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What were you doing when you first heard about internment?
Well, I think that what I did was, I observed was what was going on in the household. We were concerned—remember the FBI man that I told you about? We were concerned that they would take away my father or they would think that we were doing something subversive. And so we—my sisters and father—they were going through everything, magazines, our albums, and found the Japanese flag, we went and took them downstairs and burned them in the furnace, to try to get rid of anything that suggested that we may have some loyalties to Japan. So that was what I was observing. My father had some books and things that he rather cherished, and he thought, "Well, maybe those should go be burned as well." So, we have gaps in our album where we threw some pictures away that we thought might be incriminating.
Then we, as I said, we didn't receive a notice until shortly before we had to leave. At that point, my father had to sell the business and so he—I guess everybody was aware that we had to get rid of these things rather quickly—so a woman came and gave him an offer that he took and it was way below market value, but we had no choice.
So then we got a notice that said, "This is what you can take, and this is what you must leave behind." What we were to take, they told us that we needed to take our bedding; we needed to take our sheets—not the mattresses or anything like that—but our sheets, and pillows. Then, the other thing that we were supposed to take was one plate, one cup, a knife, fork, and spoon, and our toiletries and then only what we could carry in terms of our clothes and anything else that we were to bring. We couldn't take any cameras; certainly we couldn't take any pets. I had a cat that I had to get rid of. My sister found a home for it and that was heartbreaking to me. If any of you have pets and love them, you know how difficult that is, and so we were trying to figure out how then we would get rid of all these things.
So, as I told you, I've already told you about the piano because that was what was dearest to us. There are some other couple of trunks that we had a very dear friend—her name was Mrs. Nelson—and so she had a small apartment, but she offered to take a couple of our trunks. So, she took those trunks that had in there some of my mother's things, some things that were very dear to us. And then from there we had all of our furniture, which we left. This woman kept saying, "Well it goes with the business anyway." All of our household housewares, we left. We had some new furniture actually, we just bought a new sofa and so we had to leave that.
Section below transcribed by James S ('10), cleaned by Alexander Fos tar (intern). Please report errors to: email@example.com.
In our lobby area, it was, we had some very fine furniture in the lobby area that belonged with the business when we first bought it. It had a large library oak table, it had a hat stand that was oak, and it had an ebony bench and it had one large gilded mirror, large gilded mirror. It was quite a lovely little space in there, and so we had to leave all of that. So, trying to figure out what we should take with us. Well, we each had a suitcase, and so we filled it—and we didn't know whether we were going to be there for years or days or what, and we didn't know whether it was going to be hot or cold, we didn't know where we were going to go. We knew we were going to the assembly center, but from there, we didn't know where we were going to go. So, it was very difficult to know what to put into this suitcase, and as you know, even going on a weekend trip or a week trip, that the suitcase gets pretty full, pretty fast. We took what we thought was appropriate, which was some summer things because it was summer time and that was about it. Only what we could carry was what they said and so that's what we took and with the help of Winifred we went to camp or to the assembly center.
What was the trip to the assembly center like? What was going through your head?
Well yeah, I have to go back to what I said earlier which was that I was a ten year-old kid and I'm thinking, "Oh boy, what is this place going to be?" And so, and my father and sisters were just quiet, they weren't saying very much but I was, I was looking around and trying to figure out where this place was and, it might have taken about an hour to get out there from, from our home. But, it was located in North Portland as I had mentioned before, and it was located right next door to the Swift Slaughterhouse, where they slaughtered animals. And the flies were incredibly bad.
When you first arrived at the Assembly Center did you have any sense of disappointment?
I think I was just surprised, I mean this was not what I expected. I think I expected— you know, I don't know what I expected but as a kid I was, I was really excited about going and thinking that maybe that this is going to be an adventure. It was an adventure but certainly not the kind that I had anticipated.
How did your father and your older siblings react?
My father was always very quiet and he would just say, "Okay," you know, "Everything will be alright." And that was about it. And so we just marched ahead and found our place, our cubicle and made up our beds—they had camp cots in there—and we made up our beds and just got settled in.
