Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Seichi Hayashida Interview
Narrator: Seichi Hayashida
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Sheri Nakashima (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: August 21, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-hseichi-01-0025

<Begin Segment 25>

AI: And then, at the end of September when the work was done...

SH: Over... we joined our family that had been moved from Tule Lake to Minidoka. Minidoka's a younger camp in time, than Tule Lake or Manzanar.

AI: Could you explain why your family, your mother and your sisters, had been moved from Tule Lake to Minidoka?

SH: They were moved because they moved everybody from Tule Lake to Minidoka. So they, the government just moved them. Then, after they were moved, they said, join... when you're in the fall you join, you go to Minidoka, you don't go back to Tule Lake. By then I bought a car out there that summer after working, so-called, so that we wouldn't have to go by bus. Old 1955 Pontiac sedan I bought, and it lasted long enough for me to go from there, back into camp after the first summer that I went out to work. My mother and two sisters stayed in camp until they were all allowed to go back to the coast. But they had, we had nothing to go back to, so they didn't go back to Bellevue where they were evacuated from. By that time...

AI: Oh, excuse me, before we go on to that, let's go chronologically. So, end of September, your mother and sisters are already in Minidoka, and you and your wife then return from Ontario, Oregon. Instead of returning to Tule Lake, you go directly to Minidoka, Idaho.

SH: That's right, uh-huh.

AI: And, what did you find there at Minidoka?

SH: How did I what?

AI: What did you find there? Did you have your own room, with you and your wife, or were you rejoined with your mother and sisters?

SH: No, we got a room by ourselves.

AI: And, it sounds like, you mentioned the layout was very similar, in Minidoka.

SH: Very similar. Minidoka was, is not a square camp, it's an odd shape. And the blocks are not all... you know, Tule Lake, you could look from the air and it's just barracks, barracks, barracks, and is a square, rectangular pattern. But, Tule Lake, I mean, Minidoka's got this way, area here, and then some barracks this way and some barracks this way, and they weren't in a grid like the others were because of the terrain.

AI: Could you describe that terrain a little bit, the geography, what it looked like around the camp?

SH: Oh, there were outcroppings of rock. It's out in the desert. The soil is rich where there is soil, it was deep enough to plant stuff. But lots of rock, lava rock and it was not a flat area at all. But, everything grew real good. The farm was a little bit away from the camp site itself, mostly vegetables were all grown by the inmates, from the evacuees. And government didn't have to grow or buy vegetables for them, they furnished some of the land. And farmers went in, not only all farmers, but lot of people that used to be in the city were glad to go out and work on a farm.

AI: So, Minidoka, the camp had its own farm, to provide produce?

SH: Yes, they had their own farm to provide -- even Tule Lake did, earlier. Those of, those that were farmers before evacuation there volunteered. They asked if you want to go to do some farm work, and we got paid. Yeah, we got paid if you worked.

AI: Do you remember how much your pay was?

SH: Yes, farm labor scale was... oh gosh, I can't remember how much it was by the month. It was a small amount, but I can't exactly remember now. There was a scale.

AI: Do you remember, at the time, did it seem like a fair wage to you?

SH: No, it wasn't a fair wage. I think it started out, nine, it was by the month. Oh, I'd hate to say because this is gonna be a permanent record, and I may be way off. I should remember what I got, but I can't remember. I know the amount but what I can't remember was a week or by the month. We didn't work because of the money. We worked to get the freedom, to get out and do something different than to be just staying 'round the camp, inside the camp.

AI: Could you tell us a little bit about what the winter was like there, in Minidoka?

SH: Minidoka is a... in the winter it's much colder than Seattle, Portland, or even compared to western Idaho. It's a cold area in the wintertime. More snow than the western part of the state, although it's further south as far as the distance. If you go further east into Eastern Idaho, it gets colder yet. But the weather is pretty much the same year to year. But the whole climate for the state and from all over the country's getting warmer, they say from people that used to live there years ago. You talk to people that are ninety years old, and they said it was a lot colder in the winters and a lot hotter in the summers -- old natives say that. I got used to it, but it's so much different than what you're used to in Seattle. People grew up there, it's gonna be hot there for a while in the summer, and you get used to the winter. It's like anything else, you get used to it if you have to live with it. You make the best you can out of it. But today it's not bad when you got air conditioned homes, you know, you flip a switch it's too hot, cool it down, if it's too cold you turn around and...

AI: What did you have for heating in your room at Minidoka?

SH: What did we what?

AI: What did you have for heating, for warmth?

SH: Potbellied stove and all the coal you could, you wanted. And at night, you'd bank... I say, you young ladies wouldn't know a potbellied stove. Name, as the name implies, it was about that tall, and it was shaped like that, and the legs down here. Pretty tall, and you could put in a whole bunch of coal, you didn't put in small coal, big chunks of coal like that and it would last -- and you shut everything down from burning too fast -- it would last all night. Didn't need it in the daytime. Even in the winter we didn't, I don't remember using it. And you could get all the coal you want, you had go to the middle of the block to carry it in buckets to your, to your barrack room. My brother-in-law worked for the coal, worked in the coal crew, which was part of his job, just like working in the mess hall. And we never run out of coal.

We ate good... we can't say, nobody can say that they didn't get fed. It might not have been that tasty. Well, there was enough Issei that had restaurants that were cooks. And the camp manager asked for people, and you told them. So you got a job as a chief cook in a, each block, so I think just about every block that I heard of, had somebody with the experience. There wasn't like, a farmer like me, trying to go there and feed the whole block without having any experience. At least they worked in one or owned one. And, you know, even -- I keep saying, "You know," and you wouldn't know -- but prewar days there were a lot of Japanese restaurants, small Japanese restaurants. So there was enough cooks to be at... all the rest of us learn how to cook. I worked in a mess hall because it was always, you didn't have to work out in the cold, you didn't, it wasn't so hot. And, you didn't have to work all day. But you called it a job. You got paid as much as if somebody worked eight-hour day working outside on a farm, and you worked inside, couple hours in the morning, couple hours at noon, couple hours in the evening, and you got paid as well. And you worked in lot better weather conditions. Plus you were sure you were gonna get fed.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.