Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Kena Gimba Interview
Narrator: Kena Gimba
Interviewer: Masako Hinatsu
Location: Milwaukie, Oregon
Date: January 29, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-gkena-01-0003

<Begin Segment 3>

MH: Where were you when you heard about Pearl Harbor?

KG: Where was I, where?

MH: Where were you when you heard about Pearl Harbor?

KG: We had the stand by then. We were over there on Columbia Boulevard, and I think we had just opened up our shop there. And I remember the news was coming over and some people that were our regular customers came back and gave us, they were sorry that something like this had happened. And the others, some of them in there would just come there. And as the news was coming over, I remember one gentleman in particular. He just turned around and walked off like it was just something horrible, you know. That we would be involved too which we were completely ignorant of that kind of stuff. I've never gone back to Japan, number one, so I wouldn't know.

MH: After you got married, you said you had two children. How did you take care of them?

KG: Because we have, we were on the stand, all our hands were needed out there. I think my mother did most the baby-sitting. There was a, I can't remember his name. He used to come back there, and he just loved Jeannie when she was a baby. He'd come out there, and he'd take her out in the back of the store and take care of her. And of course, you had, my husband had to go and buy all the produce stuff or material for the store. Then she got to ride along with him a good many of times. So she was a pretty popular baby in those days because people would see her and say, "Oh my, you have a baby in here." He'd come home, and he'd be proud as punch. He was a little disappointed though when she was a girl, when she was born. He wanted a boy first, but...

MH: You told me your father passed away. What happened to your mom, then? Did she come and live with you?

KG: She, they were still on the farm when my father passed away, and we were living at, we had rented our own home. So when Dad passed away, they sold the farm to another Japanese that wanted to run the place, and Mom and my two sisters came up and lived with us for, ever since.

MH: Until the war.

KG: Uh-huh.

MH: Where did you go during the war? What "assembly center" did you go to?

KG: First, we were sent to the, well, let's see, what is that? What is the name of that place? I can't remember. Anyway, we called it the horse barn when we went there, and it smelled like it too. I'll have to admit that. It was not very pleasant place. And I'd never seen so many Japanese in my life because my life from the time I was growing up was almost a hundred percent Caucasian. There was only a couple of other Japanese families that we kind of associated with and that was it. My life with the Japanese is kind of rare, I think.

MH: When you were at the Portland Assembly Center, what was your life like there?

KG: My first impression? My first impression was I'd never seen so many Japanese in my life, really, because I have lived like I say in all the Caucasian area. I didn't know there was that many families. I knew about five families or so. We never went visiting. My mother and father were sort of homebodies, and we didn't much of anything. We went to the community picnic once a year or whatever. That's about it. My background is very scant in the Japanese community.

MH: Did your husband work when he was in the "assembly center"?

KG: Yeah, he was a cook. He did the cooking in Block 32. That's where we were.

MH: No, in the "assembly center."

KG: Huh?

MH: In the "assembly center," in Portland.

KG: No. In the "assembly center," I don't know what he did, I really don't know. He must have did something.

MH: Did you work?

KG: No, I didn't do anything, uh-uh. Well, see, Jean would have been what, three years old, and Ronnie was just barely walking. So there was nothing we could do in there anyway.

MH: Was it difficult taking care of two little children at the "assembly center"?

KG: In that respect, I think I'm glad Mom was with us because, you know, we each take one child, you know. And it was because heavens, the walls, there was hardly any walls to speak of. They'd start ailing or crying. My heavens, it was terrible. It was horrible, not the life that I would recommend for anybody.

MH: So did you eat as a family at the "assembly center" in Portland?

KG: We ate but it was, we had to go to what they call the lunch center, whatever it was. It was all prepared for us, so we ate whatever was served to us.

MH: And did the kids get enough to eat?

KG: Well, I really can't remember that far back, but I'm sure they picked at their food because I know it wasn't that great.

MH: Why do you say it wasn't that great?

KG: Well, maybe it's because... well, it wasn't your cooking, your own cooking, let's put it that way.

MH: So it was more American type of food?

KG: Yeah, uh-huh.

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