Chiyeko Hayashida and her husband Seichi were among the 110,000 Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast who were forced to leave their homes during World War II. The Hayashidas were interned at the Hunt Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho and decided to remain in the state after the war.
I am not bitter. I was disillusioned. I guess that would be the word you would use. I never expected to be evacuated. At least not without being charged for something. The Army just came and said, "Within two weeks, pack a suitcase and one duffle bag. Be at this railroad siding at twelve o'clock sharp on a certain day. And get your affairs in order." They didn't tell us how long we'd be gone or when we could expect to get back.
Some of our neighbors hated to see us leave. The high school principal let the school out to see us off at the railroad siding, which was about four miles from the high school. I understood that he was demoted to bus driver after this incident, after we left. He was a real fine principal and had been principal for years. One day we were all there, and the next day at noon we were gone. No Japanese-Americans left in Bellevue, Washington.
We hoped against hope that it wouldn't come to pass. Being citizens by birth, without being charged for anything, we didn't think that the government or the Army would come and uproot us. I was very disappointed.
Of the Hunt Minidoka Relocation Center, my first impression was that it was better than the one we left, the Tule Lake Center in northern California. I got to Minidoka in November 1943...
I remember lining up for breakfast, lunch and supper. We had to wait in line. Every now and then they would get ice cream. You waited in a line a block long to get it. We sure got tired of lamb and mutton stew. It had curry in it. To this day I can't eat curry. But we never went hungry, we got fed. I say that much.
Life was regimented. Security was tight. You wouldn't dare go near the fence. Very little privacy. There were rows of wash basins where we brushed our teeth every morning.
It was like a city. When all ten thousand people were there at full capacity, it was the third largest city in Idaho. Evacuees in the nursing profession took care of hospital work, those with newspaper experience started a camp newspaper, barbers cut hair. People experienced with restaurants did the cooking. There were some electricians and plumbers and there was a fire department. There were block managers, who would be like the mayor of a small town. There was a landscape artist, who really made the flowers bloom.
The first spring they cleared the sagebrush and grew most of their food. They had plenty of water, being located right next to the North Side Canal. They raised chickens, hogs, cattle, and all kinds of vegetables.
Because of the shortage of farm labor in Idaho during the War, the Hayashidas left the camp to work on a farm elsewhere in southern Idaho.
Farmers' groups and the sugar factory sent recruiters to provide their own bus and everything. I even watched over German prisoners of war, picked them up in their camp, brought them back in the evening.
The first summer after Yukio was born, we had an old 1935 Plymouth. We fixed up the back of the car, opened the windows wide, and put flour sacks on the windows so the flies wouldn't get in. We left our son in the car while we worked, looking after him now and then. It wasn't the most ideal situation because it was pretty warm. I forgot about that. I tried purposely to forget about it because it was a very sad experience in my life.
It was harder work than we were used to, back-breaking work--thinning beets, weeding onions, picking potatoes by hand. That was before mechanized farm equipment. We were given the credit for saving the beet crop in western Idaho in 1943.
I went back to Bellevue in 1945 to see what was left of my property. Everything was gone. I had left all my stuff with a man who I thought was a friend and had known for a long time, all my adult life. He wasn't there. The man that was there showed me a government bill of sale for all the stuff I left. He showed me an itemized listing of everything I left behind--farm equipment, tools, household goods. I didn't have any money, so I went out to work. I didn't own my land, I was leasing my land. Those that owned their land went back because their farm was still there, although they'd lost a lot of their possessions. Those that had businesses started over again.
But farming out here was better than farming as I knew it there. I was going to farm anyway. There wasn't much I could do with only a high school education. Today I could go back, but I don't feel like going back. Relocating in Idaho from the Minidoka center, I don't regret. I like Idaho. I say Idaho is home now. The last few years have been good to me.
My son's reaction to our experience is that he does not understand that it could have happened. He went through high school and college in Idaho and to the University of Oregon. He has been a math teacher for twenty-two years. When he was fourteen we thought he was old enough to understand if we told him of our experiences, which we did. The first thing he said was, "I can't believe that it ever happened." We explained why, and gave him all the books that related to it, and the reasons that led up to it. He doesn't talk about it, but he knows. Many parents our age have not explained this to their children. I think people of his age don't believe it could happen again. They kind of put it in the back of their minds.
I don't think it will happen quite as easy again, especially with Japanese-Americans...many people in Idaho and the rest of the country know very little about the experience that we went through. In order to educate the public, we tell them about our experiences so that it will not happen again. It should never happen again. People should not forget these things.
Andrus | Baker | Hayashida | Hill | Laird | Nelson | Oliver
Simplot | Slickpoo | Sorrels | Trice | Zabala