Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Peggie Nishimura Bain Interview
Narrator: Peggie Nishimura Bain
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: September 15-17, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-bpeggie-01-0031

<Begin Segment 31>

AI: And what did the place look like when you first got there? What was your impression?

PB: It was just rows and rows of long buildings, and there were about four families to a building, separated just by, just separated in four places. And the open, open all through the top, you could hear the whole length of anybody talking, you could hear them. No privacy whatever. We had cement floors in the building that we were in, and we had cots. But all we had was cots with a mattress, but we were fortunate because the people that came in later, they had to stuff the mattress with straw. And they also, the floor was tar, and it's so hot, the tar was soft, and the beds would sink into the tar. It must have been horrible, but we had cement floors, so it was cool. And my daughter was sleeping under the bed one night, and it really frightened me because she wasn't in bed, and I thought, "My goodness, where is she?" But she had gotten down under the bed, because it was cooler.

AI: So were you, Pat and Jim in a room separately from your parents?

PB: Yes. There was three of us, and there was three Uyeji family, a sister and two brothers. Their dad had been interned earlier; he probably was head of some organization or something, anyhow. They had put him in a different camp, different concentration camp, so this girl and her two brothers were our roommates. So we were just assigned, we never knew them before, but we got pretty friendly, and we were young, so we didn't take anything too seriously. I did probably more so, because I had the two children, and I worried about them. But we were lucky that we were in this building where it was cement floors, where it was cooler. Then going out to lunchtime, that was terrible. People would line up outside, and it was so hot, you could just stand there and you could see the heat. It looked like a cloud coming towards you. The heat, waves of heat, and people would faint. Every day, two or three people would faint standing in line, and I thought, "Well, why do they have to get out there so early?" Why couldn't we wait until they rang the bell or announced that it was time to eat? But if you didn't get there and get in line, sometimes if you're at the end of the line, they almost ran out of food, and it was terrible. We had Vienna sausage day after day after day. [Laughs] And they didn't give us much, just few, few little sausages, and just barely enough to keep us going. And people would faint, and we'd say, "Well, who's going to faint today?" Every day, it was the same story. They'd get out there and more and more people would faint.

AI: It sounds awful.

PB: Yes, it was terrible. And the showers, we had to shower like a institution. And they kept salt near the, so that we wouldn't get dehydrated, I guess. They put salt, give us a little salt. And outhouses were terrible; they were just like old country outhouses. Terrible. And that heat made it smell, and it was... it must have been really hard on the city people, especially where they had the modern facilities. Like us, we were more or less used to outhouses, having lived out in the country. But I can imagine how terrible it must have been for city people. And like Seattle people, they went to Puyallup, but we went to Pinedale. And I wondered why the separation, but they said people on one side of the White River went one place, and those on the other side went to another place. I think those that were east of whichever -- [laughs] -- I can't tell directions. But anyhow, some of 'em went to Puyallup, and some of 'em went to Pinedale.

AI: Well, you mentioned all these folks fainting and not feeling well there at Pinedale. What kind of medical facility did they have?

PB: Well, they had a hospital, and they had one doctor. And, of course, the employees were volunteers; we volunteered, and I volunteered to work in the hospital. So I did a lot of nurses' aide work in Pinedale. And when my sister came, she was, she had been secretary, so she became secretary to the doctor. So she had a good position.

AI: Was that...

PB: Emily.

AI: Emily. So, so you and Pat and Jim were sharing this room with the Uyeji family, and then your mother and father were in a different barrack with Fan?

PB: Fan and her husband was in another place, and she was pregnant with her first son, so her husband, he was really pampering my sister. He did everything for her. And he would take sheets and build a tent, and he'd wet the sheets down, and then he -- I don't know where he got a hold of a fan -- but he, anyhow, he was, he got a hold of a fan, and he put the fan on one end of the sheet to keep her cool. So he tried to make her as comfortable as possible. And he would do anything for her; he just pampered her no end.

AI: Gosh, that must have been miserable for her being pregnant in that situation.

PB: Yes. Well, lots of, lots of women went through that; a lot of children were born in camp. Her two boys were born in camp.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.