HORSE’S MOUTH: The Nisei Soldiers’ Marching Song

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By GEORGE YOSHINAGA

Gee, I can hardly believe the 4th of July is this week.

And since The Rafu will be closed on Thursday and Editor Gwen will be going out of town, I’m putting together today’s column one day ahead of my usual schedule.

Maybe I should say that I hope to put together today’s column ahead of schedule.

So, here goes.

My wife goes grocery shopping on Tuesdays, so I drive her to the supermarket.

I used to go inside with her, but now she tells me to stay in the car because when I go in with her, I’m “urusai.”

Those who know the Japanese language know what that means.

She usually takes about 45 minutes to shop, so I take a nap in the car for about 30 minutes.

The other 15 minutes?

While en route to the market, I stop at a liquor store and buy a couple of lottery scratcher tickets.

That kills the 15 minutes.

I never expect to win, but it’s a good time-killer.

Well, surprise, surprise.

I scratched off a winning combination of words and won $87.

Needless to say, I couldn’t wait for my wife to get back to the car.

When I told her of my win, she handed me the receipt for her grocery shopping.

It came to $85.

Which means we’ll be dining on the lottery for the next few days.

As I always say, heh, heh.

As I frequently mention, I sit on the front porch of our house chewing on my cigar and taking in the scenery.

Recently, I noticed one thing.

That is, more and more people in our neighborhood seem to be riding bicycles rather than cars.

Maybe it’s the high cost of gasoline that makes them opt for their bikes for short trips around town.

Gosh, maybe I should have kept my bike.

Well, one of my sons owns a bike he never uses, so maybe I’ll ask him if he would give it to me.

Not only will I save on gas, but it might help me to reduce the waistline that is beginning to make me look like a sumo wrestler.

Yeah, a couple of my Nisei friends told me, “Hey Horse, you’re putting on some weight, aren’t you?”

Time for a little baseball chat.

Reader Mas Itano emailed me the following:

“Dear George, maybe this is something you already know. I was watching KCSM, a local San Mateo station, when a program entitled ‘The Gold Game: Baseball in Sacramento’ was aired. Since I lived in Sacramento pre-war and followed the Sacramento Solons, I stuck with the show. The show really got my attention when the mentioned possibly the first Asian player to play pro baseball.

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“I missed the name, so I went to the KCSM website and came up with the attached page. In it is mentioned Kenso Nishida as that individual. The name certainly sounds Japanese. Since you are interested in JAs in baseball, I thought I would pass it on to you.

“My wife and I recently moved to San Mateo but still enjoy reading your column.”

Thanks, Mas. I will do some research to see if I can find more information on the JA you mentioned. When you mentioned moving to San Mateo, it rekindled memories for me. As you may or may not know, I was born in Redwood City, which is a neighboring community to San Mateo.

Since I’ve known her since her infancy, it’s nice to see her growing up.

I’m talking about the daughter of Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who recently visited Washington, D.C. with her sixth-grade class.

One of the assignments on the trip was to write a letter to a veteran who gave his life in battle. Daughter Mary picked Richard Robert Antonovich, not a relative.

In another photo taken during her visit, she poses with the statues of military men representing the four services.

Since I’m touching on aging Nisei, a number of JAs who are reaching 100 have dropped me a line. As one wrote:

“I am 99 years old and my spelling and writing is getting very poor. Sorry about that. Well, you stay healthy and keep writing until you get to 100.”

Thanks. Sorry you don’t want me to publish your name.

About writing until I’m 100, I just hope I can keep pounding on my keyboard until I’m 90, a couple of years away.

This is a follow-up to reader Tom Miyasaki’s letter about my military training days at Camp Blanding, Florida, where I was assigned after joining the Army from Heart Mountain Relocation Center. Wrote Tom:

“Allow me to follow up on a comment concerning my previous question about the period you were at Camp Blanding. If you can recall the following two anecdotes about our Nisei company, then you needn’t look for your old Army records that are lost in the far corner of your room. You were there from the end of December 1944 until April 1945. (Not sure if this is correct. I was there probably in March 1944.)

“One of the Nisei soldiers (named Morikawa, my best guess) taught us a catchy, fun song that became our marching song. He would start singing and the whole company joined in as we marched out to the training fields that were a hundred miles away. It went like this: ‘The coffee in the Army, they say is mighty fine, I had a cup for breakfast, it tastes like iodine. I don’t want no part of Army life. Gee, Mom, I wanna go home.’ It had a half-dozen or so verses, but I can’t recall them.

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“I find it odd that I never heard this song before I went to Blanding and never after, either. Why didn’t it become popular like WWI songs? Are any of your other readers familiar with this WWII song?

“The second anecdote concerns our raggedy march back to the company after a full day of training. We’d be tired, stooped over and dragging our butts Then somebody up in the first position would yell out, ‘Hakujin troops coming, straighten up!’ And our company would straighten up, throw out our chests and put on a show of how tough Nisei soldiers are. And the hakujin soldiers would gawk at us as they dragged their butts going the other way.

“Just think, only our generation was able to experience Niseihood. Aren’t you glad you are one of them?”

Thanks for your letter on your experience at Blanding. It rekindled a lot of memories even though nearly 70 years have passed.

Here’s a photo of me at Blanding. Heh, when people see me in uniform in this photo, they laugh and say, “How did we win the war with GIs like this clown?”

Maybe it’s a good thing the Army sent me to the Pacific Theater rather than to Europe to join the 442nd. Heh, heh.

On the subject of old Nisei, Sumi Shimatsu wrote the following:

“I read your column for Saturday, June 22. Mrs. Chiyo Fukunaga, who is 100, lives in Gardena with one of her daughters. She is the oldest who was interned at Crystal City.

“I saw you on David Ono’s telecast on Heart Mountain via computer email that one of my daughters sent me knowing that we don’t have Ono up here.

“I was in Heart Mountain, too … I was only 16 but very angry because the FBI arrested my father and sent him to prison, then to Tujunga and Santa Fe, New Mexico and later to Lordsburg, New Mexico. It is different to be evacuated with the whole family and without one of the parents.

“However, in Crystal City we reunited as a family and had home-cooked meals, no mess halls.

“I was angry in Heart Mountain not having our father with us, but joining him in Crystal City was enjoyable and comforting for me and my mother. Life was wonderful for us Nisei because we were together as a family.”

Thanks for your comments about those days when we were all incarcerated at Heart Mountain. Our family was together, so I can appreciate your experience being separated from your father.

If you’re a pedestrian and get hit by a car, make sure the vehicle is a Honda.

The Japanese car company is in the process of making car-pedestrian accidents safe for the pedestrian.

Not sure how they are going to accomplish this but it’s a top story in Japanese newspapers.

Well, leave it to the Japanese.

George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via email. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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