Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Kay Endo Interview
Narrator: Kay Endo
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: July 24, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-ekay-01

<Begin Segment 1>

RP: This is an oral history interview for the Manzanar National Historic Site. This evening we're talking with Kay Endo and our interview is taking place at the Marriott Residence Inn at the Portland airport. The date of the interview is July 24, 2010, interviewer is Richard Potashin, videographer still remains Mark Hatchmann and we'll be talking with Kay about his experiences at the Portland Assembly Center as well as the Minidoka War Relocation Center and then the relocation of the family to Ontario, Oregon. Our interview will be archived in the Park's library and Kay, do I have permission to go ahead and conduct our interview?

KE: You sure do, yes, you do.

RP: Thank you so much for hanging in with us yesterday and today. We finally got to anointed hour here. And like to just start with your life, the beginning of your life, when did your life begin?

KE: September 26, 1933, in Milwaukie, Oregon.

RP: And was it... were you born at home or was there any type --

KE: Yes, born at home, midwife.

RP: Were most of the Endo children born by midwife?

KE: I believe so.

RP: Would it have been a Japanese midwife?

KE: That I don't know but I believe it was a Japanese midwife.

RP: And your given name at birth?

KE: Kay, K-A-Y, Endo, E-N-D-O.

RP: Now did you ever have any type of nickname?

KE: Not that anything stuck.

RP: What didn't stick?

KE: No, you know, you get named like Gus and things like that. Then high school days you get nicknamed because you're Japanese, right and those kind of things. Oh, then the Japanese call me Kaybo, bo is a boy, see it's B-O. Not the body odor but... [laughs]. You would spell it K-A-Y-B-O. And then a lot of the Japanese names like Jim would be like Jim-bo or things like that instead of san which is more proper. But in later days when I went to Japan they called me Kay-san so I felt privileged. [Laughs]

RP: Respected.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

RP: Want to kind of travel around your family background a little bit and then we'll move on.

KE: Okay.

RP: You're father's first name was Kanichi?

KE: Yeah.

RP: And your mom, Chiyo?

KE: Chiyo, right.

RP: Maiden name Nakamura.

KE: Correct.

RP: And they were... your father was from Sendai?

KE: Yes.

RP: And your mom from Fukushima?

KE: Yes.

RP: Now have you traveled back to those locations?

KE: Yes, I've been there three times. In Fukushima on my mom's side, met quite a bit of the family and Sendai, since my dad was one of nine, we only met one branch of the family instead of all the... otherwise it would have been, you have to rent a auditorium. [Laughs]

RP: Were you able to discover some information about your mom and dad, something about their life in Japan before they came over here?

KE: Only thing I know is that they were very well educated in terms back in those days, most of them were high school graduates which is not a common occurrence back in the early 1900s.

RP: I also noticed your father was nearly twenty years older than your mom.

KE: Yes, he was.

RP: Did he go back to marry her or bring her to America?

KE: No, she came over here. I don't think he did ever return to Japan.

RP: Okay.

KE: But I don't know all the history.

RP: Did any of their family, other members of either one of their family come to America?

KE: Yeah, on my mother's side the grandparents, her mother and dad and then her brother, Kytaro Nakamura. Eventually the grandparents went back to Japan.

RP: Where did they settle in the United States?

KE: In Gladstone. And then my uncle went back after World War II.

RP: And what were... were the grandparents involved with farming?

KE: Yeah, they were originally silk farmers. And then the silk business went... was very rough so they tried to come to the United States and make their pot of gold. And now the farm is... when we went back it's all orchard.

RP: Did your parents ever talk to you or share stories about what their early life was like in America?

KE: My mom did to a certain extent but not that much. One of her comments was when they moved to Gladstone when she got married, they didn't have electricity. And she said in Japan they already had electricity so that was opposite of what a lot of other people had. That's, you know, that's not too much, about the only stories that we heard about.

RP: They were married in Gladstone?

KE: That I don't know where the exact marriage was but it was in the Portland area.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

RP: Do you recall your father, physically, personality wise?

KE: It was pretty hard because I was eight when he passed away. So the memories aren't very vivid.

RP: How about your mother?

KE: Oh, she lived 'til 102 so we had a lot of contact with her.

RP: What do you remember most about her?

KE: Oh, she was very giving and understanding. And she was, in terms of Issei, probably very progressive.

RP: In what ways?

KE: Well, she tried to tell you to do things, which my understanding a lot of Japanese families kind of told their children not to be, stand out but study hard.

RP: Did your father originally work on the railroads or the canneries or any --

KE: All I know is he worked in the sawmill.

RP: In Oregon?

KE: In Oregon, yes. And that's all I know.

RP: And then your parents settled in Milwaukie?

KE: Originally in Gladstone and then they had a farm and then they moved to Milwaukie.

RP: Do you have any early memories of your life out on the farm in Milwaukie?

KE: No, not really, just too young.

RP: And what did they, do you remember them growing there? Was it mostly berries?

KE: No, he had about an acre and he grew a lot of carrots and things like that and then he had a stand at the public (market)... one of the markets down in Portland. They had two, well, they had a smaller market and later on they had a big public market, but he remained on the smaller market.

RP: They also had a greenhouse too?

KE: Yes.

RP: For raising plants?

KE: Raising plants, yes.

RP: And where was his farm located in Milwaukie?

KE: Oh, it was just about a half mile from where we lived, down in the bottom ground.

RP: How would you rate the quality of the land? Was it marginal or --

KE: No, it was good land. It was what they call beaver dam ground.

RP: Beaver dam ground.

KE: Yeah.

