It was sort of a lark that I began writing a column of sorts for The Rafu. Recently retired, I saw it as an opportunity to do something productive and thank editor Gwen Muranaka for graciously publishing some of my writings.
Interestingly enough, my first column was a tribute to Horse aka George Yoshinaga, who passed away this last Monday, Aug. 17.
I was a regular reader of Horse’s column. Even though I am a Chinese American and a Baby Boomer, I enjoyed his writing. As a history teacher, I felt he chronicled the culture and shared experiences of the Nisei and World War II generations. That is why he was so popular for so long and such a vital member of the writing staff at The Rafu.
In a sense, his column was a written soundtrack of their times. For many of those younger, he was an informal chronicler of the history of Little Tokyo and knew and wrote about the influential JAs in the community. His column provided recognition for their achievements and contributions to the community.
Horse chronicled JA achievements in sports. He proudly spotlighted the achievements of JA high school and college athletes, as well as JA and Japanese professional athletes, and educated us all about famous JAs who played in the ’40s and ’50s. He was a fan of all the major sports, as well as being boxing and sumo wrestler promoter.
Horse loved his Dodgers. He was one of their biggest fans as well as one of their biggest critics, taking the team to task for things such as poor trades and outrageous sums charged for parking and hot dogs.
He loved to go to Vegas and of course stay at the California Hotel and Casino aka The Cal. He captured the Nisei Vegas experience. Horse would write or lament about his lack of luck at the machines and make us drool over his bowls of miso soup and sushi at Makino’s. My in-laws would make trips to Vegas and attend the Heart Mountain reunion, where they would see Horse.
Horse was not always politically correct, but neither were our parents. How many of us verbally had the same arguments with our parents in the ’60s and ’70s over issues that Horse would write about in his column? His stand on “internment camps” was controversial; especially when he disagreed with activists about the negative effects of being incarcerated. Some of the “laughers” at the end of his column were questionable to say the least.
Nevertheless, Horse’s column not only struck a chord with Nisei but also with others of that generation. We introduced our friends Connie and Al Ortega to The Rafu and Horse. They are both members of the “greatest generation.” For many years, every time we would see them, she would say, “Did you read what Horse wrote this week?” They continue to subscribe to The Rafu to this day.
Finally, in his column Horse created a persona that started with his nickname. He wasn’t afraid to make fun of himself. He joked about his weight, how “popular” he was with the girls and how he would “treat” his wife to an expensive meal at Denny’s or McDonald’s. He talked about his Hawaiian relatives and of course was proud of his kids and grandkids.
The fact that so many people recognized him at public events made him a celebrity in the JA community.
In a sense, Horse’s passing marks the end of an era. He will be missed and we will enjoy reading reprints of his past columns. I would like to thank him for the many years of great reading and being the “village historian.” Although I never formally met him, he seemed like a friend as I got to know him through his columns.
So, I would like to, in Horse’s words, “bid a dear friend a fond sayonara.”
Bill Yee is a retired Alhambra High School history teacher. He can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.