Historic Resource Study/Special History Study
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Evacuee Employment

Under the WCCA. During the early weeks of Manzanar's operations, recruitment of incoming evacuees for employment in the center was conducted in "a more or less haphazard manner." Various functions had to be performed, such as operation of mess halls and organization of community facilities and services. Amid the chaos of the evacuation process during the spring of 1942, efforts to place each person in the position for which he "was best fitted was at first almost an impossibility.

Nevertheless, the WCCA embarked on a program to employ the Manzanar evacuees until such time as they were relocated. The assignment of jobs to evacuees was delegated to the Personnel Section of the Finance Division. Under the supervision of this section, all employable persons at Manzanar were registered and classified beginning in April 1942. [56] The registration and classification were used to find and recruit qualified persons to fill the numerous jobs needed to operate the center as well as to serve as an aid to relocation. [57] As this registration and classification process neared its final stages, regulations and directives were issued in regard to employment. No evacuee was given a job without a "work order" authorizing employment issued by the Personnel Section, and no evacuee could quit one job and apply for another without a release from the Personnel Section. Five consecutive absences would result in dismissal of the evacuee from his assigned job. [58]

Evacuee employment at Manzanar advanced rapidly under this system. By the first week of May 1942, the population of Manzanar had increased to some 7,200 persons, of which some 2,300 were assigned jobs. Approximately 150 work orders were issued each day. Many of the early job assignments were of a temporary nature, and adjustments accounted for a sizable portion of the daily work orders. [59]

A census of evacuee employment at Manzanar taken in mid-May demonstrated the number and diversity of jobs in which evacuees were employed. The employment list showed the following breakdown: executive office, 11; finance division, 24; timekeeping and payroll, 59; personnel section, 32; heating and plumbing maintenance, 83; fuel oil detail, 30; electrical maintenance, 45; machinist crew, 8; carpentry detail, 36; sewage plant, 15; water works, 15; garbage and rubbish disposal, 49; ground and street improvement and maintenance, 140; office personnel, 28; fire department, 95; police department, 128; stenographers, 4; bedding, moving, and checkers, 36; housing, 45; hospital, health, and sanitation, 263; laundry staff, 33; ambulance drivers, 5; night watchmen, 12; janitors, 15; gardeners, 10; kitchen staff, mess, and food warehouses, 1,562.

Of the 9,671 evacuees at Manzanar on June 1, nearly one-third (3,165) were employed in "operations, services and functions within the project." Of this number, about 125 were employed in agriculture. [60]

While evacuee employment was increasing at Manzanar, the issue of wages continued to be a significant matter of concern to the workers. When the first evacuee volunteers arrived to work at Manzanar, many were under the impression that prevailing American wage scales would be applied to them. As time passed, however, the WCCA failed to make any statement concerning wages as a result of internal agency debates over the issue. Official announcements were periodically made, however, that a wage policy was being formulated. [61] The announcements, however, created confusion as contradictory announcements regarding policies were forthcoming from the Army, the WCCA, and the WRA. From a public relations standpoint, it seemed unwise to pay evacuees at the centers a higher wage than the minimum wage of the American soldier, which was $21 a month. On the other hand, in fairness to the evacuees, the scale had to be set sufficiently high to provide some incentive for productive work, and to enable the workers to purchase needed items not furnished in the camp. Finally, on May 14, nearly two months after work programs started at Manzanar, the WCCA unexpectedly announced the wage scale that was to apply to operating assembly and reception/relocation centers. The policies were continued by the WRA and formalized in WRA policy adopted on September 11. Monthly wages ranged from $12 for unskilled or semi-skilled labor, to $16 for skilled labor, to $19 for professional work or supervisory responsibilities. The wages would be paid to all employees, and in addition they would receive food, shelter, and medical and dental care. Clothing would be issued to those in need, and a gratuitous issue of money would be made to all persons for the purchase of personal necessities. [62]

The low wage scale was not well received by the evacuee population at Manzanar, many residents charging the WCCA with "broken promises" when it was learned that the workers would not be paid wages prevailing on the outside. [63] Similar charges were leveled when the evacuee employees were forced to wait to be paid the sum due them for their work to date. It was not until the last week in June, nearly one month after the WRA assumed administrative control of Manzanar, that payment was begun for work done in the month of March. Two weeks later payment was started for work performed in April. [64]

Under the WRA. In its First Quarterly Report, the War Relocation Authority outlined its policies that governed evacuee employment in the relocation centers. In order to provide employment at the centers and hold down the costs of program administration, the WRA early determined that each relocation center "should be as nearly self-sufficient as possible." One step in that direction was selection of areas with agricultural potential so that evacuees with farm experience might produce "a maximum of the foods needed for their own community kitchens." Another was the planning of government-sponsored manufacturing projects to produce articles needed by evacuees (such as clothing) and goods required by the camps as a whole (such as school furniture). A third step was employment of evacuees in: (1) construction of buildings other than basic housing, (2) a range of community service occupations at the centers; and (3) various clerical and other phases of project administration and maintenance. [65]

Under the WRA, an Employment Office was organized at Manzanar with a staff of evacuee interviewers and occupational analysts. Evacuees were required to register with the office, and an Employment Record Card was developed for each evacuee. When the employment record cards were completed, the Employment Office established a file of occupational classifications, including those persons too aged, feeble, or young to work; housewives; and those physically handicapped or in poor health. From the file of those available for employment, an effort was made to place in useful employment as many people as could fit into a specific job classification. The purpose of this process was to maximize the utilization of individual evacuee skills wherever possible.

