HORSE’S MOUTH: The Jackrabbits of the ’40s

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YOSHINAGA-GEORGEBy GEORGE YOSHINAGA

I first met George Takei when we used to do bit parts in TV and movies.

Since those days Takei went on to become a big film star and I went on to be a newspaper columnist.

Yeah, as a newspaper writer I bump into Takei from time to time at community events. Our usual greeting is “Hi, George” and that’s that.

He gets a lot of space in The Rafu for activities he’s involved in while I get my biweekly column space.

In last Wednesday’s edition of The Rafu, George had a front-page coverage of his latest activity while I was wondering what I should write about for the Saturday edition.

I guess all I can add is, “That’s life.”

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The recent shooting at LAX was the top news story over the past week.

The incident made me curious as to how the guy with a rifle got into the airport carrying such a weapon.

I remember about three decades ago I was carrying a ten-inch copper pipe in my carry-on baggage when a security officer stopped me and grabbed my bag.

He escorted me to the security area, opened my bag and pulled out the copper pipe. “What’s this you’re carrying?” he asked.

I explained that a friend of mine in Japan wanted me to bring him a copper pipe for a project he was working on in Tokyo.

Needless to say, I almost missed my flight to Tokyo because I was detained for about 30 minutes.

So, as I said, how could a guy with a rifle get into the airport when I could not get past security with a harmless piece of copper pipe?

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I don’t ever recall if I ever ran a photo about our days in a relocation camp, even though these days a lot of stuff from those days is often published.

However, when I came across the photo that I found in my pile of camp junk, I thought I would use it in today’s column and chat about camp life.

jackrabbitsThe photo shows a sports club we formed during our days in Heart Mountain. It was a group of guys called the Jackrabbits.

The reason I’m running the photo?

Well, most of the guys in the photo were in their mid-20s, which means they would be in their 90s today. There are only four of us still around. The others have passed on.

Those left include me, back row, fourth from the left; Chick Kawasaki, far right, back row; Willie Kai, fourth from the left, back row; and Sus Nakasone, front row, fourth from the right. We are in our late 80s and early 90s.

The Jackrabbits were the camp’s football and baseball champions.

The members were all from the Los Angeles area. I was the only Northern California prewar resident.

I’m sure most of you recognize most of the guys in the photo.

The jackets we were wearing were designed and purchased from Sears through their catalog.

Ah, memories.

(Maggie’s comment: Yes, Mr. Y., what would we have done without the Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs?)

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Marty Kuehnert certainly isn’t a familar name.

I guess if I asked 100 Nisei, one of them might tell me he heard of him.

Perhaps one of these days, he will become known to American baseball fans if he decides to return to the U.S. and get involved in the game.

Marty is the first and only American general manager of a professional baseball team in Japan to win the Japanese league championship, leading the Sendai Eagles to their first title. The Sendai club defeated the Yomiuri Giants.

I met Marty several decades ago when I was given the post of general manager of the Lodi team, a member of the Class A California League.

I held the post for about two months and decided living away from my family in Gardena and living on a Minor League salary was not the kind of life I wanted to live.

So I contacted the owners of the team, the Baltimore Orioles, and told them to find someone to replace me.

That turned out to be Marty. After the first season with Lodi, Marty also decided it was not the job he wanted, and he moved to Japan to see if he could find a GM job over there.

He did, and now he’s established himself as a top-rated baseball executive.

Winning the Japan title will certainly open a few eyes here in the U.S. If an American can lead a Japanese team to their country’s national title, anything is possible.

If he can do that with his limited knowledge of the Japanese language, there might be an even greater career awaiting him in the U.S.

I’m going to try to get in touch with him to see what his future plans might be.

I guess all I have to do is trace down Marty’s phone number.

Hey, Dodgers, are you listening?

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How many of you out there ever put down in writing what you had for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

I thought about this when one of the nurses where I go to take dialysis treatment during the week asked me what I ate the previous day. It’s kind of amazing what we eat without ever thinking about it.

For example, the first day, I jotted down my three meals and was kind of amazed at what I ate during the day.

Last Friday, I started breakfast with two small waffles with peanut butter and jam and two cups of coffee.

Lunch? A meat sandwich with two kosher pickles.

Then a buffet dinner with roast beef, baked chicken, lettuce salad, macaroni and cheese, boiled carrots, boiled potato, diet corn, a small cake, and bread roll.

“Wow!” I thought after viewing my meals for one day.

No wonder they told me I was heavier than I should be.

When I watched what I ate each day, I dropped six pounds.

The nurse was pleased.

Hopefully, I can keep “gohan” (rice) out of my daily diet.

It’s not only the rice, of course. It’s what we have to eat with it, if you know what I mean.

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Needless to say, since I was in the Santa Anita Assembly Center, anything mentioning the Arcadia facility catches my eye.

The San Gabriel Tribune ran a story last week headlined “Rendering Reality on Internment Camps.”

It was the story of Riyo Sato, who left her Palo Alto home and was sent to the Arcadia race track. After that, she was sent to Heart Mountain.

An exhibit called “Life Interrupted: Personal Sketches Behind Barbed Wire, Santa Anita, Summer 1942, Riyo Sato (1913-2009)” was recently shown in Arcadia.

Gee, it would seem that I would have met her at one time or another, especially since she went to the Wyoming camp after Santa Anita, the same path I took back in 1942.

On top of that, Riyo served as a teacher at Heart Mountain.

Since I attended school there, I must have run into her at one time or another, but I don’t have any recollection of meeting her. Riyo taught art, which may be one reason I didn’t meet her.

Oh well, I guess I didn’t meet a lot of people that I read about nowadays, some 70 years later.

I would have liked to discuss her life in camp and what her thoughts were during and after camp.

Oh well.

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My goodness!

The Hollywood Park Race Track, which is closing up after this fall’s meeting, opened up on Thursday (Nov. 7).

I will certainly make it a point to go out to Inglewood at least once so I can wish my favorite track “sayonara.”

It’s going to be tough following racing without Hollywood Park.

After all, Hollywood Park was the first major track to recognize the vernacular press. I was at Shin Nichi Bei when Hollypark recognized me as a journalist and issued me a permanent press pass. Something I still have in my wallet.

Yes, covering George Taniguchi, the first JA jockey, gave those of us with the vernacular press our journalism status.

Needless to say, I hope the last bet I make at Hollywood will be a winner.

Then, maybe, I can jump in the car and head out to Vegas.

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Just curious.

I look at the ads published in local vernacular newspapers and am kind of amazed at the prices being advertised for various Japanese American community events.

There’s one such function where admission tickets are advertised at $70.

Wow! And the function mentioned isn’t the only one with such a high tab.

A couple of others are advertising 50 bucks.

My question is: How many JAs are willing to pay out that kind of money for admission tickets? I thought 20 bucks was a high price.

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The following are what they call the “Great Truths.”

1. In the many years I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more, Congress.

2. If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.

3. Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But then, I repeat myself.

4. I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket trying to lift himself up by the handle.

5. A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.

6. A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which he proposes to pay off with our money.

7. Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.

8. Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.

9. Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.

10. Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.

11. Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases. If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

12. I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.

13. If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free.

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

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