Historic Resource Study/Special History Study
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San Fernando Valley

Opler prepared two studies on evacuees at Manzanar that had come from the San Fernando Valley, approximately 20 miles north-northwest of the Little Tokyo-East Los Angeles area. One study, dated March 20, 1944, concerned the history and evacuation experiences of the Japanese flower growers, and the other, dated October 30, 1944, discussed the prewar community and evacuation experiences of the vegetable farmers in the valley.

For his study of the flower growers, Opler interviewed 17 representatives of the 32 Japanese growers in the valley, all of whom had been evacuated to Manzanar. The flower growers had approximately 600 acres under cultivation. They owned about 400 acres of land, cultivated and uncultivated, the remainder being leased. Most of the business was carried on with Eastern shippers, although some flowers were sold through Los Angeles area outlets.

During the early 1900s some of the Japanese who migrated to southern California worked as gardeners on the estates of wealthy Caucasians. While working, they experimented with flowers, a "natural tendency because of their love for beauty in nature." After finding that flowers grew well, some Japanese "decided to grow flowers in the Montebello, Glendale, and the beach areas." At first they worked on a small scale, packing flowers "into large woven suitcase-like containers which were carried to the street car line." By "street car they traveled to Los Angeles to sell the flowers." They "made a good income and others heard of their good fortune so they, too, decided to grow flowers."

During World War I and the early 1920s the business of growing and selling flowers increased substantially. It was discovered "that the San Fernando Valley, because of its dry climate, was particularly suitable for flower raising in the winter and early spring when fresh flowers are very scarce and difficult to grow elsewhere." Thus, some Japanese moved to San Fernando from other parts of southern California to raise flowers.

The San Fernando Valley florists developed a distinctive community. According to the report, they

lived far apart from each other because they had to move to different localities in order to seek fertile land as well as good climatic conditions. Unlike the farmers, the flower growers could not live on one piece of land for more than 5 to 10 years. If they did, they would have to invest too much money in fertilizer, so that more money would be spent than they would make. . . .

In order to start a 10 acre field, one would need $5,000 to $6,000 for seeds, fertilizer, water pipes, etc. Unlike the farmers who irrigate by ditches, the florists need pipes, hoses, and sprinkling systems.

Opler observed that "hired laborers were necessary." In the early days. "Mexicans and Filipinos worked part time for 50 cents an hour while Japanese laborers worked full time for room and board and $120 a month."

The Japanese florists were generally well received in the San Fernando Valley both prior to Pearl Harbor and between that time and the evacuation. The children attended public schools and took an active part in school affairs where prejudice "did not exist to any extent." Outside the school "the social activities of the younger set revolved about social clubs which they formed among themselves" for socials and athletics. The children attended a Japanese language school on Saturdays, "but the school hours usually turned into an occasion for the young people to have more social life." The Japanese community gathered once a year on July 4 for a picnic. This was "about the only time they could get together, for there was so little leisure time."

According to the report, when outsiders saw the florists, "they think that flower raising is a very profitable business." They "even envy the way the members of the family work side by side out in the fields raising beautiful and fragrant flowers." The growers, however, did "not have time to enjoy the fruits of their labor, for they are too busy working, crawling on the ground to pick weeds even when their backs and knees ache."

Approximately one-third of the flowers were sold through retail outlets in Los Angeles. The most significant such enterprise was the Southern California Flower Market, Inc., located on Wall Street between Seventh and Eighth Streets in central Los Angeles. Virtually of the Japanese flower growers were members of this market, which had 159 members before the war. The supply departments sold farm equipment, supplies, and seeds to the members at wholesale prices. In addition to this market, there were three other markets on the same street, two of which were run by Caucasians, while a smaller market was operated by the Japanese. The Caucasians usually sold roses, gladioli, bulb flowers, and greens, while the Japanese markets sold annual and perennial cut flowers, such as carnations, asters, chrysanthemums, anemones, snap dragons, gardenias, roses, and potted plants. Individual annual gross incomes for the flower raisers amounted to $5,000 for those who had 5-10 acres and $10,000 to $20,000 for those with 10-20 acres. Several of the flower growers, who operated farms having more than 50 acres, grossed $50,000 a year.

The Junior Floralculture Society was organized about 1933 by the Nisei sons and daughters of the members of the Southern California Flower Market. The chief purpose of the organization was sponsorship of social get-togethers, which were held once a month. Besides socials, educational lectures were given, movies were shown, and field trips were conducted. The children of the San Fernando Valley flower growers were active participants in these events. The Issei took care of market business at members' meetings.

Two-thirds of the cut flowers from San Fernando Valley were shipped to southern, eastern, and midwestern cities such as Chicago, St. Louis, New York, and Cleveland, and several cities in Texas. Shipping of flowers proved to be more profitable because the flowers were ordered beforehand and the growers knew that their flowers would be sold. There were seven shipping concerns, two of which were run by the Japanese.

The San Fernando Valley flower growers were impacted seriously by the 8 P.M. to 6 A.M. curfews enforced after Pearl Harbor. Previously, the San Fernando growers had taken their flowers to Los Angeles market some 20 miles away between 3:30 and 5 A.M. However, the curfew, as well as downtown traffic encountered during the later hours, delayed the growers in getting their flowers to market. As the time passed after the opening of the market, the prices of the flowers would go down. As a result of the curfews, their competitors sold out and Japanese growers were left with many of their flowers. Some of the growers, rather than dumping their flowers, often took them to local hospitals.

Travel restrictions were introduced after Pearl Harbor requiring that travel permits be obtained. Each time a new restricted area was announced, another permit had to be obtained designating new routes to be used by the growers. Police often stopped the flower growers on the way to market, checking their travel permits and drivers' licenses, further delaying their arrival. Business began to lag, and by March 1942 only a handful of the 159 members appeared at the market each day.