Although section heads sometimes recruited prospective employees that were then processed through the Employment Office, the most satisfactory method of recruitment, and the one eventually adopted by the Personnel Office, was known as the "referral method." The placement unit of the Personnel Office maintained a list of people who had inquired about employment. If no particular type of job was available at the moment, the person was told that he would be notified. His employment record card was taken from the file and checked for occupational classification, and as soon as a job was available, a referral card was immediately sent to his quarters, usually by personal delivery to facilitate the contact. The employing officer interviewed the referred person, and action was taken was taken on his suitability for the job.

By September 30, the number of evacuees employed in full-time jobs at Manzanar had risen to 4,159 (approximately 80 percent of the employables). The largest number (1,503) were working in the mess halls, while more than 1,000 men and 30 women evacuees were engaged in the sugar beet fields of Montana and Idaho. [66]

Opportunities for private employment outside the centers developed on a significant scale during late May and early June 1942. The growing wartime-related manpower shortage in agricultural sections of the West was beginning to be acutely felt, and the need for labor in the sugar beet fields was especially urgent. At the suggestion of public officials in some of the principal sugar beet producing states, plans were developed by the WCCA and WRA and the U.S. Employment Service to recruit groups of evacuees in assembly and relocation centers for agricultural work. Under the plans, recruitment during May and June was handled on a voluntary basis by the Employment Service in cooperation with representatives of the sugar companies.

To protect the interests of both the evacuees and the general public, the WRA and the WCCA established definite requirements that had to be met before evacuees could be employed in an agricultural area outside the centers. These stipulations included: (1) written assurance from the state governor and local law enforcement officials that law and order would be maintained; (2) provision by the employer for transportation from the assembly or relocation center to the place of employment and return; (3) payment of prevailing wages; (4) provision that local labor would not be displaced; and (5) certification by the U.S. Employment Service that satisfactory housing would be provided to the evacuees without cost in the area of employment. Although these conditions were established jointly by the WRA and the WCCA (because much of the recruiting took place in assembly centers), the actual operation compliance phase of the program was handled by the WRA. As a result of the program, large acreages of a vitally need crop were saved. According to the WRA, this work was probably the most direct and positive contribution to the war effort made by the evacuees during the early months of the evacuation process. [67]

The WRA policy on employment and compensation adopted on September 1,1942, provided for automatic enrollment in the War Relocation Work Corps of all evacuees assigned to jobs in the relocation centers. Under this policy the WRA administrators at Manzanar initiated efforts to enroll employed evacuees in the center's Work Corps. The Work Corps was designed to have a Representative Assembly elected by all of the various work groups on the basis of one representative for every fifty workers or fraction thereof.

In addition to the Representative Assembly, the WRA policy directive called for a Fair Practices Committee and a Merit Rating Board to aid in the solution of the center's labor problems. This committee would be composed of three members from the professional or executive staff, and one each from the Industrial, Agricultural, and Mess sections, as well as one member selected by various other projects acting together. [68]

Election of representatives took place late in September, but the results showed only a mediocre interest in the Work Corps. Nevertheless, organization continued and the nomination committee advanced names for election to the Fair Practices Committee. [69] The election of the Fair Practices Committee took place on October 23, but the Mess Section failed to take part in the election. This group, led by Harry Ueno who would play a vital role in the "Manzanar Incident" on December 6, distrusted the Work Corps, believing that it was a tool of the administration. Led by Ueno, the mess workers formed their own Kitchen Workers Union, the stated purpose of which was to wring concessions from the administration rather than have the administration wring more work out of the evacuees as they believed would happen under the Work Corps. Nevertheless, the Fair Practices Committee chose candidates for the organization and prepared a tentative constitution and by-laws. The organization, composed of candidates elected from chose selected by the organizing committee, met and approved a constitution and by-laws and elected a chairman as well as other officers.

As stated in the constitution, the purpose of the Manzanar Fair Practices Committee was "to afford Manzanar with a democratic representative organization within the work corps in order to maintain fair employment practice." All persons on "acceptance of employment automatically" became a member of the Manzanar Work Corps. The membership consisted of the executive staff, or those with direct supervisory responsibility to an administrative official, and all others defined as "project employees." The immediate aim of the organization was "to settle employment grievances and problems through proper channels to establish coordination between the administration and the members of the Work Corps, and to assist in relocating the evacuees." The ultimate purpose of the organization was "to provide for successful rehabilitation of evacuees." [70]

Despite the lofty goals of the Manzanar Work Corps, distrust of its program was not limited to the Kitchen Workers Union but was widespread throughout the center. Many of the evacuees were wary of the Work Corps because those associated with its formation and leadership were primarily Nisei who were labor conscious and active politically within the center. The organization attempted to function at Manzanar, but soon after the "Manzanar Incident" it resigned as a body, citing "as the primary reason the fact that it did not have the support of the people of Manzanar." [71]


Development of industrial projects to provide employment to large numbers of evacuees held "a prominent place in the early discussions of WCCA officials on the organization and administration of the Centers." When it became apparent in May 1942 that the WRA would take over the administration of the program, however, the WCCA took little further action. To provide work opportunities for evacuees with manual skills, the WRA explored a wide range of comparatively simple industries that might be established at relocation centers. The primary objective of these projects was to meet the needs of the evacuee population and the requirements of the centers, while a secondary goal was to produce items that were needed in the war effort and which were not being turned out in sufficient quantity by the private industry in the nation. [72]

