HORSE’S MOUTH: About Manzanar and Heart Mountain

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YOSHINAGA-GEORGEBy GEORGE YOSHINAGA

(Published on July 1, 2014)

As I mentioned in my previous column, my niece invited my wife and me to ride along with her on her trip to Pala Indian Casino. Pala is about 20 miles south of Penchanga Casino, where I used to go frequently but not anymore.

Pala is one of the better Indian casinos and is packed with patrons. Since it is very close to San Diego, I would assume that most of the clients are from that southern city, which means I concluded that many of the patrons would be Chinese.

I was wrong. Most of the non-white patrons were Japanese.

How did I determine that?

Well, being a JA myself, it’s easy to determine who are JAs. For one thing, JAs converse in English when talking among themselves. Most of the Chinese speak in their native language when chatting with each other.

Of course, the table games were very inactive because most JAs who go to casinos aren’t really table game players. They like to stick to slot machines.

I didn’t gamble too much on this trip. Just enough to kill time.

The one thing I looked forward to was eating in the casino dining room. Pala has a great buffet restaurant, so I loaded up my plate and really enjoyed myself.

I guess I’ll have to go on a diet for a few days after consuming so much at the buffet.

No, in spite of so many JAs as patrons, the dining facility at the Pala didn’t have any Japanese dishes. You know, maybe sushi.

Those of you who are patrons of the California Hotel and Casino know that the dining room there, especially breakfast, has Japanese-oriented dishes, like steamed white rice.

The other thing about patrons at the Pala is that the JA parents all seem to drag their kids along with them. I’m not sure what the youngsters do when their parents are gambling.

The Pala is probably one of the biggest Indian casinos in California. From the window of our room we had a view of a huge swimming pool below and on the other side, a huge outdoor area with tables scattered all around and large umbrellas to keep the sun off the guests who spend time outside when not at the gaming tables.

Of course, for me, an Indian casino will never take the place of my favorite place in Vegas, The Cal.

Since it was a Saturday when we drove to Pala, the highway was jammed and we were stalled a number of times by the traffic, so that added about an extra 30 minutes to our travel.

I would guess that Pala is about the same distance from Gardena as Victorville, which is about one-fourth of the way to Vegas.

Our route from Gardena begins on Highway 91 and then on to Highway 15, which goes all the way to San Diego.

I have to give credit to my niece, whose name is Grace Nakakihara. She drove both ways without ever asking me to help drive. She says she goes to Pala frequently, so I guess she is used to handling her car all the way without any help.

Besides, at my age, I might not be too much help.

If I seem to be dragging the subject on a little longer than I usually do, it’s because my computer has broken down again and I can’t get my email to work.

A lot of my column material is gathered from my email.

I called my two sons who are experts at computers, but I guess when they see my message on their phone they know what I want and they never return my call.

If this keeps up, I may really have to consider “hanging ’em up” as far as my column is concerned.

Unless, of course, Editor Gwen can send one of her Rafu staffers who know about computers to help me get mine rolling again.

(MAGGIE’S COMMENT: I just can’t resist suggesting this in regard to your computer, but since you have three sons, perhaps they can pitch in with you cost-wise and have a company such as Staples repair your computer. It would REALLY BE A SAD DAY when there is no ‘Horse’s Mouth’ column in The Rafu).

In the meantime, let me continue.

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I was reading about the searchers finding the body of the lost hiker, who was a fireman, who disappeared in the mountains surrounding Southern California.

What puzzles me in reading the details of the hiker getting lost was that someone of his profession didn’t carry a cell phone when he went hiking alone.

We all know that no matter where we look, we see almost everyone carrying and chatting on their cell phones, be it in the city on sidewalks or in the car driving on the streets of L.A. or on our freeways.

I know I never leave the house without my cell phone in a case attached to my belt. In a couple of cases, my cell phone really saved me.

Once I was in rush and I parked my car next to the site I was visiting and forgot to take my cell phone out when I locked the door and slammed it shut with the car keys inside.

