Historic Resource Study/Special History Study
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Early in 1943, the community activities section, under the direction of Supervisor Aksel G. Nielsen, was reorganized into five departments — arts and crafts; athletic activities; entertainment, social, and activities; music; and gardening. This arrangement was maintained until the center closed, except that early in 1945, a sixth department called "Youth Activities" was added. An assistant supervisor, who could speak Japanese, was hired to serve as liaison between the administrative staff of the section and both the Issei and Nisei evacuee population segments. By June 1943, the section employed 102 evacuee personnel to supervise recreational activities in the following categories:

Arts and Crafts — Handicrafts, woodcraft, painting, sewing and needlework
Athletics — Men and boys, girls and women
Gardening and landscaping
Boy Scouts
Entertainment, hall leaders, social activities

Departmental Activities

Arts and Crafts. During much of 1943-45, this department was the largest in terms of staff and evacuee participation. Before relocation drained many of its members, the department numbered 40 instructors.

Sewing was by far the most popular activity in the arts-and-crafts department. Some 2,500 older girls and women studied sewing. At one time, the department was able to operate three separate centers, each with a complete staff. Approximately 100 electric sewing machines were borrowed from the industrial section for the classes.

Paper-flower making was a popular evacuee activity directed by an evacuee teacher who had won many purple ribbons at California state fairs. At the height of its popularity, two schools operated for 5 1/2 days a week, with buildings packed at every session. Instruction in making 50 different types of flowers was offered. Flowers were made for funerals, weddings, and other special events.

Many evacuees participated in woodworking classes, making furniture and knick-knacks for their quarters. One of the most popular hobbies at Manzanar was working with roots of old trees — roots were shaped into birds, ships, canes, and other curios. Younger boys confined their woodcraft activities largely to making model airplanes, and model airplane clubs held exhibits and several public flight exhibits.

Embroidery classes were convened under a skilled evacuee embroidery instructor. Instructional classes were also held in knitting and crocheting, one "expert teacher" showing "her hundreds of adult pupils how to make seaters, socks, mittens, bags" and other items.

Stenciling became a popular hobby after "its many interesting patterns were demonstrated." Younger Nisei girls, with some background in the subject, taught the classes.

Two primary Japanese cultural activities were sponsored by the arts-and-crafts department. One was Japanese brush-lettering — the making of Asian characters with brushes. The second was flower-arrangement led by two evacuee instructors. The classes included learning the customs involved in correct Japanese tea service, as well as the traditional pattern of arranging flowers.

Athletic Activities. The athletic department differed from the other departments under the community activities section in that it was made up and supported almost entirely by Nisei, whereas most of the other departments were dominated largely by Issei. By early 1945, as a result of the relocation of many athletic leaders as well as active participants, the athletic department "lost much of its former importance and became relatively weak as a department."

The most popular sport of all the athletic activities was softball. During the summer of 1942, "nearly all the young people, especially the boys, belonged to a softball team." As other sports developed, participation in softball "fell off noticeably, but the game never lost its leading position as [the] number one sport in the Center." Teams were organized into leagues according to ability and as far as possible according to age. The three main age groups for which softball leagues were organized included junior high school boys, young men, and older men In June 1945, there were three leagues and 24 teams for boys under age '16. One summer, the center had a league of three teams comprised of older men, most of whom had never played the game before. Leagues for younger girls were also established, and in June 1945 the girls were organized into three leagues and 21 teams.

Volleyball was somewhat more popular among the girls than the men. Indoor facilities were not available until the auditorium was completed in 1944. Thus, the sport was "confined to the light evenings from April to September." In June 1945, there were 14 girls' teams and five teams for men.

Approximately 100 persons, the majority of whom were men, belonged to the Tennis Club when the sport was at its peak in the center. Because of the poor surfacing of the four tennis courts, no one was allowed to play without tennis shoes. This rule undoubtedly restrained a number of people from joining, because money was often not available for such purchases, and tennis shoes were practically unobtainable in the center store.