Camouflage Net Factory. With the assistance of the Corps of Engineers, however, one industrial project was initiated by the WCCA — the manufacture or "garnishing" of camouflage nets. [73] When the WRA assumed administration of Manzanar, the Army engineers were completing four large open-faced structures designed to house the camouflage net project To meet the Army's request that this industrial activity be commenced, and also to foster its goal of industrial development in the relocation centers, the WRA established an Industrial Division in its regional office in San Francisco. At the same time, the WRA established Industrial sections in the various relocation centers, the first of which began to operate at Manzanar in June 1942 with a senior manufacturing superintendent and one assistant in charge. The camouflage net project operation at Manzanar on June 10, 1942, under the supervision two individuals with technical assistance and advice of the Corps of Engineers, who also provided guidance for similar projects at the Santa Anita Assembly Center and the Gila War Relocation Center.

The camouflage net project at Manzanar operated until early December 1942, employing "at a peak some 500 evacuees, and producing nets at the rate of from 2,000 to 10,000 a month in direct proportion to the number of persons employed." The project involved the manufacture of simple camouflage nets with colored pieces of fabric in summer, winter, and desert patterns. [74]

Since provisions in the Geneva Convention of 1929 prevented aliens from being conscripted for war work or working on projects involving production of goods for the nation's armed services, WRA administrators ruled that Japanese nationals or aliens were ineligible to work on the Manzanar camouflage net project, because it was considered direct "war work." Although the Geneva Convention applied specifically only to prisoners of war and was not ratified by the Japanese government, both the United States and Japan had recently agreed through neutral diplomatic channels to extend its applicable provisions to cover alien civilians who were interned in either country as well as Japanese subjects in the United States who were quartered in relocation centers. This ruling excluded Issei but not the American-born Nisei and Kibei from being eligible as camouflage net workers. Some Issei, who wished "to do their part" for the nation's war effort were irritated by this decision. Other Issei, including some of the Terminal Island fishermen, were more capable than the Nisei at producing nets because of their experience with netting. [75]

The Final Report, Manzanar detailed some of the problems that resulted from the camouflage net project. It noted that there was

a constant focus of contention between certain factions of the evacuees and the management of the Center. Indeed, it was through studying the cause of this contention that the management first began to understand the existence of what was later popularly known as the 'pro-Japanese' element among the evacuees. . . . With this ruling, and actual work on the nets, a first "cause" was provided for the various groups within the evacuee population to work 'for' or 'against.' Here, for the first time, the management became aware of the degree of domination which parents held over their children of all ages, many well past their 18-to-2l birthdays. Differences between Kibei and Nisei also came into focus. 'Patriotic' American families began to disassociate themselves from 'Japanese' families.

The standard wage scale . . . was applied to the camouflage net work. This brought out the first labor agitation and labor agitators who, under the pretext that the Army was getting 'slave' labor or 'prisoner' labor to do a war emergency job, urged slowdowns, strikes, poor work, and other standard ideas of protest. . . .

On August 12, the WRA announced that the net factory would close pending a reorganization. The cause of this announcement was trouble that had arisen over the eight-hour day regulation of the WRA. When the factory opened, the Army had set a quota of five nets for each crew per day. The evacuee crews found that as time passed, they became more efficient and could complete their quota before the day was through. Thus, they began going home when they had finished their quota for the day. This resulted in complaints from other evacuees, and also embarrassed the administration, which had been ordered to maintain an eight-hour day. The administration met considerable resistance when an effort was made to enforce the eight-hour day, finally closing the factory on August 12. [76]

The net factory reopened on August 17 under a reorganized method of operation. The reorganization involved initiation of training classes in some of the more detailed work connected with the project, as well as classes in first aid. Thus, the eight-hour day was maintained by having the crews report for instruction classes when they finished their daily quota. [77]

Less than one month later, the net factory closed again. On September 11, it was announced that the factory would close, ostensibly because of the loss of workers, many of whom were going on furlough or seasonal leave to work in the sugar beet fields in the western states. With the beginning of the school term it was anticipated that many workers would also leave. On September 14 the net factory registered new workers under new regulations which included an eight-hour day and a forty-four hour week. The following day the plant resumed production with a much-reduced workforce of 370 workers. [78]

Despite resumption of the operations, factory production fell from 15,354 nets in August to 7,512 in September. The reduced workforce, resulting from the fact that many workers were leaving to take other jobs in the center that had been vacated by the seasonal leave workers, was an indication of the growth of unpopularity of the net project. One reason for the increasing unpopularity, according to one historian, was that the net factory "was very zealously supported by Nisei who were well known politicians, and who were quickly becoming unpopular throughout the camp." The struggle over hours placed a stigma on the work. In addition, the unfavorable conditions of work in the lint-filled air of the factory were increasingly blamed for respiratory problems experienced by the workers. Many who worked in factory believed they should receive war industry wages rather than the $16 per month they were receiving. [79]

In November 1942, the Corps of Engineers announced plans for turning the camouflage net project over to a private contractor who would operate the factory at Manzanar and pay the evacuees "standard wage rates." Because the Nisei and Kibei were the only ones who would benefit by this arrangement, the Issei charged that they were victims of discrimination, and they immediately exerted pressure on workers "to keep them from participating in the new project." As a result of this labor dissension, the WRA center management announced that net workers would receive a $10 dollar bonus over their pay if 1,000 square feet of netting were produced per day by each worker. Any amount over 1,000 square feet produced by a worker would provide him an additional bonus of one-tenth of a cent a square foot. Before this wage decision could be implemented, however, the "Manzanar Incident" occurred on December 6, and the WRA suspended operation of the net project, a decision concurred in by the WRA's central office in Washington. [80]

Clothing and Furniture Factories. Besides operation of the camouflage net project in 1942, the Industrial Section at Manzanar planned future operations and surveyed "industrial possibilities which could use the skills known to exist in a Japanese community." While various plans were rejected, it was determined to commence clothing and furniture factories.