What was the food you ate there like?
Oh! The food we ate, it was under the Army at that time, and they had big number-ten cans that they would dump out and I remember, the one thing that I remember vividly is that we had some like green beans or spinach and it was, it would be kind of slimy and it would be kind of off-colored. The other times we would have things like hash. We had hominy, and you know Japanese people don't know or eat hominy, and we would have other kinds of things that were not to our taste because we used to eat rice and vegetables, fresh vegetables, and so forth, miso soup. These foods first of all were foreign and then second of all they were not well prepared, and thirdly then we all got sick. Then it was, you know, it was that we weren't eating very much. They had, the opened a canteen, and we could get soft drinks and there were only two soft drinks. I think they had Dr. Pepper and they had orange drinks. And it was, as I said, it was very hot and we drank so much of that stuff we just couldn't face it anymore it was just, it had just gotten to us, too sweet and too much.
Did you have to pay for the soft drinks?
We had coupons, now I don't, I don't remember how we got the coupons but we had coupons so that, I suppose what they didn't want one person to do was to get them all so then they allocated coupons to us so that we would be able to get so many things from the canteen.
Did you find any part of the transition to be the most difficult for you?
I think, you know, the thing is for me, as long as I had my family around me, I felt pretty sheltered and protected, even as the circumstances and things changed. And they weren't panicking or anything like that, they were just sort of moving in and accepting what was there, and making do and so I, and I was out playing. I didn't see that as a difficult time for me. The weather was very hot, now that was difficult. And we didn't, we'd get bored. In the evenings, we could go outside you know, as I told you there were the parking lots here would be like the grounds there. We would go out there and it would be a little cooler and then we could hear the sounds from Jansen Beach. There was a playground or, not a playground.
Like a little amusement park?
Yes, an amusement park. Jansen Beach was—It was about a mile away so you could hear all the sounds and you could see the Ferris Wheels moving and whatever. And that I think was, was difficult for me. I mean, you know something that I would have loved to have done or seen, and yet we were confined.
So did you have a feeling of imprisonment?
Definitely, because we couldn't leave, we couldn't go any place. And talking, we're going to go back to the food for just one minute. My sister worked in the administration office. There she had some contacts with some outside people and one day somebody brought in these marvelous, of Portland, Yaw's used to have the best hamburgers, and so she had this hamburger, so she came downstairs after she had eaten it., "Oh, I had the best hamburger." And, that was so—we were so jealous. And we had a friend, Mrs. Nelson. It was still close enough for her to come visit us, so on her days off from the shipyard, she work in shipyard's, she would bring us a shopping bag full of goodies. And the one thing that I remember, was she brought a box of strawberries. And, and my sister parceled them out to each of us. We sat there and ate these strawberries, that was so wonderful. But that was in such contrast to what we were getting there.
Do remember any hobbies that your dad had? Did he have any job like your sister, like working in the kitchen?
At that time, I don't think he did. I think he knew a lot of people there so I think that they would hang out together and just, talk and, I don't think they had any games there but my father used to goal player, but I don't think they were doing that. But he, just like us, we would, we would find our friends and sit around and talk and that was about it.
Was there anyone who tried to escape or something like that?
No, not that I know of.
How did you stay connected with what was going on in the outside world? I suppose current events, the war, was there any sort of connection that you had? Did you even watch movies or anything like that?
If I remember right, I don't remember seeing movies while we were there in the assembly center. It's possible that they brought some in but I think we didn't have very much. There were some newspapers that came in, but a lot of it was propaganda. And I think that when people went into administration, and my sister got word of something, that she would come down. But rumors were very, very prevalent there. So there was all sorts of rumors, rumors about the war, rumors about what was going on there in the assembly center, what was going on elsewhere. So, it was hard to know what was real and what wasn't.
Were you able to tell at such a young age?
Imagine that you're in your room or whatever it is that you were living in with your family. Can you walk out of this room and give us a visual tour of what you see?
