Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Homer Yasui Interview
Narrator: Homer Yasui
Interviewers: Barbara Yasui (primary), Tom Ikeda (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: February 11, 2022
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-491-1

<Begin Segment 1>

BY: All right. This is an interview with Homer Yasui that's taking place on February 11, 2022, at the Lakeshore Retirement Community in Seattle, Washington. My name is Barbara Yasui and I'm going to be conducting the interview. And I am, for full disclosure, I am the daughter of the narrator here. And other people in the room that are present are Tom Ikeda, Dana Hoshide, who's operating the camera, Meredith Yasui, my sister, Erin Flory, my brother-in-law, and me. And prior to doing this interview, I reviewed the transcripts of the interviews, there were two interviews, actually, that were done by Margaret Barton Ross, in Portland, for the Oregon Nikkei Endowment. Those were done in October 2003.

HY: Long time ago.

BY: A long time ago. And so the purpose of this interview was to maybe revisit a little bit some of the topics that you discussed with her, but mainly to go deeper on some of those topics. And so there will be some familiar ground that's covered, but I'm to ask you more in-depth questions. So, that's okay?

HY: Fine.

BY: All right. So just to sort of recap, you grew up in Hood River, Oregon, you were living in Hood River when Pearl Harbor happened. You and your mother and sister were then sent to the Pinedale Assembly Center, and then from there you went to Tule Lake, you were there for just a few months, and then you went to Denver, Colorado, got your college education there, went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for medical school, and got married and lived in New York for a while and then came back to Oregon. So just a recap, is that all correct?

HY: It's correct.

BY: Okay. And so what I want to do is to talk more in-depth about some of those things. So the first thing that I want to talk about is you had to have told me that you were an orderly when you were in camp. And I'm not clear whether that was in Pinedale or Tule Lake or both.

HY: It was both.

BY: Both. And how was it you became an orderly in both places? How did that happen?

HY: I think probably because I knew that Shu, my older brother, next older brother, Shu, Robert Shu, was interested in medicine. Although he was an undergrad student at that time, but he talked about it at home a little bit, about becoming a doctor. So I guess it spilled over onto me, kind of infected me, too. Said, well, sounded like a good business being in the medical field. So when I was in Pinedale, of course, this was in the summertime, late spring, summertime. We had no, we didn't have to go to school because that was gone, and we didn't have to work if we didn't have to. So after a little while, a week or so, it got kind of boring. You're by yourself, you don't know anybody, and I said, well, okay, maybe I can do something interesting, get a job in camp. Because they did have camp jobs, pay scale was twelve dollars, sixteen dollars, eighteen dollars a month. So I applied for a job as an orderly at the infirmary. At Pinedale, we had only about four thousand residents, internees, and so it was small, so they did not have a full-fledged hospital. It was called an infirmary and it was much smaller. And so I said, well, okay, I'll volunteer to be an orderly. I didn't even have any idea of what an orderly did. I found out after I applied for the job. And so an orderly really is not much more than a glorified janitor in a hospital. But that's what I did.

BY: And what did you actually do as an orderly in Pinedale?

HY: Well, in Pinedale, we helped get the patients ready, help the nurse's aides make the beds. Although we didn't have a whole lot of beds because, as I say, we were an infirmary, we didn't have a lot of sick people. We'd sweep the floor, help empty the bedpan, help carry the laundry to the wash and so on, that's the sort of thing we did. We did nothing skillful; any fool could have done what we did. [Laughs] But the thing is, because everybody, young people had a lot of leisure time, and there were a lot of young people my age and a little bit older. So we would, after work, we'd sit together and tell stories and sing songs and have a great time. I did that in Pinedale until that closed, then we transferred to Tule Lake and I did the same thing at Tule Lake. Although at Tule Lake they had a full-fledged hospital because, at that time, there must have been twelve thousand people. So that was a real hospital although it was in a wooden barracks and it wasn't very sanitary. It wasn't very nice compared to the brick and mortar hospitals. But that's what I did at Tule Lake.

BY: And there was just one hospital for the whole camp at Tule Lake?

HY: Yes. This is at Tule Lake, correct.

BY: And did you work every day, or how often did you work?

HY: It was probably... I don't remember. It was probably eight to five, five days a week because I don't remember that we worked on... I may have worked on Saturday, but we did not on Sunday because holy day, it was church day.

BY: And so what did you do at Tule Lake? Was it different from Pinedale?

HY: Yeah. Pinedale was, as I say, an infirmary. We really didn't take care of really sick people. So in Pinedale, if everybody really got sick or injured, they were immediately transferred to Fresno General Hospital because we had no capability to take them. We only had two doctors in Pinedale, and both of them were general practitioners. So we had really no inpatient except for overnight observation, or if somebody got knocked over and was unconscious for a while for observation, things like that. But in Tule Lake, it was  full-fledged hospital. I wasn't in every department, but they had OB and they had surgery and medicine and so on. I was, I think I was in the orthopedic ward although I'm not sure. But we did have beds there, and we did have a ward. And one of our... Tule Lake was a different setup. It wasn't nearly as friendly as it was in Pinedale, because Pinedale, we had a coterie of maybe ten orderlies and nurse's aides, and then a little bit more educated people and we had a great time. Tule Lake hospital was not like that. Also, I wasn't at Tule Lake very long, I was over there a month and a half.

BY: And what were your duties in Tule Lake?

HY: Well, you know, I don't really remember, but I think it was helping make up the beds, sweep the floor, because I was an orderly.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2021 Densho. All Rights Reserved.