In August 1942, the clothing factory began operation in the ironing room of Block 2. [81] At first, six "domestic electric sewing machines" were used, "at which women operators made "dust masks and arm protectors for the workers on the camouflage net project." They also made uniforms for nurses in the hospital and for operators in "Manzanar's first 'beauty parlor.'"

In November, the domestic sewing machines were replaced by power machines, and the factory was reconditioned. Thereafter, the clothing factory operations expanded rapidly. A canvas of skills among the evacuees disclosed that only one person had ever operated a "power machine on a production line." This female evacuee was employed as the first "chief operator" in the reconditioned clothing factory to aid in teaching the trade to others. The superintendent of manufacturing, having supervised garment factories for years, took personal charge of the operation and helped to train new operators as they were recruited. Inexperienced workers were trained to be designers, pattern makers, cutters, machine operators, floorladies, and machinists, all of whom were reportedly "skilled workers capable of handling any type of power machine on any type of production line in the garment industry."

A variety of garments, ranging from baby layettes to tailored suits, were produced during 1942. Items manufactured included camouflage masks, beauty shop smocks and uniforms, kitchen aprons, waitresses' uniforms, towels, denim coats, and policemen's shirts. The largest orders, however, were for overalls, coveralls, hospital uniforms, children's dresses, and shirts and blouses. The clothes were produced for the camp administration and furnished to laborers as work clothes, or they were produced for the Manzanar Cooperative Enterprises which paid the WRA wholesale prices and then sold the articles to the evacuees in the camp's general store. The factory, which would employ an average of 65 persons, made a profit throughout its history, "even in the early stages when much time was spent in training operators." [82]

Machinery for the furniture factory or shop, consisting of saws, planers. Joiners, drills, and lathes, was obtained from the National Youth Authority. Because numerous articles were needed immediately for development of the center, the shop was placed under the supervision of the Engineering Section. Later in February 1943, the shop would be turned over to the Industrial Section.

Community Alterations Shop. Soon after the opening of Manzanar, several hundred bales of clothing were obtained from "federal surpluses." Some of the clothing consisted of "Army outer garments left over from World War I, some were woolen jackets, some were Navy 'P' coats." The original intention of the WCCA had been to furnish clothing free of charge to the evacuees, but that idea was changed during discussions between the WCCA and the WRA concerning evacuee wage policy. However, a number of persons at Manzanar were "welfare cases and could qualify for free clothing." In later months, some of the clothing was offered for sale to the evacuees through the Manzanar Cooperative Enterprises store.

Most of the clothing was too large for the evacuees, and "for a few months the evacuees tried to alter the clothes themselves." This proved impractical, however, and the Welfare Section started a unit for the alteration of clothes to be given to needy cases. This alteration unit, which employed 17 persons, would later be turned over to the Industrial Section in 1943. [83]

Typewriter Repair Shop. Typewriters were scarce at Manzanar during its early months of operation. An evacuee, who had operated a typewriter rental service in Los Angeles, rented his typewriters to the WRA and was employed at evacuee wages to keep the typewriters in repair. As the center developed, this operation "grew to a sizeable service." Later, the evacuee requested his typewriters back, and transferred to other work in the center. [84]

Sign Shop. Among the early arrivals at Manzanar were several young evacuees who had been employed as commercial artists in motion picture studios. One was employed by the Engineering Section of the WCCA to paint emergency signs for the center. After moving into one of the engineering warehouses, he developed "a worthwhile service in sign work." [85]

Food Processing Units. During the first six months operation of the Manzanar center, evacuees asked for and received permission to develop food-processing projects to make foods they were used to eating. As a result, shoyu, bean-sprout, and tofu plants were started. These units were largely directed by evacuees with little administrative supervision.

Shoyu, a "highly appreciated condiment among the Japanese," was a sauce made from soya beans. Employing three employees, this factory, which began operation in November 1942, produced some 1,500 gallons per month at a cost lower than the Mess Section could procure in the outside market.

A bean sprout plant was commenced in October 1942. Employing four men, it produced an average of 7,000 pounds of bean sprouts per month.

Tofu, a small cake made from soya bean meal, was produced in a factory opened at Manzanar in August 1942. By early 1943 it would employ eight persons and produce an average of 10,000 one and one-fourth pound cakes per month. [86]

Manzanar Cooperative Enterprises

Army Canteen under the WCCA. During late March 1942, as the population of Manzanar was rapidly increasing, a canteen/general store, offering necessities to the evacuees not furnished by the Army, was established under the auspices of the WCCA Service Division. [87] The original canteen and general store located in Block 8 carried a limited supply of items that had a quick turnover and which were in immediate and constant demand. These items included newspapers and periodicals, smoking supplies, confections, soft drinks, ice cream, wash basins and tubs, laundry boards, soaps, limited clothing, canned goods, fruits, and sunglasses. Purchase of supplies were made through the procurement officer of the Supply and Accounting Section of the San Francisco office, and receipts were placed to the credit of the United States Treasury.

