Applicant: Poston Community Alliance, Inc.
Salazar Announces $2.9 Million in Grants to Preserve Japanese American Confinement Sites
WASHINGTON – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced that the National Park Service is awarding 24 grants totaling $2.9 million to preserve and interpret sites where Japanese Americans were confined during World War II.
“The internment of Japanese Americans during World War II is an unfortunate part of the story of our nation’s journey, but it is a part that needs to be told,” Salazar said. “As Winston Churchill noted, ‘Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.’ If we are to live up to the ideals expressed in the Constitution, we must learn not only from the glorious moments of our nation’s history but also from the inglorious moments.”
“These places, where more than 110,000 Japanese Americans were unjustly held, testify to the alarming fragility of our constitutional rights in the face of prejudice and fear,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “The National Park Service is honored to help preserve these sites and tell their stories, and thus prevent our nation from forgetting a shameful episode in its past.”
The incarceration of Japanese Americans – two-thirds of whom were American citizens – followed Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Grants from the Japanese American Confinement Sites Program may go to the 10 War Relocation Authority camps set up in 1942, or to other sites, including assembly, relocation, and isolation centers.
This year – the grant program’s third – the awards will provide $2.9 million to projects in 11 states. These undertakings include restoration of an internment camp cemetery at Rohwer Relocation Center in Arkansas; production of a film exploring the lives of mothers and children detained at Poston, Arizona; and production and distribution of a documentary on the jazz bands that flourished at many internment camps.
The grants range from $5,000, to preserve documents and artifacts at Chicago’s Japanese American Historical Society, to $291,025, to reconstruct a water tower and a guard tower at the Granada Relocation Center (Amache) in Colorado.
Congress established the Japanese American Confinement Sites Grants Program in 2006 and authorized up to $38 million in grants, for the life of the program, to identify, research, evaluate, interpret, protect, restore, repair, and acquire historic confinement sites.
The grants are made as part of a competitive process in which $2 of federal money matches every $1 in non-federal funds and “in-kind” contributions. The goals of the grant program are to teach present and future generations about the injustice of the confinement and inspire a commitment to equal justice under the law.
A list of the winning projects follows. When a project is marked with an asterisk (*), the applicant is from one state and the confinement site associated with the project is in another.
Under California, see the Poston Community Alliance project “Poston’s Mothers and Babies: A Film on Domestic Life in Camp.”
*Project: “Poston’s Mothers and Babies: A Film on Domestic Life in Camp”
Applicant: Poston Community Alliance, Inc.
Applicant: Poston Community Alliance, Inc.
Poston Opera Performed at Japanese American National Museum
May 8 2011
The Los Angeles Opera’s In-School Opera for Secondary Schools presented the original piece “White Bird of Poston” on Sunday, May 15, at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo.
Composed by Eli Villanueva with librettist Leslie Stevens, “White Bird of Poston” is a 47-minute opera featuring four professional principal singers, three professional musicians, and original sets, costumes and lighting. The participating students will sing and perform the parts of the chorus, including as Japanese American inmates, U.S. soldiers and even animals.
The story concerns a 15-year-old Japanese American girl, Akiko, incarcerated in a World War II government-run camp in Arizona with her family. The camp is located on Native American land. Facing the challenge of her false imprisonment, Akiko meets a Native American boy, encounters a talking coyote, and communicates with the spirit of her grandmother. Lessons in courage, faith and even understanding of one’s own prejudice are major themes in this work.
The story was inspired in part by the watercolor paintings of Chizuko Judy Sugita de Quieroz, who was imprisoned in Poston camp I, block 38-7-C as a 9-year-old. She has exhibited widely and has published a book, “Camp Days, 1942-1945.”
To Undo a Mistake is Always Harder Than Not to Create One Originally
by Eleanor Roosevelt
[This essay is a draft of an article that had been written for Collier's Magazine by Eleanor Roosevelt. Mrs. Roosevelt visited the Gila River Relocation Center in Arizona in 1943 in response to charges that the Japanese American evacuees there were being "coddled". The manuscript, courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library (Hyde Park, New York), was published in a revised form October 10, 1943. It is reproduced here from the original draft with only minor editorial changes.]
