Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Alice Matsumoto Ando Interview
Narrator: Alice Matsumoto Ando
Interviewer: Betty Jean Harry
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: June 13, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-aalice-01-0004

<Begin Segment 4>

BH: So you were pretty young when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Do you remember anything about that?

AA: I think that was third grade, about the time I was in the third grade. I remember the... well, I guess you call them air raids. We had to put a black curtain on our windows, and we couldn't be out. And I remember one time the school actually sent us home in the middle of the day because they wanted to know how long it took for us to get home, from Couch school, home, and then we had to go back to school. But they just wanted to time it I guess to see if anything happened.

BH: Yeah, in case something happened. Now, your dad was prominent in the Oregon Buddhist Church at the time. The FBI came through Portland and met with some prominent people. Do you recall them?

AA: I don't think, I don't know. I don't think Dad was the officer or anything.

BH: Did your family talk about the war?

AA: Not too much, really. You know when you're that young, you just go along, because we were told we had to pack up and leave, and I don't even remember packing, really. But I must have.

BH: Your family being in Portland ended up going to the Portland Assembly Center in North Portland, the old Pacific International Livestock Exposition. What do you remember, what did you see when you got there?

AA: Well, it was huge. I remember the mess hall, it was huge. And my first breakfast was cereal, it was oatmeal, and I remember thinking, my, you're in this vast area, and that was my first breakfast that I can remember.

BH: Was oatmeal something that you would ever have at home?

AA: Not too much. We usually had toast and eggs. And cold cereal, maybe.

BH: Now, at the assembly center, you were then surrounded by all these different Japanese families. What was that like for you?

AA: Well, I remember... what would you call these? Cubicles that we stayed in. And, you know, my friends were there, so I didn't really, I mean, I wasn't afraid or anything. It was just unusual to be packed in there with all the other Japanese people.

BH: Were you able to continue grade school?

AA: Well, I don't know who started it, but I remember having class in the arena. And I remember sitting in the arena seats and having somebody teach us. So I don't know if it was considered a school.

BH: Did you have books?

AA: I don't even remember books at all.

BH: So not at first. And where did you and your friends play, what did you do?

AA: We played outside, because we were fenced in, but there was an area, grass area where we could play. So then we ran around on the inside a lot with my friends.

BH: In the arena, uh-huh. Now, I remember you telling us about the bathroom and the shower facilities.

AA: Oh, yes, it was all open, so we had to get used to that. But I think as kids you just adapt to anything that, you know, is there. So we didn't think anything of showering with somebody right next to you.

BH: Now, who were some of your neighbors at the assembly center?

AA: The Yumibes were our neighbors, and they were older, I mean, the girls were older. And I remember after we got out, they used to tell us how bratty we were, you know, my dad would have to yell at us. So they can hear everything because the tops were all open.

BH: How did you get new clothes and things?

AA: I remember getting... they must have let us order from Montgomery-Ward's catalogue, because I remember getting a dress that I really, really liked. It was a red and white check, and it was a low waist, and that was my favorite dress. But I think we were allowed to buy things, 'cause I remember after we went to Minidoka, I had a winter, when it was cold, we had like a snowsuit. So they must have let us order through a catalogue, because there were no stores.

BH: How did your parents pass the time at the assembly center?

AA: Well, at the assembly center, I can't remember what my mom did. I think Dad would get together with the other men. I think there was areas down in that big... I don't know what you would call it, but I think they managed to get together and visit. (...) I don't remember what Mom did, really.

BH: You were at the assembly center for several months.

AA: Months, yeah.

BH: Half a year.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.