HORSE’S MOUTH: About the Film ‘Dark History of Santa Anita’

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By GEORGE YOSHINAGA

It was more out of curiosity than as a newsman covering an event.

The event?

A showing of ESPN’S film titled “Dark History of Santa Anita,” presented at the Japanese American National Museum this past Saturday.

Since I was interned at the famed racetrack when it was converted into an assembly center for Japanese Americans, I wanted to see how the film treated the now rather historic event.

The showing was presented by Jose Morales, senior producer at ESPN.

A panel was present to give their views and opinions on the film and their own experiences while interned at the Arcadia facility.

The panel consisted of Min Tonai, June Aochi Berk, Babe Karasawa and Yas Aochi.

The turnout was kind of disappointing for the folks who put the event together. I estimated about 30 folks attended.

With the exception of Min Tonai, the panel was also a disappointment.

During the question-and-answer period after the showing of the film, the members of the panel responded to questions asked from the audience.

Only Tonai presented informative details about the assembly center.

This might be because the members on the panel were very young when they were sent to Santa Anita a  t the start of World War II.

Morales himself acknowledged that he didn’t know too much about Santa Anita’s role in the evacuation of Japanese Americans.

I guess I do give him credit for producing the film for ESPN.

I don’t know if the news section of the Rafu will carry a story on the event because I didn’t see anyone from the staff present, which in itself is kind of unusual because Rafu generally covers all events of this nature in the JA community.

Oh well, I didn’t have anything else to do this past Saturday, so I was able to pass the time away.

The program was presented within a two-hour period, so I was able to return home in ample time to think about what comments I should make.

Going to Santa Anita changed my life. For one thing, I celebrated my 18th birthday while at the camp.

Those who follow my chatter via this column know that I arrived at the assembly center with the evacuees from Santa Clara County. We were transported to the racetrack by train.

I’m not sure why, but we didn’t go directly to Southern California.

Probably because of the war, the train had to be routed in a number of different directions before we finally made it to Arcadia.

I’m not sure how many of us from Northern California were assigned to Santa Anita, but I would guess it was about 800 men, women and children.

Since we were the last arrivals at the assembly center, we were placed in barracks rather than the “stinky” horse stables.

The members of the panel touched on the stables and about the stench they had to endure.

Having been associated with horse racing in recent years and familiar with conditions in the stables, I always questioned the matter of “stinking stables.”

Those I associated with in the racing industry kept their stables neat by cleaning them daily and I never sensed any “stinky” conditions. After all, horses are just like humans and

they are as sensitive to living conditions as humans.

I don’t say this because people call me Horse.

At any rate, I was curious why some of the positive aspects of the assembly center were not a focal point.

Things like evacuees publishing a newspaper titled The Pacemaker, which covered events at the center. I am sure there are a few members of the editorial staff who are still with us.

The editorial staff was made up of internees like Eddie Shimano, Kaz Oshiki, Paul Yokota, Joe Oyama, Bob Hirano, Roy Kawamoto, Asami Kamachi and Jimmy Endo.

The first edition of The Pacemaker was published on April 18, 1942. That would be almost 70 years ago since we are now in April  2012. I’m sure they could paint a clear picture of camp life if they were invited to participate in events such as the Saturday one.

Hey, they even installed a “jail” at the assembly center, where so-called “troublemakers” were placed.

I know this because a fellow I got to know at the center got into a fight and was tossed “behind bars” in an establishment in the grandstand area.

Oh well, enuff said.

Up in smoke?

The mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, has pledged to spend $220 million over the next four years to discourage tobacco users in foreign countries.

Will his move include Japan?

That would be interesting because Japan is among the leaders in tobacco consumption with 23 trillion cigarettes consumed.

That’s just a tad behind the U.S., which consumed 32 trillion.

What makes me curious is how the mayor plans to launch his “no smoking” campaign in countries like Japan.

It seems to me that he should concentrate his campaign in the U.S. before he goes to some country like Japan and tell them, “Tabako yame nasai.”

I can almost hear the Japanese smokers hollering, “Kawa ni tobi nasai.”

(Go jump in the lake).

Like most of you, I get a lot of email daily.

