HORSE’S MOUTH: The Birth of ‘Horse’s Mouth’

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YOSHINAGA-GEORGEBy GEORGE YOSHINAGA

(Published June 17, 2014)

This past weekend was Father’s Day. For me, it’s a very special day because as my sons grow into middle-aged adulthood, we don’t get together like we used to. However, Father’s Day is the one holiday that we do spend time together.

My youngest son usually hosts the Father’s Day dinner at his Rancho Palos Verdes home. For those of you might not know, Rancho Palos Verdes is the Bel Air of the South Bay area. The very thought of him owning a home there is enough to make me proud.

Hey, I still live in Gardena, not exactly a city for the rich and famous.

One thing about these Father’s Day get-togethers. All the sons bring me cigars for a gift, which means my supply of stogies will last for another few months.

Of course, their cigar gift kind of spoils me because they give me stogies that I can never consider buying because they’re kind of out of my budget.

Well, maybe as my wife often says, “Maybe you should quit cigars.”

Maybe if I were a few decades younger, I might consider her suggestion.

In the meanwhile, puff, puff, puff.

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 Since President Obama is in the Los Angeles area, he is grabbing all the headlines in the local media, which prompted one of my Nisei friends to say, “Maybe the President should change his name from Obama to Obasan.”

To a Republican that sounds like a good idea.

Oh well, maybe after the next presidential election, we won’t have to worry about the name of our next leader.

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 If my Sansei sons are used as examples, we Nisei who lived through the wartime evacuation of Japanese Americans know how little the current JA generation knows abut what we went through in the early 1940s.

Just ask any of them to name the ten camps. I know a few camps get a lot of publicity, but most of them aren’t even known to the current JA generation.

Of course, Manzanar, California, and Heart Mountain, Wyoming, get a lot of publicity, but what about the other eight?

The other eight would be Gila and Poston, Arizona; Rohwer and Jerome, Arkansas; Tule Lake, California; Amache, Colorado: Minidoka, Idaho; and Topaz, Utah .

I’m not sure why most of the camps don’t get the recognition that both Heart Mountain and Manzanar receive.

One reader recently wrote to me and asked me to do more stories on the ten camps so that history won’t be forgotten.

I guess I can write a lot about Heart Mountain because that’s where I was sent, but I do know a lot of JAs who went to other camps and related their stories about being placed there.

The first thing to write about when talking “camps” is that before we ended up in them, we were all sent to various sited called “assembly centers.”

One of them was Santa Anita Race Track, where my family (older sister and mother) were sent before we were shipped to Heart Mountain.

When we were ordered to pack what we could carry and report to the train station in Mountain View in Northern California, we didn’t have a clue as to what was going to happen to us.

When all the JAs living in Mountain View showed up at the train station, MPs ordered us to get on board. In about an hour, the train pulled away from the station.

For the next day or so, the train moved past areas we never saw before. On the second day, we pulled up at a race track in Southern California, which we were told was Santa Anita.

Again, we were ordered to pick up our handbags and get off the train. Each family was told where to go. We ended up in barracks built on the parking lot of the race track. It was a small unit, even for a family of three.

We were then instructed to get the empty mattress bags and fill them with straw, which was piled up near the barracks. That was our “bed.”

Somehow we survived all this and lived at the race track for two months before we were told to go board another train. This ride took us about three days. We ended up in Wyoming, at a place called Heart Mountain.

Yes, for someone like me, only an 18-year-old, it could be called quite an adventure.

I guess even after all this time, I could write pages and pages about those days in a “relocation center.”

I was fortunate because I got a job with the camp newspaper, which opened the doors to a lot of areas that I otherwise wouldn’t have known a thing about.

Hey, I was only a farm boy from a small town, so being exposed to life in camp was really an adventure.

Since I didn’t have a journalism background, Editor Bill Hosokawa had to decide where to place me on his staff. He finally decided that I should be assigned to the camp’s libraries — there were two of them — and write about the new books that were brought in from the “outside.”

I guess I didn’t do such a hot job because he said he’d better let me cover sports since I was involved in sports in camp, and that was the birth of “The Horse’s Mouth.”

At any rate, the sports editor was a fellow named Ted Yano, but he volunteered to join the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, so I was given his job and wrote my first column under the title “Sports Tidbits.”

Well, that didn’t last too long because I was drafted and had to report for duty with the Army. And that was the story of my newspaper career in a relocation camp.

So here I am, 70 years later, still pounding out “The Horse’s Mouth.”

Yeah, maybe it’s time to hang ’em up. Don’t all of you yell, “Great idea!”

Going from 18 years old to 88 years old is quite a journey. I never imagined 70 years ago that I would be writing something like this, but here I m.

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Time to toss in a couple of letters from readers:

The first one is from Ernest Ikuta: “In the Saturday, June 14, issue of The Rafu, you briefly wrote about the shooting in the Oregon high school in which two students were killed.

“You stated that you couldn’t understand how the parents didn’t know that their son owned several guns. You misinterpreted that story of the shooting. The parents were legal registered owners of the guns. Their son was too young to own firearms. The parents kept the guns in a gun case, which was secured with a lock.

“Their son opened the case and took the guns. Had they secured each gun with a trigger lock, their son might not have been able to fire the guns.

“How he was able to unlock the case and take the guns is being investigated by the authorities.”

Thanks for the info, Ernest.

The second letter was from “Retired Mas”:

“One time I got sick and landed in the hospital. There was this nurse who just drove me crazy. Every time she came in, she would talk to me like I was a little child. She would say in a patronizing tone of voice, ‘And how are we doing this morning?’ or ‘Are we ready for a bath?’ or ‘Are we hungry?’

“I had enough of this particular nurse.

“One day at breakfast, I took the apple juice off the tray and put it on my bedside stand.

“Later, I was given a urine sample bottle to fill for testing.

“So you know where the juice went.

“The nurse came in a while later, picked up the urine sample bottle, looked at it and said, ‘My, my, it seems we are a bit cloudy today.’

“At this, I snatched the bottle out of her hand, popped off the lid and gulped it down, saying, ‘Well, I’ll run it through again. Maybe I can filter it better this time.’

“The nurse fainted. I just smiled.”

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By golly, when I wrote about my Father’s Day dinner and the cigar gifts my sons gave me, I forgot to mention one of the cards attached to the box of stogies.

Here it is: “Dad — When I think of all those years you provided me with a roof over my head, food on the table and clothes to wear, all I can say is: Why did I ever move out? Happy Father’s Day.”

Okay, we can all laugh together.

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I don’t know how many of you who visit Japan look around for McDonald’s burger joints but according to one article I read in a Tokyo newspaper, the popular American sandwich is rally catching on with Japan’s diners.

Well, a Tokyo hamburger expert says that it is getting so popular that a publication called “The Burger Map, Tokyo” is being distributed and the owners of the burger places are doing their best to copy burgers as they are made in the U.S.

Wow! Who would have thought something like this would take over Japan?

Oh well, I guess if sushi can gain popularity in the U.S., hamburgers in Japan shouldn’t be that tough to understand.

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Gee, I didn’t realize my chatter has already reached this length.

Sometimes I struggle to put words on my computer, but other times, it seem that ideas and words just pile out.

Well, the quality of my writing may, at times, suggest that I’m having a bit of a hard time filling up the space allotted to me by Editor Gwen.

Gosh, I usually end up my writing with a few laughers, but here I am at the end of this page and I haven’t even come up with a giggle.

(MAGGIE’S COMMENT: Hee, hee, Mr. Y).

Oh well, the next time.

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

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