|Ichiro Sam Sugidono|
Watsonville High Foundation Hall of Fame
Watsonville High School Foundation Hall of Fame 2010
Ichiro Sam Sugidono, Class of 1942.
Ichiro Sam Sugidono was born in Watsonville in 1922 as the oldest son of Saichiro Roy and Asa Sugidono. His father operated the Sugidono Service Garage on lower Main Street in Watsonville. Sam and his four brothers and sisters all attended Watsonville schools. Sam attended Watsonville High School and by the beginning of 1942, he had finished his classes for graduation that June. But graduation and his plans to attend automotive school were interrupted by World War II.
In early 1942, Sam and his family were forced by the U.S. government to leave Watsonville and were taken to the Poston, Arizona internment camp block 220-12-B along with all of the Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans living in California and on the West Coast during World War II. Even though they were born in the U.S. and were American citizens, they were held by the government in guarded camps.
In 1944, after two years in the camp, Sam and his brother, Jiro, were allowed to volunteer to defend the United States by joining the U.S. Army. Because there was still racial segregation in the Armed Forces at that time, Sam served with the Army's all Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which today still holds the distinction of being the most decorated Army unit ever. Sam was trained as an expert rifleman and quickly became a platoon leader. He saw fierce combat in Italy and was awarded both the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
In 1946, after the war ended and while Sam was still serving in Europe, Sam's family left the internment camp and returned to Watsonville to put their lives back together. Tragedy struck when, a few weeks after returning, Sam's father passed away. Sam's last memories of his father were from the internment camp where his father's health failed while Sam honorably served his country.
Sam was discharged in February 1946 with the rank of Staff Sergeant and returned home to Watsonville. He attended automotive school in Los Angeles under the G.I. bill and eventually joined his father's old partner, Min Hamada, at what was now the H&S Garage on Front Street near lower Main. Two of Sam's sons, Randy and Michael, eventually joined him in the family business. Sam operated the garage as H&S Garage for 40 years, building a reputation across Watsonville for honesty and quality work. Sam retired at 65 and turned the day-to-day operations of the garage over to his sons.
Sam married after the war and has four children - Fred, Randy, Karen and Michael - six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. All of his children and grandchildren attended and graduated from Watsonville High School, and many still live in Watsonville today. The family business that Sam nurtured for 40 years is still run today by his sons at its longtime location on Front Street near Main.