During April there were suggestions that a "swap shop" be established to supplement the services of the canteen/general store and that solicitors be allowed to sell merchandise and services for pay at Manzanar. However, the WCCA determined that Manzanar was an Army camp and refused to allow private enterprise to operate in the center. All business in the camp was to be transacted through the canteen/general store, and any person found soliciting private business would be stopped.

On April 15 it was announced that plans for a new commissary building for community enterprises "to house a soda fountain and clothing department" had been developed and would be under construction in the center of the camp that week. Among the items that the commissary planned to have in stock were "basins, tubs, seasonal sports clothes, stationary, toilet supplies, hardware, goggles, washboards, hats, and small household items." Plans were also announced to establish small soft drink counters throughout the camp. "Due to the shortage caused by the supplying towns of Lone Pine, Los Angeles, and Fort Ord," however, articles "such as washboards, tubs, pans, and buckets" were not available. It was anticipated, however, that the "shortage problem" would be "relieved soon."

While no structures were built specifically for stores, canteens, or private enterprise, there was considerable discussion of undertaking such efforts during the early months of the center's operation. A plan, however, was approved by those managing the business enterprises and by the project management either to erect a group of buildings in one of the firebreaks or to move some of the standing buildings to such a location and convert them into a community shopping and service center. The plan never materialized, however, because of labor and building materials shortages.

Manzanar Community Enterprises under the WCCA. The Army canteen/general store operation was replaced on May 24 by a new business organization named Manzanar Community Enterprises, organized by the Community Enterprises Section under the authority of the WCCA procurement officer. Under this new organization, the canteen/store was managed by an appointed staff manager who selected his evacuee assistants. The profits from the new canteen were to be used for welfare needs and improvements in the camp. Six evacuees, experienced in merchandising, were selected to serve as an oversight board in the operation of the business. Because of their prior business connections, and with the backing of the camp administration, the trustees were able to purchase goods on an open book account basis for sale at the canteen. The trustees and other evacuees at Manzanar had stocks of goods in storage in the communities from which they had been evacuated, and they were "more than willing to have these brought to Manzanar to stock the shelves in the canteen." "Through the prompt payment of invoices they were able to enhance their credit and enlarge the business by building up larger stocks and offering for sale a greater variety of goods."

On May 24, the first day of business for Manzanar Community Enterprises, the new canteen had 8,182 customers. Sixteen clerks rang up total sales of $1,847.18. On the first two days of business, the canteen sold 4,200 bottles of soda pop daily. [88]

As part of this new enterprise, the fish market which had originally been located in the canteen was moved to a nearby ironing room in Block 8. The odor of the fish, its affinity for flies, and the general messiness associated with its operation prompted management to transfer the fish market. Prices in the fish market were comparatively high contrasted with those to which the evacuees had been accustomed in Terminal Island and Los Angeles. The markup was high, about 50 percent, to counterbalance spoilage and shrinkage. However, there was no other way in which the evacuees could purchase fish, and the market continued to be well patronized on the two days per week that it was open. Some fish was served in the mess halls, but this was insufficient in quantity and inferior in quality.

In May the general dry goods section of the canteen/store was transferred to Block 21, and those commodities belonging to a general store were removed from Block 8. This move enabled the canteen/store to expand its services to include the sale of more clothing, yard goods, toys, rationed shoes, and drugs. After this date, the canteen/store in Block 8 confined its sales to food items, confections, smoking supplies, newspapers and periodicals, stationary, and drugs. The general crowded housing conditions in camp made it impossible to secure additional space. There was "a dire need for other types of service besides those provided in the canteen and store," such as a barber shop, shoe repair shop, and watch repair shop. However, the question of who should provide these services — the government at no cost for service to residents, or the business enterprises at nominal charges for services — was debated without resolution while Manzanar was under the WCCA. The government was reluctant to undertake such services, but the most evacuees felt that it was the duty of the government to do so since they had been removed unwillingly from their former communities and many had suffered considerable financial hardship. In addition, no wages were paid to any of the evacuee workers until the first payroll allowance arrived on June 19 in the form of printed script to be used or cashed at the canteen/store. Thus, many evacuees complained about their inability to keep "shod," get their hair cut, and have their glasses changed. Some evacuees terminated their employment in the center, because they did not receive the personal services they felt they needed and deserved.

To alleviate these difficulties, the canteen/store tried several plans. It attempted to send shoes to Los Angeles for repair, but this service proved to be slow and costly. The facilities in the neighboring towns were already overtaxed and unable or unwilling to provide much relief for the Manzanar evacuees. As a result, evacuee barbers began to flourish under unsanitary conditions in the camp as early as mid-April, but largely because of the wrangle over whose responsibility it was to provide such services, no community-wide business projects were established.

Manzanar Community Enterprises under the WRA. When the WRA took over administration of Manzanar on June 1, management of Manzanar Community Enterprises passed into WRA hands. The business operation continued to expand. By August 31, some 39 evacuees were employed in the canteen and 41 in the general store. On October 1, Manzanar Community Enterprises employed 110 evacuees in the canteen, general store, warehousing, and administration.