We are at war with Japan, and yet we have American citizens, born and brought up in this country whose parents are Japanese. This is the essential problem. A good deal has already been written about it. One phase, however, I do not think as yet has been adequately stressed. To really cover it, we must get the background straight first.
In this nation of over one hundred and thirty million, we have 127,500 Japanese or Japanese Americans. Those who have lived for a long time in the Midwest or in the east and who have had their records checked by the FBI, have been allowed to go on about their business, whatever it may be, unmolested. The recent order removing aliens from strategic areas, of course, affects those who were not citizens, just as it affects other citizens, however.
112,000 Japanese of the total 127,500 lived on the West Coast. Originally they were much needed on ranches, and on large truck and fruit farms, but as they came in greater numbers, people began to discover that they were not only convenient workers, they were competitors in the labor field, and the people of California began to be afraid of their own importation, so the Exclusion Act was passed in 1917. No people of the Oriental race could become citizens of the United States, and no quota was given to the Oriental nations in the Pacific. They were marked as different from other races and they were not treated on an equal basis. This happened because in one part of our country they were feared as competitors, and the rest of our country knew them so little and cared so little about them that they did not even think about the principle that we in this country believe in — that of equal rights for all human beings.
We granted no citizenship to Orientals, so now we have a group of people, some of whom have been here as long as fifty years who have not been able to become citizens under our laws. Long before the war, an old Japanese man told me that he had great grand-children born in this country and that he had never been back to Japan, all that he cared about was here on the soil of the United States, and yet he could not become a citizen.
The children of the Japanese born in this country, however, were citizens automatically and now we have about 42,500 native born Japanese who are known as Issei, and about 85,000 native born Japanese American citizens, known as Nisei. Some of these Japanese Americans have gone to our American schools and colleges and have never known any other country or any other life than the life here in the United States. Sometimes their parents have brought them up, as far as family life is concerned, in the old Japanese family tradition. Age has its privileges and the respect that is due the elders in a family is strongly emphasized in Oriental life. So for a young Japanese American to go against his parents is more serious than for other children. As a rule in the United States we do not lay undue emphasis upon the control of the older members of the family, or the respect and obedience that is due to mere age.
This large group of Japanese on the West Coast preserved those family traditions, because since they were feared they were also discriminated against. Japanese were not always welcome buyers of real estate. They were not always welcome neighbors, or participators in community undertakings. As always happens with groups that are discriminated against, they gather together and live among their own racial group. The younger ones made friends in school and college and became a part of the community life, and prejudices lessened against them. Their elders were not always sympathetic to the changes thus brought about in manners and customs.
There is another group in this number of American born Japanese called the Kibei. The parents of this group had kept complete loyalty to Japan and some of them were acting as agents of that government in this country. Some of them longed for the day when they could return and live at home in Japan, so they sent their children, born in this country, back to Japan for their education. Some of these young people returned to this country in 1938 and 1939.
They saw war coming in Japan and apparently were not loyal enough to Japan to want to go to war on the Japanese side, and neither did they have enough loyalty to the United States, since they did not grow up here, to serve this country. They form a group which is given scant respect either by their elders who are loyal to Japan or from the Japanese who are loyal to the United States.
Enough for the background. Now we come to Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. We see the problems which faced the Pacific coast from this date on. There was no time to investigate families, or to adhere strictly to the American rule that a man is innocent until he is proven guilty. These people were not convicted of any crime, but emotions ran too high, too many people wanted to reek vengeance on Oriental-looking people. Even the Chinese, our Allies, were not always safe on the streets. A few of the Japanese had long been watched by the FBI and were apprehended on the outbreak of war and taken into custody.
