Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Lilly Kobayashi Irinaga Interview
Narrator: Lilly Kobayashi Irinaga
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: April 27, 2013
Densho ID: denshovh-ililly-01-0013

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So when you had to go to the [Portland] Assembly Center, how did you get from Portland to the assembly center?

LI: It must have been a bus because we didn't have a car, nor most of my friends didn't have a car. Portland Exposition Center I guess is what it was called.

TI: And tell me, what was that, your first impressions of the assembly center?

LI: It was hot, and the smell wasn't very good because all the animals were there at one time or another. And they had, what did they call these boards, two by four or whatever, and they had made the walls with that. And the top was all open, and where you entered, I don't know if it was canvas or any, some kind of cloth. And you could hear everybody's conversations. Of course, it was just my mother and I, so we had a very small cubicle, and I thought, gosh, I didn't think Portland had that many Japanese. And some of the Seattle people and not all of the Oregonians were there. They went to Tule Lake. And then we were there. It was fun in a certain way because I had met so many other Niseis there. It was a time when we made new friends and we felt (...) that they're going through the same thing, too.

TI: Going back to the living conditions, so where in the [exposition] center were you and your mother living during this time?

LI: In 2-B-10, I remember. [Laughs]

TI: 2-B-10. And where was that located?

LI: Oh, gosh. I don't remember.

TI: Was it closer to the animals?

LI: To the entrance.

TI: Oh, the entrance, okay. And you mentioned the heat. So tell me about other things. Like the smells...

LI: Yes, there were smells there from the cattle and everything that were there.

TI: And how about like flies or bugs, do you remember?

LI: Yes, there were lots, there were lots. And of course you had to go to a certain place to go to the bathroom or to wash your clothes, and there was a dining room there, I guess. There were some pictures that I remember I had.

TI: So I'm thinking about, so you're twelve years old about now, twelve?

LI: Let's see. I was twelve in '41, so I was thirteen. And I remember I was in the shower and I wasn't quite sure how to use it, and I was burnt. And so, quotes, the "doctors" there had seen the burnt part, and they did try to take care of it. But I was in a bandage and all that things for quite some time, but I was okay after that.

TI: So explain to me how you got burnt.

LI: Oh, the hot shower.

TI: So just the hot water?

LI: Uh-huh. I guess I must have turned it too fast or the other way, I'm not sure. But anyway, I knew it hurt a lot, but it was on this side that I can still remember that.

TI: So it seemed like it was severe enough that it caused, like, blistering?

LI: Right, right. I don't know, maybe I was not too bright to turn it one way or the other.

TI: Well, it must have been hard, too, I mean, here you're a young woman, and there wasn't that much privacy.

LI: There wasn't; there really wasn't. There were several other ladies that were showering at that time, too.

TI: And so how did you spend your time at the assembly center?

LI: Oh, dear. I imagine... I think we played games and whatnot. Oh, there were movies at times, and gosh, what else was there?

TI: Someone told me about the, in Portland, the Portland Assembly Center, that the public library made available lots of books. And I was just curious if you...

LI: That's right, they did, uh-huh. And there were some older boys that were taking care of a lot of that, and they had sort of a reception desk and we would go there and look for books, etcetera. And then I don't know how much we were making or how much I had, but they were selling candies and ice cream and so forth at this little place. And so what else would I have done there? I didn't really play any games, I mean, play any sports or anything over there that I can remember. In Minidoka I did.

TI: And how about your mother? What did she do during this time?

LI: She helped in the kitchen, and I don't know how much she made. I know in Minidoka she was making only sixteen dollars a month.

TI: And so during mealtime, did you eat with your mother or did you eat with friends?

LI: Well, before she began to work, I ate with her. But basically I did eat with my friends.

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