Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Ted also worked on the Monument. In fact, he gave everyone directions as the lead contractor.
Later, I got word Kiyo Sato would be coming. I met her in 2008, after she published her book Dandelion Through the Crack, a memoir of her family’s and neighbors’ experiences on being wrenched from their homes and incarcerated at Poston. Ted Kobata was her neighbor and she has stories about him in her book.
The book has a new title, Kiyo’s Story. I found out she had won the 2008 William Saroyan Prize for Nonfiction.
Kiyo and Ted head up the Poston Memorial Monument Committee and are actively trying to keep the stories of the internment alive, so history does not repeat itself.
I have attended several Poston reunions, but never have I seen such a turnout-- hundreds of people. It made me smile, but at the same time, the thought of this tragic time of singling out Japanese Americans as dangerous when they were Americans who loved their country was a bittersweet thought.
I heard bits and pieces of conversations. Grandparents and great-grandparents explaining to their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, very matter of fact, telling them how long they were in Poston. Some were marveling how at green Parker Valley was. Many remember how hot and dusty it was.
I wandered around, trying to find Ted, in a swirl of humanity; I managed to get to where the speaker was, Tak Hatmatsu. I had met him several years ago, when he had a luncheon for CRIT veterans. He also gave me a copy of the poster declaring Executive Order 9066.
Ted spoke first and began to thank people. The Pioneer was mentioned first, for keeping the Poston story alive. I thought to myself, it’s events like the reunion will always keep the history alive.
The real treat for me was meeting my long distance friend, Chizuko Judy de Quiroz
Judy is an extraordinary water colorist and she published a book, Camp Days 1942-1945, which were poignant paintings of her memories of Poston. We had an email friendship when I was working on the Parker Centennial book. I received permission to use one of her paintings. So I introduced myself to her and her eyes lit up and we hugged each other. It was nice to meet the artist. I was able to give copies of the Centennial book to her and her family.
I made a new friend, Lawrence Yamamoto, who lived in the Poston camp for 18 months. We discussed the irrigation system of Parker Valley. He told that he was a small child, at the camp and there was a small stream running by the barracks he and his family lived in.
“The sound of water was very comforting to me,” he told me. He left the camp at age four. He returned to Poston in the 1970s to look around, not much to see. When he found out about the reunion, he had to come. He worked for Indian Health Services in California and, on his next return to Parker he wants to see the IHS facility.
It was good to see my friends and to remember a part of American history I hope will never occur again.
Kiyo’s father John Shinji Sato wrote haiku during the Poston years and the family didn’t discover it until after his passing. She spoke of it at the reunion:
Iku Hi Fumarete
Kyoh No Hana
How long have you been stepped upon?
Today you bloom.
Travis has been a journalist for 31 years in the Parker area. The title of the column denotes the welcoming of the day and the simple fact her front door faces