CROSSROADS TO SOMEWHERE: Bringing Poston Together One Last Time

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By W.T. Wimpy Hiroto
(First published in
The Rafu Shimpo on November 10, 2010.)
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re-un-ion (re un’yan), n. 1. a coming together again.  2. a being reunited. 3. a social gathering of persons who have been separated or who have interests in common.

Without (too much) embarrassment I admit to being emotional. Last Saturday when Zenyatta lost the Breeders Cup Classic I teared up. I mean, geez, getting my glands glazed over a horse race? When Julie Andrews saved the Von Trapp family from the Nazis, it wasn’t only the hills that came alive with the sound of music.  Later in life I learned to use the word “visceral” to explain gut feelings.

I don’t imagine Japanese rank very high on ethnic sensitivity charts. From the stoic Issei, the Nisei inherited strength and substance but not much in the way of fervor or passion. As far as the San/Yon/Gosei generations are concerned, I hesitate to comment except to say persimmons don’t fall too far from the tree.  That is to say I didn’t see any Japanese American Tea Party supporters.

But if there is one definitive Nisei trait that separates us from the norm, it is our penchant for reunions, gatherings to celebrate the past be they funereal or celebratory, family or friend, membership or happenstance. And it can all be traced to an event that occurred more than 68 years ago.

Evacuation. A single word that translates into heartbreak and abandonment, forsaking and leaving.  But typical of Japanese perseverance and resilience, mere survival was not acceptable.  An amazing three-year existence was carved out of bleak, impossible conditions that CR2S claims could only have been accomplished by a determined people accustomed to hardship and challenge.  In a word: Us.  With due respect our invocation was not “We Shall Overcome.”  It was “We Overcame!”

Thus the endless spate of reunions, all without a tinge of rancor.

Since the 50s the 11 relocation centers of yore have had celebratory gatherings of every size and ilk imaginable:  individual blocks and quads, high school classes, church groups, sports teams, organizations,  pre-war townships and districts.  It’s as if the real Japanese community was created by executive order, not birthplace.

Which brings us to this week’s most important revelation: The umpteenth (and final) reuniting of Poston Camp memorialists (sic) will be held the weekend of Oct. 7-8-9, 2011,  at Aquarius Hotel & Casino, Laughlin, Nev.

Internees (concentration camp survivors unfortunately are not invited) from all three Poston sites are being invited to this last hurrah as are families, friends and the youngers who might wish to participate and be better informed during this final memorial.  A special bus trip to the Camp One site is being arranged as well as educational material, photographs and first-person accounts to give following generations a clearer, more vivid picture of what transpired those many unforgettable years ago.

There will be bus transportation from various jump-off points depending upon the number of sign-ups who choose not to make the four-hour drive in their cars. All pertinent reunion details, including package rates and scheduled events, will be confirmed at a Dec. 1 meeting of the Poston Reunion 2011 committee. Members are working on a master list of addresses culled from earlier reunions, updating and correcting the previous rosters to insure a viable mailing list.

A personal reminder:  Rather than print a list of names and addresses (e- and slo-mail) of various committee heads, I suggest interested parties wait until the initial mailer is sent out.  If you should be overlooked, contact me at the e-mail address below and I’ll make sure to get the appropriate information in time to make plans for next October.

There are varying degrees of interest when it comes to attending a function of this nature.  In some cases it’s a matter of spouses not being from the same camp; in other instances, an understanding has been reached where one will attend solo, like with high school or armed service get-togethers.  Regardless of what Garry Trudeau (“Doonesbury”) points out as a sentimental pitfall of reunions, I doubt if Ichiro will fall in love with Tamiko, or whatever her name was.

And there are instances where Nisei parents, father or mother or both, deemed it too scathing and unpleasant to relate camp experiences to their offspring.  Their prerogative.  I’ve always felt, personally, that Poston molded my life and was as important as Army service, schooling, marriage and fatherhood!

So, although I’m not quite sure what a docent is or qualifications thereof, if God is kind and there are some younger stragglers not sure of where their main focus and interest lies, CR2S will volunteer to give you a word picture of stealing watermelons, locking a (female) teacher in a boys rest room and making an error that lost a championship softball game. If you want to see a grown man cry.

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W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached by e-mail. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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