Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Mabel Shoji Boggs Interview
Narrator: Mabel Shoji Boggs
Interviewer: Margaret Barton Ross
Location: Philomath, Oregon
Date: April 11, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-bmabel-01-0010

<Begin Segment 10>

MR: When you were in camp, how were the living arrangements decided as far as who you stayed with?

MB: Each family had a room. The two on each end, the room was for two people, for a couple. Room, the second room, let's see, there were eight, let's see, one, two, three, six... six rooms per barrack. Rooms one and six was for two people. Two and five were for seven people, seven or eight people. Three and four were for five or six people. That's how we were separated. And in those early years, and then each, there was one door or two doors came out onto a porch. One and two had a porch, three and four had a porch, and five and six had a porch. And those early years, I don't know where people got the seeds. They must have brought them from home. We used to raise gardens between the barracks, and they raised, we raised pretty good food, vegetables. And so after that, they let us farm, and so they had large farms. They even raised their own meat. And they're ingenious, and smart people would, they had schools, and they taught the kids. We got paid, professional people got sixteen dollars a month, and the rest of us got eight dollars a month, and that was our wage. We really didn't need that money, yes, we did. We could buy things, but, because they fed us, and they clothed us. Our clothes was army clothes. They were Navy Seabee, or, you know, yeah. We had woolen pea jackets. We had woolen gloves, and our, we had our blankets. And our food, we didn't much like the food because it was American food. Mama learned to like coffee. She never had coffee before, but she learned to like it, and she drank it strong. She liked it strong, and I learned to like cottage cheese, now I love it. I'd never eaten it before. We never had turnips at home, but they had turnips quite often, and now I love turnips. I mean, we learned to eat a lot of, and we found out that the Americans ate a lot of hotcakes for breakfast because in camp, they had hotcakes for us every morning. And instead of syrup, they gave us watered down prune juice.

MR: You said you earned eight dollars --

MB: Eight dollars a month.

MR: -- a month. What did you do for work?

MB: Okay. I was studying to be a nurse. What do you think I did? I worked as a nurse's aide down at the hospital. And because I was studying to be a nurse, the doctors and registered nurses that were there taught me first. You know, they teach like in school. We'd have to do to learn, and they'd tell us what needed to be done, and then one of us would be picked to help the doctor or do whatever, and I was the one that was always chosen from my group. There'd be five or six in my group, and other girls hated to be in my group because if they were in my group, they never got to do any of these things. And I learned a lot in camp because they went out of their way to teach me. But my regret is I never got to go to the outside and learn and, you know, become a regular nurse. And back then, blood never used to bother me. Now, blood makes me feel bad, makes me sick to see blood.

MR: What kinds of things did they treat at that hospital?

MB: Okay. They had Ward 6, there was 6, 8, 10, 12, 14. Ward 6 was a maternity ward where, you know, babies were born, and you took care of the babies. Ward 8 was for pediatrics ward, children's ward. Ten was surgical ward where people were treated after surgery. Ward 12 was for general older people, you know, not children, but all the other people, and 14 which was way gone from the rest of them was the tuberculosis ward. And I worked in the tuberculosis ward quite a bit because a lot of the girls would not work in the tuberculosis ward. I contracted tuberculosis, and they found out that I had tuberculosis, I had a heart attack, and at the hospital, I was at the hospital. I was helping the doctor in the outpatient ward, and the doctor had left the room, and I was in there with the patient. And my boyfriend at the time... the wards, they just had curtains hung in all cubicles with curtains hung, and he could see me down there on the floor, so he made a comment, and then he went down to the, out to wherever he had to go, and a few minutes later, he came back. He was a pharmacist. He came back, and I was still in the same place, so then he opened the curtain and looked, and I was there on the floor, and so he got me a doctor right away. If the doctor hadn't seen me then, I would have probably died because I had a massive heart attack. And they got me, they put me into the children's ward, Ward 8, put me into a private room, and I was on, when I woke up on the third day, they had this plastic, I was under a plastic dome with about twelve wires. They had wires connected to me all over, and then tubes down my nose, and tubes down my mouth, and you know. And it took me two weeks before I was okay, and I wondered why they wouldn't send me home. Well, when they x-rayed me, they found out I had pleurisy caused by tuberculosis, and so I was in the hospital another six months -- or six weeks. And after being in bed for two months, I couldn't walk. I had to learn to walk all over again, so I used a gurney, you know, push the gurney along and learn to walk that way. And I guess it was about the fourth day that I could push the gurney away, and I could walk. But just like a baby, I had to learn to walk.

MR: Did you work after that then or --

MB: No. I didn't work after that. And soon after that, they, the camp was disbanded, and they sent everybody home. Well, while I was in camp, I mean, they would never let me out of camp. But on the way home, they gave me a stateroom, a room all to myself. It had two beds, and one of the beds, in daytime, you know, you could sit on it. And then there was a bathroom, washroom, you know, all that all in one room, and they let my mother in the room with me. My sister had to travel with the rest of the people in the third class or wherever, the rest of the train, but we used to sneak her in and stay with us. But eating time, she had to leave us because, you know, they never brought the food to her. But they were good to me coming home. I wish they could have been nicer to me when I was in camp.

MR: And while you were there, who stayed in your housing unit?

MB: Who stayed in my housing unit?

MR: What members of your family were there with you?

MB: Okay. All five of us were in there for about, oh, I don't know how long, three or four months, I don't remember. But it was during the war, and all the boys on the outside had gone to war and farmers were short of laborers, and so they came to camp and asked, volunteers, people come out and work on the farms, and so my brother left after, I don't know, four, five months later, I don't know how long. But he was on the outside all during the war, and he'd come in and visit, but you know. But on the outside, although he worked on the farms, he was treated just like he was in camp. All the workers were, had to live behind wired, you know, fence places. At night, they were locked in. When they went out to the fields, they were put in trucks, and they rode to work. And then in the night, they're brought back by truck, and then they were locked in every night. But they could go on living just like everybody else, but they were always watched. And my brother said... at first, I don't know what kind of farm he worked, but later on, he worked at other farms. And at other farms, there were a lot of Mexicans, and Mexicans ate one kind of food, and the Japanese ate another kind of food. And at that camp, the cook was real good. He would cook food for the Japanese and food for the Mexicans. Well, someone during that time decided that they would eat the rice with Mexican chili beans or whatever, and they found, the Mexicans found out that was good. So pretty quick, even though they had, you know, separate kinds of food, they would eat, everybody was eating each other's food.

MR: Were the Mexicans treated differently than the Japanese workers?

MB: I don't know. I don't know if they were or not. If my brother said, I don't remember. But I suppose they were free, you know. They weren't locked up at night. But other than that, I couldn't tell you.

MR: And what were your feelings when you were in camp about --

MB: What were my feelings? Well, other than the fact that they wouldn't let me out, I had no special kind of feeling. I wasn't angry or if that's what you mean. I just lived like everybody else did. I didn't like being stuck in camp, but what could I do, and life was just normal.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.