During the first week after Pearl Harbor, the Issei were not able to attend the markets by themselves. Nisei, Filipino, Mexican, or Caucasian laborers were asked to drive them to the market and also to sell the flowers. Later Issei were allowed to drive to the market, but were allowed to stay only for the purpose of conducting their business. They were prohibited from holding meetings after business hours.

In summarizing the impact of the evacuation on the San Fernando florists, Opler observed;

Some of the San Fernando growers think the voluntary evacuation would have worked out if they had been given more time and if they had been given more trust. Others say that they had spent all their money on their land because they never thought that they would have to move, so that naturally they could not move voluntarily.

Some say that losing the time that had been put into their work is a bigger loss then the property or money that they have lost, for it takes years to gain experience, to prepare the land and to raise good seeds.

Due to the evacuation, the flower growers have lost much but many of them do not know really how much because some left their equipment and household furniture on the farm, thinking that they would be allowed to return shortly. Some have sold these belongings at a great sacrifice since. As for the flower crops, most were sold, but at sacrifice prices. The farm machinery was also either kept and stored in the barn or sold for ridiculous prices. . . . Those who sold their machinery, farm equipment, or stock could not get fair price for them as a rule. [100]

On October 30, 1944, Opler prepared a second report on a group of evacuees at Manzanar from the San Fernando Valley. This report, based on interviews with the representatives of 14 farming families, concentrated on the pre-evacuation and evacuation experiences of the truck farmers in the valley.

Japanese farmers had settled in the San Fernando Valley during the early 1900s. By 1941 Japanese farmers were living in or near the valley settlements of Van Nuys, Canoga Park, Burbank, Roscoe, San Fernando, Pacoima, North Hollywood, Saugus, Sunland, and Hansen Heights. The Japanese did not live in concentrated groups in the valley, but were dispersed because of the need to move about for better land on which to grow their vegetables. Most of the Japanese in the valley had been gardeners, nurserymen, store clerks, and domestic workers prior to becoming farmers. These farmers did not come from the same districts in Japan, but were "a mixed group as far as their backgrounds in Japan were concerned."

The Japanese in Burbank, North Hollywood, and Pacoima raised bunch vegetables, such as carrots, green onions, and turnips. Lettuce, cabbage, cantaloupes, and tomatoes were grown in Canoga Park, San Fernando, and Van Nuys. A few farmers raised strawberries and potatoes. Farmers usually planted about three types of vegetables to minimize the risk they would be taking if one crop failed during the year. Irrigation was necessary because of the generally dry arid climate. The average cost of water per farmer during the summer months was about $150.

The farmers in the valley did not make "much money," but "the people were able to live and were sure of being able to eat." The farmers depended upon Mexican, Italian, and Filipino laborers "to work their farms." The Mexicans "were hired in large numbers," because "they were good natured." During the years before the war, Nisei children had "grown up" and "graduated from schools," so they were able to help on the farms, but until then the only time the children were of any assistance was during the summer and during Christmas and Easter vacations." Women worked in the fields, took care of the children, and did the housework. The wages paid the laborers depended upon the crops that were in season. For instance, the wages for carrots were less than 35 cents an hour, the average wage for other crops.

The majority of the Japanese farmers leased pieces of land averaging from 10 to 50 acres in size, although one or two farmers had more than 160 acres. The farmers moved every 5 to 8 years, the longest period for most farmers staying in one spot being about 10 years. They moved because the land required "rest," the landowner decided to sell his property, or the lease was acquired by someone else. During the years prior to World War II, some Nisei had begun to purchase land in the valley, but "until then the Japanese farmers were Issei who were not able to buy land."

About half of the crops were shipped to Eastern markets, while the other half were sold through local Los Angeles wholesale produce markets. The farmers preferred to have their products shipped, because they received better prices and were assured of having their crops sold. Vegetables that were shipped were handled in two ways. One way was to have the vegetables taken to the shipper for packing and weighing. The other way was to construct temporary packing sheds on farms by the shippers. There were about five packing houses in the valley at the time of evacuation in 1942. By 1941 there were about 20 Japanese wholesale houses in the Los Angeles produce markets. To sell their vegetables at the wholesale produce market houses in Los Angeles, the San Fernando farmers leased "doors," which ranged in price from $1,500 to $3,000 annually. The houses loaned money to the farmers to facilitate their agricultural operations.

The San Fernando Valley Japanese farmers formed several associations to promote profitable market prices, encourage better understanding between the growers and laborers, and promote harmonious business relationships between Caucasians and Japanese. In 1917 Nogyo Kumiai, the San Fernando Valley Farmers Association, was organized. Later in 1926 Sangyo Kumiai, the Industrial Organization, was formed. It had between 100 and 120 members. In 1930 the Japanese farmers of southern California decided to form an organization to promote mutual self-help. All Nogyo and Sangyo Kumiais were united to form a Nokai Renmei, or Union of Agricultural Associations, in Los Angeles.

When rumors of evacuation began to circulate, some San Fernando Valley Nisei, who did not think such orders would affect them, acquired the leases for the "doors" that the Issei leased. When evacuation orders included the Nisei, they had little time to sell their leases or store equipment. Thus, many of them "suffered a total loss" as a result of the evacuation. Opler summarized the losses of the San Fernando Valley farmers and the closely allied Japanese wholesale houses:

The 20 markets lost tremendously. Six went bankrupt because of the evacuation;

stores sold at cost; no money came in for the lease value; many of the farmers were not able to repay their back loans; merchants had to pay for the guaranteed fertilizer, lumber and rent. At the very best the houses broke even if the banks helped.