In an effort to live up to the American idea of justice as far as possible, the Army laid down the rules for what they considered the safety of our West Coast. They demanded and they supervised the evacuation. A civil authority was set up, the War Relocation Authority, to establish permanent camps and take over the custody and maintenance of these people, both for their own safety and for the safety of the country.
To many young people this must have seemed strange treatment of American citizens, and one cannot be surprised at the reaction which manifests itself not only in young Japanese American, but in others who had known them well and been educated with them, and who bitterly ask: "What price American citizenship?"
Nevertheless most of them recognized the fact that this was a safety measure. The army carried out its evacuation on the whole with remarkable skill and kindness. The early situation in the camps was difficult. They were not ready for occupation. Sufficient water was not available, food was slow in arriving. The setting up of large communities meant an amount of organization which takes time, but the Japanese proved to be patient, adaptable and courageous for the most part.
Many difficulties have had to be met, but the War Relocation Authority and the Japanese themselves have coped with these remarkably well. There were unexpected problems and one by one these were discovered and an effort made to deal with them fairly. For instance, these people had property they had to dispose of, often at a loss. Sometimes they could not dispose of it and it remained unprotected, so as the months go by it is deteriorating in value. Some business difficulties have arisen which had to be handled through agents, since the Japanese could not leave the camps.
In reading the various accounts which have been written it struck me that practically no one has recognized what a tremendous variety of things the War Relocation Authority has had to develop to meet the innumerable problems created by the removal of a great group of people from one small section of the country and their temporary location in other parts of the country. When I read the accusations against the Authority for acquiring quantities of canned goods, and laying in stocks of food, I realized there was a lack of understanding of one basic fact, namely, that government authorities such as this have to live up to the law, and if it is the law of the land that we are rationed, we are rationed everywhere — in prisons, in hospitals, in camps, wherever we may be, individuals are rationed and even the War Relocation Authority cannot buy more than is allowed for the number of people they have to feed.
The Armed Services in camp here in this country are probably exempt, but even they are now being put on short rations and I have had many complaints from boys that they were given field rations, which probably comes nearer to approximating the civilian ration. It is logical that in the Armed Forces, men who are undergoing training, physical and mental, should require more food that the civilian population. It is for that reason that civilian goods grow scarcer and we accept rationing in a desire to see that all civilian goods are more equitably distributed to all of us.
But no government authority dealing with civilians is free from the laws of the country as a whole. I think that is something that should be borne in mind when we read attacks as to the manner in which the relocation camps are run, and then see the government officials obliged to deny or explain how they happened to have a certain amount of this or that on hand. If you have a city of 14,000 people living in a camp such as the one I went to in Arizona, even in these days, you have to have more on hand than the average small community.
In these transplanted communities, schools have had to be established, hospitals have had to be equipped and manned. At Gila, the land is rented from the Indian Reservation and no special buildings could be erected to accommodate either schools or hospitals. The buildings are just barrack buildings, adapted as well as human ingenuity can do it, to the needs for which they are used. Those of us who are familiar with the type of migratory labor camp which was gradually developed in different parts of the country during the past few years will understand what these relocation camps are like. They have certain familiar arrangements, such as a central washing unit for laundry and for personal cleanliness, and a central mess hall where the people gather for their meals. These are located in every barrack block containing about two hundred and fifty people.
The day I was at Gila there was no butter and no sugar on the tables. The food was rice and fish and greens. There was some milk for the children and some kind of pudding on the table. Neither in the stock-rooms, or on the tables did I notice any kind of extravagance.
Except for the head doctor in the hospital who was an American, the other doctors are Japanese. One had been a surgeon and had had a large Caucasian practice, he is now earning $19.00 a month, the standard pay for all work except for those who are working under Army or Navy contracts.
Ingenuity has been used in the schools. The class in typing only had two typewriters, so they worked out a key-board of card board with holes for the keys and on this the class practiced. The typewriters were rationed, ten minutes use a day to each member of the class.
