Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Laurie Sasaki Interview
Narrator: Laurie Sasaki
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Richmond, California
Date: April 16, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-slaurie-01-0013

<Begin Segment 13>

RP: This is tape two of a continuing oral history interview with Laurie Sasaki. And Laurie, we were just talking about life in Poston, especially the food.

LS: [Laughs] And the cinnamon toast.

RP: Yes. Were there other treats that you remember getting? You know, people sending you things from outside?

LS: Oh, when my sisters relocated, I used to always look forward and my, I took packages they would send, like candy especially. They'd send boxes of candy. My god, I used to hoard those things. So I would look forward to getting packages from them. We had a canteen in the camp, and I remember walking there all the time to... I had this thing about music so in those days they used to have these little booklets with all the songs written in them. And I used to have to buy each publication that came out, memorize all the songs, and yeah, that was, that was my thing with the canteen.

RP: So what kind of music are we talking about? Like swing bands?

LS: Right, right, right. You know, the Frank Sinatra type of thing.

RP: You said you were, one of your passions was dancing.

LS: I loved to tap dance and there was this class, and I used to just take tap dance lessons all the time. That's what kept me happy and going in camp.

RP: Did you ever perform?

LS: Yes. And the people in the block used to tease me 'cause that was the only time I used to curl my hair. So they used to call me Curly because whenever there was any, anything going on then I'd have to get my hair curled and go out there and tap dance.

RP: Were there any of your brothers and sisters or your mom that took up any arts and crafts in camp?

LS: My mother did the bird carvings. There was a man in our block who was very good at that and so he would give lessons to everybody, anyone in our block who would like to learn, so my mother went there and she was very good at this. And my father did all the coping saw things initially. And then my mother was good at carving the birds and painting the eyes and the feathers and all. So my mother did all that, yeah, so that was nice.

RP: Can you describe where the wood came from and the process that your dad used to kind of get the rough outline of the bird?

LS: My... there was some sort of lug box that somebody had in camp because they used to collect the end, they used to collect the ends of them, you know the ends of them. And then I think my mother used to trace the outline of the birds and then he would just, with the coping saw, cut it out for her. And then I know initially he would start filing the edges down for her and then she would get the sandpaper and these little cutting knives like and form the birds out of the wood. So she made quite a few of those.

RP: Did you save any of those birds?

LS: I have one, I have one saved. I gave several of them, many of them away to the relatives who visited from Japan. And so I have one left.

RP: You mentioned to me that you actually sold some of the birds?

LS: Oh yes, right after camp we came out to Richmond. And listen, Rosie the Riveter, I want to tell you it's sort of appropriate to have the interview here, because if it wasn't for Rosie the Riveter and Kaiser shipyards, we would not have had the housing to live in. And we lived in the shipyard housing right after the war and there must have been like three blocks of Japanese people who lived there until they decided to do away with the housing. So Rosie the Riveter, here we are. Yeah, that gave us the housing for that so that was wonderful.

RP: You were able to kind of get your feet on the ground here.

LS: Right. So anyway, getting back to the birds. Yeah, so then we came out here, started school. We didn't have any money. And so I would sell the birds to the teachers. I think they used to hate to see me coming with my little box. Because they, "Oh my god, here she comes again with those birds." [Laughs] But, yeah, we did, I did sell a few of those.

RP: You said they were pretty nice birds.

LS: Yeah. I think my mother was very artistic. She was very, very good. She made other things too. In camp they used to do things like raffia, you know, with crepe paper and pull them through this little gadget and then get cardboard boxes and make, cover them all with this different colored crepe paper stuff. Yeah, so she, she went to any kind of class there was to keep herself busy. I mean, to have to think of that mess hall cleaning, my god, you have to do something else, right?

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.