HORSE’S MOUTH: JAs in Sports

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YOSHINAGA-GEORGEBy GEORGE YOSHINAGA

A reader emailed me a message the other day. He wrote: ”Horse, I’ve been following your column since your Kashu Mainichi days and I often wondered why you never wrote a book.” It was signed “Tosh K.”

Well, Tosh, I did write a book, but not for publication. Just for my own satisfaction. Besides that, writing two columns a week for The Rafu is enough to produce two books a year, so you can see it’s not that I’m not writing as much as most book authors.

Yeah, before you ask me what my unpublished book is about, let me say it’s about what present-day JAs call what were known as “relocation centers” soon after the start of World War II.

Today, most people refer to them as “concentration camps.” Not me. I still call the camps “relocation centers.”

After all, the government agency that was formed to handle Japanese Americans was called WRA or War Relocation Authority.

Many of those who refer to the camps as “concentration camps” never experienced being in the camps or they were still very young. A classic example is Norm Mineta, who in adult life served as mayor of San Jose and congressman after that.

Norm was 10 years old during his stay at Heart Mountain, but he is always quoted about his camp life and participates in present-day events about the Wyoming camp.

To me, Heart Mountain was a relocation center and during my stay there, I never heard anyone refer to it as a “concentration camp.”

I worked on the camp newspaper, The Sentinel, as a reporter and columnist and never heard anyone on the staff use the term “concentration camp.”

Hey, each week after we put The Sentinel together, the staff would walk out the front gate and go down to the banks of the Shoshone River, which ran along the camp site, and we would picnic.

Does that sound like a “concentration camp?”

Since The Sentinel came off the press at a printing plant in the city of Cody, which was about 10 miles from the camp, so we would take turns driving a car assigned to the newspaper and getting the newspaper printed. We didn’t need any special permit to leave the camp and drive to Cody. Those of us assigned the task just jumped into a car and took off.

Does that sound like a “concentration camp?”

Oh yeah, Heart Mountain gained fame as he camp with the so-called resisters. Those were the fellows who refused to answer the call to serve in the military.

I knew three of them personally and we discussed their position on the issue of serving or not serving in the Army.

After the war ended and the camps closed, most JAs returned to the West Coast.

I was discharged from the military and returned to civilian life, and I ran into one of them upon my return. He said “thanks” to me for serving in the military, which hastened his discharge from prison for choosing not to serve.

And those are my memories of the “dark days” in a relocation center.

Yes, I expect those who stick by the “concentration camp” title will contest what I wrote, and I am prepared for it.

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antonovich family (for horse)Here is a photo of Supervisor Mike Antonovich with his wife, Christine Hu, their son, Michael Jr., and daughter, Mary Christine.

The reason I am running it is that Mike is about 6’1” or 6’2” in height and his son is about the same height as the supervisor. Mike Jr. just became a teenager.

Wow! In a few more years he may be the starting center on his high school’s basketball team. He’s got to reach at least 6’6” or 6’7” in height.

Kids today are all growing in size. All my sons are taller than I. Of course, I’m only 5’10” and I always considered myself among the taller Nisei.

Today, I would be called “Shorty” by the Sansei and Yonsei generation.

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Speaking of prep basketball, remember when it was big news, especially in the Rafu sports pages, when a JA cager played on the varsity team at schools like Roosevelt High in Boyle Heights?

The first JA to make varsity at that school was Dick Nagai, who was followed by Kaz Shinzato, Yoneo Inouye and Jiro Takahashi. At University High in West Los Angeles, Herb Isono was the star.

Today, a JA playing varsity basketball is hardly mentioned even in The Rafu.

How times have changed.

Yeah, even in girls’ basketball, JA players are starring on their prep school teams. An example is West Torrance High, where three of the five starters are Yonsei players.

I am aware of their presence on their team because The Daily Breeze, published in the South Bay, always prints their performance on the sports page.

Of course, The Daily Breeze publishes other news articles containing JA names.

In the past Wednesday edition’s “local news” section, a Yonsei student from Bishop Montgomery High School captured the top story with the headline “Junior in Torrance Aces SAT Exam.”

The story was about Samantha Nishimura, who scored a perfect 2400 in math, reading and writing on the SAT. Her score put her in the top 2 percent of all students in the U.S. who took the college preparatory exam, and she’s only a junior.