In the nursery school the toys were quite obviously homemade, and the children stretched out on the floor for their midday rest, with little makeshift covers under them which they folded up when the rest period was over.
Contractors, building army camps or any other type of camp, apparently level off the land in the quickest possible way, taking out any tree or any bush that may stand in the way of their building operations. The desert has few trees, but the scrub growth which usually holds down the land to a certain extent is completely removed around the camps I have seen. This makes a high wind a pretty disagreeable experience as you are enveloped in dust. It chokes you and brings about irritations of the nose and throat and here in this climate where people go to recover from respiratory ailments, you will find quite a number of hospitals around the camps, both military and non-military, with patients suffering from the irritations that the swirling dust cannot fail to bring.
Around the barrack buildings at Gila, a great effort has been made to ameliorate this condition by using scrap lumber and burlap bags for makeshift porches and awnings. They are now getting screens for protection against the insects. They have made small gardens, some with vegetables and some with flowers and shrubs from the surrounding desert, to beautify the barren streets.
At Gila there is a big farm where the Japanese who worked on the land, but perhaps grew only one type of vegetable, are now learning to cultivate as a complete farm enterprise and they care for cattle, chickens and grow a variety of foodstuffs. If some are never able to go back to the West Coast, they will be better able to learn a living on a general farm. Others work in various activities necessary to the life of the community. Since the formation of a Japanese division in the Army, it has been possible for Japanese American young men who have been checked and found loyal to the United States to volunteer for this division, and many of the Japanese American girls asked me if they would have an opportunity to serve in the same way in the Auxiliary Military Services.
Under the living conditions which exist in these camps it is natural that some of the most difficult problems faced are problems of morality. This is neither strange nor new, since overcrowding and restraint of free and normal living always bring up such problems, but crimes of violence or of theft have been remarkably low. A small force of Japanese policemen does the policing of the camps and has apparently few difficulties with which to contend.
We can be grateful that everyone has work, for work is a great panacea in all difficult human relationships.
There is perhaps a higher percentage of people with college degrees here than in the average community of the same size. They are taken from every background and yet must work in unfamiliar occupations, and one can realize that the close living quarters must create great problems.
|Eleanor's home Val Kill|
To undo a mistake is always harder than not to create one originally but we seldom have the foresight. Therefore we have no choice but to try to correct our past mistakes and I hope that the recommendations of the staff of the War Relocation Authority, who have come to know individually most of the Japanese Americans in these various camps, will be accepted. Little by little as they are checked, Japanese Americans are being allowed on request to leave the camps and start independent and productive lives again. Whether you are a taxpayer in California or in Maine, it is to your advantage, if you find one or two Japanese American families settled in your neighborhood, to try to regard them as individuals and not to condemn them before they are given a fair chance to prove themselves in the community.
"A Japanese is always a Japanese" is an easily accepted phrase and it has taken hold quite naturally on the West Coast because of fear, but it leads nowhere and solves nothing. A Japanese American may be no more Japanese than a German-American is German, or an Italian-American is Italian, or of any other national background. All of these people, including the Japanese Americans, have men who are fighting today for the preservation of the democratic way of life and the ideas around which our nation was built.
We have no common race in this country, but we have an ideal to which all of us are loyal: we cannot progress if we look down upon any group of people amongst us because of race or religion. Every citizen in this country has a right to our basic freedoms, to justice and to equality of opportunity. We retain the right to lead our individual lives as we please, but we can only do so if we grant to others the freedoms that we wish for ourselves.
On-line source: http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/anthropology74/ce2.htm
60 years late, but just as sweet
June 21, 2005
Gilroy - Cloaked in a black and purple robe, Takeshi Ota (Poston block 17-14-D) and his unlikely classmates were seated in the front row - center. Sitting among 485 teenagers, Ota and his five classmates in their 80s received the loudest applause from the audience. The Salinas High School Class of 2005 didn't seem to mind.