Manzanar Cooperative Enterprises under the WRA. The WRA considered Manzanar Community Enterprises as "an interregnum period" preceding establishment of center cooperatives by evacuees to carry on private enterprise initiatives. The WRA believed that it was necessary in a temporary community with an unlimited labor supply to find an outlet for the ambition and resourcefulness of the people. Having their own businesses in the form of a cooperative, according to the WRA, created a feeling of self-reliance and independence. Knowing they were working for themselves added to the self-respect which the WRA hoped to inculcate in the evacuees. Thus, an associate Superintendent of Community Enterprises, who was an appointed WRA staff member, arrived at Manzanar on June 14, 1942, to supervise the existing enterprises (canteen and store), enlarge the services offered, and promote the organization of other business enterprises into a cooperative.

Under his leadership, a cooperative, based on Rochdale cooperative principles, was encouraged and educational programs were inaugurated. On June 16, study groups examining consumer cooperatives were organized. Establishment of the Japanese-language section of the Manzanar Free Press on June 20 provided a medium for reaching the non-English reading evacuees in the camp. Sponsored by a 14-member Education Committee, a series of articles on the operation of consumer cooperatives and future plans for the canteen was begun in the newspaper in July. Literature was distributed, and meetings were held in the mess halls under the direction of the associate superintendent of Consumer Enterprises to discuss the proposed cooperative for Manzanar. The stated purpose of the cooperative was to supply the evacuee community with goods and services which the government did not provide at the lowest possible price.

Some evacuees opposed establishment of the cooperative. Some people were skeptical about the liability imposed on members if the proposed cooperative should fail. Others distrusted the management of the canteen under Consumer Enterprises and was concerned that the same management would remain in control. Some charged that even the Block Leaders' chairman had profited financially from the operation of the canteen. Still others maintained that it was the duty of the government through the WRA to supply, at no charge, many of the services that the proposed cooperative was planning to provide.

Once the opposition was quieted, plans for the cooperative moved quickly. On July 30, a cooperative congress was elected, each block electing three delegates to represent the voice of the people of the community in the establishment of the cooperative enterprise. A WRA-appointed Superintendent of Consumer Enterprises began duty at Manzanar on August 1, and he convened the first meeting of the cooperative congress on August 8.

Articles of Incorporation were adopted by the congress on August 18, and four days later a board of directors was elected, consisting of eight Nisei and 7 Issei evacuees. The newly-elected board held its first meeting on August 25 during which the papers of incorporation were signed.

On September 5, a charter was granted to Manzanar Cooperative Enterprises, Inc., by the Secretary of State of California. The charter stipulated the power to engage in the sale of goods and services, to borrow money, provide memberships, engage in manufacture of commodities as it deemed desirable, and to carry any other authority necessary for the transaction of its business. Furthermore, the charter granted authority to issue not more than 15,000 memberships at $5.00 each. It stipulated a capital of at least $20,000 with which to begin business. The members of the board of directors would serve six-month terms. The directors had the power to distribute earnings, provided ten percent was set aside for a reserve fund and until a 30 percent reserve would be reached, after which further reserves might be accumulated. Each member would have one vote, and no proxies would be allowed. Later on September 21, by-laws that were drawn up by the board of directors were approved by the cooperative congress.

The organization, finances, and personnel of Manzanar Community Enterprises were transferred to Manzanar Cooperative Enterprises, Inc., on October 1, 1942. The assets that were transferred consisted of: (1) $38,865 in earned income since May 24 after the Army canteen was discontinued, subject to various taxes and claims by the WRA for rent, utilities, and clothing allowances; (2) $46,244 in inventories; (3) $8,123 in fixed assets, and (4) 110 personnel on the payroll. A financial statement for Manzanar Consumer Enterprises between May 24 and September 30,1942, indicated that gross sales of the canteen had been $142,609.00, while those of the general store had been $93,446.00. The inventory of the canteen on September 30 amounted to $16,624, while that of the general store amounted to $29,620. The net income amounted to 19.31 percent of sales.

As of October 1, when the cooperative took over the business of its predecessor, several services were being offered. The canteen was selling newspapers, periodicals, tobacco products, candy and other confections, nuts, school supplies, canned goods, and various food items not on the ration list, such as coffee, honey, dried and fresh fruits, eggs, fish, ice cream, paper goods, soda drinks, punch, and a variety of other edible items. The general store was selling clothing, shoes, yard goods, toys, and notions.

In addition to the operation these two enterprises, the cooperative was to assume the obligation of subsidizing the Manzanar Free Press in its printed form, as had been done by its predecessor since July 15. This expenditure was later limited to $300 monthly to cover the cost of printing — less advertising revenue — at the shop of the Chalfant Press in Bishop.

The commencement of the printed issues of the newspaper made it possible for the publication to accept advertising from both persons and enterprises in Manzanar and from the "outside." Such revenues helped defray a large part of the cost of printing. For example, the cost of printing the newspaper in November 1942 was $795, the revenue from advertising was $509, and the net charge to the cooperative was $286.

As the business of the cooperative expanded, more facilities were needed. It was not possible, however, for the cooperative to have the amount of floor space required during 1942 because of crowded conditions in the camp. The management of the cooperative, as well as many residents, continued to hope that a shopping center would be provided by the erection of special buildings in one of the firebreaks.

