Oral History Interview with Eiko Yoshihashi Sakamoto
Nisei female, born in Los Angeles in 1918 to parents who operated a laundry with twenty employees. The family moved to Pasadena, California in 1922 for Eikoï¿½s fatherï¿½s health. He became a gardener with a vegetable stand. During the depression the family barely eked out a living. Father sold insurance and loaned money (which was uncollected) and mother took in laundry. Everyone worked; even little girls hung out laundry to dry and ironed sheets; the boys mowed lawns. On Saturdays the children went to a Japanese language school. The family had membership in a Japanese association from which members could borrow money. Eikoï¿½s older sister went to Japan prior to WW II and did not return to the U.S. until 1957. Eiko experienced racism prior to WWII. In 1938 she was an attendance clerk in a high school office when she was fired by the principal because some parents complained about her being Japanese. It was a time when Nisei couldnï¿½t find office work but she eventually got a civil service job with the Army Corps of Engineers. After December 7, 1941 the Japanese language school closed and an 8:00 p.m. curfew was imposed and black-out curtains were required. In May 1942, when Eiko was twenty-four, her family was sent to Tulare Assembly Center on trains with gas jets and soldiers with guns and bayonets accompanied evacuees. They were next sent to Gila River, Arizona where father died of cancer in 1944. Both brothers served in the U.S. Army. Eiko was offered a job with the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers) in Columbus, Ohio. Her mother and younger sister joined her in 1945. She married a Loomis resident in 1945 and they settled in Loomis, California which was rampantly racist. Her parents-in-lawï¿½s home was burned to the ground by an arsonist and local stores displayed ï¿½No Jap Trade Allowedï¿½ signs. When asked how things would be different in her life if there had been no WWII, Eiko feels the experience made her stronger to accept the ups and downs in her life. The concept of ï¿½Gamanï¿½ is basically that no matter how bad or unbearable a situation is, one must have the strength to persevere. To the question about the best contribution of Nisei, she responded that Mike Masaoka of the Japanese American Citizens League set us on the right track to accept internment by the government and show our loyalty, excel in what we do.
Transcript available at California State University, Sacramento University Library
2 Tapes of 2
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