"Imagine - we have wanted our diplomas for 13 years," said Associated Student Body president Kevin Achas. "They have wanted theirs for 60."
|Second from right: Takeshi Ota |
Photo credit: Kristen Munson
Ota was a young sophomore at Salinas High School when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. His father was a Japanese immigrant - a sharecropper - who worked in the fields, picking strawberries for Driscoll farms. Ota's mother was born in Watsonville.
He is among the Nisei - second generation Japanese immigrants living in the United States - some of the forgotten victims of World War II who were detained in internment camps on American soil. As fighting progressed and suspicions about Japanese Americans serving as spies abroad grew, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered all individuals of Japanese descent, including natural born citizens, to be quarantined in camps on Feb. 19,1942.
"We were told to go to Salinas Rodeo grounds," Ota said. "That became an assembly center for all the Japanese from Monterey, San Benito and South County." The Salinas Rodeo grounds housed 3,594 evacuees for about three months while permanent relocation centers were built in secluded parts of the west including Utah, Arizona, Idaho, California, Wyoming and Colorado.
"Everybody of Japanese descent, we were all told we had to leave the western coast because the war started - because we might be spies," the 81-year-old explained. Ota and his family were sent to the Salinas Rodeo grounds in April 1942 and remained there until July 4, 1942, when they were sent to the Colorado River Indian Relocation Center in Poston, Ariz. (block 17-14-D).
"We could only bring what we could carry - nothing more," he recalled. "We didn't know how long we were going to be there. There were a lot of rumors going around that we were going to be shipped back to Japan. Lots of rumors."
The relocation center was divided into three camps called Poston I, II, and III and located two miles from the banks of the Colorado River in the desert. Evacuees nicknamed the three camps Roasten, Toasten and Dustin. Together they held 17,814 internees. Poston was the largest relocation center in the country. More than 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were housed in the relocation camps from 1942 to 1945. Because the original plans for Poston did not include schools, the evacuees had to build their own.
Ota continued schooling in September 1942 there under the instruction of primarily young Japanese American college students and graduated a year later. "We graduated just like anyone else, with caps and gowns," Ota said. His diploma carries a seal from the Office of Indian Affairs. Ironically, the man who graduated from high school inside an internment camp was drafted into the United States Army in Aug. 1943. Sent to Florida for basic training, he was recruited to study intelligence at Fort Snelling, Minn. and learn the Japanese language to be become an interrogator and translator. He knew little of his parents language beforehand. He was sent overseas and when the war ended, Ota's ship was under repair at Pearl Harbor. He then moved to Tokyo for eight months where he taught English to Japanese and was honorably discharged in Aug. 1946.
After the war Ota's family returned to the South County but no longer had a home. "We were really poor," he said. "My folks didn't know too much English - so I thought I should stay home." Mr. Driscoll asked his father to move to Morgan Hill, Ota said, and Ota joined his father in the fields, farming strawberries and working in the orchards. He moved with his wife to Gilroy in 2001. Ota still keeps in touch with friends he met in the camps. "They had a hard time getting work after," he said. "You've got to start all over again."
Ted Uchida, born in Japan, immigrated to the United States with his family in the 1950s. "My father always said to thank those who came before us," said Uchida, the owner of Zen Flower Garden in Gilroy. Starting a new life in the United States was not as difficult for new Japanese immigrants because of the hard work and reputation those before them established, Uchida explained. "We have to give a lot of credit to our forefathers who have already endured the discrimination," he said. "There's a lot of people who sacrificed to pave a good way for us. I have nothing but thanks for those people."
In 1988, the Civil Rights Commission ordered reparations to the Japanese Americans detained in the relocation centers. Letters of apology were sent out. Ota has one from President Ronald Reagan. "They gave us about $20,000 per person as a form of an apology," he said. He and his wife have one child. But he never talked about his experience in the camps with his family. "It wasn't until quite later that their kids and grandkids wanted to know," Ota explained of the mentality other evacuees shared. He has only recently started talking about his experience in the camps. "A lot of people have gone back and visited (the reservation.) I haven't gone yet," Ota said. "I don't think I will."