Opler also summarized the impact of Pearl Harbor and evacuation on the lives and livelihoods of the San Fernando Valley farmers. Based on his interviews, he observed:

The farmers and all the other people were confused and frightened and did not know what to do after Pearl Harbor. There were rulings that came in stating that aliens were not to go to the wholesale markets. Consequently the Nisei and persons of other nationalities were hired to haul vegetables to the markets. The aliens did not suffer much except that those who formerly had taken their vegetables to the markets had to spend money to pay for the services rendered by the haulmen. But before long this restriction was lifted and life was almost normal again.

Many persons were said to have received letters and notices from the United States Department of Agriculture stating that they should go ahead and prepare to harvest their crops. The farmers did not think they would be evacuated until the harvesting was over because they lived so far from the ocean and they were in a valley surrounded by mountains. The farmers went ahead with their planting and thinning of crops, and put in fertilizer. When orders for evacuation came, some people thought they would be taken away for about a week or at the longest, a month. They did not pack their belongings but left them. Many had Caucasians look after their things.

The Caucasians in the Valley were very good to the people. One of the reasons for this might be that the majority of the Caucasians who lived in the Valley worked in the city. A few had stores or farms. The Japanese farmers did not offer any competition to them. The mayor of San Fernando, and the chief of police, and the manager of the Los Angeles War and Power for the Valley were said to be exceptionally good to the Japanese residents.

The children of the Japanese farmers attended the San Fernando, Canoga Park, North Hollywood, Burbank, and Van Nuys high schools, or went to elementary schools in these districts. Those who attended Japanese language schools went to the one in San Fernando, the biggest of the three, or to North Hollywood, or Glendale. [Approximately 6 persons from the valley had been picked up by the FBI for their association with these schools.]

The American schools treated the children well, even after the outbreak of war. And there was no discrimination. There might have been some prejudice out of school but not enough to hurt the feelings of the people.

The Caucasian neighbors were good to the farmers. They are true to them even now. At the time of evacuation, one of them offered to lend money to an evacuee family. Many, with solicitude, offered to help the evacuees. . . .

The San Fernando Valley people were evacuated on April 26, 27, and 28, 1942, from Burbank. The people had to get to the point of departure early in the morning. These mornings were cold. The Caucasians who lived in that section offered their homes to the evacuees to stay in while they waited for the arrival of busses which would take them to Manzanar. The evacuees who came from the country districts and these particular Caucasians probably had never met before, but, because there was no ill feeling, homes were opened to them and some persons served the evacuees coffee. . . .

Although the unlucky persons lost much, those who were lucky did not lose greatly except on the last crop that they could not harvest. But what the older people regret the most of all is that this happened just as they had come to a stage when the Nisei were old enough to help on the farm and the elders were able to take life a little easier. At last good farm equipment had been collected and from this point on they thought the way would be smoother than ever before. The children would have been able to do better and bigger farming because of their knowledge of the English language, because of their educational background in business, and because they were able to get along with Caucasians. In other words they were at last on an equal footing with the Caucasians. The older people were ready to watch and enjoy the restful and more hopeful years roll by.

But the evacuation destroyed all of that. Now the old people as well as the young must start from scratch. . . . [101]


One of the last groups to arrive at Manzanar consisted of a contingent of 399 rural Japanese/Japanese Americans from Florin, an all-Japanese agricultural settlement established in the Fair Oaks vicinity just east of Sacramento during the early 1900s. Many of the early Japanese settlers in the Florin community were burakumin (literally, "people of the village"). In Japan these people constituted a class of "untouchables," comparable to those in India, who typically slaughtered animals for meat butchers, prepared meat, worked with leather, tanned hides, or made shoes. They were considered inferior, because they broke the Buddist edict against killing animals and were thus shunned by other Japanese because they were unclean. The majority of the Florin people were small -landowners, the Issei having purchased the land in the names of their Nisei children. The chief crops raised in this community were grapes and strawberries, and the size of the farms averaged about 20 acres.

On October 30, 1943, Opler prepared a report on "The Florin Evacuation," based on an interview with an Issei evacuee from Florin. According to the Issei, the Florin farmers

were the stay put kind. They had worked hard on the same land for many years. They didn't believe in going hither and thither to farm. This type of farmer usually hits a very good year once in a decade, and that good year was the very one when they had to evacuate. Just before evacuation the farmers in the Florin section were already thinking in terms of new cars and new tractors as the market prices for fruits were reaching new ceilings.

These farmers had but to pick the crops to realize their fortunes when the notice to evacuate came. The strawberries were ripe and ready to be picked. The grapes were later crops but everything was in readiness for harvesting. The Florin farmers saw their fortune whisked away right under their noses. . . .

.... The remaining work was simply to irrigate and to tie the vines up when the crops were to be harvested. In other words all the essential work and effort and investment had been previously put in.

After they arrived at Manzanar, some received letters telling them that grapes were bringing eighty dollars per ton. That meant if one acre yielded ten tons, each acre would have brought in eight hundred dollars. The strawberry price was also better than in ordinary times.

The rural Florin people, according to the Issei evacuee, were generally conservative and traditional people. They "brought up their children in the Japanese way," and the Niseis from that district were "better than average conversationalists in Japanese." The Niseis "read and write Japanese better than the average Nisei." [102]

Opler prepared a second report on 'The Florin People" on December 15, 1943, based on an interview with an evacuee woman who had married "a Florin boy whose father was one of the first to go to that section of California to farm." She observed that the "Florin people built homes, and all in all were a 'permanent community.'"

The evacuee interviewee provided a historical overview of the Florin settlement. According to this evacuee, the typical life of the Florin people before evacuation

was one of contentment and peace. They had come in, simple, ambitious people, to try to reclaim a land which the Caucasians had thought worthless and not worth the trouble to keep. These people recognized, and still admit the land "isn't so good", but to them, at that time, and even now, it was something which they could build, with hard work, into something tasting, and which they could leave to their children as a heritage, to show that this was indeed, 'a land of opportunity.'

