Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Joe Saito Interview
Narrator: Joe Saito
Interviewer: Alton Chung
Location: Ontario, Oregon
Date: December 3, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-sjoe-01-0001

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AC: This is an interview with Joe Saito, a Nisei man, eighty-six years old. This interview's taking place in Ontario, Oregon, on December 3, 2004. The interviewer's Alton W. Chung of the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center Oral History Project, 2004. Thanks a lot, Joe, I really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to come and speak to us. Let's just start off with a real simple, what are the circumstances of your birth and where were you born and when?

JS: I was born in Portland, Oregon, and spent most of my childhood out in Clackamas County, in a little town called Carver. That's where I went, eight years, grade school. And after my grade school I started at Oregon City Junior High School, and I quit school in my freshman year because my dad's health wasn't too good. He had a row, vegetable row crop operation, and times were tough; this was in the early '30s. And so I stayed out of school until, from then, for two years. I even went to Portland Wholesale Market to peddle vegetables. We moved over here in February of 1934 to Ontario. I had, I have two brothers, and they were both in school. One was in grade school, one was in high school at the time we moved over here. We came over to Ontario in a one ton Reo truck and a Model-T Ford, and the trip was about four hundred twenty-five miles in those days, all two lane roads, and it was a very unusual year in that 1934 it didn't snow. So we came over the Blue Mountains in the first week in February and never saw any snow, never had to adjust the clutch on our Model-T. And we arrived here the second week in February and there met a group of Japanese in the area. It was a small Japanese colony in the Ontario area. The reason we got here, we knew some people -- my folks are from Fukushima, and down near Salem, in the Lake Labish area, why, there was quite a settlement of Japanese, and a number of those folks came from Fukushima. They knew a Fukushima family up here in Ontario, and that's how we came up here. My dad had made a trip by train the month before and come home with a couple bags of big sweet Spanish onions, which was kind of impressive, and we had a family conference and came up here. So we've lived here seventy years now, and we've raised our children here in different schools in our communities. Now the kids have all separated and gone their ways. My children are now in, some in Hood River, I have a daughter in Nashville, Tennessee, a son in Birmingham, Alabama. We have granddaughters teaching in high schools, one in Portland and one in Kaneohe, Hawaii, and we have a grandson teaching in the Hood River Valley.

I go back to 1941, when I volunteered for the military at the request of President Roosevelt, who was looking for one-year volunteers because things were getting hot around the world. I anticipated that I would be in service for one year and see how I would fare as a soldier. And that one year enlistment, or volunteer, ended up fifty-one months of military time, so I was in service from before the war 'til after the war was over. I came out in September of 1945. In that time I served as a medic, enlisted man, until July, until February of 1945. My grade at that time was staff sergeant. I was in Camp Shelby with 171st Special Training Battalion. And I went to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, as an officer candidate in medical administration. I finished my military time in September of 1945 as a second lieutenant. My last station was Camp Crowder, Missouri. And so I came home in September and I was a reservist for a few years, until the Korean War. I asked to, I said, "Take me off the reserves," because my wife was pregnant was one child and my mother had been in a serious car accident, so that kind of brings me up to the time of, end of the war and my activities as a civilian, postwar. Now, what have I left out? [Laughs]

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.