Of the nearly 1.7 million U.S. students who took the test, just 494 reached perfection, according to the College Board.

In California, 234,767 took the test and 98 aced it.

Samantha, who will graduate in 2015, logged the first perfect score at Bishop Montgomery since 1995. She currently maintains a 4.6 GPA and plans to major in medicine with an eye toward becoming a surgeon.

The SAT is the entrance exam that most colleges still require.

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Like most motorists in the L.A. area, I always check the price of a gallon of gasoline as I drive around, and I am constantly amazed how the prices fluctuate.

What confuses me is that there is never any explanation of why gas can drop 50 cents a gallon and all of a sudden jump up 50 cents, and how come a gas station on one corner of the intersection has gas at $3.56 a gallon while across the street, the price is $3.76.

That always seems to be the case where gas is concerned.

Since I pay for my gas with a Shell credit card, I go to one station for my fuel, but I found another Shell station about two miles away selling their gas for 20 cents less than where I buy. So for now, I go the extra few miles to save at least $3 when I fill up.

Why is it that prices are so different even for the same brand of gas? I thought I would ask the station owner, but decided that wasn’t such a hot idea.

Oh well, unless I drive to Vegas, I don’t burn that much gas driving around Gardena and occasionally driving into J-Town.

It’s a good thing I live in Gardena because everything is so close by, I rarely put on too many miles.

On an average day, the most distance I cover is usually driving to my doctor’s office in Torrance, and at my age, that’s pretty frequent.

Of course, I wonder, “Can’t I find a doctor in Gardena who has the same credentials?” The answer is “No.”

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By the way, a couple of people have volunteered to help me with the Santa Anita Assembly Center Reunion, but surprisingly, I have received only a couple of people who indicated they want to attend if I put the event together.

So, unless things pick up, I guess we won’t have the gathering of folks who were placed at the race track during the early days of World War II when it was called an “assembly center.”

I guess one of the reasons is that since so many years have passed since we were placed in Santa Anita, there just aren’t enough people left.

At any rate, I’ll give it another month because Santa Anita will be open until June.

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Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention this when chatting about burning gas in my car. According to one report, the price of taxes placed on a gallon of gas is second-highest in California, which is the reason we pay more than other states.

The tax on a gallon of gas in California is 48.7 cents. New York is highest at 50.6 cents, and I was surprised that in Hawaii tax is third at 47.1 cents.

I’m kind of curious why this is so.

California has its own oil wells, while Hawaii has to ship in every ounce of gas for auto owners. So how come our taxes are higher than in the Islands?

Maybe someone in the know can explain it to me in an email.

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I didn’t give it much thought, but an email from reader Thomas Nagano has alerted me. He sent me the following message:

“There is a crime that is becoming more common and I don’t think you get the information from our usual sources.

“Last Monday at around 3:30 p.m., traveling along on the Long Beach Blue Line at Washington Station, a criminal grabbed my cell phone out of my hand, ran to the open door of the center car and ran down the platform. I yelled, ‘Stop that man!’ but the train closed the doors and left the station.

“A couple of weeks ago a passenger on the Blue Line stated in a loud voice that thieves were grabbing cell phones and running away as the train leaves the station. Since then, I have found out this is occurring at supermarkets and shopping mails, wherever people use their cell phones in public.

“I reported the theft to Los Angeles sheriff’s transit station at Willowbrook Station, where the Blue and Green lines meet. There are surveillance cameras on the station platform and in the train cars. It is important to note the time and train car number so the tapes can be reviewed.

“I hope this information is helpful to other cell phone users. Since the crime, I found it is a ‘911 incident’ and that number should be called on your cell phone immediately.”

Thanks, Thomas. I have warned my wife not to use her cell phone in public places after reading about your experience, and unless absolutely necessary, I am going to keep my cell phone in my carrier on my belt.

I can see where a thief can feel pretty safe in snatching a cell phone and taking off running.

Enuff said.

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Hey, Maggie, I read your comment about my winning the lottery and what I would do with millions of dollars.

Yes, if I do win, prepare to become a millionaire yourself because I will present you with a check for one million dollars. Heh, heh.

(Maggie’s comment: Yippee! I’m going to be a millionaire! Heh, heh.)

George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via email at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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