By PATTI HIRAHARA
The history of the Japanese pioneers and their descendants in Anaheim before World War II and their education at Anaheim High School has never been featured in a major educational event here in Anaheim before, as well as telling the history of the Poston, Arizona Japanese American incarceration campm where they were sent during WWII.
The Japanese immigrated into Anaheim in the early 1900s with Anaheim Union High School, as it was called then, being the center of North Orange County education for the Japanese community, not only for those that lived in Anaheim, but others that lived in neighboring cities. Students traveled many miles to go to school, by bicycle or even on foot.
Attendees now have the opportunity to relive this time in history and be part of a historic event where they will sit in the actual auditorium where the Anaheim High School student body assembled in 1942, and was told by their principal, Dr. Paul H. Demaree, that their Japanese American friends and classmates would be sent to incarceration camps due to their ethnicity and were forced to relocate due to the war.
These Japanese American students used this opportunity to say goodbye. The majority of the 30 Japanese and Japanese American students from the Anaheim Union High School Classes of 1942-1945 were evacuated to an incarceration camp in Poston, Arizona and were not able to complete their education at Anaheim or become part of their school’s graduation.
This was corrected in 1997, when the Anaheim Union High School District bestowed diplomas to surviving graduates during Anaheim High School’s graduation commencement ceremony that year, over 50 years later.
To preserve the legacy of these Japanese American students, the Anaheim Union High School District and Anaheim High School will present a special two-hour program entitled “The Poston Experience: Paving the Way for the Next Generations,” which will be held on Saturday, Aug. 24, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Anaheim High School, 811 W. Lincoln Ave. in Anaheim.
Supporting organizations for the event are the Anaheim Elementary School District, the Anaheim High School Alumni Association, SELANOCO (Southeast Los Angeles-North Orange County) JACL, and the Poston Community Alliance.
Offering welcome remarks will be Anaheim Union High School District Superintendent Michael B. Matsuda, Anaheim High School Principal Roberto Saldivar, and Ryan Yoshikawa, president of the SELANOCO JACL. Janet Brown, field representative from U.S. Congressman J. Luis Correa’s office of the 46th District, will also be attending.
The program will feature Orange County leaders who went to Poston during WWII; a special presentation about an Anaheim pioneer family represented by Anaheim High School Class of 1962 graduate Marlene Shigekawa, who will talk about her family and her work in preserving the legacy of the Poston camp, where she was born; and vocal renditions of songs from that time from students from the Anaheim Elementary School District and the Anaheim High School Las Sirenas Advanced Women’s Choir.
Panelists will include Shigekawa, Don Miyada, Robert M. Wada, Tom Leatherman, representing the National Park Service Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program, and special guest Gania Demaree-Trotter, AHS Class of 1944, whose father was principal of Anaheim Union High School from 1941 to 1954.
This innovative program is geared not only for those that went to Poston but also for the families whose descendants were sent to camps and were never told about their families’ experiences. It is also an educational opportunity for students to learn about this time in history and how it reflects the current sign of the times and what minority families are facing today.
A new and original 10-minute documentary, which is being produced by the Anaheim Union High School District Summer Film Academy high school students, entitled “Remember Us: An Historic Chapter at Anaheim High School,” will make its debut at “The Poston Experience” program under the supervision of faculty advisor Jeff Numainville from Katella High School.
Admission will be free for all those that attend. Seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis with limited seating. Carpooling is recommended. For further information, please call (714) 392-2103.
This is the second major event in Southern California, over the years, to focus on the Poston experience, and for those that cannot attend the October Poston Pilgrimage, this is a great opportunity for JACL members and their children to learn about this time in history.