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3-Evaculation to Pinedale
Can you tell us about the day you were evacuated?
Well, we had to prepare, in a sense, because they said you could only take tin cup, tin plates, one suitcase, just the necessities. Leave everything behind. I went downtown, bought a suitcase, bought some tin cups, tin plates, forks, knives... things like that for my whole family. I followed the rules, which was a big mistake, because other people took cameras, and a lot of things.
You didn't take any personal items?
No, just the clothing that you wear on your back, and that's it. By that time I was so afraid, I thought I better follow the rules.
Did you ever retrieve the items you left in your home prior to evacuation?
No. What we did, was this loyal Filipino person that always worked for us, we left everything to him rather than sell it cheaply. We just left everything. He was so loyal, and I always thought he was my brother.
Do you remember where you were when you heard about evacuation?
Yeah, I was at the nursery in Bryn Mawr. I think we got a notice. "The Japanese-Americans and the Japanese in this area will have to gather at so and so station, on a certain hour, certain day. Things like that. The details. We were given a family number.
How long were you given to leave your house?
I think they kind of warned us a couple months before. I can't remember though. But, I think after the orders came down it was pretty quick.
What was your parent’s reaction to the Executive Orders?
The Japanese have a saying, Shagata Ganai. You cannot help it; accept it. That's all I heard all my life. Shagata ganai, shagata ganai. So accept it.
Your parents didn't mind going to Camp?
No. We'll cooperate.
What were your expectations of camp?
Well, it was a puzzle. We didn't know whether we were going to be shot or where we were going to be sent. They didn't tell us where we were going. It was a complete blackout on the train. I mean, you had to pull the shades down. I peeked and I saw these palm trees, and I thought "My goodness, where are we?" Its certainly not in Washington or Oregon. I think it took two days in those days, maybe three days. They said, "This is Pinedale, near Fresno." That's it. It was so hot.
How hot do you think it was?
I really don't know. But I know I passed out. We had to stand in line for our food, because we really didn't know whether we were going to be fed. So, I'd be first in line.
Can you describe the experience of that train trip?
Well... no, I just didn't know where we were going. It was complete blackout, and we had to have the shades turned down, so I don't know anything. But at that age you say, "This is an adventure."
What was the first thing you saw when you got off the train at Pinedale?
Army trucks to transport us to the camp.
Was this surprising to you?
No, I mean, by that time you just accept it. OK, this is what's going to happen. You just become resilient and adapt yourself. That's one good thing about evacuation in a way. You learn how to adapt.
What was your worst-case scenario for evacuation? Did others share it?
I never discussed it with other people. Well, the first reaction is: What is gonna happen to us? Are they gonna shoot us? Are they gathering us up to shoot us? Or are they gonna send us back to Japan? Or why are they shipping us off someplace else?
When you first got off the trucks at Pinedale, what was the first thing you saw?
Well, the Fresno Bee or something. The newspaper people were there, and it was kind of exciting because they started taking pictures of me.
So your first experience of Pinedale was positive?
Yeah. It was an adventure for me. How else would I have left Seattle? It’s strange. A lot of other Niseis don't like that. The way I make so light of it now. I'm not bitter about it. I was at one time, when you realize that you lost three years of your life, which you'll never get back. But then you think of the positive aspects of it.
What were the positive aspects of being in camp?
Well, you learn to be resilient, accept things. You get laid back, and this was meant to be, maybe it's for the better. You always have this positive attitude.
Do any early experiences in camp stick with you?
I was a little different. I didn't get along with people. But anyway, as soon as we got there they gave us an IQ test. He was a Ph. D from someplace, and I remember his name distinctly because his name was Dr. King. He said, "Oh your IQ is way up there.” I didn't know what an IQ was. So, I was with that group. They're all older than I. So, I got a real good job. Got the top money, which was what? Fourteen, sixteen, and eighteen, or something like that.
What did you use your camp salary for?
A month? The best thing we had in camp was a Sears' catalog. You think, "Gee, what can I buy for 18 dollars?"
What kind of wages did your parents make?
They got the middle. I think my father was a guard and my mother... what did she do? Oh she cooked in the kitchen making pies for this eccentric chef.
Food and Conditions in Pinedale
What was the food like in the camp?
I don't know, we got a lot of mutton. Which smells. I don't know if you have had mutton, have you? Lamb I can understand. What is mutton? Isn't it old?
Were there any vegetarians in camp?
No. I didn't even think about vegetarians at that time, I was just happy to see some rice.
What kind of food did they feed you?
American. It was mainly American food. This was in the assembly center, Pinedale. That's when we got a lot of mutton.
Besides the heat and the people what else troubled you in Pinedale?
Lets see. Having open bathrooms. Open showers. When we brushed our teeth, it was like a trough. All the faucets one after the other. Same way with the bathrooms.
Do you have any stories about the bathrooms?
Yes. I'd get up in the middle of the night to go take a shower. I was modest in those days. There were a lot of mentally ill people. So, they would do all the peculiar things at the faucet. One lady kept washing her hands all day long. I couldn't figure out what she was doing, but evidentially she had some sort of mental condition.
Were you allowed normal hygiene when at Pinedale?
It was free for all. You could go any time. So, I went in the middle of the night, when no one was there.
What was the housing situation like at Pinedale?
Lets see, I think I'm not used to that kind of housing, but they're army barracks, I think. It must be the same today, but I have never run into an army barrack since. It was like a house, and there were about four or five partitions and then each family got one partition. It was open at the top, so if the family had a fight you heard it all down the aisle.
Can you describe what your section of the barrack was like?
It was just a piece of wood. I mean, it's just like in the offices now, how they have those little cubicles. It was like that because it was open at the top. My family was three, my mother, my father, and I. So I got a little bed, and my mom and dad had another bed. My father made a partition, and I didn't know what it was for at that time. That was the first thing that went up, a screen! We had a potbelly stove. We all slept in the same room.
Did you fight with your parents at Pinedale?
No. No. I think in a way it was fun for me, because I got away from their jurisdiction. They didn't keep an eye on me: "Where are you going now? What time are you gonna eat? What time are you going to bed? When are you going to take your bath?" I had more freedom.
So there were really no conflicts?
No! It’s just that I couldn't go to dances and I couldn't have any social life.
You said you had some boyfriends while you were in camp?
Yeah. Well, sort of. I don't know whether they considered me a girlfriend, but I kind of picked them out.
Do you remember their names?
No, I don't even know. I don't remember at all. I remember one boy I was going out with, I said, "I hate that women!" He says, "Oh, you do?" I said, “Yes!" He says, "Well, that's my sister." I thought "Oh, what a faux pas!"
That was the end of that relationship?
Yes. I didn't say, "I hate that woman," I said, "I hate that girl!"
How did you meet your in-camp boyfriends?
No, I think we just met in the office or someplace. I don't know It’s so long ago, please!
Were a lot of people able to fall in love in the camps?
Yes. Uh-huh. Because a lot of people got married there, I think. I don't know But, like I said before, I couldn't find anyone as tall as I, so I didn't have much selection. Maybe there was one or two in the whole camp. The prettiest girl in the camps always got them, and I was very awkward. Nice and plump.