Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Shizuko "Suzie" Sakai Interview
Narrator: Shizuko "Suzie" Sakai
Interviewer: Dane Fujimoto
Date: February 6, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-sshizuko-01-0001

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DF: This is Dane Fujimoto interviewing Shizuko Sakai on February 6, 2003. And we'll begin the interview, the oral history interview with Shizuko starting --

SS: Call me Suzie.

DF: Suzie... with Suzie's parents growing up in Japan, and how they met and let's start from there.

SS: Well, it's a little difficult for me to go back and try to remember too much about my parents. My father came from Shiga-ken in Japan probably looking for a better future in the new country. He came over, I think, soon after World War I. He landed in Seattle. He had left my mother, his wife, back in Japan with a promise that he would send for her when he had gotten a little foothold here. He started work in Seattle for a family being a houseboy which turned out to be very nice for us because he learned how to cook, and he knew how to clean house and keep house. And when we, as children, were growing up, that turned out to be very fortuitous because my mother died in 1936 when we were still young children. To go back, he had worked a few years as a houseboy, and then with some friends decided to open up from some farm lands in the Yakima Valley, the land belonged to the Yakama Indian Nation and had just started, I believe, the irrigation project, so that the land became good agriculture land. He first ended up in Union Gap which is not really a town. It's just a little spot in the road in between some hills that surround the outside of Yakima and lead into the Yakima Valley, and that's where I was born, in Union Gap, Washington.

We lived there probably three or four years and then moved further down into the valley in a place called Satus, S-a-t-u-s. Satus was a little crossroad, a little spot in the road. It had a service station, gas station and a small grocery store, and about oh, probably a quarter mile away on the banks of the Satus Creek was a two-room schoolhouse where I went for the first four years of my schooling. This little two-room schoolhouse had grades one through four in one room and five through eight in another room. It was outfitted with a big potbellied stove, and I had the same teacher for the first four years of my schooling. She was a very interesting middle-aged lady, who, when she was unable to discipline the children would go behind the big potbellied stove and cry, and we children got to go out in the yard and play. So that was quite an incentive for especially the young boys to act up, and throwing spitballs was a favorite pastime for them, and then when it got uncontrollable, we all got to go out and play.

One of my interesting remembrances from those days is that we had a family that had thirteen children and some of those children attended this school where I was going, and I remember the oldest son, who was probably in the seventh or eighth grade when I first met him, would bring a large lard bucket full of cold pancakes for the children's lunch, his siblings' lunch, and he would at lunch time flip out these cold pancakes to his siblings, some of whom were in the room that I was attending. The other interesting thing about this family was that of the thirteen children, they had named the thirteenth Enough. His name was Enough Parker.

We all had a good time at that school. I think we were the only Japanese family. The rest were, there were a couple of Native American children because this was a Indian reservation, and I remember my best friend was Elsie whose father was the chief of the tribe. And in those days, they used their teepees, and I used to go visit her in her teepee, and we just all had a great time in this little rural schoolhouse. After I finished the fourth grade, the powers that be decided that they could not support this little school by itself, so we merged with the Granger School District, and beginning with the fifth grade, then I went to the Granger grade school and continued there and graduated from the high school there in 1940. I'm the oldest of four children. I have two sisters, my second sister is now deceased, and then I have a younger brother. We lived on a farm. Our neighbors, of course, were all Caucasian, but we were very close as neighbors. I remember that I used to go over to their house for milk every day because they had a couple of milking cows, and in exchange, we would provide them with potatoes and onions and carrots and melons and that kind of thing during the productive seasons. We lived out on that farm probably until I was in about the sixth grade or so, and then we moved closer to Granger where we were going to school. All this time, we were being bussed there.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.