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HORSE’S MOUTH: About the Santa Anita Pacemaker

YOSHINAGA-GEORGEBy GEORGE YOSHINAGA

This week we celebrated another Thanksgiving Day, which means it is the 23rd Thanksgiving Day I celebrated as a columnist for The Rafu Shimpo.

Back in 1990 when The Kashu Mainichi was sold, I decided to retire as a columnist.

End of my writing career? Nope. The Rafu asked me to continue by signing with them. I gave it a few days of thought and decided, “Why not?”

Never thought I would still be pounding the keyboard after 23 years and in 2014, it will be 24 years.

Combined with my 33 years at Kashu, I’ve been writing now for 56 years. If you toss in the days I wrote for The Heart Mountain Sentinel, the relocation camp publication, I’ve racked up nearly 70 years.

Yeah, maybe it is time to consider “hanging ’em up.”

Let’s face it. There are a lot of youngsters contributing to The Rafu with their writing skills, so who needs an old goat like me filling two pages a week?

I appreciate the many readers who tell me, “Don’t quit.” So, I may have to rethink my future with The Rafu. I enjoy writing, so it has nothing to do with “running out of gas.” Hey, when I first began writing, gas was 17 cents a gallon.

This past week, even though gas prices dropped over 60 cents a gallon, 6 bucks if you put 10 gallons in your tank, it’s still in the $3.56 range, $3.12 a gallon in Vegas.

Why am I even mentioning the price of gas in my column?

Just to point out how time has passed and that I might be “running out of fuel,” and even the human body can’t keep going when it runs out of fuel.

Oh well, let me continue, gas or no gas.

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The following might not be the proper place to put in my column, but I received the email after I began pounding away on the keyboard.

A couple of weeks ago, I ran a photo of a sports club that we organized during our stay at Heart Mountain. It was given the name Jackrabbits.

In writing the caption for the photo, I noted that the Jackrabbits had 21 members who posed for the cameraman. I also stated that we had 21 members, but since nearly 70 years have passed since relocation camp days, only four members were still left.

The four were Sus Nakasone, Willie Kai, Chick Kawasaki and your columnist.

Well, I received an email from Kyoko Nishitsuji, a niece of Chick Kawasaki, to inform me that he passed away this past week, reducing the number of former Jackrabbits to three.

Needless to say, I am shocked and saddened by the news.

Chick was one of the first Los Angeles-area guys I met when I was interned at the Wyoming camp because he was such a friendly guy.

Most L.A.-area guys sort of ignored me because I was from Mountain View, which the L.A. guys considered as “country hicks.”

So with a heavy heart I say, “Sayonara, Chick.” Having you as a friend was a tremendous plus for me, especially with the camp life serving as the background for all of us.

Let’s face it, camp was not the greatest place to live, and having friends like Chick helped us adjust to the conditions we faced.

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The supervisor at the medical clinic where I go heard I had gone to Vegas, and when I dropped in at her office, she said, “So how did you do?”

Of course, she was referring to my activity in the casino.

When I told her about my lack of luck, she giggled and said, “I go to Vegas a lot of times and my luck is probably worse.’

I don’t know if her luck could be worse than mine.

I guess it’s a good thing I restrict myself to playing the quarter slot machines. Even if my luck is bad, playing those machines keeps my losses down.

In the old days, four or five decades ago, when I used to play the “table games,” blackjack and craps, the money flew away a lot faster.

Oh well, I still enjoy myself because playing in the casino is a fun thing, so I will still continue my regular trips to Vegas, win or lose.

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A reader, Hatsumi Kitani, mailed me a copy of The Santa Anita Pacemaker, the publication at the race track when it was converted into an assembly center that housed Japanese Americans who were incarcerated there.

I have a copy of the first Pacemaker somewhere in my pile of junk.

I was able to glance through Hatsumi’s copy and it did bring back a lot of memories of those days.

