Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Ruth Sasaki Interview
Narrator: Ruth Sasaki
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Ontario, Oregon
Date: April 22, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-sruth-01-0010

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: So describe when you first get to Portland, what was that like for you?

RS: Well, great big building, and we didn't have beds or anything. You slept on the floor, it's just like a community thing. Everybody just had blankets and sheets maybe, and that was it.

TI: Describe your living quarters. What was it like, where did you live?

RS: You mean in...

TI: In Portland.

RS: ...relocation place? It's just like if you were going, like if you were a bunch of, like, Boy Scouts or whatever, you guys all stayed together. That's what it was over there, it was all of us together, whether you knew 'em or not.

TI: So sleeping on the floor?

RS: On the floor.

TI: With just a big room?

RS: Yeah, oh, yeah. Because, see, it was an expo building where they had their cattle places.

TI: Then for things like privacy, if you wanted to change, how would you change?

RS: You don't.

TI: So you just wore the same...

RS: Because even the shower is one big open area, bathroom and all that.

TI: And so during this time, what was the hardest thing for you? So here you're in eighth grade, so you're becoming a... just starting to get into adolescence.

RS: I enjoyed... I think, I mean, I loved it. I loved it because I got to know the kids. And we all had the same thing in common, we were all put there.

TI: And so what were some of the things you were able to do with lots of kids?

RS: Our biggest thing is like during... because this happened during, what, the war broke out in December. And so coming, we were there for I don't know how long. But like when the weather warmed up, you know, so all we had, all we got to do was just go outside and by the building, and set up and talk, meet your friends, and that's about it. And then we had sports and things like that. But I felt, I felt good because that poverty that I grew up in, this was more where everybody was the same, you know what I mean?

TI: Because everybody had to sleep in kind of similar situations, ate the same food?

RS: Yeah.

TI: Had the same activities?

RS: But I got to, I felt good because I met a lot of kids, too. And we had a lot of fun.

TI: So let's kind of walk through a, again, like a typical day at Portland. So you're in this big room, you're sleeping. When you wake up, what would you do first?

RS: Oh... well, there isn't much. Because you have your breakfast, you have to get up if you want breakfast. And then we'd go take a shower.

TI: So first, do you take a shower first or eat breakfast first?

RS: Shower.

TI: Okay, shower.

RS: And then you cleaned up. You know, I think that was pretty hard, because what we had to do. Because nobody had a room of their own, but you had to share. But I liked it because all of us were the same bunch. Where I was growing up, when I was small, that poverty thing, I couldn't have this or that, and now, with this, everybody was treated the same.

TI: And so after you shower, describe the food situation. What was the food...

RS: It was just like a mess hall, you have your table, and then you have, the older people helped cook back there, and then they served, bring the food out to you on the plate.

TI: And then who would you usually eat with? Would it be the family or your friends?

RS: Whoever. Sometimes with my family or, you know, it depends. Or with my friends.

TI: Okay, then after you finished breakfast, then what did you do?

RS: Well, there isn't much you can do. So we go outside, I mean, go outside, and then just sit there on the ground, I mean, the grass and just visit and then reminisce. This is more or less for the older people that did that. We did like games or something, just little things. And then that's where they got interested in doing, playing sports, softball and things like that, but I never did any of that. I was just busy.

TI: How about things like, I know at Portland they had a, I guess, a library, they had books and things. Do you ever remember that, going there and checking out books or reading books?

RS: No, not there, because this was our temporary home, see. So we didn't have any of that thing, excess, you know, until you got into Minidoka.

TI: And you mentioned some days would get warm. I've heard some stories that, I guess, depending on where you are, there were lots of flies and things like that? Black flies?

RS: Oh, yeah.

TI: So any stories about the flies or the smells?

RS: Well, it didn't bother me, I was just lucky to be there, I think. That was my thing, I mean, because of the poverty thing. And then I made a lot of friends and all that. And, you know, it's a very funny thing because a lot of the Isseis, which is the first generation people like my parents, they never... maybe because they didn't want the kids to hear about it, but they never showed any bitterness. This was something that happened, they knew that it was a bad thing that it happened, but...

TI: So you never saw people get angry during that time?

RS: No, uh-uh.

TI: So it was pretty calm in many ways.

RS: Yeah. I think they kept it to themselves, and then, you know...

TI: Now, with the, kind of the living arrangements where everything's wide open, did you ever hear sometimes when families would argue or things like that that would happen because there just wasn't much privacy?

RS: No. I think maybe I blocked it out, I don't know. Lot of that I'm trying... but it's just interesting. As far as I've seen, everybody got along.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.