By George Yoshinaga
I may come off as boasting but since I need to explain why I’m using the opening topic in today’s column, I’ll have to go ahead and blow some hot air.
As some of you may know, I worked about three years trying to get the Santa Anita Race Track to recognize that their facility was used as an “Assembly Center” for Japanese Americans who were ordered evacuated at the start of World War II.
My efforts were successful when the track finally agreed to erect a plaque recognizing the interment of JAs at the Arcadia race track.
Now, that I set the stage for the rest of my chatter on this subject, let me say that a headline in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin newspaper which was forwarded to me by reader, Jean Mumbleau, caught my eye which prompted me to write about another Assembly Center which really never gets any mention.
And, I’m sure the Island Valley Daily Bulletin published the article because the Los Angeles County Fair is now in full swing under the label of “Fairplex Park.”
Joe Blackstock, staff writer for the publication opened his piece with this paragraph under the heading, “At Home Behind the Barbed Wire”: Out in the west parking lot of Fairplex where drag cars race and fair-goers park their cars, there’s no trace of an once-bustling city of wood and tar paper and tears. No monument marks the spot in Pomona—fittingly enough because it was a place best forgotten by those who lived there.
At this site more than 67 years ago, Japanese Americans and Japanese nationals were interned or imprisoned or evacuated—the appropriate word will always be a matter of debate.
Just five months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Pomona Assembly Center was opened on May 8, 1942, to house 5,434 Japanese, while permanent camps for their interment were being built.
All Southern California residents of Japanese descent, including those born in the United States were ordered in March and April 1942 to dispose of homes, businesses and most of their possessions and move to the camp at Pomona.
Then, barely four months later, the Pomona Center abruptly became a ghost town when its residents were loaded onto trains bound for remote places with names like Heart Mountain, Tule Lake and Manzanar.
Only a few photographs and of added memories are left to validate the short existence of the camp at the Pomona Fairgrounds.
The writer of this piece, Mr. Blackstock, did interview some of the internees before he wrote this piece.
One of them was Paul Tsuneishi (a fellow I know) who said he was 18-years-old and that he really had no problem with what the government was doing to the JAs. “I didn’t realize that as an American, my civil rights were being violated until the 1950s and 1960s when the civil rights movement began. It was only then, as an older person, that I finally understood what happened to us.”
Of course, now that most people are aware of what happened, why isn’t there an organized movement to erect some sort of monument to indicate that the Pomona County Fairgrounds was used as an Assembly Center?
If anyone does undertake such a project, he/she has to point to Santa Anita Race Trace to strengthen their argument for such a monument.
Perhaps Blackstock’s story will stir up some people to take action.
By the way, included in Blackstock’s story was mention of the “first new resident” to arrive at Pomona Assembly Center. Yukio Arthur Kishiyama was born to Kay and Tsuyuko Kishiyama in the camp “hospital.” He weighed 4 pounds, 11 ounces.
And, oh yes, like other Assembly Centers, Pomona did have a newspaper, edited by Kei Hori. In an Aug. 1, 1942 edition, he ran a headline reading, “Rumors Say We’re Going to Wyoming.” And the rumors turned out to be correct.
Pomona residents began leaving on Aug. 15 and by month’s end, the Center was empty.
I don’t know about you readers, but I found this article quite interesting mainly because the people incarcerated at Pomona are almost a “forgotten group.”
In order to properly shift gears from the serious to the, well, balance of my chatter, I thought I would toss this little ditty in (to make my Republican friends laugh):
A reader sent me this: “The only positive thing about ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program is that it took thousand of Obama stickers off the road.”
I don’t know if the Rafu news section will carry the following sent to me by Soji Kashiwagi. It’s a news release about an event called the Nikkei Hit Parade Show. Here is how the news release is worded:
All-time favorite Japanese and American songs will be counted down and performed at “The Nisei Hit Parade: A Tribute to the Nisei Generation” on Sunday, Oct. 18 at 2 and 7 p.m. at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center, Toyota Meeting Hall in Torrance.
“Presented by the Grateful Crane Ensemble, the entertaining bilingual show is based on an old-fashioned 1940’s radio program that features two radio announcers, five “Nikkei Hit Parade Singers,” a live band and 15 Nisei favorite songs counted down from 15 to the number one all-time favorite.
Kashiwagi, the producer said, “It’s like watching a live broadcast on stage. Each person is in tribute to the Nisei for the many sacrifices they have made so that we, the younger generation could live a better life in America.”