We were lucky. We were in the area where the horses were. So it was a little better than the people who lived nearest the slaughterhouse. Those people got flies and everything. So we were lucky, and if not for that reason we were also lucky that if you came out of our area and walked a little ways, the group of toilets were there. Now that's an advantage and a disadvantage. But if you have dysentery, that's an advantage. But anyway, then if you walked a little further there was this huge, sliding—like a barn door— that slid back. And so we could go there and get a breath of fresh air. And then if you came back in and went forward, we went, you got to the, where the women's showers were. So, we thought we were fortunate, with having at least the place where we got a little fresh air and then it was convenient to the facilities actually. I could take you on a tour a little bit more. If you turned down and went a little further then you came to the arena where we played.
Did it feel very crowded?
It was crowded. There were people around all the time, and if you were going to take a shower and unfortunately about half the showerheads weren't working. They were either squirting way above your head or one drop at a time or whatever, they weren't well maintained, so maybe there were four, four good showers. And there was no place to place you soap or towels or anything like that. We had to wait in line and there was this dressing room and then there were the showers. And so sometimes we'd be sitting there for quite a while. And it was the hardest, it was hardest on, on the mothers who had young children; this is where it was tough. And so finally they might get dishpans or they would go to the sinks and try to bathe their children and that was hard.
Did anyone ever try to steal or take anything from you or others?
No. I mean, we all were in the same boat and we were, you know, in fact if we saw that there was somebody with a young child and they wanted to get in and do something, I mean get into the shower. First, we'd say, "Sure, go ahead," you know. I think people tried to support each other. It wasn't all that way but I think that there was a sense of trying to help each other; at least that was that my point of—from my perspective.
How did you and others in the assembly center react to military—or news about the war?
While we were in the Assembly Center? We were interested in what was going on, and who was winning, what was going on, when it would be over. But after a while, you know it's sort of like the same thing going on. Like the Iraq War, it just goes on and so it's no longer the big news.
Do you think that your relationships changed with your siblings as a result being in the assembly center or having this upheaval? How did things kind of progress with your family relationships?
I think some of it was—this was not the assembly center—well it was too, that we were so crowded that all of us wanted to kind of get away from each other. And so, we would be with our friends most of the time. At the mess hall they, my brothers would sit clear over, they were teenage boys by then, they would sit clear over by themselves with their buddies. My sisters would sit with their friends and maybe about two or three tables away from, and then my, I was, I had to sit with my father because I was the youngest and, and I really wasn't happy with that. But that's the way, and then they decided that would be permanent seating arrangement, for the duration of the, this was the assembly center. So we never ate as a family, during the whole time.
How long were you at the assembly center?
Three and a half months.
So throughout the summer?
Yes, throughout the summer.
Do you remember the people who were kind of running, things there and who was telling you what to do? And were there any restrictions on time you had to be in bed?
That's a good question because in the beginning they tried to put a curfew on us, and at nine o'clock they wanted a head count of everybody in every room. And we said, "Nine o'clock?" And then the lights we supposed to be out, right after that. And, you know, this is summer time, when it's still daylight at nine o'clock. There was some, I think some protesting about that and very quickly the administration realized that was unreasonable. They sort of got over that idea.
Do you remember the day that you moved from the assembly center to Minidoka or that you left the Assembly Center?
I do. They told us that we were going to go by train, and the train came right very close by there. I guess in those days the cattle or whatever were placed on the train and they went. So, under armed guard, we were transferred onto the train. And then, we went, I think, I'm not sure, but I think we had an overnight on the train. What I remember is that as we left, my sister's friend and my sister, Arlene, and I, we sat around and we sang songs. We sang, "Don't Fence Me In," and we sang, "Beyond the Hills of Idaho," because we were going to Idaho, and, "Jingle Jangle Jingle;” those were the songs I remember. The train kept going, we hit the sunset of Idaho, and I don't know if you've ever been there, when the sun is setting over the desert, it is incredibly beautiful. The purples and the pinks and it was—then you'd begin to see the silhouettes of the sage brush and the other things. And it was, it was really quite, quite beautiful.