Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Frances Ota Interview
Narrator: Frances Ota
Interviewer: Jane Comerford
Date: April 2, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-ofrances-01-0003

<Begin Segment 3>

JC: So you're at Gresham High School, and you're living with your benefactor's family, and now it's three months before the war. How is it to be a Japanese American student or to be Japanese ancestry and at Gresham High School? Are you aware of that?

FO: No. There were a number of Japanese American kids at Gresham High School. In fact, my closest friends today are ones who had attended Gresham High School, uh-huh. But here, I'm only there September, well, December, and I'm only there a few months and Pearl Harbor strikes. It was a Sunday morning, and I remember in the Southworths' home what mixed feelings with that. Of course, I thought about my family, and I thought, oh, terrible feelings.

JC: So you must have been pretty frightened for your, you had family in Japan and family in America.

FO: And the worst part was there's absolutely no contact thereafter, you know, for almost about three years. We went through the Red Cross, and finally we made contact. But all those years, there was absolutely no contact with my family in Japan.

JC: So what happened to you and your sister then after Pearl Harbor?

FO: Well, was it April that they finally decided to round up all the people of Japanese ancestry, and we were put in the Portland Assembly Center which was the, they called it the livestock, I don't remember, the hurriedly partitioned, and the buses came and picked us up at, I believe it was at the Gresham fairgrounds where we were picked up. And of course for me with the Southworths, there's being, it was not hard for us to be evacuated because we didn't have to worry about possessions or, so that portion other than the, my sister was at University of Oregon, and it really, she was really upset because she wanted to come to new, at University of Oregon. So we were rounded into the Portland Assembly Center.

JC: And what was that like to --

FO: It was just, it was just a mass of people, and you just couldn't get, the feeling was, I can't describe it, but we were only there about a month, and my sister was pretty headstrong. And one day when there was a flyer or such saying they're looking for farm workers in Eastern Oregon, volunteers, my sister says we're going. And my mother's friend from Portland, gentleman friend, he came to us and he says, "What do you girls think you're going to do out there?" My sister says, "I don't know, but I'm not staying here." So here, we get rounded. We went on this train with, I believe the shades were drawn, and we're off to Eastern Oregon.

JC: So everyone on that train, were they all Japanese Americans put in the assembly center?

FO: Uh-huh, from the assembly center, and I understand there were 110 of us. I'd read that where there were 110 of us who went out on that first day.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.