By Louise Sako      


Plans are presently being made for a tri-church (Watsonville, Monterey, and Salinas) picnic to be held on October 2, 2010 at Toro Park.

It was sometime ago that I remember the last Westview Church picnic I attended was held at the Royal Oaks Park in Monterey County. Many members from Salinas Presbyterian Church joined us then. In 1993, the last JACL Senior Center joint (Gods) picnic was held in Monterey with seniors from Monterey, Salinas, Gilroy-Morgan Hill and Watsonville. With many Isseis passing and aging, interest in this picnic declined and was discontinued.

The only one in existence now is the community picnic held yearly by the Watsonville-Santa Cruz JACL at the Aptos Village Park. Participated by everyone are the varied activities including races, bingo, raffle, etc. The seniors are treated royally on arrival with doughnuts and coffee, are first in line for lunch, have special parking privileges and many, many bingo prizes. Attendance by the seniors was down this year due to aging, too. Special attendance was by the Rev. Dan Hoffman and his family who actively enjoyed participating in the day’s festivities.

The community is indebted year after year to all the work performed by the Sanseis and Yonseis. In retrospect, the Issei tradition of picnics is faithfully carried on by these dedicated volunteers.


These photos were taken at the Watsonville-Santa Cruz JACL picnic June 26th, 2010 at the Aptos Village Park.

My Experiences in the Tulelake Schools

By Louise Sako


Louise Sako (pictured above) at one of our 2011 Church events

The happiest times I spent in the internment camps were those months when I worked in the schools in the Tulelake Relocation Center. My friend, Kimi and I discussed what we’d like to do upon our arrival there from the Pinedale Assembly Center. We decided to get a job in the new nursery school in Block 49 which was in our area. Ms. Marianne Robinson, nursery school supervisor, filled us in all matters pertaining to our work. Kimi and I had eighteen children at the beginning and when the enrollment increased to twenty- five, another Nisei, Fujie joined us. All the children were English speaking Sanseis, ages four and five. Our program included storybook readings, singing, playing games, snack time of milk and graham crackers and naptime. The children were well mannered and got along very well with each other. When the elementary school was to begin in September, Kimi and I applied for first grade assistants in the Rim Rock School in Block 54. We both were hired and worked with Ms. Patricia Whaley, a graduate of San Jose State College. Although we were not trained educators, working with Ms. Whaley was a joy. I do not remember all what I did but I enjoyed the work. Young minds were fantastic!

We had one student, Mary who was severely handicapped. Kimi and I took turns giving special attention to her as she had difficulty walking and talking. At first, we had difficulty communicating with her but as time went on, we learned to understand her by her body language. One day, when one of her classmates teased her, she cried and showed much displeasure. I was very upset as I couldn’t make her understand very well how I felt. Way back some 68 years ago, handicapped children did not get special treatment from the state or federal government. On the last day of school, Mary clung to me and with tears in her eyes said “Thank you, Miss Nori (for Norikane).” I cried, too.

During our fourteen months stay in Tulelake, I vividly remember the Christmas season on 1942. Kimi and I volunteered to help process some two thousand toys and gifts for the younger children of the camp. These (mostly new) gifts were donated by various churches, including the Presbyterian and organizations throughout the United States. We were amazed with people’s generosity and compassion for our young evacuees. All the Santas in camp were busy indeed!

While working for the schools, I received $16 a month and $3.75 clothing allowance. The school year ended and my family and I were transferred to the Minidoka Camp in Idaho in September of 1943.


Some 40 years later:

One of my first grade students whom I met years later at the Day of Remembrance event in Salinas, Jeanne Takemoto Nakagawa, now lives in the Monterey area.

I met another student, Junko Yasumura Yoshida who was married to the late Victor (Kenzo Yoshida’s son) of Watsonville and now resides in the Bay Area. Both Victor and Kenzo were former Westview Church members.

I also was able to meet and talk to a former Tulelake grade school teacher (Caucasian) who was in the Watsonville Bonsai Club. Evarista Mickelson worked in the Tulelake School after I left for Idaho. She moved away before I got too acquainted with her.


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