The average head of the family, before he came to Florin, worked for about three years in back-breaking labor, as a railroad section hand to save enough money to stake himself. Many of the people came here with practically nothing in the world but the clothes on their backs, and hope in their hearts. They tried first to make a little money so that they might go back to Japan for their wives if they were married, or to be married. After returning for their wives, they came back to America to farm, for in their travels as section hands, they saw likely places that they could farm.

With what little money they had after returning to America, they and their wives came to Florin, to work for the farmers around there. They became sort of share croppers, and eventually bought out the majority of the Caucasian farmers. But all this didn't happen over night. It took years of labor with their hands, and much sacrifice to get even a small plot of land. But that was one thing they were used to — hard work. And they were ambitious, ambitious for themselves, and for their children. Once they got that plot of land, they felt they 'belonged.'

Almost immediately, they planned for the future, to think of building more stable homes, able to withstand the years. They built homes, painted them white, trimmed with green or any color they had a mind to. They planted lawns, trees, shrubbery and all in all made it a place to live in and in which to raise their children. With the years, they began to get out of the 'red', paying the last payments on the land. When the day came when they actually owned the land (through their citizen children), it was a day of rejoicing, for after their back breaking labor, they now had something to show for it, and there was no chance of being thrown out.

The evacuee described the sense of pride the Florin people took in the improvement and beautification of their property. She noted:

Since they owned the land they lived on, their first thought was for the improvement of their living conditions. They built homes to last, even planning for additional room space if it is needed. Usually it is, because the eldest son, after he marries, is expected to bring his bride home, and here raise his family. As the family increases, more room space is necessary. When the additional rooms are built on, they are not stuck on haphazardly, but with an eye to permanency.

There was always someone in the house with time enough to tend a flower garden. Plants, flowers, trees, and grass were kept in perfect condition. The trees were shade trees, so that in the summer, if they had any spare time, they could go out and lie on the lawn, under the shade of the trees for a while. Many families had elaborate fish ponds, cemented, and filled with whatever fish they managed to get. To them, a garden is not complete without these ponds. Great pains were taken in the building of them, so that there would be no chance of them cracking. No two ponds were alike in size or shape. Everyone had his own idea as to the manner in which they should be built. So, naturally, the outcome of these were quite elaborate and beautiful.

The evacuee also commented on the sense of ownership that characterized the Florin people and described their conservative financial approach to life as well as their gradual acceptance of modern conveniences. She observed:

Between 1925 and 1930 the majority of the Florin people had the land paid for, and were now working for 'themselves.' They started to save money for needed farm equipment, which, until now they felt they could not afford. Till then they had been doing the work literally by hand, or the more fortunate had horses to do the real hard work. But they knew motorized equipment would help them considerably, so they saved the money for it. When they had the money saved, they bought whatever they needed for personal convenience and comfort and not until then. They believed in buying only what they could afford, even when it came to household equipment.

When the new modern kitchen appliances came out, like refrigerators, electric mixers, etc., the men wanted their wives to have them, but only when they could afford it. Somehow, they didn't believe in the installment plan. They believed if you needed and wanted a thing bad enough, you will be willing to make a little sacrifice here and there to save for it. But buy it they did, and many of them had all the modern appliances, bought and paid for. It all leads back to the feeling of 'ownership.' In the old days, they were so insecure, and had to work so hard for what little they had, and they knew and realized the value of ownership. If you owned and paid for something, you had it, and nothing, they thought, could take it away from you. They planned to stay here for the rest of their lives, to die here, and leave their property to their children, along with the lessons they taught of hard work, of earning what you make, keeping what you have, and knowing the value of the land.

The evacuee described the devastating impact of evacuation on the ideals and sentiments of the rural Florin people. She commented:

Just before evacuation, many of them were making more money than they had in the previous years. . . .

The crops being good, and the money coming, they felt they could invest more of their money in new and modern farm equipment, new cars, and give the house a new coat of paint. All these things had materialized, and they had barely had time to enjoy them, when they were notified that they were to be evacuated. Many of them, after years of nursing the old car along, had bought new cars. Not extravagant cars, but modest Chevrolets, Plymouths, etc. Not only had they bought new cars, but tractors, pick-ups, and other needed equipment.

After planning for years for these things, to have to give them up so suddenly, and many times at a loss, was a great blow to them. These things were paid for and were as good as cash on hand, and to sell them at loss, sometimes at a figure that was not even half what they were worth, was shocking to their long years of frugal living.

But aside from the things they had bought, and owned, they had their farmers' pride at stake. At the time of evacuation they had their crops planted and they were ready to be harvested. To see them lying in the fields, rotting just because they were not allowed to pick them, hurt them just as badly as evacuation itself. They begged to be allowed to pick them, not thinking of the money involved, for they said they would wait for it at the convenience of the Association, for to a farmer to see the crops lying on the ground, not harvested, is to see his life going to ruin.

Perhaps they were too attached to the land, but that is the way of most of these old people. They had come to this land of opportunity, from a country where their lot was much worse, and by hard work and sacrifice, they had managed to save a little to keep themselves and their children. They did not ask for anything that they didn't deserve. They were always willing to help their neighbor, and be law-abiding people, for they knew that in this country they had seen the realization of their most cherished hopes.

