ORAL HISTORY HIGHLIGHT –
Yesterday we were excited to welcome siblings Tamiye Oda Kasamatsu and George Oda, who visited Manzanar with their extended family. Both Tamiye and George have recorded oral history interviews with Manzanar National Historic Site, and donated countless photos, documents, and objects, some of which you can see on display in the visitor center.
In the spring of 1942, when they were uprooted from their family farm in California’s San Fernando Valley and brought to Manzanar, Tamiye was 22 and George was 18. Tamiye remembered they were worried that their father, Jiromatsu, would be picked up by the FBI, which had been arresting Issei men in West Coast Japanese American communities since December 7th, 1941. In the months preceding removal to Manzanar, she recalled, “We had a little bag with his clothes, underclothes and clothes by the door, because the FBI used to come and just pick up the men. So if they came after my father, we said, ‘We have to have his clothes ready . . . ’”
George remembered that, at first, he was surprised by the government order to leave. “Then it finally dawned on us that we have to do what they said. But there were some people who were like my friend – he had things and people came over and said, ‘I'll give you fifty dollars,’ or something, for it. This fellow says, ‘Nope, I'm not going to sell it that cheap,’ so we just piled it up and burned it.” Tamiye recalled that their family had always been poor. “We were finally able to buy a truck and a car. We had to sell it because we had to go to camp. In the end, they were flipping a coin to settle the price.”
In reflection, George noted that he met his wife, Fujiko, in Manzanar. “She was from West Los Angeles. So if we didn't go to camp . . . my kids wouldn’t be here.” Tamiye said, “Going to a camp like that wasn’t good. But I think going to camp like that changed my life, too, my friends, the way I think.” —————————
Want to learn more? You can watch George’s entire oral history interview in the archive at www.densho.org.