Golf facilities were constructed entirely through the labor of evacuee volunteers. Some members loaned money to finance the building of a small club house, while others with connections, secured golf equipment. At its peak, the golf club had about 150 members. The WRA employed three instructors, one of whom was a woman. At first the golf course had nine holes, but it was later expanded into an 18-hold course. When the membership dropped because of relocation, nine of the holes were allowed to revert back to sagebrush.

Early in 1944, a regulation baseball diamond for "hardball" was constructed. Uniforms were secured for eight teams, the cost being met from the five-cent charge for motion pictures. Evenings were short, so playing was generally confined to double-headers on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Players were limited to a single eight-team league with each team playing one game per week. Several younger teams wanted to join, but there was no opportunity for them until 1945, when, with relocation, most of the members of the older teams had left the center. Baseball was supported largely by collections taken during the games at the diamond. The problem, however, was "not so much to get money as to get equipment."

By June 1945, Manzanar had three boxing clubs with 105 participants, 5 boys' track teams, and 120 individuals involving in wrestling.

The community activities section did not possess any football equipment until after the 1944 spring season when the camp's high school turned over its equipment to the section. Lack of uniforms, however, did not keep the boys from playing football. During 1942 and 1943, several touch football leagues were organized, but enthusiasm for the sport declined as time passed.

During 1942 and 1943, basketball was played on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, but the sport was difficult to promote because of lack of indoor facilities. In the fall of 1943, with the installation of artificial lights on two of the courts, it was hoped that night ball could be promoted. As the lights were not strong enough, however, the results were poor. Basketball was popular with the girls as well as the boys, and, at its peak, there were two girls' leagues and four boys' leagues.

Basketball players hoped that basketball courts would be installed in the auditorium during 1944. However, it was determined that the auditorium floor would be constructed of soft wood and thus be unable to stand up under basketball playing. Although badminton and volleyball were permitted in the auditorium and courts were painted on the floor, neither sport became popular, and acquisition of equipment continued to be a problem. A girls' ping pong tournament was held in 1945 with 36 participants. [53]

Entertainment, Social, and Club Activities. This department sponsored and coordinated special events at Manzanar, such as carnivals and fairs. However, it also supervised some regular activities, such as Japanese drama and social and folk dancing, as well as clubs centered around various activities and age groups.

When the community activities section turned over a number of recreation halls to the education section for use as classrooms during the fall of 1942, it retained supervision of a few which it planned to develop into adult social halls. Because of lack of equipment and the WRA's refusal to install linoleum on the floors, and in some instances plasterboard on the walls, these buildings never served their intended purposes.

Prior to early 1944, the WRA did not have a public address system of its own. Before that time, loans from private individuals served "as a not-too-desirable substitute." Four technicians on the WRA payroll owned public address systems, and two of them owned two systems each. It was agreed that when the systems were used for non-WRA activities and when there was an admission charge for the events, the owners would be allowed to charge two dollars an evening for the use of the system and an extra dollar for the use of records.

Before the auditorium was constructed in 1944, it was difficult to schedule a special event since no large building in the camp was available. This problem inevitably meant obtaining permission for use of a mess hall, which meant that tables and equipment had to be removed before the hall could be converted to social use. Usually, this rearrangement was done after supper, while decorations were set up during the interval between supper time and the time when the guests arrived. When the party was over, the mess hall had to be cleaned and the furniture replaced so that the hall was ready for breakfast the following morning.