RP: I never heard that before.

KE: In agriculture terms they call it what they call peat and muck soil.

RP: Very rich.

KE: Very rich, yeah. And it was the part that... well, his part didn't have as much of that peat in it so... but the other part there was a lot of celery growers there. Which was I'm told that that was excellent celery grounds.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

RP: Do you remember how many Japanese American families there were in that area?

KE: In Milwaukie it's easier if I name 'em. There was the Watanabe, two Yoshitomi families, Yoshizawas, Takamoto, Terasaki, Fujitas, there was two Sasaki families, and Takahashi and one more, can't remember her last name, single lady. Oh, Hirofuji.

RP: You passed.

KE: Pardon?

RP: You passed.

KE: Yeah, and they were right in that area within probably half mile.

RP: All of them within a half mile?

KE: Yeah, well, the bottom land they were all farmers.

RP: Did your father originally lease land and then put it in an owner's name?

KE: Yeah, we were never able to purchase land, we just all rent.

RP: Massie told us some stories about the Watanabe was kind of the place where people liked to gather.

KE: Right.

RP: For picnics or... do you remember the Watanabe family and meeting?

KE: Oh, yes, and they also on their property a Japanese school which I was not able to attend. [Laughs]

RP: So did you play with the kids?

KE: I can't remember that specifically.

RP: So do you remember any other social contact that you had with Japanese families there?

KE: Well, since I didn't go to the Japanese school but we always knew each other, all the families. And then the Watanabe always had a firework show on the Fourth of July and that was kind of a community event. And then we also made mochi, the hard way.

RP: What's the hard way?

KE: With the big bowl, I mean, the big permanent bowl and then with the mallets and then you pounded it.

RP: So were you too young to be part of that?

KE: No, you know, we all tried to do our best but we ended up playing catch or football or something like that. Or putting, you know, when you make mochi you use cornstarch so it doesn't stick and used to see how much cornstarch we'd get on our peers, especially the girls. [Laughs]

RP: How did that taste when it was all done and made?

KE: You know, they made a lot of mochi, they probably made about three, four hundred pounds in one day.

RP: So it wasn't just strictly for New Year's then was it?

KE: Well, in those days it was because you couldn't preserve it. There was no such thing as refrigeration.

RP: Refrigeration.

KE: You could put it in water, try to preserve it but it's mainly, mochi is, in the old days it was traditionally for New Year's and then in the spring they had a green one that uses, there's a pyrethrum leaf and they extracted the green out of that.

RP: They have green mochi?

KE: Yeah, that's how they got the green mochi. Either you got it from tea or from the mums, the pyrethrum.

RP: So you had to eat a lot of mochi?

KE: Oh, yeah, see how fat I am? [Laughs]

RP: Four hundred pounds, boy, wow.

KE: Oh and then of course their friends from Portland lot of cases come in and help too. So it was really a big deal.

RP: Yeah, big festive occasion.

KE: Right.

RP: Do you remember going in as a kid before the war started, going into Portland on trips occasionally?

KE: No, I do not.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

RP: So did you, since you were probably not working on the farm yet, did you have some chances to have some fun around the farm, roam around a little bit, get --

KE: I can't remember because I was (eight years old)... when we got evacuated I was in the third grade. So those are not too vivid memories.

RP: Well I was just wondering if there was a ditch or water hole that you liked to play in?

KE: No, not that I know of.

RP: So where did you attend school?

KE: Prior to World War II it was in Milwaukie grade school or it was called Milwaukie grammar school.

RP: And you went there 'til the third grade?

KE: Third grade, right.

RP: And do you remember any of your teachers or people?

KE: Yeah, there was Miss Barnett the first grade teacher that I remember, she was very good to the Japanese American community. I can't remember the other teachers.

RP: And where was school held? Was it an old style school house?

KE: No, it was regular. In those days probably becomes very modern type of school, I mean it wasn't really that old of a school.

RP: How many students did you have there?

KE: God, I can't remember 'cause we had two grades, two first grade, so you get thirty in a class so that's sixty times six classes so there's about 300, 250 to 300 students.

RP: Good size school.

KE: Yes.

RP: So was Milwaukie at the time that you were growing pretty much a rural area or did it have a --

KE: No, it was really becoming a commuter community, you know, because it's only seven miles south of Portland and they had a street car line that went into Portland so it's....

RP: And what was the makeup of your school, ethnically?

KE: Ethnically, all white, except for a few of us Japanese American, that was it.

RP: That was it?

KE: Yes.

RP: No Hispanics.

KE: No, and there was only one black family at the time but they were much older. But at that time there was no Hispanics either. And also Milwaukie is a good Catholic community and they had a Catholic grade school.

RP: So did you have a religious upbringing at all?

KE: Not as such, we went to a community church right about a quarter mile from us.

RP: Was it a --

KE: It was a non-denominational church. (Minthorn Community Church, still at the same location.)

RP: And did everybody go to that church or was it just --

KE: I think so.

RP: Wasn't just Japanese?

KE: Oh, no, it was more of a... we were probably the only few Japanese people that went to that.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

RP: So you were roughly about nine years old when you were removed?

KE: No, I was eight, so nine, in September I turned nine.

RP: About eight?

KE: Eight, on the top half of eight. [Laughs]

RP: I know you were really young but did you remember when you had to leave your home?

KE: I can remember we had to go from Milwaukie to the Gresham fairground. And kind of when you think about it, it's kind of the long way around. And our neighbor, well, our landlady took us to the Gresham fairgrounds. And as you know, you can only take X amount of personal belongings. Then we went... they put us on buses and we went to the assembly center.