In addition to continuing the services of Manzanar Consumer Enterprises which it took over on October 1, the cooperative initiated new services in response to evacuee demands. These new services, including such conveniences as check cashing and mail order services and establishment of barber and beauty shops, were commenced by the cooperative during October 1942 in various locations wherever space could be found throughout the center. The dispersal of its operating units throughout the center required relatively more supervision, travel, and trucking, and some duplication of equipment and personnel. For the evacuees it meant more traveling, some confusion as to where each service was located, and loss of time by not being able to perform several errands in one shopping trip.

Check cashing services were opened in the Administration Building in Block 1. At first, the Bank of America sent a representative from its Lone Pine branch to Manzanar to enable residents to open new accounts, make deposits and withdrawals, and cash checks. Eventually this service was discontinued and the cooperative took over the task of cashing checks.

A barber shop was established in Block 21 to supplant the private barbers that were operating in private barracks. Only hair cutting and shaving services were offered. The fee was 15 cents for hair cuts, and 10 cents for shaves. Caucasians paid 35 cents for haircuts and 25 cents for shaves.

A beauty parlor was established in Block 15 . A complete line of services was offered at prices below those charged on the outside. The evacuee price was in turn lower than that for the appointed personnel.

Mail order service was established in Block 10. The department was opened and operated under an agreement with Montgomery Ward. Those using this service were given a ten percent discount on their purchases.

In addition to these four services, the cooperative began showing motion pictures in November 1942. Because there was a demand for motion pictures by the evacuees, a few films, provided by evacuees or through interested welfare, charitable, or educational institutions, were shown in the camp prior to this time using a borrowed projector. After it was found that an evacuee had projection equipment stored in Los Angeles, he was permitted to have his equipment transported to Manzanar. He began showing a variety of films that were borrowed free of charge. When the cooperative took over the sponsorship of all public motion picture shows in November, it paid the evacuee at the project rate of pay and kept his machines in repair. Later, when the cooperative decided to purchase equipment, some of that belonging to the evacuee was purchased and another projection staff was hired at the project rate of pay. The complete cost of building, equipping, and operating the outdoor theater in the firebreak between Blocks 20 and 21 was paid for by the cooperative. No admission fee was charged; the sums needed were taken from the cooperative's general fund.

Manzanar Cooperative Enterprises became a member institution in the Association of California Cooperatives and later joined in establishing the Federation of Center Enterprises, both actions enhancing its credit rating and purchasing contacts. The cooperative's management was able to secure some goods hitherto unobtainable by the camp through these two channels.

The mark-up on goods sold by the cooperative varied with the nature of the item and the frequency of its turnover. The general mark-up for most items was between 15 and 25 percent, the average being 20 percent.

The basic objectives of Manzanar Cooperative Enterprises were synonymous with those of the Rochdale principles. These included open membership, one member, one vote, limited interest on capital loans, patronage dividends on purchases, cash sales at market prices, neutrality in race, religion, and politics, continuing education, and constant expansion.

All of these principles, with the exception of two, were fully applied at Manzanar. Open membership was not fully attained. Early in 1943 every evacuee resident in the camp over 16 years of age was declared a member, but appointed personnel and their family members were denied membership. Some prices charged were in excess of the prevailing market in the stores in neighboring towns.

Agriculture/Food Production

The arid climate and sandy soil conditions at Manzanar posed problems for agricultural production. At an elevation of approximately 4,000 feet, temperatures at the center ranged from 10 degrees below zero during some winters to highs of more than 100 degrees above zero nearly every summer. Desert winds of high velocity blew much of the time from early March until late June. Average yearly precipitation amounted to only about 4 1/2 inches of rain and snow.

Soil at Manzanar was "of a light sandy type, lacking in sufficient nitrogen, potash, arid phosphoric acid" to produce good vegetable crops. Supplemental fertilizers and irrigation were necessary to produce crops.

Farm field acreages were established on wastelands that had not been farmed for about 15 years. Having stood idle for such a lengthy period, the fields were "covered with brush and badly hummocked with dunes caused by hard winds."

As the Western Defense Command went forward with its plans to establish the Manzanar camp in March 1942, the City of Los Angeles registered its opposition, and actively fought the establishment of the center on its land. With the city in the lead, various groups in Los Angeles started a newspaper campaign to sway public opinion to their side. In order to frighten the public into opposing the project at Manzanar, they used the Los Angeles Aqueduct as a weapon. Emphasizing that the aqueduct ran parallel with and adjacent to the center, opponents of the project led the residents of Los Angeles to believe that the evacuees might poison or contaminate the city's water supply or sabotage the aqueduct.

This quarrel impacted agricultural development at Manzanar in a variety of ways. Difficulties were encountered concerning the manner in which the city wanted irrigation water utilized at Manzanar. This water was drawn from streams flowing down from the mountains and from two wells located in the camp. The city lodged complaints concerning the use of commercial fertilizers used on Manzanar's farm fields. During 1942 the city refused to approve a hog project, even though the WRA agreed to locate it at least one mile from the aqueduct. The city's rate for irrigation water on the project was based on the price for domestic water in Los Angeles, thus forcing the WRA to pay higher prices for water than other farm and ranch owners in Owens Valley.

Under the WCCA, approximately 100 acres of land at Manzanar were cleared and partially leveled for agricultural use (primarily for vegetables) with evacuee hand labor during the spring of 1942. Because planting was late and there was a shortage of heavy farm equipment, four volunteer evacuee crews worked six-hour shifts around the clock to prepare the ground and plant the crops in May.