By October 1944, an activity schedule had been established for use of the auditorium. The high school was given use of the building Monday through Friday from 8:00 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. as well as Friday evening and Saturday mornings. The community activities section used the auditorium Monday through Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons. Manzanar Cooperative Enterprises was given use of the building on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons and evenings. Beginning in February 1945, motion picture shows were presented in the auditorium on Saturday and Sunday evenings. During 1945, talent shows, recorded concerts, dances, concerts, dramas, pageants, and an oratorical contest was held in the auditorium. [54]

Music. Music played a significant role in many special events and programs at Manzanar. Moved from block to block because the evacuees objected to the noise, the music department, under the leadership of Louis F. Frizzell, a popular appointed high school teacher, finally settled in Block 24, Building 15, where a model music hall was established. The hall contained a large room for the band, orchestra, and chorus, and seven smaller rooms for instrumental practice. Evacuees made furniture for the hall and planted trees around the building. The evacuee musicians contributed to the music program either by purchasing instruments themselves or in some instances using small WRA cash allowances and keeping the instruments in playing shape.

Various music organizations were established in the camp, including a mixed glee club, a community orchestra, and a band. A senior swing band played for many dances, while a younger swing band, known as the "Jive Bombers," was one of the most popular musical groups in the camp. A solon orchestra as well as a mandolin and guitar orchestra also made numerous appearances. Smaller, but popular, orchestra units that performed for short periods during the camp's history included "Mac's Orchestra," which featured a steel guitar; the "Hot Shots," and the "Sierra Stars," the latter group including unorthodox instruments such as wash boards and pans.

The music hall staff, never large, gave instruction in "whatever instruments were available." The chief instrument for instruction was the piano, but since only four pianos were made available by the WRA, it was often necessary to regulate the number of students who could be admitted for instruction. Most other instruments were furnished by the players themselves, although the WRA provided a few such as a drum, three horns, and a bass fiddle. A number of soloists were also developed by the music hall staff.

Japanese musical activities encountered difficulties when the education section took over many of the recreation halls during the fall of 1942. After that time, it became almost impossible to find places for players to practice because of numerous objections by evacuees and many had to give up. It was not until after the segregation to Tule Lake in late 1943 and early 1944, when building space again became available, that some of the "abolished activities were reinstated." It was then that a whole barrack was set aside for the practice of Japanese music.

When space became more plentiful and interest in Japanese music developed "more normally," a number of new music organizations were established. Among the most prominent were biwa, shakuhachi, koto, shamisen, and shigin, a form of traditional singing.

As the musicians gained experience and skill, musical programs were performed in the camp. After the auditorium was completed, "friendly competition arose as to which musicians would present programs in it." According to the Final Report, Manzanar, it "became necessary to regulate Japanese concerts and to ask the various groups to consolidate or take turns," Japanese "music groups were asked to hold down their programs to not more than one a month." In addition to programs in the auditorium, four musicals were permitted in each mess hall per month.

Gardening. The community activities section made it possible for residents to have their own victory gardens. During the summers of 1942 and 1943, a number of evacuee gardeners were employed by the WRA. These workers beautified the general garden area by planting borders of flowers along the firebreak which was used for the camp's "Victory Garden." A plot in the firebreak approximately 300 feet x 1,200 feet was set aside for the garden, each family or individual being allowed a maximum plot of 30 feet x 50 feet. Some 200 families and/or individuals participated. They dug and maintained irrigation ditches, established water schedules, regulated irrigation hours, and supervised gardeners cultivating their own garden plots. According to the Final Report, Manzanar, this activity "did much for the older people, for many of the Issei did not know how to enjoy themselves in social activities." Sometimes "the enjoyment of dining on their own harvest would be added to their pleasure, but usually the garden products were donated to the block kitchen."

Youth. During 1943-44, various youth clubs were formed in the center to provide avenues for social interaction and recreational activities for young people. [55] However, as the camp's young adults relocated during 1943-44, the center's population increasingly became composed of older people and children of school age. Activities which the Issei had known in their youth increasingly gained prominence. The relatively few younger Nisei left in the center were not the ones accustomed to assume leadership. Thus, the more the Issei took on the role of leaders in the center, the more the remaining Nisei "seemed to refrain from taking part in planning or decision-making."

