Camp Life Memories
Orange County Register, August 13, 2010

Artist Spent Part of Youth in Relocation Camp
By Theresa Walker

Chizuko de Queiroz

Chizuko Judy Sugita de Queiroz reacts with pleasure to her father's artwork shown in one of her paintings. Some 60 years after she was released from the Poston War Relocation Center in Arizona she created a watercolor book of her memories titled "Camp Days 1942-1945". She says of learning the war was over: "I just said, Oh, God! I can be 150 percent American again. I had planned for that day that we were going to leave camp because when we entered camp I was really, really shy. I was very, very unhappy in camp. I didn't have friends like my sisters and brothers, who were outgoing. They made friends easily."

photos & text by Jebb Harris, The Orange County Register
additional text by Theresa Walker, The Orange County Register

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Chizuko Judy Sugita de Queiroz

Age: 77

Hometown: Irvine

Occupation: Taught art and art history from junior high to the college level in Southern California. Published "Camp Days 1942-1945", a memoir of her childhood years in a Japanese-American internment camp.

During the war: Family was evacuated from Orange County in May 1942 and spent more than three years at Poston, an internment camp in the Arizona desert. Their home and belongings were gone when they returned after the war.

From ages 9 to 12, Chizuko Judy Sugita de Queiroz lived in an internment camp for Japanese Americans at Poston, Ariz. Her father, Yutaka "Joe" Sugita, had owned a nursery in Orange County before the family's forced relocation. Chizuko's mother had died when she was born. Three older brothers and two older sisters also were sent to the camp. A married sister lived in Idaho.

The atomic bombs dropped on Japan by the United States, on Aug. 6 and 9 of 1945, marked the end of the war for her family, something they eagerly awaited so they could return home. They later learned her father's entire family in his hometown of Hiroshima, except for a cousin and a great aunt, were killed in the blast.

But Chizuko says the happiest day in her father's life came in the mid-1950s when he was sworn in as a U.S. citizen. They all were happy on V-J Day.

We were in the camp waiting to get a sponsor and a place to live. Then V-J Day happened. We thought, oh good, great, we're going to get out of camp and everything would be fine and my dad would get to start his business again.

Well, they gave each person $7 when we left camp, so there was very little money. Everything had been confiscated and taken away at the beginning of the war. And we still had no sponsor.

My sister, who was working in Pasadena, wrote to the Red Cross several times and asked if my brother, serving in) the U.S. Army, could come and help us get out of the camp. It took two letters before his commanding officer let him go. They gave him a week's leave of absence before he was to be shipped out with MacArthur's troops to Japan.

First he went to L.A., got us a hostel to live in. Then he came to camp and took us out.

We were just really joyous. The tumbleweeds were coming through the camp and the Indians were walking through the camp -- it was their reservation, of course, that the camp was built on. All the barracks were almost empty.

When we did get to L.A., the brownstone that we were staying in was where Skid Row is now.

My dad and the other men in the brownstone would wait on the porch -- sort of like the Mexicans on the corner, waiting for a job -- waiting for someone to sponsor them. I think about three months passed and we were just getting really discouraged. No one would offer my dad a job. He was 61.

This one man came and said he had three properties and if Dad would take care of the gardening for the three properties we could have a chicken coop to live in. We were just overjoyed. At last somebody wanted us. At last we were going to get to go and start our lives.

We came to Huntington Beach and my sister would come home from her Pasadena house girl job on the weekends and help us get things organized. We had this little hot plate to cook on. My dad and my two brothers made this Japanese bath house outside. And then they had an outhouse.

We had some friends that had relocated earlier and they took us to our property (in Orange County, near what is now Knott's Berry Farm) from before. Well, everything was gone, except my brothers and my dad had taken the tires off two cars and put the cars up on blocks. There was this Model A Ford that my oldest brother had had before the war. My youngest brother was really a mechanical wonder. He could take things apart and put them back together. With the money my sister made as a house girl and the money my brother made in the Army, they were able to order parts from Sears.

My dad started doing gardening with this little Model A Ford.

Dad was able to open his nursery in eight years, in Long Beach on Seventh Street, called the Evergreen Nursery. And it was just great.

We had our life back.

Read more of her memories in the photo captions.

© Copyright 2016 Chizuko Judy Sugita de Queiroz. All rights reserved.

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