RP: So Gresham had a much larger Japanese community.

KE: Yes, they did by far.

RP: Did either town have any Japanese stores?

KE: Milwaukie did not and I don't know if Gresham did or not. They had, on our case they had a gentlemen that went around to each home but I don't know what the timeframe was but he would bring things like tofu and things like that. And also there was a Jewish clothier came around and sold, you know, articles of clothing. And that's was marketing in those days.

RP: What are your memories about the time that you spent at the Portland Assembly Center?

KE: Oh, we were there, what, three months so it's very vague.

RP: It was one large building, wasn't it?

KE: Right, and if you've ever been there, it's a wonder we didn't get burned out. 'Cause it was a... where the feed lot and all that was, they just put two by six or whatever there and laid boards over that. So it wasn't really the most ideal conditions and there was no doors they had a canvas over the entrance and I think probably the room is no bigger than this where we're sitting right now. There was seven of us in there and no top. So I imagine it was... if you lay plywood, six foot plywood and just make a whatever around that and that's how it was.

RP: But the building itself was wood?

KE: Yes, and that building is still there. It's now called the Oregon Expo Center or Portland Expo Center.

RP: Have you gone down there during --

KE: Yes, they had one year they had a... I don't know if you call reunion or anniversary there and we were actually in the building. They had a program there. Later years they had small, you know, Day of Remembrance days they had celebrations there. And also, oh, you need to go down there, they have Valerie Otani designed a torii gate, there's three or four of them, did you hear about that? Remember the tags that you were looking at? She made, they're out of stainless steel and they're hanging from the gate.

RP: Mari (Watanabe) mentioned that yesterday.

KE: Yes.

RP: We were talking about that. So do you remember these tags?

KE: I do not, I can't really recollect, but that's the size of the tags and there's what, roughly three thousand of 'em hanging. So when you come next time that would be a....

RP: Couple other reminisces that other people have shared that you might recall in respect to the Portland Assembly Center experience was the mass number of flies?

KE: Yeah, and I can't remember those small details.

RP: How about the typhoid shots?

KE: Oh, don't talk about those. I don't know if you ever had that type of shot.

RP: I don't think so.

KE: Your arm hurt for a week because it's not... well, in today medicine they're very refined but in the old days it's... your arm felt like somebody shot it.

RP: For a kid your age it must have been just devastating.

KE: Well, yeah, everybody had the same problem. You had to get shots and when I went in the service they had the same series of shots and I thought well, thinking back then, oh the arm's going to hurt but it didn't even bother. I mean, there was a little swelling but that was about it. So that's how much they improved the procedure.

RP: Do you remember the mess halls in Portland?

KE: No, I don't but my mom always said that in the assembly center they made the families eat in a family group even if we were eating on a bench site type of setting, you know, park bench type of seating. But they required the as much as they could families eat as a unit. And that's all I can remember about the camp eating.

RP: In Milwaukie you kind of were somewhat isolated on the farm there with other Japanese families but then suddenly you're in the assembly center with three thousand other Japanese Americans.

KE: Right.

RP: Did you have some of your former friends in there or did you pal around with other kids?

KE: Well, we palled around with people, you know, we had a summer school so you kind of associated with one of the young people and then of course they had an arena park where they played, or outside where you played with your people in your same age group so you got away from the... you always found somebody to play with.

RP: Do you have any lasting image of guard towers or barbed wire?

KE: No, nothing, just stories you hear about.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

RP: So you were there for three months and then where were you sent?

KE: We were sent to Minidoka Relocation Center, Idaho.

RP: Had you ever been on a train before, Kay?

KE: No, this was the first time I've ever been on a train.

RP: And do you have memories of that trip?

KE: The only thing I can remember is it was long. We left in the evening and then... and I can't remember how long it took. But we got to Idaho in the afternoon so it must have been leaving that night and then getting there the next day. 'Cause if you drive it's what, it's about eight hours right now, eight or nine hours.

RP: Do you remember the block that you were assigned to?

KE: Yeah, we were Block 32.

RP: Barrack?

KE: Barrack 11, Apartment E.

RP: So were you down in the lower end of the camp?

KE: No, we were in the center probably, not quite center but it's... the Minidoka camp is not set up in a modular form. And the reason for that was because of the canal and the basalt layer so they worked around it so it's in a... actually it looks like a boomerang.

RP: Yeah, when I first saw it I thought it looked kind of like a horseshoe.

KE: Oh, sure, right.

RP: A really badly shaped horseshoe.

KE: And they said it's, from one end of the camp to the other, there's approximately three miles.

RP: And your whole family lived in that one room?

KE: One apartment, yes, one light bulb.

RP: Did anybody grab some scrap lumber and build any furniture?

KE: Oh, yes, as we were mentioning prior to that, in the army term that was called midnight appropriations.

RP: So what did you do when you first got there? It was probably in the summer time and --

KE: No, it was, see, September so from October, well, November it started getting cold so we were kind of limited of what we could do. Then of course we started school right away.

RP: And which school did you go to? There were two elementary schools?

KE: Yeah, there was originally Block 30 was supposed to be half the school and then they moved everybody over on our half of 32 to 30 and that became the grade school. That was Stafford Grade School.

RP: And the schools were... or school was held in the barracks?

KE: Yes, original barracks with very little modifications.

RP: Were there chalkboards?

KE: Yes.

RP: Chairs?

KE: Chairs, right. I think we had regular school chairs.

RP: Were there any teachers that sort of stood out in your mind either positively or negatively?

