Masako Hirata

Masako Hirata
by Nicholas R. Cataldo

     Japanese-Americans were vilified during World War II. The very idea of one of them serving as a local community leader would have seemed absurd at the time. However, Masako Hirata accomplished this when she became the first Japanese-American teacher in the city of San Bernardino. 
     Born in San Bernardino on June 24, 1915, Masako recalled in a 2005 interview that when she was growing up, San Bernardino had a community of 100 or so Japanese-American residents living in clapboard-style homes scattered along D Street between Rialto Avenue and Third Street along Second and Fourth streets, and on B Street (now known as Mountain View Ave.).
     The business establishments in the area - restaurants, a barber shop, a tofu shop and grocery stores - were strung along Third Street between Arrowhead Ave. and D Street, with a couple near F Street. There were also two hotels, both of which were managed by Hirata's father, Kumajiro. 
     Shortly after arriving in San Bernardino in 1902, Kumajiro Hirata started running the Pacific Hotel (formerly known as Starke's Hotel) at 292 Third St. He also co-managed the White House Hotel on the north side of Third for a while. 
     After leaving the hotel business, Kumajiro opened up a general store on the south side of Third Street that had a little of everything - produce, lunch meat and an eatery. Patrons always called him "Jack," and his popular place of business became known as Jack's Place. 
     Masako enjoyed childhood days at Fourth Street School and never felt singled out by either the teachers or students there, she recalled. She also had a good experience at Sturges Junior High, San Bernardino High School, San Bernardino Valley College and at the University of Redlands.
     Life for the Japanese-American community deteriorated when World War II arrived. On February 19, 1942, shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order authorizing the incarceration of all Japanese- Americans. 
     The Hirata family spent the next three years at an internment camp  in Poston, Arizona (block 4-13-C). It was here that Masaka began her career as an elementary-school teacher. "My students were great. They were very industrious, sweet, very driven. They had motive to do their best and I enjoyed that." 
     After the war ended, Masako went to New York, where she worked for one year. After that she taught in Northbrook, Ill., for three years. Masako returned to San Bernardino in 1949 and became the city's first teacher of Japanese descent. She taught in the city for 31 years, retiring from Northpark School in 1980. Now 95, she continued making San Bernardino her home for many years until about three years ago, when she moved to the Bay Area city of Albany to live with her sister Phyllis.

Source: http://www.contracostatimes.com/california/ci_17721726?nclick_check=1


Kiyo Sato

Local Author Shares Story With Audiences Around the Country
By Susan M. Osborn

Kiyo Sato’s attitude toward life is to accept what cannot be changed and take a stand on that which she can.

At the October meeting of the Northern California Publishers & Authors, Sato was honored as author of the month. This recognition coincided with the release by Soho Press of the paperback edition of her book, “
Kiyo’s Story: A Japanese-American Family’s Quest for the American Dream (previously published as Dandelion through the Crack.”).

For many years, Sato has told school children her story to increase their knowledge of history and promote intergenerational understanding. Since the book’s publication, she has been making presentations to diverse audiences around the country.

“I want to illuminate not only the challenges of prejudice and oppression, but more fundamentally, to demonstrate the triumph of a family despite those challenges,” Sato said. “I want readers to see life as we lived it, from our early years on a Sacramento strawberry farm, through the trauma of the war years and rebuilding life afterwards.

Sato recently held a family gathering and invited all the members. “I told them our story and gave them copies of my book. Now all the children know the story. Hopefully, they will learn from our experience.”

The experience to which she refers is her family’s struggle to cope with being removed from their Sacramento farm and detained at Poston Internment Camp in Arizona at the outbreak of World War II.
“Kiyo’s Story” demonstrates her family’s unrelenting loyalty, indomitable optimism and spiritual fortitude.

On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed U.S. Executive Order 9066, authorizing the relocation to internment camps of 120,000 Japanese-Americans. Over 70,000 of the Japanese-Americans were American citizens. Sato recalls, “It was a devastating loneliness to realize there was not one person in my own country to whom we could turn for help.”

Hastily constructed by Del Webb, the Poston War Relocation Center had a population of over 17,000 detainees. Poston became the third largest “city” in Arizona.

Situated in the desert, the 71,000 acre site was the hottest of all the camps. In summer, the temperature often reached a high of 130 degrees and there were no cool breezes at night. The air was typically very dry. “I put a wet diaper on my head and learned to breathe in the hot air very slowly,” reports Sato.

“My father was the only one who had entered the camp with a bucket hidden in a bedroll. He hung a canvas from the rafters and had the boys splash buckets of water for our air cooler. Children came from all over the camp to lean against the cool canvas.”

Families were assigned space in wood and tarpaper barracks. Housing was primitive and especially hard on the elderly and the ill. The lack of privacy was particularly difficult for Japanese women, who were required to sleep, eat, bathe and use the toilet in the company of others.