Alarmed by the increasing development of Japanese customs and activities at Manzanar, the WRA undertook in early 1945 to establish a Youth Council, composed of representatives of the different young peoples' clubs, to plan and make recommendations for an overall community youth program that would promote "Americanized" activities. It was believed that this council would enable young people to take their place in community life and accept part of the responsibility for a well-rounded recreational program. Many youth, however, declined to participate in the council so representatives from each block were selected to represent the youth. Although many of these young people also refused to participate, the WRA went ahead with its plans.

With the reduction in the center population following segregation to Tule Lake, the mess hall in Block 14 was set aside as a combination Youth Center and United Services Organization clubhouse. One room, furnished at USO expense, was reserved for USC club use. The rest of the mess hall was devoted to the Youth Center. Booths for four and eight young people were constructed along the walls, with small square tables and chairs placed at their ends. The kitchen in the former mess hall was used for cooking and storage, while one corner was converted into a conference room. The Youth Center was reserved for young people between the ages of 13 and 30.

The Lone Pine Ration Board granted the ration points needed for successful operation of the Youth Center. The Community Activities Cooperative Association (CACA), an organization that will be examined in the next section of this chapter, hired a manager and a cook for the center.

The Youth Center did not prove as successful as planned. A group of boys, primarily from Terminal Island, "came habitually to the Center as a gang." This "one-sex grouping had a restraining influence on the girls who felt that the Center was a boy's hang-out and not a place for dating." Consequently, they felt "embarrassed about coming to the Center without escorts."

This problem was partially resolved when the WRA arranged to have the girls' clubs take turns and furnish helpers for the center each evening. The club members washed dishes, served as junior hostesses, and helped in other ways. Similarly, boys' clubs aided the girls' clubs. Thus, at least one girls' club and one boys' club were present together in the Youth Center each evening.

Community Activities Cooperative Association

Early in 1943, the community activities section was informed that WRA money could no longer be spent on equipment, materials, or supplies. Thereafter, the evacuees would have to finance their own recreational activities. Despite initial opposition, various evacuee groups started financing their own activities, usually under leadership of an instructor who made a flat charge for participation in his/her activity. After some groups were accused of misappropriating funds, efforts to establish a bookkeeping system were initiated but proved to be unenforceable. When a Fourth of July community-wide carnival was sponsored by the community activities section in 1943, with approximately 50 clubs given concessions in the form of refreshment stands and game booths, it became necessary "to have a strong central organization which could set up rules regarding the disposition of their earnings."

Accordingly, on November 11, 1943, the Community Activities Cooperative Association was established to ameliorate these problems. According to CACA's by-laws, the organization was designed to "plan for and obtain for the membership of the Association worthwhile cultural and recreational activities such as entertainment, social activities, hobbies, music, sports, gardening and such other leisure-time activities as shall be deemed suitable for the Manzanar community." CACA would "collect and disburse such funds as the membership shall direct" and establish "a satisfactory bookkeeping and accounting system for the Association."

Initially, the organization was administered by a board of ten directors who were elected by a congress which in turn was elected by the members of the CACA. Members in good standing included those who had paid the quarterly membership dues of 35 cents for adults and 20 cents for high school students and children per three-month term. The by laws stated that any organization was entitled to at least one representative in the congress and that each organization should be allowed to elect one congress representative for every 40 members. The board of directors was elected from and by the congress for three-month terms. On June 15, 1944, the by-laws were amended to extend the directors' terms to six months and allow the community activities section department heads to become members of the board of directors automatically.

The board of directors hired an executive secretary to keep minutes at board meetings, collect membership dues, and handle the receipts and expenditures of the organization. Later, after the community activities section was limited in the number of employees that it could have, the board hired leaders and workers for activities which were not supported by the section. Among such positions were those of golf-course caretaker, goh and shogi instructor, and a Japanese brush-lettering instructor.

The CACA obtained use of Block 16, Building 15 and converted it for use as a gift shop. Here individuals and organizations could exhibit and sell "made in Manzanar articles, many of which were the products of arts-and-crafts classes. Exhibits were accepted on a consignment basis, with ten percent of the sale price being retained by CACA and the rest turned over to the owner. The gift shop became a popular stop for center visitors, and the shop experienced difficulty in getting enough articles to meet the many requests.

