INDEPENDENCE — The unveiling of the “Manzanar to Mount Whitney” model will take place Thursday, Aug. 23, at 10 a.m. at the Manzanar National Historic Site Interpretive Center.
Bill Busby, a former Owens Valley resident and retired surveyor and hydrographer, has spent the last three years crafting a scale model showing the Sierra as seen from Manzanar. The project was conceived during a discussion with a Manzanar ranger who observed that visitors often mistake Mount Williamson , located directly west of Manzanar, for Mount Whitney, which is not visible from the site.
As someone intimately familiar with the Sierra, Busby was fascinated by the challenge of helping visitors “see” what can’t be seen from Manzanar. In addition to showing the steep terrain as the Sierra towers above the Owens Valley, the model identifies lakes, peaks, and other features west of Manzanar.
“Bill’s model of the Sierra is a wonderful complement to the scale model of Manzanar War Relocation Center created and donated by graduates of the former Manzanar High School in 2004,” said Superintendent Les Inafuku. “The camp model shows where people lived and worked while Bill’s Sierra model puts the mountains in their geographical context.”
The “Manzanar to Mount Whitney” model will be unveiled in the historic west entrance of the Manzanar auditorium. The Manzanar History Association will provide light refreshments.
Joan DeDecker Busby is also an expert on the Sierra. She grew up in the Owens Valley in the 1940s, and watched Manzanar transform overnight from an abandoned orchard community to a war relocation center. While more than 10,000 Japanese Americans were confined in the valley below, she explored the High Sierra with her parents Paul and Mary and sister Carol.
Her connections to the mountains above Manzanar continue. Her recollections of growing up in the Sierra were the subject of the 2008 program at the Eastern California Museum, “Owens Valley Girls in the ’30s and ’40s: Stories from the DeDecker Sisters.”
She is also the author of “The Other Side of the Fence,” a memoir about meeting another woman who grew up in the Owens Valley, but under drastically different conditions. While DeDecker Busby was living in Independence during World War II, Dee Nagatomi was confined at Manzanar. Her father was a Buddhist minister in the camp, and inscribed the iconic calligraphy on the Manzanar cemetery monument in 1943. The two women met decades after the war, when both worked at the same school.
DeDecker Busby will sign books and both she and husband Bill will share their unique Owens Valley and Manzanar connections with visitors from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily from Thursday, Aug. 23, through Saturday, Aug. 25. The programs are free and open to the public.
Manzanar National Historic Site Interpretive Center is located at 5001 Highway 395, six miles south of Independence. To learn more about Manzanar, visit www.nps.gov/manz or call (760) 878-2194. Manzanar is also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ManzanarNationalHistoricSite.