Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Manzanar Again

Yesterday we went back to Manzanar.  We didn't see all of it the first time.  This is the mess hall, which we had missed.  I'm glad we returned, as it is just fascinating.  Feeding the internees was a job and a half.  Three meals a day, food for the babies and two entirely different food cultures made it difficult.  The Issei (people born in Japan) preferred a traditional diet heavy on rice and fish.  The Nisei (people born in America) favored the more "American" foods.  Nobody liked the liver.

The exhibits in the mess hall dealt with the effect of the mess halls on family life.  There were not enough places to sit, nor was there enough cutlery and dishes.  This meant people had to rush in, scramble to  find a place to sit, eat quickly and get their place settings back for washing.   The noise was deafening. Parents fed toddlers at different meal times.  Children ended up eating with their friends and going to different mess halls to see if better food was available elsewhere.  It was tough on family cohesiveness and parents feared their children "would become little savages."

This is the stove.  The box on top of the pot is a steamer.

The mess hall.

Over time, the internees' diet improved from military rations, to food from cans, to food the internees grew in the desert.

The line for food at the mess hall.  This was a daily occurrence in the heat and the cold and the wind.  Eventually gardens and ponds were built by the buildings to give people something to look at while waiting.

Ansel Adams was given access to Manzanar.  Many of the photos used in the exhibits were taken by him.  You can see more of his work here. The next two are from his collection.

This gives you an idea of the size of their food production..

The most impressive thing for us was the ability of the internees to reshape their environment.  Within six months they brought beauty to their surroundings through the building of the ponds and the family gardens.  It was backbreaking work, done with minimal tools.

If you're in the Seattle area, there is a Japanese Exclusion Memorial which Jim reports is very well done.  At the time, the local Bainbridge newspaper was one of the very few to oppose the internments.  They mounted a campaign to keep the residents who were gone in the minds of the people on the island, to smooth their return home.  They published reports from the camps, and had a forum for people to discuss the internments.  The daughter of the publishers of the Bainbridge Review has written a book about her parents and the internments which is quite good.  It's called In Defense of our Neighbors and is available on Amazon.

One of the cool things about traveling is the learning of stuff.  The National Park Service is an amazing curator of America's history.  We've been particularly impressed with how much the individual Rangers know, and how willing they are to talk and spend time with you.

Today we are experiencing the high winds that drive the dust.  I see a major house cleaning in our future when this is over.  It's just amazing how it infiltrates even with all of the windows closed.

1 comment:

  1. So glad you finished the tour. Those poor people! But it is amazing how they turned all this hardship around. Thanks for sharing! I hope we get to visit one day.