Some are quite amusing.

An example?

Well, check out this photo I received Sunday.

With the GOP presidential campaign in full swing now, this photo will probably make most of you smile.

As is often said, “One picture is worth a thousand words,” so I need not explain this photo.

Well, the madness is over.

The last few days were all about the Mega Millions lottery drawing, which reached a record $540 million.

For those of us who go to the stores where they sell the Mega tickets, it was a nightmare.

In order to buy anything (not lottery tickets) at these outlets, I had to wait so long, I decided to go home.

The most amusing part is that those who wait as long as four hours really don’t know what kind of money they’re trying to win.

An example?

A television commentator asked a lady in line what she would do if she won the top prize.

Her response? “I’ll go out and by a new car.”

Buy a new car? Heck, she could buy an auto dealership.

Another guy said he would quit his job.

Again, he wouldn’t have to quit his job. He could buy the company he works for and fire himself.

Oh well.

I guess I wouldn’t know what to do if I won the California lottery, which never reaches more than $20 million.

Well, maybe I’ll buy The Rafu Shimpo and fire myself as a columnist.

Gosh, it’s hard to believe that in about three weeks the new baseball season gets under way.

What is interesting about opening day in the Major Leagues is that this year they opened their season in Japan.

Oakland and Seattle played a pair of games already, which counts in the league standings.

As everyone knows, when baseball season gets under way and the games are televised, my eyes become glued to our TV set, especially Dodgers games, even if the local club got rid of my favorite pitcher, Kuroda.

And now, since one of the owners is someone I know, I’ll be looking forward to the opening with even more enthusiasm.

The L.A. Times made a big deal in its sports section about Magic Johnson becoming the first black owner of a Major League club.

I don’t ever recall the Times’ sports section running a nearly full-page story of an athlete and emphasizing the athlete’s skin color.
Oh well. It’s the Times.

Speaking of magic, there’s a new tavern in Thousand Oaks that calls itself Mermaid Magic.

Why am I mentioning it here?

Well, guess what the Magic’s favorite dish is. It’s called avocado tempura.

Many feel it’s not possible to batter and deep fry avocado, but the Magic accomplishes it.

So if any of you are in the Thousand Oaks neighborhood and try avocado tempura, let me know how it tastes. It’s not expensive. The price is $7.

I’m always looking for something new when it comes to food, so if I’m in the neighborhood, maybe I’ll give it a try and let the readers know what I think.

Since I wrote a piece on Tiger Woods winning his first PGA tournament in nearly two years, I hope that I can write a similar column when a female Japanese golfer wins a title on the PGA tour.

They have a couple who have come close, including Ai Miyazato, but the one I am keeping my eyes on is a teenage Sansei who doesn’t get much ink.

She is Mina Harigae, who never comes near the top but always manages to qualify and win a few bucks.

In fact, Mina, who has finished ahead of Hawaii’s Michelle Wie in a number of tournaments, never gets the media attention that Wie gets.

Well, maybe if the Monterey Sansei finishes near the top in future tournaments, she may surprise everyone.

Laugh time:

A Polish man moved to the U.S. and married an American girl. Although his English was far from perfect, they got along very well. One day he rushed into a lawyer’s office and asked him if he could arrange a divorce.

The lawyer said that getting a divorce would depend on the circumstances and asked him the following questions:

• “Have you any grounds?”
The man responded, “Yes, an acre and a half and a nice home.”

• “No, I mean what is the foundation of the case?”
“It’s made of concrete.”

• “I don’t think you understand. Does either of you have a real grudge?”
“No, we have a carport and don’t need one.”

• “I mean what are your relations like?”
“All my relations are in Poland.”

• “Is there any infidelity in your marriage?”
“We have hi-fidelity stereo and good DVD.”

• “Does your wife beat you up?”
“No, I always get up before her.”

• “Why do you want this divorce?”
“She’s going to kill me.”
“What makes you think that?”
“I got proof.”
“What kind of proof?”
“She is going to poison me. She buys a bottle at the drugstore and put on shelf in the bathroom. I can read English pretty good and it says, ‘Polish remover.’”

George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via e-mail at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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