From March until August the only powered equipment available for agricultural use at the camp was a rented Ford tractor, plow, and cultivator. After the WRA assumed administrative control of Manzanar on June 1, ten mules were purchased to aid the agricultural efforts. The WRA immediately began purchase of farm equipment, but the machinery did not arrive at Manzanar until about August 1. The new equipment included four used 35-horsepower track tractors, four new small Case wheel tractors, and five new Ford wheel tractors. All pulled farm equipment obtained for the track tractors was secondhand, but that for the Case and Ford tractors was new but limited in amount.

In June 1942 the WRA placed six appointed personnel in charge of overseeing agricultural operations at Manzanar, including a farm superintendent and five senior foremen. Each foreman had charge of an evacuee crew that went outside the fenced enclosure of the camp to work the center's adjacent fields. The evacuee crews comprised some 300 workers.

In June about 100 evacuee farm laborers quit the Agriculture Section in protest against the use of Caucasian foremen as escorts for work crews traveling to and from the fenced enclosure around the camp's residential area to work the center's adjacent field areas. The senior foremen were not experienced in farm work, and served mainly as escorts and overseers. The evacuees resented the presence of the senior foremen. After several months of negotiations with the Army, the Western Defense Command approved a WRA request in the fall to allow farm workers to go to the center's outlying fields and return to the fenced residential area at evening without Caucasian escorts. Work relations and production improved as the senior foremen were replaced by evacuee foremen. Thereafter, the only Caucasian workers in the Agriculture Section were the farm superintendent and the assistant farm superintendent.

The Manzanar farm, consisting of 120 cultivated acres, produced 800 tons of vegetables by the fall of the first growing season in 1942. As the growing season lasted only from 120 to 180 days, it was necessary to dry store, dehydrate, and process vegetables to assure maximum tonnage for winter use. Nearly $25,000 worth of vegetables, melons, and tomatoes were produced, and three "carloads" of Swiss chard and two of watermelons were shipped to other relocation centers. The neglected orchard of "600 apple and 400 pear trees" at Manzanar was rehabilitated (pruning, spraying, irrigation) and produced nearly $2,000 worth of fruit.

While farm operations went forward in 1942, the WRA developed policies that would guide expansion of agricultural production during the remainder of the war. WRA agricultural goals at Manzanar were to produce food for the subsistence of evacuee residents of the center as economically as possible and at the same time to provide employment for some of them in a productive undertaking. Production of food for use of the center permitted the WRA to avoid the more costly course of purchasing food on the outside market. Such production obviated the necessity of drawing upon the Quartermaster Corps for supplies that were critically needed by the Army. Center farm production materially reduced overall project transportation costs and released the common carriers for more urgent war tasks — a matter or importance in view of the scarcity of trucks and the high cost of hauling to Manzanar's isolated location.

Farm production at Manzanar was confined primarily to the production of foodstuffs for center needs. The WRA did not wish to compete with private growers and producers. At times, small surpluses of vegetables were sold on the open market rather than allow them to go to waste, but such instances were rare and in some cases served to relieve current market shortages. More than 78 of the 800 tons of vegetables produced in 1942 were shipped out of the center for sale.

Evacuee participation and responsibility for farm production was encouraged by the WRA. Inasmuch as local production was locally consumed, evacuees were allowed to choose such crops "as best suited tastes so long as such vegetables could grow well in [the] Manzanar soil and climate." [89]

Guayule Experiment

During the spring of 1942, an experiment in guayule rubber culture was undertaken at Manzanar. Administrators at the camp, including both WCCA and WRA personnel, as well as interested evacuees promoted the project both as a chance to develop scientific work and educational opportunities for trained evacuee scientists and as a means of demonstrating that the evacuees were contributing to the war effort by attempting to meet the nation's rubber production shortage. The objectives of the experiment were to provide a "larger reservoir of growing guayule plants which can be drawn upon for experimental work; to devise a practical method for the rooting of cuttings; to study the dependence of growth and rubber production on watering; to produce, by breeding or selection, varieties of guayule which yields large amounts of rubber per acre, or which produce maximum yield in shorter time than the present varieties; and to produce varieties which are adapted to marginal or desert lands, and to be able to yield rubber in such land instead of rich valuable soil on which the present varieties appear to give the best yields."

Under the guidance of Dr. Robert Emerson, a faculty member at the California Institute of Technology at Pasadena, waste cuttings and seeding culls of guayule plants were delivered to Manzanar from Salinas Valley nurseries in April. By June 1, four shipments of guayule plant seedlings had been sent to Manzanar, and 169,000 had been planted in sand beds and soils. Twenty-one nursery men and three evacuee chemists were employed at the project, having put in "approximately 6,000 man hours of work."

To provide facilities for the guayule experiment at Manzanar, a lath house and propagating beds were built at the southwest corner of the camp, a chemical laboratory was installed in the ironing room of Block 6, a cytogenetics laboratory was opened in the hospital, and field plots were located at various points around the camp. Experiments were conducted on the extraction of rubber from guayule cryptostegia and other less promising rubber bearing plants using a new and rapid method developed at Manzanar. Early samples of the tested rubber varieties were vulcanized in Los Angeles and proved to be of good quality. Scientists from Stanford University, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the California Institute of Technology, interested in monitoring the progress of the experiment, visited the guayule project at Manzanar in increasing numbers during the latter months of 1942. [90]

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Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002