All that is left of Poston I is the elementary school, some classrooms and the auditorium the detainees built. All that is left of the high school Ota attended are a few slabs of concrete. Nearly 60 years later, under Assembly Bill AB 781 authored by Assembly member Sally Lieber, (D -San Jose) also called known as the California Nisei High School Diploma Project, any school district is authorized to retroactively issue a high school diploma to any person of Japanese descent who was prevented from graduating in their neighborhood school during World War II.
Descendants of some who have passed, received the diplomas in their honor. Others like Ota, were afforded the chance to wear their school colors and participate in a formal graduation ceremony. Ota was one of six individuals who received an honorary diploma at Salinas High School's graduation ceremony June 9. Before the ceremony, they were given congratulatory letters from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lieber, and various other California politicians.
As they went to graduation rehearsal on the field, individuals already seated in the bleachers applauded loudly. Salinas High graduates clapped. Some went up and shook their hands. The ceremony was very different from the high school graduation held in the internment camp, Ota said. "That was just us. ... I never expected this," he said. "It was a wonderful memory.
Soldier paid ultimate price for country who interned his family
The Bakersfield Californian
September 21, 2007
|Pfc Torao Hayashi|
Sure was glad when I received your V-mail, and am happy to hear everyone is fine. As for me I’m swell and still kicking. Yes, since joining the unit, I met all the boys that I knew back in the States. In your letter you say that you mailed the family picture to my old address. Well, in that case, it will be quite some time before I’ll get it, but I’ll let you know when I get it. I heard from Roy a few days ago and he said he’s not going to school, so I take it he didn’t pass the grade. I also heard from Arlene. She said something about (unreadable) in the hospital recently.
Hope it’s not serious. Well, that’s all for this time.
About the letter writer
Pfc. Torao Hayashi, uncle of Bakersfield resident Sandy (Hayashi) Minner, fought in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the United States Army, a unit composed of mostly Japanese-Americans who fought in Europe during World War II.
Hayashi was killed in France on Oct. 28, 1944, during the fight to liberate a region in southern France. The 442nd suffered more than 800 casualties, nearly half its force, rescuing 211 members of the “Lost Battalion” in Biffontaine.
“What the 442nd did was instrumental in causing social change,” Minner wrote in an e-mail to The Californian. “After the war, the law that prevented Japanese immigrants, like my grandparents, from becoming U.S. citizens was eliminated. The California law that prevented them from owning land was also eliminated. We owe all veterans from WWII a lot, but people of color owe the 442nd even more. The 442nd paid in blood for the freedom we now take for granted.”
Letters written by Pfc Torao Hayashi to sister, Louise Hayashi (Poston block 208-2-D):
Minner, who sent three letters, went on to write:“In the last letter, he mentions a family photo taken during his last furlough before shipping out, and how he hadn’t received it. He was killed four days later. ... We assume he never saw the photograph.
“It is ironic that the letter from the War Department informing my grandmother of her son’s death was sent first to their old address (near Sacramento). It was then forwarded to the family in the Poston, Ariz., internment camp. You’d think the War Department would be able find out where the family had been interned.”
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR WAR RELOCATION AUTHORITY
Dec. 19, 1944
Mr. and Mrs. Ichimatsu Hayashi
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Hayashi:
Three years of war have brought heartache to many in our population. While there is little I can say today that will assuage your overwhelming grief, in the months to come you may think back upon my message with some small comfort. For I am proud of your son; proud that he was an American who had the strength and courage to fight for his country in her great crisis; proud that he was willing to give his blood as his last great measure of devotion. I congratulate you as parents who instilled these manly qualities in your son and prepared him to meet the greatest test of our time.
In a special sense, your son fought to win the war against two foes, the enemies of democracy abroad, and the enemies of democracy at home who use race and ancestry to confuse and defeat the real meaning of America. It is my sorrow that he could not have lived to see his bravery, his sacrifice and his suffering bear fruit in a better world for all peoples.
