Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: George Azumano Interview
Narrator: George Azumano
Interviewer: Stephan Gilchrist
Date: September 20, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-ageorge-01-0016

<Begin Segment 16>

SG: And so when they, when you were evacuated, can you tell me what it, what happened to you and your family?

GA: When we were evacuated?

SG: Uh-huh.

GA: Well, we were placed in this assembly center out here. Are you familiar with the International Exposition grounds? That's where we were taken. In those days, we used to call it the stockyards. We felt very badly about being taken there, but we couldn't get out of it. We just had to, well, we could have gone voluntarily away from the Pacific Coast earlier if we wanted to, but I didn't know where to go, so I waited 'til the government took us. The government did allow us, did allow a certain time, time limits to leave the area voluntarily, but most of us stayed as you know. Most of us stayed to go into the assembly centers.

SG: For your family and the families that did volunteer, do you know why some families decided to stay and others volunteered to go?

GA: I'm sure they didn't know what to do or to go. We didn't know what to do, where to go. Some people had friends or relatives living in Utah or Idaho or somewhere. They would go to there, and some did that I know of, but most of the Japanese Americans stayed to be placed in the assembly center.

SG: How long were you at the assembly center?

GA: From May until September.

SG: Do you remember some of the things that went on at the center?

GA: Well, we had sport activities. They allowed baseball and basketball to be played. The Portland Park Bureaus provided us equipment, sporting goods, sporting -- sport goods, so we could play all these sports. They were very good. I happened to like calisthenics, so they gave me the position of instructing the calisthenics classes. They had schoolteachers in the group so they had schools, grammar school and high schools for students in the assembly center.

SG: Was anyone paid to do this work?

GA: Oh, they were paid sixteen dollars a month. All of us were paid something if we did some chore. The teachers were paid sixteen dollars a month.

SG: And your job was to be a calisthenics teacher?

GA: I was not paid for that. That was volunteer. I worked in there as a bookkeeper for sixteen dollars a month.

SG: What kind of bookkeeping did you do?

GA: I'm sure it's about the expenses of the center there. I can't remember now. I can't remember what kind of bookkeeping I did, but I was a bookkeeper.

SG: How did they decide who did what job, do you remember?

GA: They had administrators there, many administrators. I can't remember how many, but they were the ones that instructed us.

SG: And what were the living conditions like?

GA: Each family was assigned one room with partition room but no ceiling, so you can hear the neighbors talking in every, everywhere you went, you can hear neighbors talking because there was no ceiling, and there was a doorway but no door. The only way you can seek any privacy is to put a blanket or a sheet or something in the doorway. It's only one room per family depending, regardless of how big the family was, so some rooms were very crowded. There were only I think two latrines in the whole area. Three thousand people were there, just one shower room. There were several showers in the room, but there's only one shower room as I recall.

SG: So it sounds like not a very pleasant place to live?

GA: Oh, gosh, no, no. And the smell was awful because of the, because as you remember this is a stockyard you see, so you can smell the manure of the horses and cows on which our floors were laid, or planked floors, wooden floors were on top of the dirt where the cows and sheep were kept, so the smell was terrible especially during the hot weather that we had that summer.

SG: Sounds awful.

GA: Uh-huh, it was. And the food was not very good. There was plenty of food, but some of the food that we were provided us, the Japanese would never eat, like beef hearts and kidneys and things like that. We'd never eat that stuff.

SG: So there's no Japanese food?

GA: No. They served rice but no pure Japanese food, no.

SG: How did people treat each other in the center at that time?

GA: Oh, very well. Everybody was at ease. They didn't have to work. The only thing was the crowded conditions that made it very bad, crowded and smelly conditions.

SG: So when you're at the Expo Center, what kind of information were you getting from the U.S. government?

GA: Oh, I don't think we were getting any information. I don't recall it. You mean information like what?

SG: What was happening, what was going to happen next?

GA: To us, oh, no information like that, no.

SG: So you really didn't know what was happening?

GA: No.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.