But evacuation was the dashing of their hopes, for many of them know they are too old to start over again, and they know they 'can't take it' as they used to in their youth. And too, something has gone out of them that they can never again recapture. I guess you would call it ambition, but I would say faith — faith in an ideal. They believed if you worked hard enough, and were law-abiding, doing nothing to shame their race, they would be left in peace and contentment, but that has been taken away, not only from themselves, but their children, and they see their children growing day by day more discontented and disheartened — and worst of all — unambitious. [103]

Stockton/French Camp Area of San Joaquin County

The last large contingent of evacuees to enter Manzanar were those from the French Camp area, a small farming community south of Stockton in San Joaquin County in the northern section of California's Central Valley. On April 22, 1944, Opler prepared a report, entitled "Autobiography of a Nisei From the Stockton Area," detailing the experiences of a young man from that vicinity. The majority of the report, according to Opler, "was taken down by me exactly as it was dictated."

Born in San Francisco, this Nisei had lived with his family in San Raphael, a small community north of the city on the west side of the bay, from the age of 2 to 19. His father had operated an independent gardening business. As the only Japanese family in San Raphael, he and his family members had not experienced discrimination. After graduating from high school, he went to work first as a general farm laborer and later as a warehouse and ranch foreman and mechanic in the machine shop of the Weyl-Zuckerman Company, a large farm on McDonald Island in the San Joaquin River in the Stockton/French Camp area. The principal crops raised on the farm were potatoes, sugar beets, and onions.

The Nisei discussed some of his prewar experiences on the company farm. He noted:

.... This was the first time I ever met any Filipinos. Well, to me they were just the same as other people. I had no feeling of discrimination against them. I didn't know what the word discrimination meant until I got on this job. Then I found out. Then for the first time 1 found out that my looks were different from some other people's. The Japanese people on the farm told me so. They told me that 1 should not mix too much with Caucasians and that I should learn to speak Japanese.

Then they discriminated against me themselves. This was a Kibei group. They are not all bad but I just happened to run into the wrong ones, I guess.

.... Their reasons for their advice to me were that no matter where I go I won't be treated as a Caucasian anyway and won't have the rights that a Caucasian has. They would make fun of me and would not accept me in their circle. . . . This was mostly because I couldn't speak Japanese. I told them that I couldn't help it; it wasn't my fault. My parents had just never brought me up that way.

Also I found out for the first time that Japanese people gossip. My parents never gossiped. I was taught not to. But here the old Issei would come around and tell me this and that. It was the first time I realized that Japanese people were like that.

After working on the farm for three years, the Nisei had saved enough money to purchase, along with his brother and brother-in-law, "a five-acre plot with a house on it at French Camp." His parents and two sisters moved from San Raphael to the newly purchased property, while he stayed and worked on the Weyl-Zuckerman Company farm. His father was in poor health, and thus farmed only part of the five-acre property, raising "chickens enough to meet the family expense."

The Nisei described the Japanese community in the French Camp area and his family's experiences in the community. He stated:

In French Camp my mother joined the Parents-Teacher's Association. She had been Vice-President of P.T.A. in San Raphael before this. Two of my sisters were going to school in French Camp.

My two younger sisters' lives have been a little different from mine. They were sent to a Japanese language school as well as to public school. They got along and mixed quite well with the Caucasian children in French Camp, however.

We are Presbyterian. My father was a Buddhist in Japan but he didn't pay any attention to the Buddhist religion. He is a Presbyterian now. My mother is a Presbyterian too. We have been Presbyterians for about 20 years. My mother was a Buddhist when she came to this country but she changed too. Although we think all religions are the same, stand for the same things, it is better to know one well than to know none of them well. . . .

The average person of Japanese ancestry in French Camp was a farmer. In Stockton the Japanese were business men. They ran hotels and restaurants. Some were doctors and lawyers. Some were produce men, I guess.

As for their living accommodations and way of living in French Camp, the average was fairly good. They brought up their children in the American ideas as much as possible, as much as they knew how to, I guess. There was a fairly good-sized Japanese community.

The farmers raised quite a few strawberries, carrots, and other things. It's truck farming. They sent things to the Stockton market, shipped up to San Francisco and all the way down to Los Angeles. Also, they shipped to Sacramento. . . .

The Nisei's brother was one of the first Japanese Americans in the French Camp community to volunteer for the U.S. Army in January 1941. Commenting on the reaction of his family and community, the interviewee observed:

When conscription first started I noticed that the nisei group were all for it. Quite a number of Kibei group were against it. The idea was that they didn't like the idea of army life at all. Some of the Kibei came over from Japan to avoid the draft there. I know one Kibei fellow who went mentally unbalanced worrying about conscription. But some Kibei were for conscription and even volunteered for the army. As for the Issei, they didn't give too much thought to conscription but they were proud that the nisei were able to join the U.S. Army. . . .

The Japanese people of French Camp gave him [his brother] a big send-off when he volunteered. The Japanese and the Y.W.C.A. and the Y.M.C.A. and the Japanese section of the P.T.A. helped with the send-off party. They had the party in the Japanese Community House in French Camp. . . .

Before my brother entered the army he talked it over with the family. Of course it was more or less up to him whether he wanted to volunteer or not. My parents were for his volunteering; they thought it was a good idea.

At this time the tension between Japan and the United States was already present. The Japanese as a group saw war with Japan coming. Nevertheless the Nisei felt they should volunteer and even some Kibei felt the same way. Most Nisei were perfectly willing to be drafted into the U.S. Army then even though they saw trouble with Japan coming.

The Nisei interviewee described his reactions and experiences after the Pearl Harbor attack. He stated:

When Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan it made a good many nisei like myself mentally ill. Our attitude was that Japan wouldn't be able to last one year. . . .

When I went to eat lunch in the Japanese mess-hall [at the company farm], some of those Kibei and Issei said that Japan would win the war. Soon I got into an argument with some of them and I told them to wait until the finish comes before they decide who is going to win. Since they knew I didn't speak Japanese and wasn't familiar with the Japanese way of living, they laughed at me, made fun of me and told me that my brother would be killed within one month. I know I didn't feel so very good about it, but I didn't feel like arguing since I don't argue very much. So I let them do most of the talking, but I did tell them that people like them will soon receive what's coming to them. To some of those people I asked, "Why are you here in this country if you like Japan so much? Why don't you go back if you don't like America?" They answered that they want to make as much money as possible and that the American way of living was easier and the American way of making money was easiest. . . .

