Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Russell Demo
Narrator: Russell Demo
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Corning, California
Date: December 18, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-drussell-01-0001

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RP: This is an oral history for the Manzanar National Historic Site. And this morning we're talking with Russell Demo. The interview is taking place at his daughter Sharon's residence at 4620 Oren (Avenue) in Corning, California. The date of our interview is December 18, 2009. The interviewer is Richard Potashin, our videographer is Kirk Peterson, and we'll be talking with Russell today about his experience as a military policeman at Camp Manzanar during World War II. The interview will be archived in the Park's library. And Russell, do I have permission to go ahead and record our interview?

RD: Sure.

RP: Thank you so much. It's a real special honor to be chatting with you today. We've been trying to get together for almost a year.

RD: Yeah.

RP: Let's start getting a little bit of background about you and your family. Can you tell us where and when you were born?

RD: Yeah, I was born in San Francisco at the County Hospital, July the 2nd, 1924. And my mother... well, my brother, he was born a couple years before I was, September 5th. I don't know, sometime when I was about two years old or so, I guess my dad took off and my mother raised us all that time through the Depression and everything. So most of the time during the day I was pretty much on my own. When I got a little older, I ran around San Francisco, different parts and stuff. Went to school, and both my brother and I quit, quit high school when we were sixteen and went to work to help my mother out. And then...

RP: Let's backtrack just a little bit. Can you tell us both your father's and mother's names?

RD: Yeah, my father's name was Silvio Demo, and my mother was Ella Demo.

RP: And where did they come from originally?

RD: Well, my mother came from North Dakota, she was born in North Dakota, and they were raised in Idaho, Troy, Idaho.

RP: What was your mother's ethnicity or ancestry?

RD: Pardon?

RP: Your mother's ancestry?

RD: She's Swedish and Norwegian. Her father, my grandfather was born in Sweden, my grandmother was born in Norway, and she died before I ever got to see her. There was eleven kids, there was twelve, one died and eleven kids survived. My grandfather used to come down there in the summertime until it got too hot up here. Spent the summer with us down there and then come back up here in the wintertime.

RP: And your father was from Italy?

RD: Yeah, he was born in Italy. He was three years old when he, when he came here, so that would be about, he was born in '98, so it'd be 1901 when he got here.

RP: And where was he raised?

RD: They were out there in North Beach right on Greenwood Street. And he traveled all around, I guess he worked on fishing boats, he did the cooking in different places. He traveled all over to California, different places, he worked as a chauffeur. In San Francisco he used to pick us kids up once in a while and take us for rides in the limousine. We used to see him once in a while. My mother's brothers all came, migrated out here and they all stayed at our house off and on 'til they got jobs or they got married or something.

RP: How did your parents meet, do you know?

RD: Yeah. Evidently they met in Idaho, I think, as far as I can remember. My father was in the cavalry at that time. And I think it was in Idaho, I'm not too sure, but it ended up where two sisters married two brothers. It was true, my father and my mother, they moved out here to San Francisco. His brother Frank and my Aunt Alice, my mother's sister, they got married, too. So we were pretty close there. But I had a, you know, my childhood was pretty much running around by myself and everything.

RP: You said that your father left the home when you were around two years old?

RD: Yeah.

RP: So you don't have very many memories of him at all except when he'd come back.

RD: Yeah, he came by, because my mother raised us all through the Depression and everything else. It was pretty tough at the time.

RP: How many other siblings did you have?

RD: Well, I got, my brother, he passed away here quite a few years ago. I got two half-brothers live up in Oregon by my father's second or third wife, I can't remember which.

RP: What was your, your brother's name?

RD: (Narr. note: My real brother Raymond served in the army in the Pacific during the war.) (I have two half-brothers:) Walter is the oldest and then Kenny is the other one. Walter lives in Milwaukee, Oregon, and Kenneth, I'm not too sure where he's at. He travels around quite a bit. In fact, I haven't had any communication with Kenny for quite a few years. I'd see Walter once in a while, once in a great while, he'd come down this way.

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