Densho Digital Archive
Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community Collection
Title: Brooks Andrews Interview
Narrator: Brooks Andrews
Interviewer: Joyce Nishimura
Location: Bainbridge Island, Washington
Date: October 7, 2006
Densho ID: denshovh-aemery-02-0006

<Begin Segment 6>

JN: What made your family decide to move to Idaho?

BA: Well, all our, all our congregation was, was moved to Minidoka. The Bainbridge people went, went straight to Manzanar camp in California, but most of our people went to camp Minidoka, just outside Twin Falls. And Mother's Day 1942 was the first Sunday that our church was completely vacant. And my dad went into the sanctuary there, and he went up to his pulpit chair and he sat down. And he said he just sat there for a, for a long time, and was in his mind seeing the faces of the people that had occupied the pews there before they were sent to Minidoka. And it was a heartbreaking time. And to me, I'm thinking, okay, all my friends are gone. You know, I grew up in this community, and there was nothing unusual to be, have Asian, especially Japanese as, as my best friends, I mean, my playmates. I really didn't have any hakujin or Caucasian playmates. And so to, to have them just all of a sudden uprooted in a very short time, I'm thinking, okay, it's... to me in my eyes, my country is saying these people, my friends, are the enemy. Well, I'm friends with these people. Does that make me one of the enemy also? And so it was a very confusing time.

And most of the people were, well... the army trucks came over to Bainbridge Island, and they, they herded the people down to the docks there, put 'em on trucks and sent them straight down to Manzanar, in California, central California, I think it is. The rest of the Nisei, or the Japanese from the area went to camp Minidoka, outside Twin Falls. And, but before, they didn't go directly to the camp. They were sent to a place called "Camp Harmony." It was a holding area, and "Camp Harmony" is an ironic name for, for the, the area which is the western Washington State Fairgrounds. And going down there, I remember they had barbed wire, high barbed wire fence all around the camp. And the internees were trucked there in army trucks, unloaded there, and they were housed then in what had been the livestock stalls. And these stalls were just not floor-to-ceiling walls, but very low walls. And each family occupied one of these spaces, livestock spaces. And they smelled, they weren't very clean. It was an ugly time. And they were there for, I can't remember how long, but for several days. And we would go down to visit them in the camp, at "Camp Harmony," but we were not allowed to go into the camp. And we would bring gifts or packages with us to give, give to them. We were not allowed to, to... we couldn't hug them like we wanted to. And if we brought packages, the guards would stop and they'd rip open the package and look inside to make sure we weren't trying to pass some contraband material onto them. And then they'd hand it back to us, well, there wasn't much we could do after it had been opened up. But we were able to give it to them through the barbed wire fence, and we could shake hands through the barbed wire fence. And one of my sisters, I think it was Betty Jean, my middle sister, she stood there and she cried. She said, "Oh, my friends, my friends are all gone. I have no friends left home." 'Cause all her friends were behind the barbed wire. And, so we went back home... well, before that I remember the, there was a bridge over the railroad tracks, down there. And I remember seeing the trains lined up on the tracks there. And we watched as our people were loaded onto the trains and sent to Minidoka and the other camp. Yeah. It was... I just could not understand what was happening, 'cause these were, these... I referred to them as "my people," my friends. And here they're being jerked out of the community and sent to a, an, a concentration camp, a place of incarceration. And, the... we were told, "Well, they're being sent to these camps for their, for their protection." And, but when I got to the camp for the first time, and saw again the high barbed wire fence, the guard towers, the guns, machine guns, all the guns were pointing inward. And I thought, "Well, if this is for their protection, then why are the guns pointed inward? Why are they not pointed outward, for protection?" So it was a very confusing time.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.