Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Shig Oka Interview
Narrator: Shig Oka
Interviewer: Kim Blair
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: July 1, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-oshig-01-0011

<Begin Segment 11>

KB: So now you get off however you got there, and you see Minidoka for the very first time. Do you remember how that felt?

SO: Well, there were all these barracks and blocks. They named 'em by blocks, and there were about forty blocks. Because there was about ten thousand of us in that area.

KB: How many barracks were in each block, do you remember?

SO: There was twelve barracks, six on each side. And there was a mess hall in the middle for food, so you could eat there. And there was another area where you could, bathrooms for men and women and laundry facilities in the middle of the, six barracks on each side.

KB: So each block had its own mess hall, its own laundry and bathrooms. Were the showers in with the bathrooms, or was that a separate building?

SO: No, there were bathroom and the showers, and then laundry room.

KB: One building? And when you got there, was everything complete, all the buildings?

SO: No, they weren't all complete, they were finishing up. The barracks were made out of pine and tarpaper, and they had one, there were six family units in a barrack. And there was one potstove in each room. There were small rooms on the end, and then the middle ones were a little larger for larger families, but they're not that big.

KB: And so you had a room, and your mom and dad and your brother and your sister went with you in that room. So you had cots?

SO: Yeah, we had cots, and then you had to put up partitions if we had a sister, blankets.

KB: So did you and you brother kind of share the same kind of space?

SO: Yes.

KB: And was it open at the top, or did the partition go all the way up to the ceiling?

SO: I think we had to put blankets or something to hang. And so it wasn't that much, there wasn't that much privacy.

KB: So do you remember what block you were in?

SO: I was in Block 35.

KB: Block 35. Did you have friends from Portland that were in Block 35 also?

SO: Yes. There were people from Seattle, so the Seattle blocks were the lower numbers, and the Portland were the upper numbers.

KB: So they kept Portland together and Seattle together?

SO: Yeah, more or less, yes.

KB: So when you got there, so did you guys get off of, you walk in, you've got your bags, your trunks, however it is that you have to have your items in. How were you assigned your barrack and your block? How did you know?

SO: I don't know how they did, but they must have had an office to let you know where you're supposed to go.

KB: So you had your number still, your tag on your jacket?

SO: Yeah, you had a tag.

KB: And then when you went, the first thing you did when you walked into this room, do you remember what you thought or felt?

SO: It was small and crowded, and they gave you a cot. You had to set up your own.

KB: And no other furniture other than cots?

SO: I can't remember that.

KB: Was it hot, was it cold, was it windy, was it rainy?

SO: September is pretty warm. And wintertime it gets cold.

KB: So how cold was it when you're there?

SO: Idaho is pretty cold. It gets around zero, I guess.

KB: Was your asthma still bad there?

SO: The dry weather was good for me, but not for everybody else, I guess.

KB: So windy, dusty?

SO: Yes, it's windy there. It's dusty.

KB: Did your parents say anything at all to you about how they felt?

SO: Shikata ga nai. That's their thing, "you can't help it," they said.

KB: And your sister and your brother, they were older?

SO: Yeah.

KB: So were they in high school at that time?

SO: Yeah, they were in high school.

KB: Did they talk about how they felt about it?

SO: No, but I don't... I'm sure they didn't like it because they were just starting in to high school.

KB: Do you think your experience there was different than your sisters and brothers or your mom and dad?

SO: I think so, because kids, they have playmates, eleven, twelve years old, I think the teenagers are the ones that missed out, because the high school was supposed to be your fun years.

KB: And your mom and dad?

SO: Well, they just have to bear it, I guess.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.