Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Mary Haruka Nakamura Interview
Narrator: Mary Haruka Nakamura
Interviewer: Linda Tamura
Location: Ontario, Oregon
Date: April 22, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-nmary_2-01-0009

<Begin Segment 9>

LT: And so you and your brothers and stepsisters left early for the assembly center. You volunteered?

MN: Uh-huh. I don't know why we especially did that. All I knew, we were on the first train out.

LT: Okay. And what could you take?

MN: Well, I don't know what we took, it just, we only got a duffle bag or a suitcase, that was all that we could take.

LT: Do you remember specifically items that you took, or items that you couldn't take?

MN: No, I don't remember.

LT: What about that train ride?

MN: It was kind of fun. We couldn't see anything, they pulled the shades on us. So we just had a good time on the train with the guards, they were real nice.

LT: Usually you think about guards who were wearing uniforms and who are making sure that you follow the rules. What was your relationship? What was your memory of the guards on the train?

MN: We thought they were real nice. Got along with them, and they were good to us. Kind of enjoyed the trip.

LT: What did they say or do?

MN: I don't know, we just talked with them.

LT: Okay. And so how did you feel when you left them and you arrived at your destination?

MN: Well, we really felt like we were really separated from our friends.

LT: Okay. You arrived at Pinedale in March or April of 1942, and you were an early arrival because you were going to be helping. What did you see when you arrived at Pinedale? What did it look like?

MN: Bunch of barracks and a mess hall, outdoor toilet, outdoor shower, that's part of our barracks, you know, the complex.

LT: And what was your specific job? You were there early because you would have a job in the administration building. What was your role?

MN: We were assigning people as they came in to the barracks.

LT: So when the busloads of people came in, what specifically did you do?

MN: Just assigned them their barracks.

LT: And how many people were in each room?

MN: Well, it depended on the family. We were five of us in one room, and I think there was at least five rooms in one barrack, so you have to, if there's a lot in the family you have to give them two rooms. Anyway, everything was open up above.

LT: What if there weren't four or five in a family? What happened then?

MN: Well, if it's a couple, then two couples had to stay together in one room. And if they're newlyweds, they put a blanket across for a little privacy. That's what we had to live with.

LT: And they didn't always know each other.

MN: But the one couple that we assigned came out to Ontario and they were the best of friends.

LT: So they learned to make the best of what they faced.

MN: Uh-huh.

LT: You mentioned the bathrooms. Can you talk a little bit more about the bathroom facilities and what it was like to use them?

MN: Well, when you're young, it doesn't bother you like it would Nisei, but there's just holes there, and we just sat in there and did our job and that was it.

LT: And some people, to avoid that, what did people try to do so they could have some privacy?

MN: Well they probably want to go when people aren't going.

LT: And then also you said that some of them made purchases.

MN: What do you mean by that?

LT: They bought items that they could use their rooms.

MN: Well there was a store, canteen.

LT: Okay. And you mentioned the chamber pots?

MN: Well, a lot of 'em, the families bought chamber pots so that they don't have to go out at night, and we could hear the chamber pots clanging. [Laughs]

LT: In the middle of the night? Okay. That would be understandable. What about the mess hall?

MN: Well, at first, everybody lined up to eat, and so many people can get in there, and then they have to cut 'em off, and they had to go back until the next shift. Then they finally assigned shifts for everybody so that you didn't have to stand outside and wait, because they were fainting and everything getting in line there.

LT: Because of the heat?

MN: Uh-huh.

LT: Okay. What about the food?

MN: Oh, we just ate whatever we had to eat, and that was it.

LT: What might be a typical meal?

MN: We had a lot of Vienna sausages, and I guess there was Spam. But we didn't mind, we just ate whatever we got.

LT: Do you eat a lot of Vienna sausage and Spam now?

MN: I haven't eaten Vienna sausage, but I still like Spam. Because they make Spam sushi, came from Hawaii, and that's very popular now.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.