Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Mary Iwasaki Interview
Narrator: Mary Iwasaki
Interviewer: Lynn Fuchigami Longfellow
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: November 14, 2013
Densho ID: denshovh-imary_2-01-0013

<Begin Segment 13>

LL: So how about your first impression of the assembly center when you arrived?

MI: Well, it was different from anything I'd ever seen. And compared to what we had read in the papers about other assembly centers, this was pretty nice, I mean, the Portland one, because we didn't have to battle dirt and all that kind of stuff like others had to.

LL: So you had heard about other assembly centers?

MI: I had read about them, yeah.

LL: Do you remember what section or location it was at the assembly center? Was it close to anything in particular?

MI: My goodness, no. I don't remember. in fact, I don't remember much about the assembly center. I don't even remember where we lived.

LL: Do you remember the room that you lived in?

MI: I remember the room that we were in, and it was for my brother and me and my mom and my dad, all in one room. But I don't remember the details, it was just a box.

LL: So was it cold? Do you remember it being cold or warm or any specific smells associated to it?

MI: If it were cold, I would be the first one to holler, but I don't remember that. [Laughs]

LL: What about a major adjustment that you felt being there, or your family had to make?

MI: Well, to be with so many people. I mean, no privacy at all, and they did pretty well. I didn't like it, but I could also get together with my friends, and we didn't have to stay in the unit at all for any length of time. So in that respect, I think the youngsters were pretty well-off.

LL: So that was one of my next questions, how did you spend your time?

MI: Well, I can't remember what we did. We must have done something, but I don't remember other than... I didn't play tennis like my friends did, but we weren't playing bridge then either, so I don't really know what we were doing.

LL: How did your family spend their time, like your father?

MI: Well, I remember they got together with other Issei and were, they weren't having meetings or anything, but they socialized amongst themselves.

LL: How about your mother?

MI: Well, I'm getting the two mixed up. I'm thinking about the relocation camp as against the assembly center, and I think it was the relocation camp that my mom got together with other Issei women in the kitchen. And so she found a good fellowship with them.

LL: So she was helping in the...

MI: In the kitchen, yes.

LL: So how was the food there? What do you remember about the meals?

MI: Well, they were just very different. I had not eaten some of that stuff, I didn't know what it was. But it got better gradually, because the cooks decided that we could eat most anything as long as there was rice with it and soy sauce and all that. But it was different.

LL: So did your family still eat together?

MI: Oh, yeah, we made a point to eat together.

LL: And what was your general overall view or feeling about life in the assembly center?

MI: In the assembly center? It was boring. It was really... there was not enough to do, and I didn't know what to do about it. I read a lot, and I remember I brought a bunch of books with me, but it was kind of... well, it wasn't a very pleasant experience. It was just not too much space with nothing to do, and not any particular interests. It was probably because of me. I'm sure others did better, but I could not find anything interesting enough, and so I retreated into books, I guess.

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