During the first year of Manzanar's operation, paper flowers had to be used for occasions such as funerals, weddings, and parties, because fresh flowers were not available in Owens Valley and Manzanar was too far from Los Angeles to purchase cut flowers from city florists. Accordingly, CACA cultivated about an acre of land and planted flowers and vegetables which were sold at popular prices either at the garden or through Manzanar Cooperative Enterprises. Fertilizer, tools, and garden produce were retailed at cost. Flower and vegetable seed were produced which could be sold slightly above cost to the evacuees. The proceeds helped finance other CACA activities.

As CACA developed, it had tremendous impact on center activities. Formerly, evacuees had looked toward Manzanar Cooperative Enterprises for aid in financing programs and activities, but "now the accepted thing was to look toward the CACA for help."

CACA provided regular budgets to the departments in the community activities section to finance various recreational and social activities and appropriated funds for special projects. Among the more noteworthy projects was sponsorship of an essay and poster contest during Fire Prevention Week in 1944 for which liberal prizes were offered to winners at various age levels. Six principal prizes and unlimited participation awards were offered for a speech contest in 1945. CACA served as financial sponsor for the 1943 county fair and two carnivals held at the center in 1943 and 1944. In addition, it sponsored and paid for free motion picture programs, constructed the aforementioned baseball diamond, and helped the players obtain "free uniforms."

CACA's strength was augmented by a ruling from Washington which empowered it to decide which organizations should be allowed to raise money through public programs in the center. It was also empowered to retain a percentage of funds raised by clubs and other organizations. In time, the CACA treasury mounted to thousands of dollars, and it became one of the "big businesses of the Center."

Public Relations with Owens Valley Residents

Although the principal concern of the community activities section was "to make life as pleasant as possible for the residents of Manzanar, sometimes events "were shaped" specifically "with the entertainment of the people of Owens Valley in mind." One of the more successful events "for bettering public relations with the valley people" was the Manzanar Fall Fair held on September 18-19, 1943, attended by several hundred valley residents. On other occasions, valley residents, numbering into the hundreds, visited Manzanar to enjoy indoor and outdoor concerts, exhibits, and other attractions.

Although relationships between the center and valley residents would never be "as cordial as they might have been," a "friendly and cooperative attitude," slowly developed "between many individuals and the Center" as a result of such public relations efforts. Evidence of such "neighborhood friendliness" included a Girls' Play Day attended by teenage girls from Independence, Lone Pine, and Bishop; a visit by the Lone Pine Boys' Club; and bond drives and a festival to raise funds for a swimming pool when Manzanar helped the valley out with the loan of its public address system. On one occasion the supervisor of community activities refereed a football game between the Bishop and Big Pine high schools.

Valley residents were invited to attend the fair on Saturday, while Sunday was reserved for evacuees only. Manzanar Free Press employees provided guided tours for valley residents. The tour included the industrial plant, hospital, farm, Victory gardens, nursery schools, visual education museum, guayule project, and shoyu factory. A vegetable plate dinner was prepared by the Fair Committee for 300 visitors in the mess hall of Block 7. The dinner was served by high school girls, and a charge of 50 cents was made for the meal.

After dinner, the visitors were escorted to the fair grounds where they were invited to see the main fair exhibits — outdoor agricultural exhibit in front of the Children's Village, the garden exhibits in Block 10, Building 15; and the combined industrial and arts-and-crafts exhibits in Block 16, Building 15.

Throughout the evening, free entertainment was provided on the outdoor stage. A "Queen of the Fair" was chosen by a panel of judges, the guests being invited to witness the coronation ceremony. Later, they attended a coronation ball in her honor and that of her four ladies-in-waiting.

