Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Kazue Yamamoto Interview
Narrator: Kazue Yamamoto
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Spokane, Washington
Date: June 8, 2006
Densho ID: denshovh-ykazue-01-0010

<Begin Segment 10>

MA: And you said you, you had talked about going from Portland to Heart Mountain...

KY: Heart Mountain.

MA: train.

KY: I'm sure it was by train, had to be by train.

MA: When you were in Portland and preparing to go to Heart Mountain, how aware were you and your family about where you were headed, or your, kind of, future?

KY: We didn't know where we were going. My parents might have known, but I had no idea where we were going. I knew we were just going someplace. They might have told our parents, but we didn't know. But, you know, from Portland, they split. Some people went to Minidoka, some went to Heart Mountain, and some went to Tule Lake, so the whole Portland group was split. We didn't all go to one, one camp. I don't know how they separated, but they did separate the group.

MA: Did most of the Wapato people go, they all went to Portland?

KY: They all went to Heart Mountain.

MA: So Portland and then Heart Mountain?

KY: Yeah. So the Portland people, I think, were, went to Minidoka. Maybe that's how it was separated.

MA: What were the living conditions like in Heart Mountain?

KY: Well, that's another 15' x 15' room, it was small. And five of us were in there, there was one potbelly stove, and straw beds. And... did we have a table? We didn't have a table because we went to the mess hall to eat. That was it; bed and a potbelly stove. And several chairs, I don't know where we got the chairs, but I remember there was a couple chairs. And I knew we had to study, so there must have been a table or desk to study on, and that's all I can remember about camp.

MA: So it was all five of you again under...

KY: Under one roof, one...

MA: One room.

KY: One room.

MA: Did your parents work at camp? At Heart Mountain?

KY: Uh-huh. My mother worked in the mess hall, and my dad was... what was he doing? They had a block manager, but he wasn't a block manager. He, he did work, I don't recall what it was, but he did. They got paid sixteen dollars a month. Maybe my mother's was eight dollars a month. You know, the medics, the doctors got sixteen dollars a month. I think the mess hall people only got, like, eight dollars a month. And my dad, I don't know, he got, he was doing something, I don't remember.

MA: What were the weather conditions like? I mean, you must have arrived to Heart Mountain in the summer, right?

KY: Right, it was hot.

MA: '42?

KY: Uh-huh. It was, it was blazing hot, but we're used to the hot weather. Let's see, we got there in, I don't know, I think it was in the summertime. It was, all I can remember is it was hot. And the sand or the dirt just blows, you know, 'cause there's no protection, there's no trees out there, no mountains, it was just flat, and the dust would just blow. In the wintertime, the snow would blow almost sideways; it just didn't fall, it was blowing sideways. It was cold, and it was hot.

MA: What was your experience like at, at Heart Mountain High School?

KY: Well, my mother didn't believe in me joining any clubs. So there was girls club, there was pep club, there was campfire, there was all kinds of sports club. I didn't join any of those, 'cause my mother said you had to come home and study. So right after school, we'd come home and study, and so I didn't join any organizations. She said I didn't need to, she said, "You come home and study," so that's all I did, came home and studied. [Laughs]

MA: Was your sister also in Heart Mountain High School with you? Your older sister?

KY: She went one year, 'cause she was a senior when we left, so she went one year of high school and then she went, relocated to Chicago, went to a sewing, I think dressmaking school in Chicago.

MA: She left camp early?

KY: She left, after one year, she left early, uh-huh. And then I finished in Heart Mountain. And my younger sister, being five years (younger) than me, was still grade school. So when we came to Spokane, she finished her school at Lewis & Clark High School in Spokane.

MA: At Heart Mountain, did, did people from Wapato hang out together?

KY: More or less we did, 'cause we knew each other. But, you know, you had school friends, too, so we knew some California people.

MA: So there was some mixing in terms of, like, where you were from?

KY: Oh, sure, uh-huh.

MA: Were you aware at that time of, I guess, how your parents were coping with the, living in camp and this transition that they went through?

KY: Well, you know the Japanese term shikata ga nai? I, I think they just took it like, you know, there's nothing you could do, we're in there. So I think they adjusted quite well, there was no choice.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.