Of course there were some Nisei fellows like myself. We just sat and listened and felt hurt to know that some people had such an attitude. Sometimes I felt that I should report them to the FBI. I don't know just why I didn't. Maybe it was because some of them had families and I felt sorry for the kids. I hate to see people go to jail anyway. Besides I knew they were just ignorant little people with no power. It was all talk and none of them would dare to do anything but talk.

W-Z and Company had mostly issei and kibei working for them. You see, the issei would naturally take to the kibei because they understood something about the Japanese way of living and they can talk more easily to them than to the nisei.

The Nisei interviewee then made a number of observations on the Issei and Kibei farm laborers on the relatively isolated McDonald Island and their differences when compared with the more Americanized Japanese communities at French Camp and Stockton. Among other things, he observed:

I don't like to discriminate against my own race but I will say that on the W-Z farm the issei and kibei followed too much the Japanese way of living. So when the Caucasian mechanics on the farm take a dislike to those people, I just don't blame them in a way. The Caucasian objected mostly because they thought that the Japanese were talking about them in the Japanese language. Or when the mechanic made a little mistake or couldn't get a job done on time, the Japanese foreman would report it to Mr. Z. The way I had it figured out, the Japanese issei were trying to run the Caucasians out from the Z. farm. They were trying to form a little Japan, I guess, because every little mistake the Caucasian mechanic would make would be reported. But Mr. Z. didn't pay any attention to that.

This farm was situated on an island, McDonald Island, in the San Joaquin River. Those farms out there are mostly islands. The children of these issei were isolated there and were unable to mix with Caucasian children. So they were brought up in the Japanese way. Of course they had a Caucasian teacher. But they would have Japanese flags, at least two, in their houses. They were sent to Japanese schools and they spoke nothing but Japanese except when they spoke to Caucasians to me or to my brother . . . There were about 200 or more Japanese on that island. . . The children were brought up to believe that the Emperor was a living god. They made a celebration of Boy's Day (May 5) and Girl's Day (March 3). They heard about the Emperor from the parents, who would sort of impress them, and they heard about him in the language school. There is a big difference between this group on the island and the French Camp group and the Stockton city Japanese. The last two groups were more Americanized. In French Camp or in Stockton some parents might tell the children about the Emperor, but the children would not pay any attention to it; they just don't pay any attention to Emperor.

And another thing I noticed. They disliked me at McDonald Island because I liked to attend night school and I used to read books, books that I thought would help me out, like sociology books, law books, psychology books — just about any kind that I thought would help me. I even read medical books. They didn't think it was necessary. They thought that all that studying is a waste of time. They think it is experience that counts. But what I told them was this; if anyone had an education plus experience it would help him more, but if he doesn't have enough intelligence to acquire knowledge, education won't do him much good.

They respected education, all right, this McDonald group, providing it is Japanese education. . . . They approved of learning more of Japanese history, Japanese background and anything that pertains to the Japanese Emperor. Of course they learned arithmetic and things like that. Some of them had been there on the island for a good many years. They were pretty isolated. They didn't get away much. They averaged about once a week for going into Stockton.

This is how I noticed that the two groups were different. The people in French Camp and Stockton didn't mind my not knowing Japanese. They didn't tease me about it; didn't make any wisecracks about it.

The Nisei interviewee also commented on the various minority groups on the island and the manner in which they related. He noted:

There were about 200 Filipinos on the island too. They did the same kind of work. They were not allowed to become foremen though. The Japanese foremen saw to that. Mr. Z. listened to the foremen. I was kept from being a foreman in the same way for some time. The Filipinos are foremen since the evacuation though. ...

There were quite a number of Mexicans on that farm too. There would be over 1000 Mexicans there at harvest time. A few stayed on steadily. . . .

Another thing I disliked. The Mexicans were treated as low by the issei and kibei. The nisei on the island always tried to treat them fair to make up for the way they were treated by the other groups. But only about 5 percent of the Japanese were nisei.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, according to the Nisei, "there was no trouble at all among the [various racial] groups" on the island. The Filipinos and the Japanese "got along as before." Even in Stockton "I didn't see any real trouble." "I know there were two killings, but I didn't see any riots, any mass fights or anything like that."

The Nisei interviewee did not know how the Japanese people would be treated after Pearl Harbor, but he "sort of thought that the issei would be put in camps." His observations, according to Opler, were marked by a tolerance and lack of resentment in regard to evacuation that were rare among young men of his age group. This may have been the result of his family being spared many of the personal hardships which evacuation brought to others. The Nisei observed:

.... I talked with a lot of nisei. Most said that if their parents were taken to a camp they would rather go with them than stay behind. Of course, some of the nisei said they would like to stay back and run the business, but they sure didn't like the idea of having their parents sent off without them.

The curfew came in and it included everyone of Japanese ancestry. So from then on we did have a feeling that perhaps we'd be taken out of our homes too.

Our family had no unpleasant experiences. We went around, we went in shows and restaurants as usual. We went to dances. . . .

In April, I think it was, the nisei had to give up contraband. I had to give up my flashlight. I had to have the shortwave cut out of my radio. I had some rifles that I had to give up. I gave them to my Caucasian friends, sort of as a souvenir or remembrance. I expected all this. Our family had no special plans for getting out of the West Coast. We didn't have any place to go. We were just going to stay there until the army moved us out.

