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-01-0004

<Begin Segment 4>

MH: Now where did you go after the Portland Assembly Center?

KG: Well, after they left, we had to go into a darkened train. There was no lights or nothing, all the shades were drawn. They didn't tell us where we were going 'til we got there, and we found out it was Idaho. Then it was, got into a bus. They took us to this, and the day that we got there, it was windy, hot. And my son, he was so unhappy, and he wasn't feeling very well, and he wanted to go home, and I'll never forget that. I'll never forget that. I think maybe that's why probably I put a barrier between the life that we had and the life we were facing, I don't know, but I'll never forget that. It was like I say, it was dusty. Oh my, I've never been in an area that was that dusty. The wind was blowing, hot. Then we get taken down to these homes and somebody, I can remember saying barracks, we're in barracks. The heating system was those potbelly stoves, oh my. I think I blocked out a lot of the unpleasantness because I, well, you didn't want to make it sound like it was so unbearable. It was bad enough with the children, especially my son was very unhappy. And then he was, I think he got the flu. Anyway, he was sick, and he had to be put in the hospital there, and he was there for quite a while. I can't remember, but it seemed like years that he was there, and nobody could go down to see him because the minute he saw anybody, the family, he just let out a whoop and holler. He wanted to go home, and he wanted to go home as it was. In the barracks, he was not happy. So that's a part of life that I, maybe that's why I block everything out, I don't know.

MH: When you were in the "relocation center," did your husband work?

KG: Okay. I got stuck in the... what was that? I worked in an office. I don't remember. Like I say, I tried to block out everything, and it was in the office, and it had to do with filling out orders for the canteens, the stores. They called them canteens in there. It was stores. That's what I did, keeping up their inventory.

MH: And was this canteen as you call it, was it open to the people who lived --

KG: It was open to the people, yeah. It was opened to the people. You could buy whatever you want. They had just about anything, I guess, that you wanted to buy; although our food was cooked, prepared for us by cooks in the individual kitchens in your block that you were living in.

MH: And what block was that that you lived in?

KG: We were in Block 32, but half of that was being used as a school, so there was only half a block. We had our laundry and everything. We had to go out there for everything.

MH: What were you paid for this job that you did as a, taking inventory?

KG: Gosh, I can't really remember what... all I know is that I did a lot of typing and a lot of, I really can't remember exactly. But I do remember I had to do a lot of this and that concerning...

MH: But you did get paid?

KG: Yeah, we got paid. My husband got nineteen dollars, and I got sixteen dollars a month.

MH: And you said your husband was a cook?

KG: Yeah.

MH: Okay. You mentioned that there was a school. Part of Block 32 was a school. Do you remember anything about that school, what it was like? You said you lived in a barrack, right?

KG: Yeah.

MH: Was the school barracks?

KG: Well, all I know is all you did was you go into your barracks, and there was a bed there and a potbellied stove. That's all I remember. And the rest of the time, if you wanted to go, you did your laundry or any of the other stuff, your bathroom chores. You had to go out into, they had, I think they called them rec halls, and it was all off of these so-called rec halls. You took your showers or whatever there. It was a different life, definitely.

MH: Did you ever leave camp?

KG: No. I couldn't leave camp because of the two children, you know, and I didn't want to leave Mother. And like I said, my husband worked in the kitchen. He was one of the cooks there, so we never did. But if you want to talk about the family, my sister, she was going around with a gentleman at the time she'd met, and so they both went out. And then they got married out there, no formal wedding for the rest of us to go to. And my other sister, she got, they had, people would come in, and they wanted people that wanted to do housework or something. And so she went on one of those recruits of live-in helpers in the home, and that's what she did. My sisters weren't there in camp very long. They each went their own way.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.