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In the summer of 2022, Minot-Sleeper Library in Bristol, New Hampshire partnered with StoryCorps to record and preserve stories of local residents. NHPR is honored to broadcast some of these conversations, which will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

StoryCorps NH: Local dentist reflects on parents' imprisonment during WWII

Garret Taoka's mother (pictured) and father were imprisoned at Heart Mountain in Wyoming during WWII.
Aubrey M. Taoka
Garret Taoka's mother (pictured) and father were imprisoned at Heart Mountain in Wyoming during WWII.

Earlier this year, Minot-Sleeper Library in Bristol, New Hampshire partnered with StoryCorps to record and preserve stories of local residents. NHPR is honored to share some of these conversations.

Dr. Garret Taoka has been in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire for decades. For this project, Taoka told librarian Shayne Duggan the story of how his parents were imprisoned at aJapanese Internment Camp located in Heart Mountain, Wyoming during World War II. Below is a transcript of their conversation.

Transcript

Garret Taoka: My dad was not a packrat, but [he was] very organized. And he actually had the original letter from the government saying they were going to be interned — telling them that they were going to lose their property.

They had to get out of school. They had to give everything away because they could only take what they could carry in a suitcase. They had to report to the Santa Anita racetrack, where they were housed in stables, horse stables, and sent from California to Heart Mountain, Wyoming.

Shayne Duggan: How old were your parents when they were there?

Taoka: My dad was — he had finished his masters at Stanford. My mother had just graduated with her bachelor's from Stanford. And so I guess they would have been, what, 20, 22?

Duggan: So they were married at the time?

Taoka: They got married just before they left for the internment.

Garret's parents had just graduated from Stanford University when they were imprisoned.
Aubrey M. Taoka
Garret Taoka's parents had just graduated from Stanford University when they were imprisoned.

Duggan: And what was the process after? When did they go back to California?

Taoka: My dad used to tell me that they were given $0.03 on the dollar for their property. So all of my dad's family owned a truck farm, a very large truck farm, and my mother's family owned vineyards, grapes. And so they lost everything, virtually everything. They had to give away all their property. So his cars, his guns.

And then when they were released, he was drafted by the Army. So he ended up serving in the Philippines in intelligence and was in the occupying forces in Japan after the war.

Duggan: Wow. That's quite a life.

Taoka: It's quite a story.

Duggan: Did you ever have conversations with them about their opinions about America after their internment?

Taoka: My parents were always very thankful to be here in the United States. They never held any grudges. And I think it's my generation who were really bitter about the whole thing.

Duggan: Their humility and resiliency...it's stunning.

Taoka: Unbelievable. It really is. But I think that whole generation of Japanese was that way. They were very close mouthed and they were trying to Americanize us as much as possible because there is so much backlash against the Japanese. So we were raised as white Americans, even though we weren't. And one thing that they always emphasize, though, is that being Japanese, being a minority, you had to be twice as good as anybody else to be equal.

Garret Taoka was interviewed by Minot Sleep librarian Shayne Duggan during the summer of 2022.
Minot Sleeper Library
Garret Taoka was interviewed by Minot Sleep librarian Shayne Duggan during the summer of 2022.

Duggan: Do you feel like you sort of pass that on to your children as well?

Taoka: I think we passed on the competitive thing. We were always expected [that] you had to be better than the generation before you.

Duggan: Yeah. And it looks like they have passed some of that on to you. I think.

Taoka: Hopefully.


Dr. Garret Taoka has been practicing dentistry in the Lakes region for decades now, alongside his daughter.

Before his father passed away, they all traveled to Heart Mountain in Wyoming to visit the internment camp where there is now a museum.

The Taokas donated all the letters, uniforms, and other artifacts that his family kept safe over the years in the hopes that future generations can learn from the past.

This conversation was recorded as a partnership between Minot Sleeper Libraryin Bristol, New Hampshire, and StoryCorps.

Before becoming Program Director, Quirk served as NHPR's production manager. During that time she's voiced and crafted the 'sound of the station,' coordinated countless on-air fundraisers, produced segments for Give Back NH, Something Wild, New Hampshire Calling, and developed NHPR's own NHPR Music vertical with features such as Live from Studio D, and long-loved favorites like Holidays By Request.

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