Darrell Kunitomi is the Director of the production.
Reader Dick Uyehara sent in a correction on a subject I included in a recent column. He wrote:
“My sister in Menifee sent me your article in which you wrote about a request I made to JAVA regarding information on ‘volunteer evacuees.’ Thanks a lot for your follow-up. I really appreciate it and hope that something productive will come of it.
“As to the correction, it is just something that has been printed several times following some interviews I’d done. In your comments regarding my history, you wrote that I served in the U.S. Air Force and that I am a Korean War veteran. All of which is true, except I didn’t fly combat as a pilot. I went through Aviation Cadet Training and graduated as 2nd Lt. but with Navigator/Bombardier wings. I realize this might not mean much to the majority of your readers as they don’t know me, but I know the difference as do those folks who know me personally. You needn’t make any correction in your paper but I’d like you to know as I don’t want to be represented as anything other than what I was during the conflict.
“As to your comments on the weapons the guards at Heart Mountain carried both the person who spoke of the M-1 and you are probably right as there in fact, two weapons called the M-1. One was the M-1 Garland which was a rifle and which shot 30-06 and the one which I think you were thinking of was the M-1 Carbine which also shot a .340 caliber round but which was a smaller round in size than the 30-06 round fired by the Garland. The differences in the weapons can be noted that one was called a rifle and the other a Carbine.
“By the way, my wife and I were Gardena residents for 30 years before we moved to Colorado in 1977.”
Thanks, Dick. I don’t know if you were aware that my youngest son was in the Air Force, too.
He attended the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs so I visited him once a year so I was pretty familiar with Colorado.
Also, when I was serving in World War II, the Carbine was always called a Carbine. I never heard anyone refer to it as anything but a Carbine.
Perhaps Maggie who types my column is the only one who actually pays attention to my ramblings in the column.
I open this segment with that comment because she is probably one of the few who knows that I own a cat as a pet.
Well, Maggie will get a real kick out of this next portion of the column.
The other day, my wife and I returned from shopping and when we went into the garage, what do you think we found?
Yep, a baby kitten.
I don’t know how the kitten ever got into our garage because we have a gate which separates the garage from the driveway so nothing can slip inside.
We don’t know if the kitten is a male or female and how old she/he might be.
My first reaction was, “Let’s take it to the animal shelter.”
However, the wife, being the wife, fell in love with the little critter and said, “No, let’s keep her.”
She even gave her/him a name. Thinking if it is a “she,” she said she will call her “Lollipop.”
Needless tosay, I asked her, “How come a name like Lollipop?”
Her response? “Because she’s/he’s so sweet looking.”
Not wanting to lose the debate, I responded, “And what if it turned out to be a male?”
I never should have asked such a question because I knew she’d have an answer.
And she did. She said, we’ll just drop the “Lolli” and call it “Pop.”
Man, I can never win the argument.
At any rate, now that we decided to keep Lollipop or Pop, we’ll have to take her to the vets to get all the medical treatments that pets require.
In the meanwhile, I’m going around the neighborhood to see if anyone “lost” a kitten.
(Maggie’s comment: Meow, Mr. Y! I really did enjoy typing about Lollipop/Pop. I think it is just great that you are willing to adopt the kitten. However, I do think it is good idea that you are checking the neighborhood because the Mother cat may be looking for her kitten, too.)
Those of you who play the California lottery know that last week’s $32 million jackpot was won by a 40-year-old lady living in hayward in Northern California. Hayward is the neighbor of Oakland.
The lady took the prize in a lump sum which means that after taxes, she is “left” with “only” $14,775,000.
The most intriguing part of this story is that when the media interviewed her about her lucky winning and asked what it will mean to her life, she responded, “I don’t know what to do with the money.”
But, you know what? Most people who, in the past, have won big lottery jackpots come up with the same answer: that they don’t know what to do with the money.
The question which pops in my mind is, “If anyone is buying lotto tickets, why are they doing it, if they don’t have any idea what to do with the money if they won?”
Hey, I know I’ll never win, but I keep buying lotto tickets for each game.
That’s twice a week or two bucks pop.
I have a plan for most of the money if I do win.
I plan to donate most of it to community organizations which are always in need of financial aid.
Needless to say the rest of it will finance my trips to Vegas, Hawaii, Japan and anywhere else that hits my fancy.
But you community organizations might as well forget about lining up for hefty donations because I will never win.