KE: No, the only ones I can remember is the Murakami sisters from Seattle and they were very good teachers. And that's the only teachers I can remember.

RP: Now you had a special job in the school?

KE: Oh, you mean... well, you always got a job as safety patrol and I don't know what we really did we probably controlled the students from going across the street instead of the other way around where you stop traffic, something to do.

RP: Did you have a sign?

KE: I think we had a flag or something that you just --

RP: You just waved it.

KE: Yeah, didn't let the students cross. there wasn't that much traffic there either but something to do.

RP: What happened when it rained in Minidoka?

KE: I've seen pictures but myself I couldn't remember those incidents.

RP: Do you remember snow?

KE: Yes, it snowed, it was cold but I can't remember being real cold either but it apparently was cold.

RP: Massie seemed to think so.

KE: Yeah.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

RP: So what kind of games did you play while you were in camp?

KE: Well, we played kind of like flag football and stole the ball and kicked the football and see how far we could kick it. Made kick the can and marbles and like I was telling you we had mumbly peg which was a --

RP: Oh, it's mumbly peg.

KE: Yeah, it's that knife game.

RP: So whose knife was that?

KE: Well, somebody had a knife, called jackknives in those days. And we did various things with that. And we played, I was mentioning the other day, we were playing, you make a pie shape and then you have cut the pie where you're trying to isolate your opponent so they couldn't put their... if they couldn't put their foot in the section of the pie then you won.

RP: How about, did you ever get the chance to use the swimming holes in the camp?

KE: No, I visited the swimming hole and the canal but never did participate in it.

RP: Did you see people swimming in the canal?

KE: Oh, yeah, they swam in the canal and since they had a couple drownings they made the swimming hole which in this day and age if you had it there it would have been prohibited to go in.

RP: Yeah, and it's still there.

KE: Right.

RP: How about... another thing that kids did maybe a little older than you was skating, ice skating?

KE: Yes, they did... this was a swimming hole too which was located just a little bit, like I said it would be east of where the original hole was and that was from the ditch water and then when that froze over, they ice skated. That's probably January then.

RP: So that was where the dishwater went?

KE: No, not the dish, ditch water.

RP: Oh, ditch water, I'm sorry.

KE: Excuse me.

RP: That's my misunderstanding.

KE: Yeah.

RP: The ditch water, okay. And did you ever have ice skates?

KE: No, never did have the opportunity.

RP: Did you have any roller skates?

KE: No, did roller skate once in Twin Falls.

RP: You did?

KE: Yes, at a Cub Scout outing.

RP: So you were in the Scouts?

KE: Yes, not very good scout but I was in the Scouts. [Laughs]

RP: So you went to Twin Falls to meet with other scouts?

KE: No, we're on our own, it was just like a field trip. The highlight of the trip was visiting the radio station and of course roller skating.

RP: Did you take other field trips with the Scouts?

KE: No, that was the only time that I went outside of camp.

RP: Was there a Boy Scout troop too?

KE: Yes, there was.

RP: I remember those badges you used to be able to earn.

KE: No, I never got past whatever badges there were.

RP: You were talking yesterday a little bit about some of the animals out there in the desert. You said that there was a gentleman that used to keep snakes?

KE: Oh, his name was Morikawa and he had the nickname Monkey Morikawa. [Laughs] Before the war he had a monkey but he was a gentleman that went out and captured rattlesnakes and brought them back into... and the cage looked like a chicken coop. Of course the wire fencing, the fencing was a little smaller, I mean, diameter wise on the wire. But that's the only time I've seen a live rattlesnake and like you said we never had a tick bite or seen a scorpion. So the good Lord looked after us young kids.

RP: Did you see rabbits or coyotes on occasion?

KE: I think we have seen rabbits but not coyotes. We've heard 'em, you know, you hear 'em in any high desert country.

RP: You used to play Army out there too?

KE: Oh, yeah, I was telling you about we dug a hole and then made little tunnels to get out of it and one of the older gentlemen said, "You shouldn't be doing those kind of things." [Laughs] But that was a lot of fun.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

RP: Now you had a couple of interesting folks in the camp there. One gentleman was Min Yasui who had gone around to a number of different policemen trying to get himself arrested and finally did.

KE: Right.

RP: And was sent to Minidoka after his... after being jailed for a while.

KE: And this is a story that was relayed by Ron Shiozaki at that time was, I don't know if he's still living but he's living in Gardenia, California and he was originally from Portland. Before the war his parents passed away so they went back to Japan and he came back to the United States and went to the University of Washington. But in the meantime he was put into the camp and since he was a bachelor and his brother was a bachelor, they were in the bachelor apartment in Minidoka and that's where they met, well, he knew Min Yasui prior to that. And maybe I should relay that story that Ron and Min walked the streets of Portland one night and he would go up a policeman and said, "Arrest me." That was Min and Ron said after that he says, oh my gosh, he says I don't... this guy's crazy, so after that he never went out with him. And then they reunited in camp and Min Yasui was a bridge player so this Don Sugai had a poker game going on all the time and Min got him to play bridge. And so Don got rid of his poker parlor, you could call it and joined Min playing bridge. Well, anyway, Min Yasui was a, as you know, was a... passed his bar in the state of Oregon plus he was a, I mean a commissioned officer in the reserves. And when he got arrested of course all that went away and when he went to camp he was not allowed to practice law but he could give advice. And he couldn't take any compensation so he says, well, at least make sake underneath the barrack and I would take sake instead so one night I guess he had one too many and he crawled up the side of the wall and he fell into the next barrack. And that was a story Ron, that was a story attributed to Ron Shiozaki.

RP: That's a great story.

MH: Could you share the spelling of the name?

KE: Ron? Or Yasui?

MH: Yes.

KE: Y-A-S-U-I.

MH: First name?

KE: Min. Minoru or Min. When he did... he got his bar license back and he practiced law in Denver, Colorado, and he was very active in the Japanese American community, especially about reparations.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

RP: Do you remember attending church in camp at all?

KE: Church?

RP: Yes.

KE: Yes, in our Block 32 they had the church and I believe I went but I don't know how religious I was.

RP: Was it a Christian church?

KE: Yeah, Christian, it's... the government made sure that each camp had religious leaders. So some of the ministers that should have gone to Minidoka went to other camps because they tried to spread 'em around so each camp had some ministerial help and most of them were a Japanese Americans, not from the outside world.

RP: We were talking about different little games that you played but you were also playing baseball or softball games. These were games that were, just kind of happened.

KE: Yeah, these were pick-up games so, you know, so baseball you played the old style where you start at right field and then you work your way up as a person made an out. And then when you got to bat then you stayed there as long as you got hits. And I don't know if they still play that, things like that that we played.

RP: Did you play... where did you play? Was it near your block, did you have an open field?

KE: Between Block 30 and 32 there was a roadway, plus there was quite a big area so we kind of cheated and played on the road or in between blocks so that was our playground. And the funny thing is that we only played with the 32 and the 30 only played within those groups. [Laughs] So we were kind of segregating ourselves.

RP: You also took up stamp collecting too?

KE: Yeah, that was kind of a... not a very long term deal but after getting out of camp there was a gentleman from Seattle that had a large stamp collection and to make extra money he would sell, invite the kids over. And I can't remember his name or which block he was in but he sold stamps. And of course being young you're very impressed.

RP: Stamps, coins.

KE: Yeah, his was just he was strictly a stamp collector. He apparently must have had a large collection.

RP: Do you remember celebrating your birthdays in camp?

KE: No. I can't really remember any birthday celebrations.

RP: How about Christmas?

KE: Oh, there's a great story. That's the reason I showed, well I showed 'em a picture of Shigeko Uno, U-N-O. She was from Seattle and this is a story she told in the 2003 pilgrimage, that was the first pilgrimage we had and she was saying that there was the churches in the New England states donated various gifts for the children in Minidoka. And they're not elaborate gifts, you know, puzzles and toys and things like that. And she was on the committee and she made sure that every child to a certain age got a gift. And I received one of the gifts and she was relaying that story and I said, well, I was one of the recipients of the gift which she was kind of shocked. And then in 2006 she relayed the same story but this time she said that there was somebody that said that they received the gift in the previous pilgrimage and that was me again. [Laughs] And Shigeko Uno, bless her heart, she relocated back to Chicago and then from Chicago she went... she relocated with her husband to Boston and she made a concerted effort to visit as many churches as she could find out that donated these gifts to personally thank the congregation. And then after that she relocated back to Seattle and she... well, we got to meet her and she was in her nineties and the last time we met her she had lung cancer which was terminal and she refused to get any treatments. She said, "I've had a full life," but I believe until the day she died, she had her cigarettes and a shot of whiskey. And to me that was a great story and very... that was one great lady and she's... apparently after she got back to Seattle she's done some great community service for the community.

RP: Very special.

MH: When you were talking about the baseball and the teams where you play, do you remember any of the names of the teams?

KE: No, we just played ourselves, you know, we just played pick-up games, you know, conked our heads and all that kind of stuff. But they did have the high school and the other teams, they did have a baseball team which was very good, excellent teams and they played the teams out in the community like from Twin Falls and Filer and Buhl and all the surrounding communities, Wendell, and they'd come in and play. And I don't know if they went out and played but they had some excellent ball players. And of course that evaporated as they were... they went into the service or they went, you know, relocated out of camp. But for a while they had a excellent team and then we got to see 'em play, that was one of the things we got to do was watch a excellent team. And there's one player named Hank Matsubu, he went on and signed a professional contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates, he never did advance too far up the chain and then he finally retired and he lives in Seattle. And Hank was, he is from Gresham area prior to World War II, that'd be a great story.

RP: You also played basketball didn't you in your block?

KE: Well, we had... the school had a basketball but we didn't play competitive basketball we always played, you know, one on one or Horse, that's about it.

RP: I'm not sure, maybe it was somebody else who told me the story that they put in a basketball hoop.

KE: No, I can't remember that but I know the grade school had a basket outside and we played mainly Horse. And also I can remember playing football in the snow one day. We played tackle football with our god given equipment. [Laughs]

RP: God given padding.

KE: Padding, yeah.

RP: Well that probably was a pretty reasonable thing to do in snow, give you a little bit of cushion.

KE: Right.

RP: Better than the dirt.

KE: Right, I think that's about the only time we ever played tackle football.

RP: Did you have to go to the hospital for any reason?

KE: No, went to the dentist once. I remember there was a piece of tooth that come up in my upper... I don't know what you call that, behind the teeth and they pulled it, the growth out. But that's the only medical thing I can think of.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

RP: This is a continuing interview with Kay Endo. This is tape two and Kay, we were talking over some of your experiences at Minidoka. We talked about the mess halls in Portland. How about the mess halls in Minidoka? First of all, a lot has been made about the, sort of the unraveling of the family structure in these camps, did you see that in your family or was it different?

