HORSE’S MOUTH: A Memorable Day at Santa Anita

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YOSHINAGA-GEORGEBy GEORGE YOSHINAGA

(Published April  1, 2014)

In all the years I’ve been pounding way, first on my old typewriter and more recently on my computer, I’ve never been recognized or singled out for any occasion.

Well, all that changed this past Saturday, March 29, thanks to Bacon Sakatani, who put together the Santa Anita Reunion at the Arcadia track.

So, before I pound another word, I want to express my deepest thanks to Bacon for his effort in getting together 375 people to honor me.

Needless to say, Bacon invited some VIPs to the event, including Consul General of Japan Jun Niimi; Supervisor Mike Antonovich; Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi; Gardena Mayor Paul Tanaka; and Arcadia Mayor Mickey Segal.

Each of them presented me with a plaque.

Al Muratsuchi’s Assembly resolution tells the story of the gathering, so I “borrowed” it to let the readers will know what the Saturday event was all about. It read:

“Whereas, George Yoshinaga, a distinguished Nisei Japanese American journalist and devoted community activist, has brought credit and distinction to himself through his career and civic achievements and through his many activities, he has improved the quality of life within the local community and throughout the state, and it is appropriate at this time to highlight his many accomplishments and extend to him special honors and the highest commendations; and

“Whereas, following the aftermath of Executive Order No. 9066, George Yoshinaga was interned along with his family at the Santa Anita Assembly Center and Heart Mountain War Relocation Center, where he got his start in journalism as a sports reporter for the camp newspaper, The Heart Mountain Sentinel; and

“Whereas, an individual of immense integrity, fortitude of character and patriotism, George served in the Military Intelligence Service during World War II and was ultimately honored for his service with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2012; and

“Whereas, reflecting his many strengths and talents, George’s stellar career has spanned a wide range of experience, including sports management and acting, he appeared in ‘The Crimson Kimono’ in 1959; and

“Whereas, today George continues to engage and entertain generations of Japanese Americans through his twice-weekly column, ‘The Horse’s Mouth,’ in which he serves as an outspoken commentator on issues in the Japanese American community, voicing thoughts, opinions and interests of many in the Nisei generation; and

“Whereas, first appearing in The Kashu Mainichi, George’s column is now published in The Rafu Shimpo and features his humor, wit and upfront style of writing, which has earned him many fans throughout the local region; and

“Whereas, among his many community endeavors, George has worked diligently to perpetuate the memory of the Santa Anita Assembly Center; for many years he organized Santa Anita reunions for Japanese Americans who remember their time living in the horse stables, and he waa also instrumental in securing the installation of a plaque at the race track honoring the Japanese American internees; and

“Whereas, throughout history Californians have been blessed with the contributions of individuals who possess great public spirit, who in addition to their daily pursuit, have taken a keen interest in local affairs, and George Yoshinaga has participated in numerous enterprises with evidence of lasting contributions to the community;

“Now therefore, be it resolved by Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi that George Yoshinaga be extended deep appreciation for his dedication and contributions to the people of the State of California and conveyed best wishes for continued success in the future.”

Thanks, Al. Your kind words have moved me.

Mayor Paul Tanaka’s proclamation read like this:

“Whereas, George Yoshinaga is a well-known citizen of Gardena for over 60 years and continues to be an exceptional and inspirational figure in this community, the County of Los Angeles, the State of California and across the nation; and

“Whereas, he is the long-time writer of the popular column ‘The Horse’s Mouth’ for the Los Angeles Japanese daily newspaper, The Rafu Shimpo, and has also been writing for various other publications for over 65 years, through which he has shared, using humor, wit and his upfront style of writing, his day-to-day experiences as well as his insights into the history of this country and personal remembrances of his life and that of others as he and his family were incarcerated at the Heart Mountain Relocation Camp in Wyoming in World War II, and during which, he also served with the U.S. Army in the Counter-Intelligence Corps in the Pacific area as a special agent; and

“Whereas, also, during his incredible life and career, Mr. Yoshinaga has held many positions in the sports world, including that of the martial arts, such as serving as the Asia Pacific representative on the World Boxing Board, the California Martial Arts Committee, and the L.A. County Physical Fitness Council, also serving on the California State Athletic Commission as inspector, and was licensed as a manager in California, Nevada, Hawaii, Texas, Oklahoma, England, Brazil, Chile, Philippines, France and Japan, and further, throughout his career, he introduced the sport of kickboxing to the United States, served as executive director of the Japan Bowl all-star football game, promoted university-level basketball games, and in the mid-1960s, introduced live sumo matches to the United States; and

“Whereas, Mr. Yoshinaga is being honored today on the occasion of the reunion of those who were incarcerated along with their families at the Santa Anita Assembly Center and the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming, where he got his start in journalism as a sports reporter for the camp newspaper, The Heart Mountain Sentinel; and

“Whereas, George is a true example of an outstanding life of service and, throughout his 88 years, has displayed exemplary leadership, exceptional local community involvement through his service on the Gardena Rent Mediation Board and the Naming of City Facilities Policy Committee, has experienced great pride in all his accomplishments, and has humbly accepted well-deserved recognition, admiration, and respect from all those whose lives he touched and continues to touch in so many meaningful ways;

“Now, therefore, I. Paul K. Tanaka, Mayor of the City of Gardena, do hereby proclaim Saturday, March 29, 2014 as George Yoshinaga Day and extend official best wishes and sincere congratulations to a most deserving gentleman. May this be a memorable day and may he enjoy good health and much happiness for many years to come.”

Thanks to Mayor Tanaka for his wonderful proclamation.

Never thought that I would ever have a day named after me in the City of Gardena, where I lived for so many years.

(MAGGIE’S COMMENT: WOW! Mr. Y! HEARTFELT CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU! I felt as though I should have stood up while typing the above proclamations honoring you. Dear Gwen thoughtfully and kindly surprised me with the unique T-shirt in your honor, which made me so happy.)

The Los Angeles Times, in their California section, ran a two-page story on the Santa Anita Reunion. I don’t ever recall The Times covering a Japanese American community event, so for them to run a two-page story is really something.

Oh yeah, I wasn’t aware of it, but I was told that a bus filled with JAs arrived at the race track event. That may account for the total head count hitting over 375 people.

As I sat there among the attendees, my thoughts did go back 72 years to when I first arrived in Arcadia from the Northern California town of Mountain View. It was my first meeting with JAs from the big city of Los Angeles, so I felt quite awkward among them, and the city folks looked down on us as farmers, which didn’t make it easier to get adjusted.

Another thing that pops into my mind is going with my sister to pick up the straw we had to put in a bag, which became our mattress.

My Issei mother had a tough time trying to sleep on a straw-filled mattress. As an 18-year-old, it was easier for me to get adjusted.

So, when we arrived at Heart Mountain after leaving Santa Anita, I was surprised when we were given regular mattresses.

Hey, in those days, every little thing mattered, even though we lived in one small room located in a barrack.

Ah memories…

Oh yeah, before I forget. Even though I’m a horse racing fan, I didn’t bet on a single race until I noticed that jockey Corey Nakatani had a mount in the fifth race. I decided that I had to bet on him at least one.

He won. I didn’t put a lot of money on his mount, which paid $10.80 to win. So I picked up a few bucks. A lot of those at the reunion got a big laugh. Most said, “Only Horse would bet on Nakatani.”

Again, I want to express my deep thanks to those who attended the reunion. It was good for my ego have people drop by our table to tell me they are followers of my chatter.

Of course, I met a lot of people I knew whom I haven’t seen for quite a while.

I’m glad everyone wore a name tag because I was able to peek and recognize many of them.

Hey, after all, there were some I haven’t seen since 72 years ago, and at my age, my memory has faded and I sometimes can’t remember some folks I met back then.

Don’t laugh. Wait ’til you hit my age.

In wheeling around my TV today, I was kind of surprised that the 2014 Major League Baseball season is under way. No I didn’t watch more than a few minutes before my wife said, “Hey, you gotta take me shopping.”

So I don’t know the outcome of the Dodgers’ game. The score was 0-0 when I left the house to sit in the car while the wife was in the supermarket shopping.

Needless to say, my mind is not functioning as it always does, mainly because of the reunion on Saturday and, would you believe, my neighbor’s barking dog.

Yup. The mutt was barking at 3 a.m., so I tossed and turned. Of course, since I couldn’t sleep I kept thinking about what I should write about on Sunday.

Also remembered I got a letter from a reader whose missive was entitled “Remedy for Neighbor’s Barking Dog.”

She wrote: “Mr. Yoshinaga, I saw your recent column about the barking dog you have next door and thought I might offer a possible solution.

“We bought a dog barking silencer and it’s worked for us and thought you might like to try it yourself.

“I bought ours from Amazon and the product is Dogtek Sonic Birdhouse Bark Control Outdoor/Indoor.

“I found the customer reviews to be helpful as the silencer doesn’t work for everyone. Good luck and Happy New Year.”

Thanks for the information. I’ll drop by the store you mentioned and check it out.

When I told my wife about your letter, she was quite happy because every time I hear the next-door neighbor’s dog barking, I curse and threaten to throw a rock at the mutt.

If the device you mention is successful, I won’t have to look for a rock to throw over the fence.

(MAGGIE’S COMMENT: Now, now, Mr. Y, forgive me for saying this, but I am an animal lover. You don’t want to throw a rock at the dog. Generally, there is a reason a dog barks, even at 3 in the morning.)

Well, as I often say, I’m going to be a little short because of the hectic weekend this past Saturday and Sunday.

I guess I could extend it a bit more by writing about Naomi Hirahara’s new book, which is set for distribution in April. That’s next week.

I don’t get to meet Naomi as often as we used to when she was still with the vernacular press. As most may remember, it was Naomi who got me started writing my column for The Rafu after I  retired from The Kashu Mainichi.

At that time, she said, “You’re too young to retire.”

Well, would you believe that over 20 years have passed since she made that comment? So I guess I’m not too young to retire.

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

 

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  1. Reiko Umemura Cline on

    Mr. George Yoshinaga my comment is when you wrote “I rather be called Jap”
    etc. You know me, don’t you ???…(^o^)…

    Respectfully and , Sincerely.

    Reiko Cline

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