Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: George Nakata Interview
Narrator: George Nakata
Interviewer: Masako Hinatsu
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: August 23, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-ngeorge_2-01-0014

<Begin Segment 14>

MH: You talked about going to school, did you have paper, pencil? Do you know how they got all the supplies?

GN: We had the minimal amount of things, and of course, teachers were teachers from the outside, and so they were accredited teachers for the most part. Just like in Minidoka, that's kind of what happened, and medical doctors became medical doctors and dentists became dentists. But school was not all day. It was relatively short. I can't attest to the accuracy because there might have been more afternoon classes that I didn't go to. I happened to go to a class that was from about 9 to 11:30. We did have some, if you will, tools. We did not have desks. We sat in the rows that people attending a rodeo would sit in. We would have some paper and some pencil, but that would be it. I believe that only the teacher had a textbook or two. I don't remember distributing much to the students themselves, so it was kind of limited. But I recall that we were huddled in a small area, and in this arena, there were other classes going on simultaneously. So I presume that the fifth grade was somewhere else or the sixth grade was somewhere else and the eighth grade was somewhere else. But in our case, our class was relatively small and many of us knew each other, and so it was not an ordeal but rather kind of enjoyable to see our friends again and attend class from 9 to 11:30.

MH: Did your parents work at the assembly center?

GN: They did odds and end jobs, my parents did, but did not have full-time jobs there. Some people of course did. Our friends, some of them did. They clearly had responsibilities. So they had ministers there. They had reverends there, bishops there doing their thing. The barbers were doing their jobs. Unlike Minidoka when many people had permanent jobs, my father worked in the mess hall in Block 34, but he did not have a permanent job there. But I remember sort of the esprit d'corps or the community helping spirit of the Japanese that really surfaced. There were people just helped people, and it was like we're in the same boat. We all have the same circumstances. We all have the same common challenges. We're going to do this together. And so I know friends that volunteered to wash dishes, to work in the mess hall, to clean up the grounds, to be a fireman, to assist in various things, so there was a lot of volunteer work I think that was going on, newspapers that were put together. I think it was simply a newsletter, a mimeograph, so that people would know what's going on. And certainly later on that fall, everyone was advised that we would be going someplace, parts unknown really to us. I don't my parents ever knew a place called Hunt or Minidoka, Idaho. I think most of the people did not know whether it was Topaz or Manzanar or Minidoka. On the train, MPs walking up and down the aisles, pull your window shades down. We're going east, but we're not sure quite where. So when you disembark at the Twin Falls and you're bussed over to Minidoka through the sagebrush and the dust, you really didn't know where you were. And so the assembly center experience was kind of a prelude. It was kind of temporary. Yes, the quarters were slightly larger in Minidoka, but the month, the several months spent in the Portland Assembly Center sort of was a preview of the hazards of war of groups of people, if you will, being forced together and by executive order or by law brought together to an internment camp and living over there of course in barracks that we can talk about. Assembly center was kind of a preview to that.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.