Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Yoichi "Cannon" Kitayama Interview
Narrator: Yoichi "Cannon" Kitayama
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: April 27, 2013
Densho ID: denshovh-kyoichi-01-0013

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So when you explored the Portland Assembly Center, what were some of the interesting places that you could remember?

YK: Well, one of the places was the horse arena, which was, had the stables and stalls for the horses. All the floors in the area were all boarded up. They had the planks on the floor with a maybe half an inch space in between. But the arena was where... in May it wasn't too bad, but when it got to be summer, it stunk, because of the horse stalls. And we were fortunate, we were in the dairy part of the assembly center, and so it was pretty clean and it didn't smell. The assembly center was... oh, the other thing is we never did have meals like that where everybody would all sit together in big long tables. The other thing was the food they gave us was not very good. It was, I remember two things: the Vienna sausage and hominy. Those are two things I'd never had before. Hominy I ended up liking because it tasted like corn. And I guess that was the army rations, that's pretty cheap. And then the other thing is they serve you food in big metal pans, I guess, army style. And then you get, like, Vienna sausage, a whole batch of those, and it wasn't nice like gourmet-style, two or three on each dish. Hominy the same way, great big pot of hominy. Those are the two things I remember that we ate. I imagine there were a lot of other things that we had, bread and things like that, but I don't remember ever having butter. But, oh, I guess food wasn't too bad. But one thing good about the fact that we were all together was before the war, there were a lot of Japanese restaurants, and either American or Japanese, and so we had a lot of cooks. And when we got in the assembly center and in Minidoka, in camp, that's where it really helped because each block had their own mess hall, and each group had their own cooks. And all these cooks with all the past experience, they sure come in handy.

TI: So they could make that food taste pretty good.

YK: Oh, yeah. They had some pretty bland stuff that they would make pretty good. And they would know what to do, you know, make the guys, army bring shoyu and things like that and make it tasty.

TI: So we're jumping ahead a little bit, but at Minidoka, did some blocks have, then, better cooks than others?

YK: I think so. But we all had the same menu. Some cooked better than the others, but most all of them were pretty good. Because once in a while we'd go to somebody else's block and eat the food there because of our friends, and stuff there was, I couldn't think of anything really negative, but they were all, the cooks were all pretty good. And I think there's probably three or four experienced cook in every block, so they, the core of the cooks were all able to do a good job.

TI: Going back to the Portland Assembly Center, you mentioned in the summertime when it got hot, the smells. I was also wondering about things like flies or bugs. Was that a problem at Portland?

YK: The flies was a problem, especially where the horse stalls were, arena. And we were okay 'cause we were in the dairy section, and dairies have a tendency to stay clean. And the other problem was when it got real hot, somebody got the bright idea of putting water on the boards to cool it down, and they did, but the problem is the people in the arena area, when they got the water down, it soaked into the dirt underneath and it smelled, manure and all that. And the flies increased, so somebody got hell for that one.

TI: Okay. So any other memories about Portland before we go to Minidoka?

YK: You mean the assembly center?

TI: Yeah, the assembly center.

YK: Oh, we used to have a place to play basketball in the arena, and we used to go to the canteen for candy and ice cream, mostly ice cream because it was summertime, and May to September was when we stayed. And, well, let's see... oh, yeah. There was one section where all the bachelors were. Those guys were playing cards all the time, gambling. We used to go watch them. We used to play ball outside, they had a... I think one ball diamond, and we used to play out there. But other than that, we're just fenced in in this big expo center building.

TI: Now did you ever have any visitors from outside to visit you and the family?

YK: No, I don't remember having any. Because we didn't know that many people outside. If we lived in a house in the residential area, there might have been some people, close neighbors. But we didn't have anything like that. And all the friends we knew, they were all together.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.