself. I always felt I'm an American. (...) It's not a conscious kind of a feeling. As I say, I felt betrayed when I was treated like I wasn't an American. And, but since that was over, then it's always been there. But there was nothing I could do to prove it except just go with my beliefs.

RP: Be who you are.

SK: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

RP: I'd like to just kind of get a, a kind of a little bit of finality with the rest of your family members. Aki married, went, went off to Hawaii.

SK: Yes.

RP: And how about Mary?

SK: She, yeah, she's...

RP: Mary, did she...

SK: (Yeah, her husband) was with the 442, uh-huh. And she had three children. They're all doing very well. Anything else you wanted...

RP: Paul?

SK: Paul. (...) He has four children and he's retired. He was a landscape gardener for the city for many years. He's doing a lot of babysitting 'cause his children have little ones now and his wife, Kay, was a teacher for forty years, elementary school teacher, (now retired), she still goes to school to volunteer in the same (school), as an assistant to a teacher. So...

RP: Did your uncle remain in New York for the rest of his life?

SK: Oh, yes, yes he did. Uh-huh. I think he passed away about twenty years ago.

RP: And your parents returned to California at some point?

SK: Yeah. Oh, yeah, we all returned. When did they return? Paul and Mom and Pop?

Off Camera: Paul did not come. Paul didn't go any place, I mean, to Hawaii. He was in New York.

SK: No, they returned to California when...

Off Camera: Oh, Mom and Pop?

SK: Uh-huh.

Off Camera: Shortly after, let's see, I went, we went in '47 so I'd say '58 or maybe before '58.

SK: Uh-huh. Fifty years, uh-huh.

Off Camera: They didn't stay in Hawaii very long.

SK: Just the thought that you asked me about my uncle, I'd like to mention that he received a special --

Off Camera: Kunsho.

SK: -- recognition, kunsho, recognition from -- oh, you spoke Japanese. [Laughs] From the emperor of Japan for, for the work that he's done to make things better between the U.S. and Japan in his work.

RP: So he, after the war, he began his import/export business again?

SK: Yeah, he did. And, but it was many years after that that he received the (award), it's called the Rising Son Award or something. But it's a special recognition and so he was extremely proud of that.

RP: Your, when your dad resettled here in California, what did he do? You said that he kind of faded into the background but did he...

SK: Well, my brother Paul (...), before he worked for the city, had his own gardening route. So he'd take my father with him. And he used to dig up the wrong plants and do the wrong things, but my brother still took him and cared for him and, well, he cared for both my parents until he got married.

KP: Can I ask you a question? You talked about seeing the 442nd veterans coming back and seeing that they were kind of shellshocked I guess is the proper term, you know that post traumatic stress is what we call it today. It sounds like you were describing your father's reaction to the evacuation and camp was almost the same kind of thing.

SK: Yeah, you have a point there. Uh-huh.

KP: Did you ever think about that?

SK: Yeah. That's right. It's a different kind of experience but, yeah, he was very withdrawn. I think a lot of the soldiers became withdrawn. And he didn't seem to be functioning as he used to. (...) I didn't know that many soldiers but that was my reaction, that they were so different. They had grown old and they never talked about their experiences, but you could read it on their faces.

RP: Sachi, would you like to, is there any other stories or memories that you want to share with us that we haven't touched on?

SK: No, I think we covered most everything and I do appreciate your, your coverage and your interest and, and you asked all the good, all the right questions.

RP: Well, thank you on behalf of ourselves and the National Park Service and the American people.

SK: Well, this has been an interesting experience for us.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.