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-01-0008

<Begin Segment 8>

SO: So you were ten years old when Pearl Harbor happened. What do you remember about that?

LK: I remember how scary it was and how we hovered around the radio at that time. We were so afraid and we wondered, "Oh my goodness, what's going to happen to us?" And then things changed at school, too. Some people wouldn't walk to school with us. Sherma did. That didn't bother her at all. But I remember Joyce Mo, my good friend, she was Chinese and her mother just thought that she shouldn't walk to school with us. At school she was all right, but we didn't get to walk with them. So that was sort of sad, and we were just sort of afraid, people looking at us, or whatever it was. It was sort of a sad time as I remember it. And then especially when the FBI came, and then of course the news gets around -- destroy everything, letters from Japan or anything that was connected to Japan. They took our radio, we didn't have any firearms or anything, but if we did they would have taken it all. Just barging in and taking it and we just sort of, we just let them do it. They didn't have a search warrant or anything. They just came in.

SO: Were you in an assembly center?

LK: Yes, and then I can't remember, it must have been April or so, they used to post this up in Japantown that we had one week to get ready. And so we had to get rid of our things and I mentioned my sister's bicycle -- that was so sad she had to sell that -- she worked so hard for it. And then had a piano, I remember that. And so we sold what we could and then a lot of things we had to give away, but we had this wonderful friend, Mrs. Farmington, they owned a hotel. My mother and father used to work for them at their home a long time ago, and so they were nice enough to store our trunk. We didn't save many things. And then after the war they sent it out to St. Paul for us and everything was intact. Because a lot of people stored their things in churches and so forth and it was all vandalized and taken away. So that was sad. Another good thing is my sister had given some of her nice things, some dolls and things to some teachers, and they were nice and after the war they sent them back to her and that was good. They knew that they were our precious things and it would mean a lot to us to have them back.

SO: Which assembly center?

LK: We went to... what was it called? It was right near Jansen beach, but it was still quite far from... and I don't know what it was called. Isn't that strange? But it was an old racetrack exhibition hall is what it was, and so they had the big arena in the middle. Then they had horse stalls and that's where we were put, into the horse stalls. They had a canvas door and we had curfew every night and they would check.

SO: What time was the curfew?

LK: I think it was 8 o'clock. And then they had, it was wall-to-wall cots, as I recall, that we all slept on cots. I remember little Judy was next door to us and she must have been one or two, and if they cried, they were crying,

'cause you just had little partitions. And then my father would snore, and so he would snore, and then next door, they were most likely fighting, and so you could hear all this commotion. There was no privacy. And then you really didn't have anything to do there because there wasn't any school, this is April and school would have still been in session April, May, and part of June. And my sister was just going to graduate at that time and she couldn't go back for graduation. I still remember how sad it was. Her teacher sent her a little corsage and they had a makeshift graduation in this arena, and they sort of marched and they did all that. They did get their diplomas, though, even if they weren't there for a couple of months.

And then everyone shared their talents, because we didn't anything to do. My sister was good at knitting, so she taught knitting to people that were interested. This Haruko, I remember, was a good tap dancer and so she would teach us how to tap dance when we were in sixth grade. There were about six of us that would learn how to tap dance, once a week she would teach us. I remember playing badminton and so forth. Yeah, it's remarkable, no radios or anything that we could listen to. And then we would eat in the mess hall and... we were there quite a while. Oh, and then the showers were all open, because it's just partitions, and so when you were talking a shower, people could be walking above on a little, what they call a catwalk. And so you had to take a shower in your bathing suit and then sort of wash yourself. There was just absolutely no privacy. And I remember one couple got married in there and then everyone going to the bathroom and everything with walking by. It was just sort of an open free for all is what it was.

So we must have been in there April, May, June, July, and then the camps were ready in about August, I think. Maybe we were there only three months or so -- April, May, June, not for too long. And then when we were going to be sent to Minidoka, Idaho, my sister at this time was applying for college and she had gotten a scholarship to go to a college in Oregon, but naturally she couldn't go there. And this one friend, her teacher, suggested going to Macalester College because the university wouldn't accept Japanese people at the time. And so she applied to Macalester and the day we were going to Minidoka, she was able to catch a train and go to Macalester. She was sixteen years old at that time. And she said that was the happiest day of her life, but then she didn't know going to Minnesota how... she was alone and here her parents are in camp. It was really sort of a sad time.

SO: Was it the International Livestock Exposition?

LK: Right, that must have been it. Thank you, yeah, it was the livestock. And they still use that place, because we went back for a reunion, it's an exhibition hall, and I did want to see it, so we did go back and looked at it.

SO: Okay. Yeah, they have trade shows?

LK: Yes, they still do that now. It was a big place.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.