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_2-01-0014

<Begin Segment 14>

LL: So moving on then to camp, Minidoka, so do you remember traveling there? How did you go from the assembly center to Minidoka?

MI: Oh, I remember going on a train, and we had to have our shades drawn, which I couldn't understand why, because you're moving along, but we had to have our shades closed. And then we got there, and it was such a barren place that we were very surprised. It was hard to envision it, because we didn't know what to expect.

LL: And it was such a drastic change from living in the city.

MI: Oh, yeah, definitely.

LL: So what were your living quarters like and what was your reaction when you first saw them?

MI: Well, they weren't as bad as I had envisioned, because we had a fairly good sized room, but it was still my brother and me and my father and mother in, all in one room. and it was neat and clean, I remember that. But it was drastically different from what I'd read about other camps, so I figured that we were in one of the better ones.

LL: What had you read about the camps?

MI: Well, I understand that some of them still had to have their units cleaned, really cleaned by professionals in order for a family to move in, because it was so awful. And I read about that, and I thought, I can't remember which camp it was, either. And the food, I thought the camp food wasn't bad, it was just different. There were some things that we'd never eaten before, but I just, they did the best they could, I guess. I'm not much of a food connoisseur, I eat whatever is in front of me, but I'm not particular about what I eat.

LL: So how did you, with your family all being in one room, how did you deal with the privacy situation?

MI: My brother was out with his friends a lot, so he wasn't particularly around. And like I say, I retreated into books, and so I read a lot, and I stayed in the room.

LL: So what was your daily routine at camp?

MI: Well, one time, I remember we volunteered to go do some farmwork, and that was a mistake. I didn't realize what a hard job farming was. But we had a group of half a dozen of us who were pretty good friends, and so we went as a group to the different farms to pick potatoes, for instance, or top sugar beets. And so we were able to do that six days a week. but the beauty of it was that the farmer who hired us was very generous in his, coming with his big car and gathering us up, taking us to the field, we'd work, and then they'd even provide lunch for us. Then at the end of the day they'd haul us back to camp in their car. So we were very lucky to have people like that deal with us. They were very sympathetic.

LL: So for someone, you mentioned that you didn't have chores at home and that you were -- this is your words -- a spoiled brat. [Laughs]

MI: I really am, yeah.

LL: What was your motivation to go and start work, especially six days out of the week?

MI: Well, it was a way to get out of camp. It was a way to do something other than... well, we didn't know what we were getting into, and it was the hardest thing we've ever, I've ever done. The others seemed to adjust pretty well, and it was just something to do.

LL: So there was a swimming hole at Minidoka. Did you ever --

MI: There was a what?

LL: A swimming hole at Minidoka. They talked about people that would go, and that was like recreation and it was a place to cool off in the summertime.

MI: I never knew about that. I think there were a lot of swimming holes or swimming places, but I didn't ever swim.

LL: But that was probably because of what, your incident in school.

MI: Yes, exactly, so I wasn't interested.

LL: That makes sense.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.