Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Henry Sakamoto Interview
Narrator: Henry Sakamoto
Interviewer: Jane Comerford
Date: October 18, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-shenry_2-01-0011

<Begin Segment 11>

HS: And life in internment camp was... I don't know what you would call it, pretty isolated in a way. But just as in the assembly center, there came to be a kind of a newspaper so to speak, and in the assembly center, there was maybe a two or three page news vehicle that was mimeographed, and there was a newspaper staff, people that were interested in journalism volunteered for that. The newspaper was called The Evacuazette, and they would publish mostly internal news, very little information about the outside, just didn't have the facility or the reporting ability. They were not part of the AP or UP, but it was a good way to communicate to the evacuees and give information that would head off rumors, things like that. So in a way, it was a worthwhile effort. In the internment camp in Minidoka after a period of time, there developed a newspaper. They called that the Minidoka Irrigator. One of the big things about Minidoka, we had an irrigation canal running alongside one part of the camp, and it would take the place of a barbed wire fence because nobody wanted to try to risk swimming across the canal because it was pretty swift. There had been a drowning or two I think accidentally because of the canal. And the Minidoka Irrigator was a weekly publication, and I'm trying to recall how I managed to do it, but I got a job with the Minidoka Irrigator to deliver the paper to each block. I was in charge of that. And the papers for each block would be bundled so all I had to do was deliver the newspapers to the block manager. And with that job, I got paid part-time wages. I can't recall exactly what they were, eight dollars a month or twelve dollars a month. But along with that, the Minidoka Irrigator was printed in Jerome, Idaho. So every Friday, we would go to Jerome, Idaho, to print the newspaper, then be available for delivery on Saturday. So that was a kind of an escape system, get to go to Jerome and have lunch on the outside and come back to Minidoka, then I would requisition a truck from the motor pool, deliver the newspaper to each block, circulation manager, great job. But Minidoka Irrigator would carry sporadic news I think from the outside news if they could get it, life in other camps. But here again, you're dependent upon outside newspapers that you would subscribe to Irrigator, Minidoka Irrigator would subscribe to, and the outside news would be delivered and you have to scan the newspapers to pick out relevant articles for the internees. So you know, there was a, you could get news from the outside world, but it was a, I don't know, painstaking process I would guess.

JC: Did you have any idea what was going on in terms of the war?

HS: Oh, at my age, I really didn't care. But if we got newspapers from the outside, yeah, the staff would, the Minidoka Irrigator staff would have access to that news, so therefore, they would be apprised of what's going on. And if they decide to reprint the article, then they could do that. Yeah, so we weren't totally isolated. Then over a period of time, we had radios in the internment camp although they were contraband from before internment. We could get news from the radios. But in those days, I wasn't interested in the news. I was just interested in big band things and Frank Sinatra, the Hit Parade. A lot of times, the connections weren't all that good. Way out there in the boondocks, the radio, the frequency would come and go and come and go. And for some strange reason, scientists would know, but I think it was on rainy days, the radio reception was good, a lot better than when it was dry. Yeah, so we could have contact with the outside world if one wanted it. So, within the Minidoka internment camp, there were jobs available. People could avail themselves, and they had internal security force that would be basically fire watch at night, and they had any number of needs for truck drivers to deliver commissary stuff to the different blocks. And within the block, there's a need for cooks and servers, food servers, dishwashers. My dad was, he was in charge of the boiler room, and he'd keep the fires going for the hot water, for the laundry, and the shower rooms, coal burning furnace. He'd take care of that during the day. Speaking of hot water, at the very beginning of life in the camp, we didn't have hot water right away. All we had was cold water. I guess the boilers weren't set to go yet. So we had cold water showers, wash all the dust out of our hair and in cold water. You had to make sure you had a good lathering shampoo because in cold water, the shampoo doesn't lather up too well. Then another, what discomfort for about the first year, we didn't have a sewage plant, so the option was outhouses, different outhouse for men and women and each block had two outhouses, and I think they were six-seaters. So here the communal life goes on. In the wintertime, that first winter, was kind of tough, and you would resist having to go to the bathroom for as long as you could because it was so cold and windy. Then I think by springtime, you had to dig new holes for the outhouses and cover up the old holes because they were getting pretty full. We still, like I said, I think it was almost a year before we had sewage facilities. Then ultimately, we got, we were able to go to the bathroom indoors protected from the elements. Somebody even tried to warm up the outhouse by getting a newspaper and lighting a match to it and throwing it down, but that didn't work too well. But anyway, life in internment camp, yeah, there was a military police guard at the main gate, and everybody that came to visit had to check in there and also check out, and if, and as life went on, it was, you could get leave from the internment camp for... I think there were three categories. You could get short-term leave, you could get medical leave, and you could get resettlement leave to go to school or if you had a job.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.