Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Roy H. Matsumoto Interview
Narrator: Roy H. Matsumoto
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Tom Ikeda (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 17 & 18, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-mroy-01-0041

<Begin Segment 41>

AI: So, before we, we took this short break you were just telling us about the last few months before going to the Santa Anita Assembly Center. And can you tell me, what were some of the things you had to do to prepare to leave when you heard that everyone was going to be forced to move out and the so-called "evacuation"? What did you do to prepare?

RM: Well, first thing came up is Mrs. Yamaguchi and then the smaller kids. And I know, I made up my mind that I gotta pay back because the people been nice to me and I realize before that, Mr. Izumi take care of me, Mr... well, other people, too, and the relative, too. Only thing is, when I first came back there it was just the start of Depression and everybody had a hard time and I don't wanna impose on, and that's my idea, and I have a lot of relatives, but they willing but unable because, on account of... so I don't know whether they eat the cat meat or the dog meat or not, but they hard up on, meat and then all kinda story, but some of 'em actually see that the big family and the market is low and I sympathize but I cannot help all, body. And some of 'em, I made money before so doin' alright and live in good house and good, nice brand new car, but most of 'em were struggling at the time, see.

AI: Well, so what kinds of things did you do to get ready for leaving?

RM: So I thought, I was gonna take this family to interior, either Salt Lake City, Utah or Denver as far as that maybe. But then, now I couldn't do it because if get stuck, then all gonna be (dead) in the desert, so Mojave Desert. So I decided let the government take care, go assembly center, so happened that I registered with, even though I'm from Los Angeles. But people from Los Angeles, assembly center was the same and came there and so, Santa Anita racetrack.

AI: Were, were you saying that you registered with the Yamaguchis?

RM: Yamaguchis, yes. I decided to go with the Long Beach group. So that's decided at the assembly center.

AI: So how did you get from Long Beach to the assembly center?

RM: Bus, I think it was, ride, bus ride.

AI: So you brought all your things --

RM: No, only suitcase.

AI: Just suitcase.

RM: That all you can carry. That's the sad part of it.

AI: And you went with the Yamaguchis, Mrs. Yamaguchi and the three daughters?

RM: Yes, Mrs. Yamaguchi and the three. Well, assembly center, but I was busy. What I did was, I don't want to idle, so then no place, you cannot go movie or anything, just assembly center. And some Kibeis, they tried to gamble and things like that but I don't have any money and so I said I got to get some kind of job, keep myself, mind occupied, so I job says in there, "What do you have?" they says, "What can you do?" They asked me, see. So my line is produce and vegetable, but they don't grow that say, but the thing is, well, they have a vegetable department, says, and, "You a high school graduate?" I said, "Yeah." Then no difficulty. See, Issei guy try to do it, then they couldn't communicate and wouldn't get the job even though he could it manually, but then he cannot handle what the instruction was. So then they read the menu and things like that but what I did was I worked in the grocery store and also vegetable stand, "Okay, then you know all the vegetables?" I said, "Yeah, yes sir." "Okay, then you be head of the vegetable department." See, I'm the only young guy but the Isseis, everybody he says if I want to work, report to this grandstand there, and we had a potato machine set up and just like army style, and they cut the buds off and the turnip, cut the top off and carrots are peeled in a peeler, and those are the kind of things I'm in charge, see, until left there. Gotta feed a thousand people, so many thousand, I didn't know how many they change, they move out to camp, then new ones come in from other locations, and finally my turn come to go, get on the train...

AI: Well, so I'm curious about this. Here you are, you're still a young guy, and a Nisei, but you're supervising some older Issei people.

RM: Yeah, that's amazing what, at the time high school graduate is just like a college graduate right now, because --

AI: Not too many people --

RM: -- lotta people didn't go to school. Of course, lot of Issei there, but they didn't have certain things. They could do maybe typing or things like that but you don't need so many. But somebody... it so happened that there was a job opening and other people could do it but then the hard time communicating the boss. And give 'em this, so much, and if you can understand so much, well, say so many sack of potato then you could do that but it says so many pound of things, gotta figure out so many people and so gotta have a high school graduate, then I happened to have, I told, I didn't have to show anything but the way speaking, "What school you go to?" I says, "Long Beach High," Long Beach Polytechnic High School. "That's good enough." So I get the professional nineteen dollars -- [laughs] -- instead of --

<End Segment 41> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.