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SW Trip part 12

 

Manzanar was the last stop on our twelve-day road trip through Arizona and southern California. After the grandeur of national parks and the splendor of thousands of Sandhill Cranes and other, more quiet moments in nature, it was a sobering day for all of us.

We all knew the story of war relocation camps that happened during World War II but to experience one in person and meet someone who had been there as a small child really brought it home to us. We also learned that the mother of a friend of ours had been at Manzanar. We were able to find out where she and her family of ten were housed and we went to the spot where their barracks was located. She was a teenager when this happened to her. Can you imagine sharing a small space with your parents and seven younger siblings? Living conditions were harsh. The barracks were covered in tar paper and frequent storms pushed dust through the cracks. In the summer the temperature was as high as 110 and in the winter it often snowed. There was no privacy anywhere. More than 10,000 people of Japanese descent were housed there.

Each block had fourteen barracks buildings divided into four ‘apartments’, a mess hall, a recreation hall, latrines for men and women and two buildings for laundry and ironing. The internees built gardens in most of the blocks, often near the mess hall to ease the time while waiting in lines for food. At the end of each barracks was one faucet. The internees built a 14,000 square foot auditorium that still stands and is used as the visitor’s center today. The interpretive displays at this center are some of the best I’ve seen. All of the other buildings were dismantled and auctioned off at the end of the war.

Several barracks’ facsimiles have been built in recent years. There is a driving route that takes visitors around the camp. All the blocks are numbered and some of the barracks’ sites are numbered also. Much of the camp has been overcome by sand blown in or brought in by flooding. Now it’s hard to tell where the buildings were unless you find one of those upright faucets that were located at the end of the barracks. Some blocks are being excavated. In these areas, you can see the concrete foundations of the latrines with the shower and toilet drains in rows. The concrete blocks that supported the barracks are there too. And some of the gardens have been excavated showing the intricate rock work and the now dry water features.

While we were there, it was the Day of Remembrance. There was a special presentation by a park ranger talking about how many people were incarcerated due to the lack of religious tolerance in this country at that time. It was a sobering moment for us considering how much intolerance we are witnessing in our country now.

For more information about Manzanar see here and here.

3 Comments

  1. Hi Teri Thanks for these very descriptive photos of your whole trip. These from Manzanar are so sad. My best friend in the 4th grade was Toshi Tada. The “G Men”, hats,overcoats and all came into our class and carried him out. His whole family was sent to the camp. They owned a beautiful truck garden near White Center in Seattle which was taken from them and given to, of all things an Italian family. We were at war with Italy also. The prejudice here was against more than the enemy.

    Will it happen again. The chance is excellent. We must keep fighting against it!!

    Dennis and I spent several hours in Manzanar also 7 years ago. I am glad that MA could make a connection there. It is like going to the family cemetery on Memorial Day.

    Thanks again for the reminder

    Denny

    • Thanks Denny – Memories like that are so painful. And the irony of giving the garden to an Italian family.
      teri

  2. Wonderful photos. hits close to home in my heart as a daughter of an internee and a lawyer who fights against false imprisonment.


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