Teacher: Harold Lehner

Harold Lehner's First Teaching Job Was At A Japanese-American Internment Camp.
August 20, 1997
By Sara ShecKler, Orlando Sentinel correspondent

HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS — Harold Lehner was in his senior year at Newark State Teachers College in New Jersey when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. A medical deferment let him graduate and start teaching at a junior high school in New Jersey. But his destiny, like those of many young men of the time, was to be determined by the war.

In 1943, Lehner, who now lives in Howey-in-the-Hills, decided to apply for teaching positions at several Japanese-American internment camps. Most of the camps were on the West Coast. Lehner accepted a yearlong position teaching at the Colorado River War Relocation Camp in Poston, Ariz.

Lehner, now 75, was 21 years old when he accepted a job with the camp, on an Indian reservation. "I rode a train for four days from New Jersey to Phoenix. While waiting there for a connecting train to camp, I rented a hotel room for several hours. It was the first chance I'd had to sleep in a prone position for four days," he said.

Lehner and his colleagues were hired by the U.S. Dept of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs. He taught several classes of 9th-graders and was the adviser on the school's yearbook, Post Ano (Poston camp I).

Lehner said most of his students were born in America, and two-thirds of the residents of the relocation camp were American citizens. Many of the teachers were Japanese-Americans. Lehner said social activities at the camp included hiking in the desert and swimming in the Colorado River. Guests visiting the camp included Kabuki theater performers and clergy members from Buddhist, Catholic, Protestant and Quaker denominations.

After his job ended at the camp, Lehner moved back to New Jersey. He took a position in September 1944 teaching social studies to juniors and seniors at Belleville High School in Belleville, N.J. He was completing graduate work at Columbia University in Manhattan at the same time, and he graduated in 1947 with a master's degree in secondary school administration.

A few years later Lehner switched fields, taking a job selling life insurance. He spent the rest of his career in the area, retiring in 1982 from the Whitestone Corporation in Philadelphia as a senior vice president. He and his wife, Charlotte, moved to Orlando that year. A golf game played at the Mission Inn Golf & Tennis Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills convinced the Lehners to move to Howey in 1984.

Lehner said he keeps in touch with Bob Montgomery, another of the teachers at the Colorado River camp.

He said he also saw a notice in The New York Times a few years after he left the camp that mentioned a Japanese-American teacher he had known there.

"I noticed a large ad in the newspaper seeking engineers for a Fortune 500 company. The contact person was Dr. Tafee Tanimoto," Lehner said. He said he contacted Tanimoto to let him know he'd seen his name in the newspaper.

Lehner said teaching at the camp taught him something too. "I saw the burden this minority group carried. By virtue of their natural origin and physical appearance, the residents were sent to these camps," he said.

Source: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1997-08-20/news/9708200189_1_lehner-camp-colorado-river

No comments: