CROSSROADS TO SOMEWHERE: A Different Story in Lieu of Holiday Spirit

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WIMPY1By W.T. WIMPY HIROTO

It’s not that Crossroads to Somewhere tries to be a contrarian. Here we are in the midst of the happiest, merriest time of the year and I’m prompted to go elsewhere. Like the other day on the 6th of the month, I had an opportunity to address an audience of peers (meaning fellow Jappos) and not once made reference to Dec. 7th. Strange, it must be the water.

Considering the upbeat tenor of the time from Thanksgiving to Christmas, one would think joyful topics abound. The Horn of Plenty and all that jazz. But hold on there, Blitzen. Consider this original CR2S challenge regarding holiday colors: Christmas automatically means red and green; just as Hallowe’en is orange and black. Okay, I submit red and green are very popular hues — separately. But together? Not exactly appealing. You never see the two together except Xmas. Santa is red and white, no green. Do you have anything r & g?

Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t a drop of “Bah, Humbug” blood. At least I don’t think so, unless one of my transfusions was tainted. Oh-toh-san, the youngest of four (one sister), came to the U.S. when he was fifteen. Oh-kah-san, bless her innocent soul, was a first-year university student when she was nineteen when conned into coming to the grand ole US of A. Despite ancient Japan being a country steeped in the valor and honor of samurai spirit, I guess telling an occasional American fib wasn’t sinful.

Other than the formative *teen years, I engaged in the usual, festive celebrations and obligations of the seasons. The only time national holidays were meaningless was during government incarceration. Had nothing to do with protest. How does one observe the Fourth of July without fireworks? I’m guessing the first time I incurred the wrath of the FBI was after President FDR’s death. I railed against national mourning because it meant cancellation of Poston Class ’45 Senior Prom.

My disregard of holidays today is a matter of circumstance. Among the traditions buried with Mrs. H was the exchange of Christmas cards. As stated ad nauseum, she took care of all household matters, large and small. So it is no great surprise that grace and good manners departed with her.

Having a couple of understanding sons helps. Even though it wasn’t in the true spirit of giving, they didn’t say anything when a check replaced gifting the grandkids. And when Gramps decided to double up, there was no eye-rolling. It made sense (to me) to write one check covering both Christmas and birthdays. The brilliance of this thinking was it eliminated when to buy what for whom. I don’t know about other grandparents, but this one fails miserably when it comes to remembering birth dates. Unforgivable when there are only five.

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I had the good fortune to have lunch with one Henry Sasaki. Who he, you ask? He was a record-shattering quarterback at Brawley High School in the mid-’30s. And had gained the honor of being the first Imperial Valley prep star to ever be awarded a football scholarship at USC. In those days Pacific Coast Conference teams had freshman teams.

Unfortunately the bombs on Pearl Harbor also destroyed the dreams of Nisei seeking first-ever college educations. At the time of Sasaki’s departure, he was competing for the starting qb spot with Doyle Nave, who would later become an iconic Trojan Rose Bowl hero.

By coincidence we lived in the same Poston block (*53), but he had left camp before the Hirotos moved in. Younger brother Fred, who became a top-notch bartender, was a classmate. Later in the outside world, I played ball against another kid brother, Raymond. [*George Taniguchi, destined to become a renowned jockey, was a neighbor. As was another youngster who would become Bishop Roy Sano.]

Hank’s pigskin exploits were unknown to me when I was writing for The Daily Trojan. The same ignorance when editor of Li’l Tokio weekly newspaper Crossroads. He was a career postal employee at the main downtown office near Union Station, rising to supervisor before retirement. A regular routine was a nightcap with hometown best friend *Roy Kobayashi at Chinatown’s favorite watering hole, General Lee’s Man Jen Low. They would always sit on the same stools at the end of the horseshoe bar.

[*”Koby” was also a CR2S drinking buddy. He was a member of the “Toh Pas” of Block 60, a gaggle of older Imperial Valley Nisei. Pachuco types in appearance, they wore draped slacks, starched collar shirts never tucked in, slick greased hair worn in a ducktail style, referred to as “wraps.” This tightly knit group was looked upon as cool cats to emulate by young boys. And none were tall and strapping, which gave hope to the young and stunted.]

Despite being a hot-shot prep star, Sasaki was a lost and lonesome country boy when he arrived in The Big City. Fukui Mortuary was on Turner Street, where it still stands today. Next door was a ramshackle apartment house owned by the family. To make ends meet and ease the culture shock, *Mr. Fukui arranged for Hank to board there. For free. Which means Hank Sasaki could have been an early NCAA infraction, a la Reggie Bush. Maybe not as prominent or notorious. {*An early Li’l Tokio pioneer, father of Soichi, grandfather of Christine and Gerald.}

Lemme tellya, folks, it’s stuff like this that makes writing CR2S such a blast!

W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

 

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