When we knew that we were going to be evacuated, my father asked a very good Caucasian friend that he could rely on to take care of the property. The little crop we had left in the field we harvested until the day or so before evacuation. We let this Caucasian friend live in our house without any rent. The agreement is that he will keep up the property and pay the taxes for the duration. We have a written agreement with him about this. He is pretty reliable. He writes to us once in a while. He works at the paper mill in Stockton. This land is in the name of my brother and brother-in-law. It's all paid for. It was carrots and green onions that we were harvesting at the end. . . .

For a while we thought that we were going to be in a free zone and would not have to be evacuated. When the restricted area was drawn up, a highway just outside of French Camp was used as the dividing line. All on the west side of the highway were moved out in March. We happened to be living on the east, that is, the town side, and so were not affected at first. However, later the place where we were was declared a restricted zone, too, so we were moved in May — the 26th of May, I think it was.

We stored all of our furniture in one room in the house, since this man who was going to take over the place wanted to bring his own furniture over to the house. When the time came for evacuation we were supposed to leave Manteca at 4 P.M. We had one of our friends take our baggage down to the train depot and the man who is now living in our place drove us down in his car. We were stared at by Caucasians that were gathered around the depot but we thought nothing of that.

There were only 40 of us left in French Camp. In the train we were in two coaches and we were restricted; we were only allowed to go up and down within these two coaches. On the way down we played cards and various games. We didn't think anything about coming to Manzanar. There were no hard feelings. In fact we were planning our future here in Manzanar and what we would do when we did arrive. . . .

The journey took 16 hours. The trip was pleasant. We arrived at Lone Pine at 7:30 A.M. We got on a bus and arrived here at 8 A.M. The people of Manzanar were out watching us come in. We were stared at by them just as much as we had been stared at by the Caucasians before coming. . . .

The Nisei interviewee went on to describe his reactions and feelings upon arrival at Manzanar. According to Opler, his adjustment to camp life was relatively easy, probably because he had lived on a large-scale farm enterprise which housed and fed its agricultural laborers much like the evacuees were cared for in the center. The Nisei observed;

My first thought when we came was, "Well, so this is Manzanar!' I was wondering if I'd ever get tired of the place. . . .

The first thing that attracted my attention was the barracks which would be our living quarters, as I thought at the time, for the duration. . . . Still, we had to make the best of what there was. ... In fact I am inclined to believe that this sort of life is better than what some of these people had before the war. . . .

It wasn't long before we became quite accustomed to this camp life and I made a few friends while working in community activities. I was invited by various clubs and groups to their socials. In fact I believe I like this kind of life for a change. . . [104]

Bainbridge Island

The only group of evacuees at Manzanar that was not from California was the 227-person contingent from Bainbridge Island, a 200-square-mile island in Puget Sound eight miles west of Seattle, Washington. This group, evacuated under Civilian Exclusion Order No. 1, arrived at Manzanar on April 1, 1942, having been transported directly from Seattle by train because the Puyallup Assembly Center on the Washington state fairgrounds was not ready for occupancy and Manzanar was the nearest reception or relocation center to their homes that was in operation. The Japanese/Japanese-

American community on the island was evacuated because of the island's proximity to the strategic Bremerton Naval Base. At the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, the island had a population of about 10,000, the majority of the residents being Caucasian truck farmers, small-town business owners or tradesmen, or white-collar commuters to jobs in Seattle. The scenic island was also dotted with summer resorts and country clubs.

Because of discrimination and frequent inability to obtain meaningful employment in Seattle, persons of Japanese descent first went to the island during the 1910s to take advantage of employment opportunities in the lumber mills, but they found the soil so rich that many turned to farming, specializing primarily in raising strawberries. The majority of the Japanese settlers had come from the Hiroshima Prefecture, a predominantly agricultural region in Japan. By 1941 there were 43 Japanese-operated farms on the island, 27 of which were owned or partly owned by Japanese and 16 of which were leased. The strawberry farms covered a total cultivated area of 620 acres. The total value of the island's strawberry crop in 1941 was $246,000, and the Japanese controlled 80 percent of the production. One-fourth of the crop was sold locally, the remainder being shipped to the eastern United States via Seattle. The Japanese strawberry farmers generally had modest incomes, employing migrant Filipino and Indian laborers to help with the farm work. [105]

At its request, the Bainbridge Island evacuees were transferred to the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Idaho in February 1943. Thus, they were no longer at Manzanar when Opler arrived at the center to commence his community analysis studies. Among the best sources of information on the background of the Bainbridge Islanders, however, is a transcribed oral interview of Mrs. Ikuko Amatatsu Watanabe, conducted on July 24, 1974, by Arthur A. Hansen, a Professor of History at California State University, Fullerton, as part of that institution's Oral History Program Japanese American Project. Watanabe, a Nisei who had been born and raised on a strawberry farm on Bainbridge Island, provided insights into the nature of the island's prewar Japanese/Japanese American community and its experiences during evacuation to Manzanar.

According to Watanabe, the Japanese/Japanese American community on Bainbridge Island, while scattered throughout the island, had a Japanese American Association and a language school that sponsored quarterly socials and parties for young people. Prior to the outbreak of the war, however. Nisei were beginning to rebel against study of the Japanese language. Periodically, the community would meet to view Japanese movies, and once each summer the entire community would hold a picnic to which Caucasians and Japanese from Seattle and Tacoma would be invited. There was little overt or virulent discrimination on the island. Because of continuing discriminatory practices in some areas, however, the community stuck together and avoided places and activities where they might be put down. Despite the discrimination, however, there were no Japanese stores or restaurants, and the scattered Japanese residents generally conducted business with Caucasian entrepreneurs. Concerning the community, she noted:

... as a community, we didn't have a specific place where you could say, 'This is 'Japanese Town,' or the Japanese community. I believe there were some sixty families on Bainbridge Island at that time, and we were all scattered. In fact, I would say that ninety percent of them had their own homes; the average age on Bainbridge would be about twenty years old. Many of the Issei families had purchased land in some other person's name, because they couldn't own land themselves and their own children were too young.