It’s just a tanoshimi to play the lottery.
Hey, I can’t write a column without mentioning Las Vegas.
In this case, it’s not about playing around in the casinos. It’s more about the Asian population in what they refer to as Sin City.
Vegas officials are trying to get the Census Bureau to get an accurate head count of Asians living in their city.
They feel that the Asians are not being counted properly, perhaps because in some cases, the language barrier.
However, with the Asians closing in on the Hispanics in Vegas, the city feels it is important to get an accurate head count.
The biggest gain, it seems, is in the Korean community. I wasn’t aware of it, but they have a “Koreantown” in Vegas.
It’s not as widespread as the “Koreantown” in Los Angeles, but I was nevertheless surprised when I discovered the area two trips back.
It’s located about a mile east of The Strip off of Sahara Boulevard.
They have numerous Korean-operated businesses within the shopping mall.
Of course, we know about Chinatown, which was developed about seven years ago right off of Spring Mountain Road.
As yet, I guess there is not an area which can be called a “Japantown.” They do have numerous Japanese restaurants, but no one district which might be labeled as “Japantown.”
After the “new” census was taken, if it ever is, it would be interesting to learn what has inspired the large influx of Asians to Vegas. Within the group called Asians, it is said that Filipinos are among the largest.
Thought the foregoing might be of interest to some of you.
With Major League baseball entering the final stretch of the season, the question which pops into mind is, “Will there be any Japanese players participating in the World Series this year?”
Wouldn’t it be great if the Boston Red Sox and the Dodgers ended up in the Series?
And Matsuzaka facing Kuroda on the mound?
As of this writing, it would seem that Kuroda has the best chance with the Dodgers, one of the favorites to make it to the Series.
Oh well, we’ll keep glued to the TV sets for the next two weeks.
I had to debate with myself whether I should run or not run an e-mail I received from a reader. Especially since the writer said he didn’t want to be identified if I used his missive. The subject matter of his note was the recent Aki Komai Memorial Awards event held at the Japanese American National Museum last week.
Well, maybe I’ll mention just a word of two on one of the issues he brought up. He said he was at the event and when they presented the Maestro Award to Jesse James for his involvement in track and field. And, he also mentioned that James talked about the Nisei Relays.
The letter writer asked, “Didn’t you and the late Bob Watanabe put on the Nisei Relays many, many years ago?’
Yeah, we did.
As many may know, the late Watanabe was a track star at UCLA and we got together to give other Japanese Americans who were interested in track and field a place to participate and the Nisei Relays was born.
That’s all I have to say on the matter. But thanks to the anonymous reader for bringing up some ancient history that today’s generation have little or no knowledge.
By the way, how many of you watch the popular TV quiz show, “The Wheel of Fortune”?
If you do and are also a fan of Las Vegas, you know they have slot machines called the “Wheel of Fortune.”
One of the objectives of the slot game is to land the wheel on the symbol “spin.”
When the player hits “spin” he/she pushes another button and the big wheel on the top of the machine starts to spin. The biggest prize on the big wheel is 1,000 points. On a quarter machine, that comes to $250.
On the dollar “wheel,” landing on 1,000 points means $1,000.
When I have nothing better to do (when I’m broke), I oft time stand around and watch the players.
Quite often, one of the players will land on the “spin” symbol and the player hits the button. The wheel will spin a few times and stop.
I have yet to see it land on 1,000 points. It’s usually 30 or 40 points ($7.50 or $10).
My thought is, is the wheel on the TV show somehow geared to stop on certain numbers or words?
Just curious. If they can adjust the Vegas “Wheel” to land only on 30 and 40 points, what about the TV show wheel.?
Okay, time to buzz off leaving all of you with a chuckle.
Those of you who travel by train should get a bigger laugh out of this one.
A man and woman who had never met before, but who were both married to other people, found themselves assigned to the same sleeping room on a transcontinental train.
Though initially embarrassed and uneasy over sharing a room, they were both very tired and fell asleep quickly, he in the upper berth and she in the lower.
At 1 a.m., the man leaned down and gently woke the woman saying, “Ma’am, I’m sorry to bother you, but would you be willing to reach into the closet and get me a second blanket? I’m awfully cold.”
“I have a better idea,” she replied, “Just for tonight, let’s pretend that we’re married.”
“Wow, that’s a great idea,” he exclaimed.
“Good,” she replied, “Get your own damn blanket.”
George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo