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-01-0007

<Begin Segment 7>

RP: Did your, did your father or mother send money back to family in Japan? Did they...

LS: Not that I remember. But I think that's the reason why my... they might have donated something or then probably my father's name was on some donation before the war. So that's probably the reason why he was taken by the FBI just when the war broke out because he had donated to some organization or something like that. That's what we feel anyway. Because here was this tiny little old man who wouldn't hurt anybody who was just suddenly taken away, and I think only because he had donated something along the way. But, I cannot... I know after the war my mother had sent over packages all the time to the families. But, and before the war they might have too but I don't recall that.

RP: Yes, let's talk about that very difficult experience with your father being taken away. Do you recall of it, the visit?

LS: I do remember the FBI coming in and taking my father. And we didn't know why, but yeah, they did come in and take my father away. And put him in the jail in El Centro. And he was kept there with the other Japanese Isseis who were rounded up at that time. And, yes, I do remember that happening.

RP: Any specific memory or detail of that visit that sticks in your mind?

LS: No, I just remember the two men coming in and taking him away, and that was it. I can't say anything more.

RP: That was right after Pearl Harbor, the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7th?

LS: Yeah, I don't quite remember the dates, but yes, after that.

RP: Do you recall anything about that day, December 7th?

LS: Oh, I do remember December 7th. That was a Sunday and I was at church. And the reverend's wife told me that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor. And I remember grabbing onto her and just thinking, and looking up overhead thinking, "Oh my God. They're gonna come over our heads now." I was so frightened. I remember that very well. And so I couldn't wait until my parents came to take me home. It was very scary.

RP: So he was held at the El Centro jail. Did you have an opportunity to visit him at that point?

LS: I did not. But my oldest sister and my brother went over to visit him. Because when the FBI picked him up he was just, they just took him without any other, I mean, he was just wearing what he had and they didn't give, we didn't, he didn't take anything with him. So I don't know whether it was later in the day or that evening but another man came to tell my sister that they should get some clothing for my father. So my sister and my brother took over some clothes to my father.

RP: Then from El Centro he was taken to another camp.

LS: Yes.

RP: In Tujunga Canyon. And you actually had a chance to go to that camp. Tell us about that.

LS: We heard that he was in Tujunga and that they were, and that he would be moved somewhere so this was the last chance we were going to be able to see him. So we drove to Tujunga but we weren't able to really see him. There was a barbed wire -- not a barbed wire -- fencing between us, like football field length or something like that. So all the men stood on that other side and then all the families were on this side, hoping to see our father. So we did see him at that time but we didn't get to talk to him. Just waved. One farewell.

RP: That must have been quite a scene with all these families.

LS: Yes, I think so.

RP: Okay. Not knowing, you know, where he was going or how long he would be away.

LS: Right, yeah. That was rather frightening. And I think I, my oldest brother had been taken, the selective service had taken him and he was in the army at that time. So, you know, my oldest brother was gone, now my father was gone. So, we were there...

RP: So who kind of took over?

LS: Well, my sister had to take over.

RP: Michi.

LS: Michi. So she did quite a job. You know, thinking back, yeah, she did quite a job to keep us all together. So that was nice.

RP: Especially when you see your father taken away. Did you or your siblings wonder, "Are we next?"

LS: Right.

RP: "What's gonna happen to us?"

LS: I do remember my brother and sisters putting up barbed wire fencing around the house because we were so afraid. So we just made an enclosure around all the houses. Made sure our dog was in there at nighttime with us. Yeah, so it was scary.

RP: And at that time there were, there were several murders of Japanese people.

LS: Yes, yes.

RP: And you knew about that?

LS: Yes. So, that was, yeah that was kind of a scary time.

RP: Were there any incidents in your area of Brawley that... any evidences of racial prejudice or war hysteria?

LS: You know they, everyone in our area was very good to us. For instance at the high school, my sister was in her senior year and they had a special ceremony just for her before we left. So that was nice. And so, in our area, I think everything was calm.

RP: Did you have any organizations or individuals that supported you during that time between Pearl Harbor and when you went to camp?

LS: I can say of an individual, I mean, I can't, I think he was in my class. And so he would come out to see me with his mother. His mother would bring him out to see me. And so when we left he even came to the bus. So that was kind of nice. So yes, and there was a teacher in Imperial who was very close with the Japanese people. So he came to camp even just to make sure that we were all okay. So that was very nice. So I do remember those two people. And the Hindu family that took the dog. I was so sad to leave the dog. We couldn't take the pet with us and so, oh, that was a tragedy to lose the, Queenie, our dog that we had forever. And so we had to leave her. And that was the biggest thing for me. I'm sure that everybody else had everything else to think about but it was really sad to leave the dog.

RP: You never saw her again?

LS: No.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.