Following the Pearl Harbor attack, about a dozen men, including Watanabe's father, were taken by the FBI to Seattle and subsequently interned. Regarding her own experiences as a senior in high school immediately following the attack, she noted:

.... it was an uncomfortable feeling to go to school the next day. I guess all the students had to bow their head and look to the East and give a silent prayer and such. An then, of course, the principal was talking about how he felt that there were Japanese in the group and we were all students and not to get reactionary and so forth. So it was a good thing for him to caution everybody.

Although there were some instances of hostility against the Japanese on the island following Pearl Harbor, some elements of the Caucasian population aided the Japanese. Watanabe observed:

The people that we were friends with felt real badly because they, too, didn't know. So those that would be friends for life, you really knew right then and there. .... our Christian friends and neighbors took over some of our things for us that we valued. Although I will have to say, my family had the Samurai swords due to my dad being the oldest, and I know one of those was missing. Well, those things were taken right away, unfortunately. Also, the government took our radios, cameras, et cetera. We had a couple of violins in the family and they were gone. So, unfortunately, things that just meant a lot to us were gone. But, other than that, I would have to say our Christian friends were tremendous and stayed with us and helped us in every way possible.

Watanabe also discussed her evacuation experiences. The group was evacuated on March 26 and arrived at Manzanar by train six days later on April 1. She noted:

.... 1 would have to say our evacuation was a little more humane [than that of Terminal Island], because 1 think we had approximately two weeks notice. We could only carry two suitcases, however. When you think of teenagers and two suitcases, that does present a problem. Without the head of the household and with four girls, we were kind of leery and were kind of... I wouldn't say scared, but maybe apprehensive about not knowing where we were going, for what reason, and for what length of time, and then to leave familiar surroundings, school, friends, and all our animals. ... We were fortunate enough to have a Filipino come and stay in our home. We had a newly wedded minister's daughter, and she used part of our furniture and so in that event, when we came back they were intact, too. . . .

.... we had some exploitation, but not to the same extent as on Terminal Island. Terminal Islanders had to sell everything like pianos and ice boxes for around five dollars, and people were there just for the taking and making fun. I think that's terrible! But as far as we were concerned, most of our homes were taken care of by someone who worked for us or say, maybe a young couple who didn't have a home yet. When the Bainbridge Island people came back, most of the people had their homes to come back to.

During the train trip one soldier was assigned to each of the 63 families on the train. Watanabe related:

.... each soldier was from back East someplace, because we used to kid them and talk about 'Toity-Toid' Street and all this because their language seemed so strange to us. And they, in turn, found out that we were human beings. They thought that we were the 'buck toothed' and the 'slanted eyed' people and were very dangerous. They had their guns right there with them at the beginning and all, but toward the end they knew we were just like they were. So, when we finally did part in Manzanar— after traveling together for the three or four days — I know that most of them cried.

.... The soldiers felt that this [evacuation by train] was very unjust themselves, and yet, they never knew a Japanese person personally. I think we all took a collection since we knew that a soldier's pay wasn't much, and we gave them money as gifts. They, in turn, sent us some things that they felt we didn't have. Looking at the camp, they really wept because they thought it was very unfair since it wasn't even up to the specifications that they were accustomed to; the camp wasn't finished by the time we got there.

The Bainbridge Island people were given quarters in Block 3, which had just been completed, at Manzanar. Watanabe briefly described her impressions upon arrival at Manzanar, including the unfinished camp, inadequate and crowded quarters, and sand and dust. She also observed that the volunteers from Los Angeles that had arrived at Manzanar prior to the Bainbridge Islanders "had grown beards and were unkempt." We were so unaccustomed to seeing Japanese people in that condition, that I think we were actually frightened!" Since most of the volunteers were single men, the Bainbridge girls were frightened by their abrasive manners. When they took showers, for instance, "we had to have some of the Bainbridge boys come and guard the shower houses."

Watanabe also discussed the differences between the Bainbridge Island strawberry farmers and other groups of evacuees at Manzanar. She noted:

I would have to say that the Bainbridge Islanders were freer people [than those from San Pedro, Terminal Island, Little Tokyo-East Los Angeles, and Florin]. Sometimes I feel it's not fair to bring up the Terminal Islanders and say how they were, because I know they lived in a confined area where there were all Japanese, so they had a tendency to be more Japanesey than, say, the Bainbridge people, who were the minority on the Island. Bainbridge people helped one another, I will say, as a community. It was share and share alike, where people came and helped plant the berries — this is the Japanese population I'm speaking of now.

[It was] a mutual aid arrangement, and yet there was a big party-like atmosphere. The women went to cook the feast, and the men all went out in the fields; the children helped, too, to plant strawberries. So it was quite a community-spirited group. I would have to say we worked and played together to the extent that we got to know one another a lot more. The other groups, perhaps, were amongst themselves so much that some of their spoken language might be mixed with Japanese and English, where, perhaps, Bainbridge people didn't have that problem. We were more integrated than Terminal Islanders and people from Florin, California.

.... At first, it was hard to believe that we spoke the same language. They [Terminal Islanders] spoke a little bit of pidgin English, they were somewhat rough, and they did have some of their gangs and such. But when we got to know them individually, we found out that they were just like any of us. ... Unfortunately, I think that Terminal Islanders were in this clustered group and their way of speaking and such was a little different. And the funny part is, when we went to Minidoka, our kids, just for fun, acted like the Terminal Islands [sic] kids. They went with their pant leggings like zoot suiters. Luckily, the Seattle people knew the Bainbridge people before, or they would have been frightened of the Bainbridge people coming from Manzanar. [106]

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Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002