KE: No, it was... that's a true statement from anybody that made it. And we ate with our peers, we didn't have a central, you know, facilities for restrooms and showers and we also had a centralized laundry, you know, for hand washing. So of course your family structure is no longer there. And then like I was mentioning that in a lot of cases, a lot of the parents worked in the mess halls as cooks, cook helpers, waitresses, dishwashers so there was, in a lot of cases there was no chance to eat with your family. And then some of the older gentlemen worked at the warehouses and other things so they ate lunch wherever they were at and then the farm laborers ate out in the field. So it wasn't very conducive for family situation. And then I think you heard that from many people.

RP: I have heard that from many people but your explanation, the latter explanation was sort of an additional point that needs to be stressed.

KE: Right, and that's probably the worst thing that happened being in camp was the family structure. But for a young person it may have been the opposite.

RP: We've heard this story from kids who were at Manzanar, and I'm wondering if it was the same at Minidoka, that a number of kids with their bottomless pits for stomachs would visit more than one mess hall, they'd sort of hop around for, looking for a good meal.

KE: I never did it but I heard of that because each mess hall had their own head cook or chef and so naturally you don't have even if the menu is the same, depending on the chief cook it's going to be different so there was some, more of the teenage ones would mess hall hop. [Laughs]

RP: Did you have some foods that you just completely detested?

KE: Yes, you probably heard this many times, mutton.

RP: Top of the list.

KE: Yeah, and you could smell mutton even before you hit the door. And listening to the Food Network and they talk about lamb and all that and you shake your head, how anybody could eat anything that's associated with a sheep?

RP: Were there other foods too that --

KE: Well, another one to me was canned spinach and it was just the way it was prepared. So that's why I didn't grow up to be Popeye.

RP: How about foods that you really liked that maybe you never ate before?

KE: That I can't recollect.

RP: Do you remember them serving a number of Japanese type foods in the camp?

KE: No, that I can't remember either, but like you say, going back to mutton that's the only thing that really sticks in my mind.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

RP: We were talking about the breakdown of the family, did you roam around camp with your friends? I mean, did you just wander anywhere you wanted to go?

KE: Yeah, in the summertime we as a general rule we went down to the canal and looked around and played all over. We went later on after we got a little bit more wiser we went out to the... and of course they had more crops. In fact we went out and had a potato feed one time, a couple times. You know, they dug up the potatoes and then you made a fire and then you packed the potato in mud and then you had baked potato. We could remember doing that a couple times and then eating watermelon and things like that. But that's all I could remember.

RP: Is that a watermelon raid?

KE: Yeah, they raised a good crop of watermelon then.

RP: So you were given them? You didn't go out and --

KE: I think in some cases we kind of helped ourselves. [Laughs]

RP: I forget who it was, I think it was Dick Sakurai I got a great watermelon story, somebody.

MH: I think it was.

RP: Oh, no it was John Nakada, talked about sneaking out of Heart Mountain to a watermelon patch and breaking open and just eating the heart of the watermelon. This was like two a.m. in the middle of the night, sneaking back in.

KE: In Minidoka across the canal that was private property and the property that abutted the canal they had water for some reason because any water on that side of the canal had to come from the canal that ran through Minidoka and that wasn't really opened up 'til later on but that portion was and they raised watermelon, they used to swim across the canal and then bring the watermelons back. And I think the farmers didn't appreciate that.

RP: Do you recall sneaking out? I mean, I've heard stories about that not the whole camp was fenced, part of it was fenced.

KE: Well, for all purposes Minidoka was not wired as such, it was... they may have in the beginning but later on there was no wire 'cause that's the site itself with 33,000 acres but originally portions of the camp were wired and then the canal side, there was no reason to have a fence.

RP: That was your boundary.

KE: That was a natural boundary. And then since they developed a lot of the lands for agriculture, what was the reason for a fence? And so we didn't see that much fencing, there probably was fencing but I can't really recollect it. And if there were we would have crawled through it or something. And you know, you couldn't go, where could you go? Just like being in Death Valley, right?

RP: Oh, Manzanar, right.

KE: Yeah, Manzanar. I mean the topography, so where can you go? There's nothing within fifteen, twenty miles of the campsite. And there's no grocery store.

RP: So did you get into any... I would call it trouble or difficulties as a kid in Minidoka?

KE: No, just kid trouble and I can't remember those. I think there was very little major crime in Minidoka. There was a lot of, you know, like you're saying, there's a lot of midnight appropriations, things like that, but other than that there was not... probably there's very little records of that type of activities, especially in Minidoka.

RP: One of the most important lasting impressions that people who were in camp have are the relationships that they formed there.

KE: Like we were discussing before, the relationship with the people that you met in camp regardless of what camp they went to or where they went to and especially ones that you, you know, like we played ball and went to school with, they become lasting friends even if you don't see 'em for fifteen twenty years, you say we have some, something that put you together. Like I was saying, the people I went to high school with or college with or even in the service, they're not, you don't have that relationship. Unless probably if you're in combat it would be different but otherwise it's a... that relationship is never destroyed.

RP: It's a bond that can never be broken.

KE: Right.

RP: 'Cause you went through something.

KE: Yeah, and everybody went through the same thing and regardless of what camp you're in. And to relate another story I was... they had a JACL bowling, national bowling tournament in Portland many years ago and at that time Portland was such a good host that they had transportation for the participants, you know, to and from the airport and from the hotel to the bowling alleys. And one of the most common questions was, "What camp were you in?" And how often would you hear that with say a bunch of people from the Elks or whatever convention you go to and it's like you said it was a common bond and that's where you get to hear places like, you know, like there's an argument what you should call Granada and they will always say, Amache. And so you hear all these names and even if somebody would come to our church and you knew they were in camp and the first thing you kind of ask is, "What camp were you in?" Not, where you were or what kind of work you did so there is a very strong bond.

