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-01-0005

<Begin Segment 5>

BH: And then transferred to the Minidoka camp in Idaho. How did you get there?

AA: Well, we had to go by train. So being a livestock exposition, they had tracks that ran alongside for the cattle. So I just remember them loading us up on the train, and that's how we got to Minidoka.

BH: Did you know where you were going?

AA: Uh-uh. The windows were all blackened, I mean, they had curtains on it, so we couldn't see out. So we really didn't know where we were going.

BH: When you got to Minidoka, what was your first impression?

AA: It was dusty, it was hot, because it was in the summer. And so that's what I remember most, is having to almost put a kerchief over our noses so that, yeah, we couldn't breathe in all that sand, the dust that was out there.

BH: And you were assigned barracks.

AA: Barracks, uh-huh. We lived in Block 35 first, and then somehow they moved us to Block 37, so that's where we stayed the rest of the duration.

BH: When you first got to your barracks, describe what it looked like.

AA: Well, it was just a room with bunks. They had metal beds, but that was... oh, and a potbelly stove for wintertime. But being that it was summer, we didn't have to use that, of course. And we all had to go to a mess hall to eat. There was a laundry room, which, that's where the bathroom facilities were. So there were showers there, and toilets.

BH: When you first got there, were the, was the plumbing working?

AA: Well, no, they had outhouses to start with, yeah. Afterwards... they didn't have the toilets connected, I guess, so they had outhouse, because I remember sitting out there and shivering in the wintertime, thinking, "Oh, it's so cold."

BH: And so were paper products provided?

AA: Yes. I can't remember if they were using catalogues, 'cause they always talk about that. But eventually.

BH: You were at first using pages from a Montgomery-Ward's catalogue for toilet paper. And were you able to attend school there?

AA: Yes, they had a school. After we got settled, they opened up the school in Block 32. They used half of that block for school. So we walked from, I was in 37, so we had to walk back up to 32. And most of the time we walked.

BH: And was it more similar to school at Couch as opposed to the school at the assembly center?

AA: Well, no. I mean, it was quite different. But they hired teachers from the outside, and they were all, they had to be probably certified teachers.

BH: Now, your mom held a job at Minidoka. What was her job?

AA: She worked in the mess hall as a waitress. Dad most of the time, I think, spent his time in the, what would you say, where they... I can't think of that room. Anyway, he got out, and he was very artistic. He liked to do things with his hands. So he used to, he made this game, board game that actually ended up at the Smithsonian, from what my sister tells me, because she kept it after the war. It's a game where you move these pieces around, and you have to get it to a certain place. And he had painted it and everything, and it was really something. I couldn't believe that... I didn't know he was that artistic, I didn't know he could... yeah.

BH: Your sister described it to me as kind of a puzzle game, and that your dad painted pictures in that.

AA: Uh-huh, on the board.

BH: And yeah, it's now traveling as part of a Smithsonian exhibit. What else did he build?

AA: Well, he was, he would get Life magazines and cut out the pages that had lots of color on it. And he made beads. You cut 'em in long strips like this, and then you roll it on a chopstick, and then you glue it and then you shellac it, and you can make beads.

BH: I've seen those. They're very colorful, yes. And I understand he made some sort of a partition or a screen?

AA: Yes, he made this beautiful... I don't know where he got the wood, but made this beautiful screen that, yeah, with even the cloth. So when he walked in the room, you couldn't see the beds.

BH: Kept the dust out a little bit and gave you a little bit more privacy?

AA: Yeah, privacy.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.