Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Marjorie Matsushita Sperling Interview
Narrator: Marjorie Matsushita Sperling
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Culver City, California
Date: February 24, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-smarjorie-01-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: Okay, so you're... the notices go up, you have to get rid of things, sell things. So talk about when you actually had to leave the valley.

MS: You know, we could only carry so much that we can carry on, and you couldn't take things like radios and knives and so forth. But I look back and think, Japanese are very, putting on a good face is important, especially at that time. We got all dressed up in our finery. If it were today, I'd have put on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt, but we all arrived all dressed up, looking like we're going to a party, carrying things. And they, the train was in Wapato because Wapato was quite a produce center. But I remember it must have been around five o'clock, and all those warehouses, produce warehouses were closed. I can feel the atmosphere. Things like of quiet down at that time, because all those produce houses, they closed. And it was like the air had kind of lowered itself. It's this atmosphere of, there was kind of a hush, and here we come, all of us all dressed up carrying these, our suitcases and so forth. And the train is there with the troops. And Kara said this young man who had been helping with making the arrangements to board, said to her, "Why are you allowing this?" So we're standing there and waiting to board, and this rowdy groups of troops had already taken other groups into camps, came with a train. And as we're standing there, two of the soldiers got into a fight on the train, and they knocked out a window. That really scared us. Here they were in full combat. So we board the train, and as they began to move, we had to take the curtains down. And these soldiers were walking up and down and acting, and they were drinking back and forth, and that went on all night. And they would, sometimes we would stop because we'd have to leave other trains to go by, and it was really a very tense group, and I don't think anybody slept. And we came into the Portland Livestock Center early in the morning, and you could feel.. in the morning there's kind of a hushed time. And we came into the livestock yard and the gate was open and we began to unload. And as they closed the door, it was the clanging of the gate. And Kara and I always say we'll never forget that sound of it closing, and knowing that you were in a place that you couldn't escape.

And so we disembarked, and then we were handed a sack, and say, "Well, here's some straw and fill that, because that's your mattress." And they had all these stalls within the center, the stockyard center. And there was a big area in front, apparently, where they used to display all the animals that they were going to sell. And it was a very large area, and that was set up to house and to feed the people. And so apparently it was like we would have shifts going into meals, but it was two thousand people at one time. But anyway, we settled in, and when we finally went to a meal it felt like we'd been there a whole day. Because we were disoriented, and we were putting in, we were put in with the Portland area people, and we didn't know them and they didn't know us. But we finally began to settle in. And the Portland stockyard is right on the Columbia River right across from Jantzen Beach, which is the famous, you know, the entertainment center. And that was really kind of ironic because you'd hear the music and hear the merry-go-round, and you'd hear the Ferris wheel go around and around. And we were on a very busy highway. But anyway, as we settled in, it's amazing how people begin to intermingle, and there begins to be a sense of a community, that I think the Asian people at the time really liked order. So immediately, you found jobs to do and so forth, and I was with the recreation department.

TI: Oh, so how did you choose that? I know later on in your career you went into recreation.

MS: I don't know, but it's just something that I did.

TI: Was this kind of the first time you got involved in recreation?

MS: Yes. Excepting, you know, I had planned things when I was kid and so forth. And with the Camp Fire, I was able to do some things like that. But I did work with the recreation department, and it was a few days, oh, about... it was the end of June, and we decided we're gonna have a dance, and they had this very nice lobby with a big globe that the light would go around, and it would have all these, and you could see all the lights going around on the floor. So we decided, as the recreation department, we're going to have an In De Pen Dance. And the administration didn't like us laughing and saying we're going to have an "Independence" Dance. [Laughs]

TI: So this was going to be on July 4th then?

MS: Yes.

TI: Okay.

MS: So we had it anyway, but we didn't call it that, but we laughed about it. But you could play badminton and all those kind of things that you could do. They even had baseball and softball, rather, teams and so forth. So you did manage to kind of keep busy, and you got to know the Oregon people, and they weren't any different from the, say, from the Yakima valley people. So it was, immediately we were able to intermingle.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.