RP: And in one respect that camp defines you in a way, where you were.

KE: Yes.

RP: For instance if you mention Tule Lake, all kinds of images and assumptions.

KE: Yeah, connotations, right.

RP: Connotations are made versus Manzanar or Minidoka.

KE: Yeah, that's where... Tule was where they put all the so-called bad people. But still the bondage is still there.

RP: Did you have any close friends who left for Tule Lake?

KE: No, in Minidoka's case it was the opposite. We had people from Tule come in. The Hood River people went, from their assembly center they were down in Pine Grove and they went to Tule and then when they separated Tule as a more of a hard core camp, the Hood River people came to Minidoka.

RP: Do you remember them arriving there?

KE: Yeah, 'cause there's men, of course, there is a lot of people from Portland that knew a lot of Hood River people so there was a common bond there.

RP: How about the geographical contrasts, you had a large population from Portland, you had a large group from Seattle? What was the interaction between those two groups?

KE: It may be... if they were going to high school, people are very adaptable. But us, we didn't really associate too much with the Seattle people, maybe in retrospect that was bad. But the younger people, especially in high school and beyond, when they ever had golf tournaments or bowling tournaments or reunions, it just like old times for them. And in my age group I think we miss that.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

RP: So who was the first in your family to leave Minidoka?

KE: Well, we left as a group. We went for seasonal work to Ontario, Oregon. And I can't remember the year '42, '43, it must have been '44. Yeah, and then Massie and Kazzie stayed in Ontario with my uncle. Then my mom and my oldest sister... oh, Ben left first, he went to work at Anderson ranch. We left just on a seasonal leave for six months to Ontario. And then my youngest sister, well, she's the next sister and myself and my mom came back to Minidoka. So I went in the sixth grade, for three months I went to grade school in Ontario. (Narr. note: Kazzie Endo Hara. Anderson Ranch Dam, near Mt. Home, Idaho, at one time it was the largest earth built dam. Many Nikkei worked at Anderson.)

RP: What was that like?

KE: It was fine, they said there was some prejudice but we never, as young kids just like being buddies, played with them so I didn't feel any prejudice. And of course Ontario was a large Japanese community within the Treasure Valley itself.

RP: Where did you live in the Ontario area?

KE: Ontario we first stayed in a motel and we were guests of the Saito family and they were good family friends. They were originally from Carver and their dad was from the same area in Japan as my mother. But before they moved to Ontario in 1934 they used to get together quite a bit 'cause my mom was a good sake maker. [Laughs]

RP: Oh, I see.

KE: And so the older Japanese, they didn't necessarily drink during the off hours but -- I mean during the working hours --but when they did drink they really drank. If you go to Japan that's the older Japanese, I don't know about the younger ones, but the older ones they may not touch anything for a week but when they do, that's it. The glass is never empty.

RP: So you got a taste of farm work while you were in Ontario?

KE: Well, I didn't... I was a lazy guy. [Laughs] I got to run around with Mr. Saito all over.

RP: Did Mr. Saito, was he kind of the crew people that he took people to various farms?

KE: No, no, he had his own farm. They moved back in 1934 and so they had a... they must have had about forty, fifty acres right there.

RP: What were they growing?

KE: Everything, potatoes, lettuce, sugar -- of course sugar beets was at that time was a prime crop. Onions, and then their sons later on moved to various other farms. And then they became big farmers.

RP: So you went around with Mr. Saito?

KE: Yeah.

RP: Anything else that... as far as memories of Ontario at all?

KE: Oh, not much we got to go to the movie theater once a week. And other than that, just being school kids.

RP: Then you returned to Minidoka for a while?

KE: Yeah, we returned and then in May of '45 the Watanabe family called us back and we come back to Milwaukie and then we were able to stay with the Koida family, they had a house there on their property. We stayed there for a couple years 'til we moved to where we're at now.

RP: And the Watanabe family helped locate housing and work with the --

KE: Yes.

RP: And you mentioned the greenhouse that the Koidas had?

KE: Yeah.

RP: So were you working at that point too?

KE: No, just in the summer went to pick berries. I wasn't a very good worker. [Laughs]

RP: Did you eat more berries than you picked?

KE: Oh, no, at berry picking I was alright but as far as the greenhouse part, no.

RP: So what prompted you to become involved with the pilgrimage, the Minidoka pilgrimage?

KE: Oh, you know, in 2003, you know, you interviewed Dick Sakurai, his son, (Soren Sakurai), worked at the legacy center and they said they wanted a busload to go back to the pilgrimage and it was a very poor turnout. They only had eighteen, and Yoji Matsushima said he'd like to go so I was his partner and we went in a big bus and eighteen of us went back. And that was the first experience and then I missed the next year and then I've gone to everyone except this year. So I've been to about five pilgrimage, five or six, I can't remember. And then it evolved into the symposium at College of Southern Idaho and so we got to hear over the years some excellent speakers. And if you need some names I could tell you, like Eric Muller from North Carolina and Greg Robinson, (Roger) Daniels, David Adler, of course, Bob Sims from Boise State, Judge Windmill, then there was Judge Gillespie, one year there was an Indian, I think his name was, I can't remember his name, oh, it was Raymond (Cross) and then was Joe McNeil was one the original sit-in in North Carolina. So we had outstanding people like that coming in and this for in little quote, "hick town," the Twin Falls, they could attract such outstanding speakers to come in. And it was really a pleasure. If anybody has the opportunity they should go there and very seldom that you get that many good speakers in one forum. Oh, I forgot to say Tom Ikeda from Densho, Roger Shimomura, the noted painter, and people like that.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

RP: I want to just step back a little ways and just kind of cover briefly your return to Milwaukie.