Pfc Torao Hayashi (1/24/1914-10/28/1944)
Basic training: Camp Roberts, Fort Bliss, Camp Shelby
Service: French Campaign, battle to rescue the Lost Battalion which was the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry, a Texas unit which had been surrounded in the forest 2 miles east of Biffontaine. During the 2nd day of the battle in rescue of the Lost Battalion on 28 Oct 1944, Pfc Torao Hayashi was killed in action.
Awards: Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman's Badge, Distinguished Unit Badge
1. http://www.bakersfield.com/entertainment/local/x557570603/Soldier-paid-ultimate-price-for-country-who-interned-his-family2. http://www.rogere442.net/KIA%27s/ALL_KIAS/Hayashi%20Torao.pdf
Please ask around, for any former Poston Girl Scout internees.
Nancy Buell, Arizona Girl Scout historian, is currently conducting research for the Girls Scouts 100th Anniversary in 2012. She has been researching different Girl Scout troops for years. Buell says every internment camp had Girl Scout troops. But each Girl Scout has a different story to tell, she says. “As many as I can talk to the better,” Buell said. “It’s a continuing puzzle.”
Buell, wants to document their experiences in the Girl Scout troops in Poston. For example, how did each girl obtain their Poston Girl Scout uniform, and what activities did they participate in with their troop?
For more information, email:nebuell (at) gmail (dot) com
or write to:
1325 E. Broadmor Drive
Tempe, Arizona 85282
|Barbara Washler Curry|
This is an interesting question that was posed to former Poston camp III high school teacher Barbara Washler Curry at the Poston camp III reunion held at San Diego, in April 2008.
The former Miss Washler was kind enough to allow us to record her oral history. Former CRIT Department of Education employee, Dr. J. Cravath had the privilege to interview this very popular, former camp III high school teacher and I recently completed transcribing the interview.
Miss Washler, as she was called then, was only about five years older than most of her students. She came from a rural Kansas family with her father being her inspiration as he was a high school teacher and later a superintendent of schools.
Miss Washler's first teaching job after completing her education credits at Park College in Missouri was at Poston camp III. Dr. Arthur Harris, Director of Education at Poston and Park College alumni, wrote a letter to the head of the Education Department at Park College, announcing the need for teachers at Poston. Apparently, the description of the physical environment and conditions at the Poston "relocation center" (term used by the federal government) intrigued Miss Washler's interest. It seems that Miss Washler wanted some adventure and something new to experience in her life from her first job.
Well adventure Miss Washler did experience on that train ride from Kansas City to Parker, Arizona. It seems that when the Santa Fe train approached the Oklahoma state border, there was some seat changing in the train among the passengers. No, this was not "musical chairs". This was Miss Washler's first experience with segregation.
Miss Washler was the advisor for a girls group or club. Can anyone recall the name of that club?
Miss Washler was also advisor for a group of Girl Scouts in Poston III. Hiking down to the Colorado River, having cook outs, staying overnight by the river, and even getting her foot wet in the river, were just some of her precious memories with those girls.
But the things that made her teaching job the most enjoyable was that, "the students' were clean, punctual, and had an attitude of wanting to learn." Miss Washler's only disappointment was that she could not communicate with the children's parents, due to the language barrier.
After the Poston III school finally closed in 1945, Miss Washler did not leave Poston. She was hired as a Relocation Agent to help families who needed jobs relocate to New Jersey or Arkansas with some of the large agricultural businesses. Of course, there were the few who were the very last to leave the camp, who she had the unfortunate job of ushering them out and return to California.
When she was asked why does she attend the Poston III reunions, she told us that she attended the very first one and all the following ones that she was able to attend. The reasons, "It was a wonderful part of my life" and "I LOVE TO BE ASSOCIATED WITH THEM."
~Thank You ~Domo arigato~ Barbara Washler Curry