Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Paul Bannai Interview I
Narrator: Paul Bannai
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 28, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-bpaul-01-0022

<Begin Segment 22>

AI: Well, now you were in camp from about April 1942 to, it was about, sometime that summer, maybe July or August '42, that you mentioned you went out to do the sugar beet harvest...

PB: Right.

AI: Idaho. Will you tell about that, about going to Idaho? You mentioned earlier in our interview how you had that feeling of leaving camp, that at least you were free.

PB: Right. Well, as I say, I wanted to be the, I didn't have to be the first one, but I wanted to get out of camp as soon as I could because it was not an atmosphere that I enjoyed. So I made an application, the first, any way, it didn't make any difference. Well, it so happened that because of the shortage of farm labor and knowing that we were in camp that the WRA said, "Yes, we will form labor units to go to camp," I mean outside of camp. So I went with a group of Niseis all my age. I don't remember all of them, but we went to Idaho Falls and then to Rexburg, Idaho. And Rexburg was primarily potato and sugar beet country. So we went up there and harvested crops. There were several families, Japanese families, one that I had met at Salt Lake, and they moved there. And as I mentioned for whatever reason, they had several, two sisters, pretty Japanese Nisei girls, and so I was able to visit with them in Rexburg. And I remember they were so kind that I remembered the Japanese kindness more than I did the German family that I stayed with, because at one time I told them something about liking bananas, and I remember that they had bananas brought in from somewhere. [Laughs] So I could go visit them and had a banana. But the German family that I stayed with that was a farmers, they treated us very well. We didn't have the best quarters in the world, but they were comfortable, and they gave us good food. The pay was of no consequence. We were outside, and that was the main thing. But I remember very vividly some of the hardest work I've ever done in my life. And I had worked on farms and other work was on the potato because they would bring these big sacks of potato. We would put 'em in the sack, and we'd have to load 'em onto the truck. And they would take 'em into the storage shed. And those potatoes, I think, weighed 60, 70 pounds, one sack. They were in 100-pound sack. But working all day lifting those sacks of potatoes, I was worn out during the day. It was hard work.

But during that time, knowing that I was on the outside, then that's when I put in to go to school. So I was able to say, "Well, I did finish my contract to work," and I was able to say, they accepted me at school, so I could leave. So I did my part of the bargain with the farmer, and I enjoyed the freedom of being outside even though I had to work my head off in order to survive. [Laughs]

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.