The first Pacemaker was printed in April 1942 with Eddie Shimano as its editor and was 22 pages long. Another publication in the L.A. are said in a headline, “Assembly Center Prints Fastest Growing Newspaper.”

The newspaper was printed by mimeograph.

At the start before Pacemaker was adopted as the paper’s name, The L.A. Daily News wrote, “The four-page mimeographed newspaper, whose editor is Eddie Shimano, appeared with only a question mark where the name should be.”

The Daily News also stated that a contest was being conducted and that a name would be chosen from the entries. Thus, The Pacemaker was born.

Even after all these years, I found the foregoing quite interesting.-

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I would guess that most of you saw the story in The L.A. Times written by Jenn Harris about the eating habits of Japanese women. In case you missed it, I thought I would reprint a few paragraphs for your entertainment:

“Chowing down on a cheeseburger as big as your head is one of life’s greatest pleasures. And getting ketchup on your nose or some meat juice on your chin is a welcome hazard. But according to the Freshness Burger chain in Japan, opening wide for a big bite is anything but attractive.

“The restaurant has come up with something called the liberation wrapper. It’s a way for women in particular to take big bites of a burger and still look ladylike. The idea behind the wrapper is explained in the video above. In it, Japanese etiquette and the concept of ‘ochobo’ or small, modest mouth, are explained.

“‘In public, a large open mouth is regarded as ugly and rude,’ says the video narrator. ‘… This means they are denied the wild pleasure of taking mouth-size bites of this big tasty burger freely in public.’

“The restaurant explains that women are encouraged to cover their mouths in public when opening them, and that as a result, they never seem to sell their biggest burger.

“The liberation wrapper is their solution to the problem. It’s a paper wrapper that hides the burger. On it is a picture of a women’s closed, smiling mouth. The video shows side shots of a woman eating behind the wrapper so you can see all the glorious big biting in action. From the front, it just looks like she’s slightly moving her head around.”

Kind of interesting, isn’t it? I guess only a few of us even knew about the practice of Japanese women eating hamburgers this way.

Like to thank Jenn Harris for giving us this rather interesting untold story.

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By the time you read today’s column, which will be published after Thanksgiving, my stomach might look like a turkey. That’s because my oldest son holds a Thanksgiving dinner every year for all the Yoshinaga clan living in the Southern California area. and it’s one dinner where I don’t worry about my body size.

By the way, for one reason or another, my body weight has been falling over the past few months. I am the lightest now since my junior year in high school.

Would you believe at one time in the late 1940s, after my discharge from the military, I hit the scale at 230 pounds? Which means I’ve lost almost 70 pounds.

No, please don’t call me, “Hey, Skinny.” Of course, that sounds better than “Hey, Fatso.”

I guess at one time or another in our lives, Nisei guys have had weight problems.

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Since this column is being written one day ahead of my usual schedule because of Thanksgiving Day, I am going to be a little shorter than usual. Okay, you all don’t have to cheer.

I’ll be back with my usual lengthy chatter next Tuesday.

Gee, when I think about Thanksgiving, I am reminded that it’s almost time for The Rafu to start preparing for its Christmas and New Year’s editions.

Having gone through that period when I worked at The Kashu, I know how much labor is added to the Rafu staff’s schedule to put out these two special editions.

Good luck, gang.

George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via email at horsesmouth2000@hotmail.com. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

One Comment

  • Cheri Iwata Sakai
    December 3, 2013 | Permalink |

    When you wrote about being one of three left in your age group from your camp days I decided I had better not wait until I see you in person to say “thank you” for sticking up for me during Nisei Week way back in 1953 or 1954. Your memory still seems to be sharp so maybe you’ll remember me. If you don’t that’s all right. It’s been almost 60 years ago! You were always one of my mom’s favorite writers way back when we lived in Colorado, New Mexico and Texas until we moved back to LA in the mid 50′s. Your articles kept her in touch with what was going on in the Japanese community here in LA. She would quote you often. Cheri

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