Sato recorded, “Here’s the truth: I am now called a non-alien, stripped of my constitutional rights. I am a prisoner in a concentration camp in my own country. I sleep on a canvas cot under which is a suitcase with my life’s belongings: a change of clothes, underwear, a notebook and a pencil. I shower with a half dozen people, eat with 250 people, and sit in the community latrine with people I don’t even know.”

The first student from her block to be released to attend college, Sato graduated from Hillsdale College in Michigan. Subsequently, she earned a Master in Nursing degree from Western Reserve University and served in the U.S.A.F. Nurse Corps where she attained the rank of captain.

In 2008, Sato was awarded the Saroyan International Prize for “Dandelion through the Crack.” She also received the Award of Excellence in Publications from the Sacramento County Historical Society; won the Northern California Publishers & Authors gold award for best first book and was honored by the California Writers Club and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Sato and other members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Nisei Post 8985, developed “
Lessons from Our Lifetime,” an educational video and workbook for high school and college students. She appeared in “Passing Poston,” a documentary by New York filmmakers about the camp.

In 2009 she spoke at the Smithsonian’s Asian Pacific American Program in Washington D.C. to mark the 67th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066. A letter she wrote to a high school teacher that was confiscated by a military intelligence officer for evidence in a loyalty investigation is preserved in the Smithsonian Institution Research Information System online database.

Sato says, “The past two years have been pretty hectic. I almost feel like the book has owned me ... traveling to so many places, going to dinners and making appearances at events with wine and hors d’oeuvres. Finally, things have slowed down.

“There are still students in 23 states in the U.S. who have never heard of this historical event, whose textbooks do not even mention Executive Order 9066 which challenged the Constitution.  I’m 87. Now, I want to find new ways to reach the people who don’t know about our experience.”
Source: http://www.senior-spectrum.com/news01_120710/index.html


Los Altos Exhibit

Story by Patty Fisher, Mercury News columnist
Posted: 03/10/2011

Quick. Name a pair of Peninsula philanthropists who dedicated their lives to education, conservation, the arts and social justice.

Here's a hint: There's a school in Palo Alto, CA named after them.

If you guessed Stanford or Packard, guess again. I'm talking about Josephine & Frank Duveneck, a couple of committed reformers who left a mark on society that goes far beyond their 1,600-acre ranch above Los Altos called Hidden Villa.

The Duvenecks were Boston blue bloods who fled the stuffy New England society of the 1920s to create a world of their own in the hills above Los Altos.  In addition to turning their ranch into an environmental education preserve, they founded the progressive Peninsula School in Menlo Park & the Loma Prieta chapter of the Sierra Club. Passionate about social justice issues, they opened the first youth hostel on the West Coast & the first interracial summer camp in the U.S. They offered hospitality to American Indians & helped Japanese-Americans interned during World War II. They also started Friends Outside, an organization that helps the families of prison inmates.

In Palo Alto, where Josephine Duveneck served on the City Council, an elementary school bears their name.  Yet most folks around here aren't familiar with the Duvenecks' story. I wasn't until I visited a fascinating exhibit at the Los Altos History Museum called "Touching Lives: The Duvenecks of Hidden Villa."  The exhibit, which runs through June, paints a compelling portrait of a couple of idealistic young rebels who came to California searching for meaning in their lives.

"I don't want to go the way most of the Boston society girls do -- not a bit. I want to know such a lot of things," 18-year-old Josephine Whitney wrote to her sister Laura after the 1909 Boston debutante season. "I want freedom. "... I sort of want to find my own place more & establish myself."

She was born into the wealthy family that founded the Whitney Museum. She met Frank Duveneck, a Harvard-educated engineer & son of a celebrated painter, at a debutante ball. They married in 1913 & traveled around the world for a year before settling in California, where they bought their ranch & began nurturing horses, children & social causes.

The exhibit, put together by several local historians, brings the Duvenecks to life through their voluminous writings, photographs, videos & replicas of rooms in their comfortable home at Hidden Villa. There they dined with Cesar Chavez & Wallace Stegner. They held story hour for the children who came to their interracial summer camp. They grew old together there, surrounded by grandchildren & friends. Josephine died in 1978 & Frank in 1985.

Today, it is home to a nonprofit that runs camps, an organic farm & other environmental programs.

On my tour of the exhibit, I ran into Claire Hu, a 6th-grader at Covington School in Los Altos who was taking copious notes for a class assignment on the Duvenecks. Though she lives in Los Altos, Claire hadn't known much about them until that day.  "They did so many things," she said, gesturing to all the exhibits around the hall. 

What impressed her most? Their efforts for Japanese-American internees. When the United States entered World War II, and local families were ordered to leave their homes, the Duvenecks stored their possessions at Hidden Villa, donated pianos & other comforts to the internment camps & sponsored Japanese-American students so they could leave the camps & go to college

"They devoted their lives to fighting against discrimination," Claire said. "That's pretty amazing."

Indeed, they were amazing role models & worth remembering.

Source: http://www.mercurynews.com/patty-fisher/ci_17586218?source=rss