|Photo date: 4/10/2010|
What happened to the auditorium?
Historic site destroyed in fire
by Patti Jo King
Special to the Times
Originally published in the Quartzsite Times, September 5, 2001
The Japanese American Historical Society and the Arizona Preservation foundation were stunned to learn that the Poston Camp I "Hatch Center" gymnasium was destroyed by fire on August 5. The gymnasium and its surrounding buildings were marked for preservation by the two organizations.
The Poston Japanese Relocation Center, located 12 miles south of the town of Parker on the Colorado River Indian Reservation, was home to some 17,800 Japanese Americans during World War II.
The internment camp was opened May 8, 1942 and included three separate units, Poston I, II, and III. Poston I was the largest of the three units, containing an elementary school, and adobe auditorium and the Hatch Center gymnasium, At its maximum population, the Relocation Center was the largest city in Arizona at the time.
For many years since the camp's closure on November 28, 1945, Japanese camp survivors and their families have made pilgrimages to the site and in 1992, the Poston III Reunion Committee in conjunction with the Colorado River Tribal Historic Preservation Committee and the Arizona Preservation Foundation, erected a 30-foot high monument and kiosk at the site. Plans for restoring the building are in the works.
"I'm shaking from the news of the fire," stated Ruth Yoshiko Okimoto, PhD, one of the primary historians of Japanese Relocation Camps. "We've lost our centerpiece for the restoration project."
The Colorado River Indian Tribal council had passed a resolution in January to preserve the Poston I buildings.
"After the news of the fire, many internees have concerns about the security of the restoration project." Okimoto added.
Okimoto is the author of a book entitled, "A Desert Home on the Colorado River Indian Reservation, Poston 1942-1945." The camp was the internment center for relocatees from Fresno, Sacramento, Kern County, southern California, the Monterey Bay area and southern Arizona. 24 Japanese Americans held at Poston later volunteered for combat duty and lost their lives during World War II.
Colorado River Tribal Fire Department Chief, Kitty Little, stated the cause of the fire is unknown and is still under investigation.