Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: Lucy Kirihara Interview
Narrator: Lucy Kirihara
Interviewer: Steve Ozone
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Date: October 13, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-klucy-01-0010

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SO: What were the conditions... so after the assembly center, did you take the train to Minidoka?

LK: Yes, because that was quite a distance, it wasn't a bus. It was a train that they made us keep the shades down and not to... I think we traveled at night and we got over there. And oh, it was so dusty, you just can't imagine. It was just such a desert place with sagebrush and tumbleweeds rolling all over. And it was in the fall when we got there, and yet it rained. The sidewalks, no sidewalks, they just had wooden planks. If you missed the wooden plank your shoe would get caught in the mud and you'd get up and you'd have your stocking feet, it was just something else. And you could only take what you could carry, and we just had this one room and I just wondered, that we had four cots or four beds with a pot bellied stove in there, and I can't remember how we hung our clothes. We must have driven nails into the wall and hooked up our clothes or lived out of the suitcase during that time. But after two years my other sister applied to Macalester and she went out of camp early too. We were eager to get out of camp, but then for me, since I was just in junior high, there wasn't any urgency for me to get out as much as my sisters that wanted to continue their education.

SO: So what were the conditions like in camp? What kind of food did you eat?

LK: Oh, I could still remember. [Laughs] Well, I was there three and a half years. That's a long time. Sixth grade, seventh grade, eighth grade, and people that I didn't even know that lived in Portland appeared. Because I only knew Sato, Sato Hashizumi, my good friend. But all of a sudden all these other people were there so I made a lot of new friends. Martha and I used to go to eat at eight o'clock, twelve o'clock, five o'clock, they'd ring the gong and you'd go in there.

And they would have rice, rice, rice and they would make stew out of mutton and, nutrition-wise, I tell you, so we would ask, "Please don't put the stew on top," because it was so terrible, "Give us plain rice." Then they'd have potatoes and so we would have rice and potatoes and corn, so you could imagine the nutrition part of it, it's a wonder. And they always had apple butter, it was always surplus food that we got. And fortunately, they did start farms on there. They farmed the land so we did have some fresh vegetables and so forth. But to this day I can't eat apple butter. I can't eat... although curry, I've gotten to like curry, but it was always that yellow and they had it on the rice. My husband talks about they had stew made of liver, so I never have cooked liver, all this time. And once we thought, "Oh we're going to get meat." And so we all went and we said, "What are all those pimples around there?" Well, it was tongue sliced, and they didn't even take the skin off. I know it's a delicacy now in salads now, chef salads, but in those days they had just cooked it so it was really not that good. And they always had oatmeal. And my mother was a waitress there, because everyone sort of worked. And then she got the lowest pay, eight dollars a month. But my father had an interesting job. He interviewed the Isseis that had their Nisei sons in the service, and so he was like a reporter and he went there. I still have some of the reports that he wrote, that when they were inducted in the service and where they were stationed and so forth. So I think he had a nice little job. I don't know what they did with it, but...

SO: And so did he work for the newspaper?

LK: Yes, he must have done that. And then, see, he could write English, surprisingly. He self-taught himself and so he could interview them in Japanese and then he could transpose it into English, so that was sort of good. I found some of those. It was interesting.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.