KE: There was no... transition was very easy, there was no prejudice. We were accepted in the community, in fact we kind of looked upon being good citizens. We never had any trouble, no trouble within the community of Milwaukie, the business people we never heard any derogatory remarks. There may have been some but not face to face.

RP: What did you father do?

KE: He passed away in 1942.

RP: And you were eight years old?

KE: Yes.

RP: So your mom had quite a bunch to take care of?

KE: Yeah, so in our case it was kind of blessing that we went to camp. Because otherwise we don't know how we would have survived.

RP: That way at least you were fed.

KE: Yeah, got three meals a day, just like going into the service, three meals a day and a place to sleep.

RP: While you were in camp did you sort of long for a father figure?

KE: No, never occurred to me even to this day.

RP: There was nobody that really kind of stepped in and took that role? How about your older brother?

KE: No, it's just kind of Mom took over. Oh and then we had her brother was with us for four, five years. He was more of a ruthless leader. [Laughs]

RP: Now one of your mom's brothers was picked up by the FBI?

KE: Yes.

RP: Was that the brother you're talking about?

KE: Yes.

RP: And he ended up at Kooskia?

KE: Kooskia, that's on the Lolo Pass.

RP: And he came back to Minidoka, didn't he?

KE: Yes, and then when we went to Ontario he went to Ontario with us and he stayed there and he worked with the Saito family. And they really missed him when he went back to Japan 'cause he was all work and no foolishness.

RP: And so did you have an aspiration to go to college?

KE: Yeah, and I went to Oregon State, was there four years, got a degree in horticulture.

RP: And shortly after you go into business?

KE: Yeah, back in the greenhouse business.

RP: And what did you raise?

KE: Raised bedding plants. And then later on we gave the greenhouse up because our business was not that large and then that was a transition period between... you had to be either real big or be kind of on your own and there's no seven-eleven type of operation in the greenhouse field. In fact, even in the nursery business.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

RP: And then you've... over the years you've really taken a deep involvement in the Japanese American community in Portland.

KE: Yes.

RP: What prompted that?

KE: It was just... I think that's from the upbringing. Mom said to do things so that's what you did. And being in the military, I first joined the Oregon Nisei Veterans then JACL and the Japanese Ancestry Society and from there you get involved in the community.

RP: Were you involved in the closet project too?

KE: No, I was not. You know, that was the Oregon Nikkei endowment that was involved in that and that was more of Bill Naito's project and he put up the majority of the money for that. And then that was how that project went. And I didn't get involved with the legacy center either 'cause I had got too many irons in the fire so we have to back off of something. I was asked to help but I didn't.

RP: Now as part of the Oregon Nikkei veteran's group, you were part of the color guard at Minidoka?

KE: Well, I got volunteered from the Friends of Minidoka and they said you... the flags were there so you carried them. [Laughs]

RP: So you've been back to Minidoka a number of times over the last ten years and what do you feel when you go back there?

KE: There's to me there was no feeling it's just something you go back and do. The main thing is to support the cause. And what better support do you have than other than monetary is to be part of the pilgrimage. And being retired so the monetary part is very limited but you could always be there in spirit, right? And that's a great thing that at least you need to go once or twice.

RP: What's your thoughts about the redress and reparations?

KE: When you're young you don't think of those things but as you mature a little bit, you know, our civil rights were abridged and it's probably the first time any group of people were handled, I mean, were treated that way. And then like the blacks say that they were treated wrongly but history says they come over as slaves. And then they got their freedom but we were American citizens, we were born here and they put us in camps. And I'm the one that the designation of the camp is correct but some of them say we should be a "concentration camp." But all the stories you read about the Jewish Holocaust, and I don't want to be put in that category. I may be selfish but that's just the way I feel. And there's others that believe that the term "concentration camp" should be out there. And you probably had the same argument with people, but a lot of the ones that want it "concentration camps" are ones that never been there. And to me they said "concentration camp" and I just feel uneasy. And it's just the way I'm going to feel 'til the day I die I guess.

RP: Kay, if you were to pass on any insights or lessons about your camp experience to future generations, what would you tell them about it?

KE: Well, like we said, it was unconstitutional and you wish that no one would have to go through that again. No people, not even when the 9/11 come along, they should never treat your fellow citizens that way. They have as much right as you do and you shouldn't be singled out because of race or religion. And that's the message I give 'em. But you could say it kind of real harshly or you could say it in a softer tone and I'm more of a softer tone person. Maybe it might not get through to the people but that's the way I feel.

RP: Are there any other stories or memories that you want to share that we haven't touched on?

KE: Yeah, there was one high school experience at Milwaukie High School, we had to write a... it was more like a term paper and I chose the subject of our relocation and how I feel today and how I felt then is a little different. I mean, the maturity part. And this one guy and I can still remember he says, "What was your experience?" in camp and I just couldn't tell him. What can you say as a seventeen year old? But later on you can... and that really stuck with me. And I kind of begged off the question but I think that's how much you mature over the years.

RP: Well, thank you on behalf of myself and Mark and the Park Service.

KE: Well, thank you.

RP: Thank you for sharing your time and your memories. It's been great being with you the last few days.

KE: Well, thank you. (Narr. note: The Saito family in Ontario, Joe, Abe and Paul. Joe and Paul are still living, Abe passed away several years ago. All the family members have been outstanding citizens of the Ontario area.)

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.