When I realized that I goofed, I asked around the place I was to see if anyone had a cell phone I could use to call my wife to hop in our other car and bring her keys.

Fortunately, one of the fellows I knew had his cell phone, so I was able to get my wife. Since I have two cars, she was able to drive to where I was and brought her keys.

Much to my relief, I was able to open the door of my car and get my keys. Of course, all my wife could say to me was “aho.”

Those of you who understand Japanese know what “aho” means. Needless to say, I was “aho.”

Since that experience, the first thing I do when I park my car is put the keys in my pants pocket and make sure they’re there before I slam the door of my car shut.

How many of you readers have experienced something like that, too?

It sure taught me a lesson and I can’t blame it on old age. Mostly stupidity. Well, you know what I mean.

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A reader recently wrote me a letter, which I was able to print out before my PC went belly-up. He was wondering if it was his imagination that The Rafu seems to run more articles on two camps, Manzanar and Heart Mountain.

I guess I touched on this issue before and the reader is correct.

There are rarely stories on camps like Topaz, Utah and Amache, Colorado, but so much on the two camps mentioned above.

One reason could be that those Japanese Americans who were sent to Manzanar and Heart Mountain were from California, including Los Angeles and the San Jose area, where so many JAs reside, so news on the two camps affects those who now live back in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

When those of us from the San Jose area were sent to Santa Anita, for many of us, it was our first association with JAs from Southern California.

So today, many relationships have developed from our being placed in relocation camps and being educated on the life of JAs living in other areas of California.

Well, at least those are my thoughts on the matter.

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Gee, since my source of news has been cut off, I may be running a little short on today’s column, but I’ll try to keep plugging along.

Maybe my friend Maggie, who prepares my column for publication, might be able to add her usual clever comments about what I write.

(MAGGIE’S COMMENTS: Okay, Mr. Y, you asked for it. Here are some of my thoughts on why there seem to be more articles on Manzanar and Heart Mountain than the other “relocation centers” and I say “concentration camps.” Perhaps those who were in different concentration camps than Manzanar and Heart Mountain do not wish to share their thoughts during that period. There are some parents who still have not told the evacuation story to their children. Also, maybe those who were in other concentration camps do not wish to comment or send their feelings, so do not submit articles or comments about their life during those dark days to **The Rafu** or other publications. By the way, Amache ends with an “e” and not an “i” as you have been spelling it.)

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I’m sure many of you saw or read the story about the building of housing in the Hesperia area.

They ran a photo of the project and I’ll be darned if the buildings don’t look like those we were forced to live in when JAs were evacuated and placed in relocation camps.

Although the outside appearance of the new homes looks like the barracks that were our housing in camp, I’m sure the interior isn’t like those we lived in. Those of you who experienced camp life know what I am talking about.

There were canvas cots for beds with mattresses filled with straw and a potbelly stove to keep us warm. Nobody would like living like that in this day and age.

Oh well, we’ll find out when more information is published in the media about the new housing development. I’m sure the people who designed the relocation camps have nothing to do with the housing project in Hesperia. Well, at least I hope not.

Since most of us were still young enough when we were sent to camp, we somehow managed to survive. But it must have been tough for our Issei parents, most of them in poor health, like my mother, who was 68 years of age when evacuation was forced on us.

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harry masataniI can’t even toss in my usual “laugher” because I can’t get into my email, so I guess I’ll toss in a photo I found in my pile of junk on my desk.

Rarely do I run a photo at the end of my column, but this one will probably catch the attention of many.

It shows Harry Masatani on the right, riding on a convertible during a Christmas parade. (Nope, I don’t know what year.)

On Harry’s left is Bindo Grasso. Needless to say, everyone will ask, “Who he?”

Well, old-timers may recognize his face, if not his name.

Bindo was a security guard at Santa Anita Assembly Center, where over 18,000 JAs were incarcerated during the start of World War II.

Can you believe that? A photo of a JA with an individual who served as a guard while we were locked up in camp.

I’m sure it will rekindle a lot of memories for those Nisei who were tossed into camp.

I know I have a lot of memories of our days at Santa Anita.

George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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