Stockton, Calif.



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April 1942

We will have to move away to the Japanese camp they all say. Still I will always do my part by buying defense stamps with all my heart” by Fujino Yoshida. Here Fujino Yoshida symbolizes the spirit of the California Japanese child as his final assignment before leaving French Camp Grammar School, which is located in the heart of the fertile San Joaquin Valley. 12 yr. [year] old Fujino Yoshida is but one of 80 young Japanese from this school who [have been] were evacuated from their homes and sent to Assembly Centers during the [past few weeks] W.W. II [World War] period. Lonesome for their school mates and friends at French Camp, these young [ ] [have] poured out letter after letter telling of happy moments and sad ones. As their teacher for several years I had come to know and understand them. Though these letters may seem a little strange to others, to me they represented all the emotions of the American born Japanese child. “We had a nice trip up here to Manzinar [Manzanar],” writes Dorothy Sakurai, “We came right by Turlock camp and all our Japanese friends from French Camp were standing on the fence waving their hats, hands, and flags as we went by.” She continues, “Over here we are surrounded by hills. The hills are all desert and on one side of the top of the hill there is snow. The mountains are very pretty.” Haru Tanaka who went to the Turlock Assembly Center with her parents and 9 brothers and sisters wrote “I am lonesome without those puppies and if you know where our place is you can go see our puppies.” She wrote again. “We had three little kittens too-I wonder how big they are now- Maybe the little ducks are hatched by now.” However, Haru isn't too lonesome because she wrote, “The Watanabe’s, Yamasaki’s, and Yonemoto’s and many other French Camp families are here for our neighbors at Turlock. In a later letter Dorothy Sakurai describes the camp at Manzinar [Manzanar]. “It is very sandy here and there are no gates, but there is a certain line that you cannot go by. Outside that line is the desert. The weather here is very hot, but the wind blows. The houses are very good. We have a little stove in ours. I think there is a little stove in every house. The stove is to keep warm.” California’s entire Japanese population was housed in these Assembly Centers, constructed on Fair Grounds and Race Tracks and other places throughout of the state. These places provided temporary homes for the Japanese until arrangements could be made to move them to other central and western states. Camps were operated on a summer camp basis-canteens were in operation. They used coupon books to [buy] make their purchases. They lived in barracks and ate in a giant mess hall. After the first few days they amended the meal time check off system so that each family had its own number. This assured the family group that they would not be separated and was much easier on the tongues of those in charge. Each person had an individual bed (somewhat of a novelty to the children of the large Japanese families). The beds and equipment caused enthusiastic response from the Japanese boys who write repeatedly that they were sleeping on army cots with army blankets just like the soldiers!! However! The biggest hit of the camp was the shower. [Marjorie] sheepishly reported that she spent most of the first afternoon under the shower and left no hot water for the rest of the camp. A few had difficulty getting accostomed [accustomed] to the shower bath but all were impressed by it. [Family oriental style of bathing in the large tub had been the vogue for these farm families]. Upon my visit to the Stockton Assembly Center, Mrs. Harry Itaya requested that I send her some shower bath caps. She related that her 5 small children had their hair continuously wet from going back and back and back to the showers. The Itaya family is a representative group of evacuees. Harry, about 35was a moderately prosperous truck gardener. His vegetable route, with deliveries starting when some people were on their way to bed, covered many of Stockton’s major stores. Harry, who was progressive and used latest farming methods brought his children up in American traditions. Mrs. Itaya, although shy, was a member of the [Parent] Teacher Group at French Camp [] Thru her efforts enough wool was purchased by the Japanese people to knit some 180 squares for afgans [afghans] for the jr. [junior] Red Cross. This was done as a school project which was almost halted when the war knitting craze caused a shortage of knitting needles. Creative Japanese, however converted chop sticks into knitting needles and the project continued. 12 yr. [year] old Ray Itaya had been my pupil for 2 yrs. [years]. He too might be taken as representative of the Japanese child in the community, clean, honest, and industrious. During war time, the American children in French Camp school deserved the highest praise for their [tolerance] love [during war time-of] for their Japanese class mates. [Today] They are spent all their spare time in the fields, doing their part in an attempt to salvage [this year’s] the crops. Oddly enough, they have been [using] a used a small part of their earnings to send candy and gum etc. to their Japanese class mates at Assembly Centers- Yes! All this [could only] happened in America! (Mrs. Claire Sprague 1444 N. [North] Baker Stockton Calif. [California]. This is a letter written by Mrs. Claire Sprague a teacher at French Camp School. 1942



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Letter by Claire D. Sprague about evacuated students and theirs families, April 1942