Attendance at the two-day fair was estimated to be from 5,000 to 6,000. Booths and concessions were awarded to clubs wishing to sell food, drinks, or other articles. The clubs retained two-thirds of the profit, while one-third was turned over to CACA. Gross income from the booths and concessions was $4,269.02, while the net profit was $1,892.93. One-third of this sum ($541.18) was turned over to CACA for its role in sponsoring the fair.

Special Events

Among the special events conducted at Manzanar under the direction of the community activities section were carnivals, obon festivals, concerts, dances, and exhibits. Approximately 6,000 people attended the first carnival held at Manzanar on July 4-5, 1943. Free stage entertainment was provided by the section each afternoon and evening. Various organizations set up booths where food was sold or games were played. [56]

A second carnival was held between Blocks 16 and 17 on July 1-2, 1944. Although the center population was smaller than it had been the year before, twenty-eight clubs operated 34 booths, featuring concessions that sold hot dogs, hamburgers, tortillas, ice cream, soft drinks, and punch. Although no games of "gambling" were permitted "since that type of game has been outlawed by Town Hall," there were "a number of interesting novel games of skill." [57]

Each summer during early August, the Buddhist Church conducted a traditional two-day outdoor obon festival to commemorate the souls of the departed. The festivals, which featured dramatic dancing, were well attended, the number of spectators and participants being about evenly divided. Block rehearsals with one or two major dress rehearsals were held some weeks in advance of the festivals.

During 1943 and 1944, and before relocation took its toll of orchestra and band members, a series of outdoor concerts were conducted at Manzanar. The orchestra also appeared as a supporting element in a number of indoor musical and dramatic programs. During summer evenings, outdoor recorded music concerts were conducted. Records were "discriminatingly selected with particular audiences in mind." Modern music was played when younger crowds were desired, while Japanese recordings were presented when an appeal was to be made to the older Issei. Classical music generally attracted few evacuees.

Special holidays were often celebrated by community-wide dances, some of which were sponsored by the community activities section, while others were promoted by clubs. A combined "Oklahoma" dance party. for instance, was sponsored by all of the clubs. Stage entertainment was presented for non-dancing guests, and cakes, pies, doughnuts, and other sweets, which had been contributed by "Caucasian friends," were auctioned. New Year's Day dances, often featuring a turkey luncheon, Halloween dances, Sadie Hawkins dances, and parties for special occasions, as well as weekly and bi-weekly dances, "were held as a matter of course.

Periodic arts-and-crafts exhibits were popular with the evacuee population. Among the more successful exhibits were paper-flower shows, woodcarvings with interesting designs made from the roots of locust trees, furniture, leathercraft, embroidered pictures, knitting, women's clothing and fashions, oil and water color painting, stone carving, and cartoons. [58]

Closing Recreational Program During the Summer of 1945

Rollin Fox, the Manzanar high school principal, assumed the duties of the supervisor of community activities when Aksel G. Nielsen left the WRA to join the United Nations Rehabilitation and Relief Agency on June 30, 1945. As the center's population continued to decline as a result of relocation, a two-part summer recreational program was established. One element of the summer program was a series of recreational activities "that contributed to the interest, welfare, and morale of the residents, and were not of a kind to retard relocation." A special children's summer recreational program for elementary school age children which began on June 18 was planned for a four-week period. Since many children remained in the camp at the end of the first four-week session, a second four-week session followed with some 250 children participating. The program included arts-and-crafts classes, knitting and sewing, industrial arts for boys, dramatics, group singing, table games, boys' and girls' rhythms, playground play. hikes and picnics, a story hour, and a library book club.

A preschool session (preschools were transferred from the education section to the community activities section after the schools closed in June 1945) was included in the summer program. A WRA appointed staff member, assisted by two evacuee teachers, conducted the preschool activities. Some 65 children were enrolled in three groups when the summer program opened, but this number decreased by August 29 when the program closed.

After the community activities section recreational program for older children closed on August 11, the protestant church sponsored a two-week summer vacation Bible school from July 23 to August 4. The average attendance was approximately 125. [59]

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Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002