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Back Story - Eatonville's Japanese Community

      by Dixie A. Walter
      October 12, 2009

      In the early 1970's I began working at the Dispatch as editor. At that time all the archived papers were kept in the Dispatch office and I had access to them on a daily basis.
      As I traveled back in time through those old yellowed, brittle pages I began noticing articles, and letters, about the Japanese population who had lived, worked and attended the schools in Eatonville. Many were born here and had spent their lives in Eatonville. The paper was then called
The Eatonville Dispatch and Southeastern Pierce County News.
  Eventually, in those yellowed papers I met a man, Chester Sakura, whom I have admired, and have been inspired by, ever since that time. As time went by, I learned much, much more about the treatment of our Japanese citizens after Pearl Harbor. I then  met another man, Eugene Larin, whose dedication to the truth after Pearl Harbor, amazed me. I never had the pleasure of meeting Eugene Larin as he died before I moved back to Eatonville. But during such a terrible time Mr. Larin kept the community informed about the Eatonville's Japanese citizens by publishing letters from Chet Sakura.
     The story below was published in the Dispatch September 19, 1974. Today it has been over sixty years since the Japanese Community was removed from our town. 
     More Back story, photos and a timeline of their plight continues after the original story.

Eatonville Japanese Community Before and After Japan Attacked Pearl Harbor...


     I came across this undated photo while going through hundreds and hundreds of area photographs for the Centennial. This one captured the image of an Eatonville Elementary School class picture. In the class are a number of Japanese children.  It has always been said to me, by both Japanese and white people, that Eatonville, unlike too many other communities, treated the Japanese community well. But the day would come when the American government, under the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, would take a different approach from Eatonville when anti-Japanese hysteria swept the land after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
    This hysteria stalked the west coast as there were significant populations of Japan-born and American-born Japanese people scattered throughout Washington State, Oregon and California. And this hysteria led to the forced evacuation of all people with Japanese heritage regardless of their citizenship. These innocents did not know what future sadness awaited them around the corner of history. (courtesy photo)

Japanese Legacy in Eatonville...

      by Dixie A. Walter
      September 19, 1974

     There was a time over thirty years ago when the Japanese people formed a significant segment of the population of Eatonville. For 30 years they were an important part of the community. Yet today the only reminders of their stay in Eatonville are a few pictures in high school annuals and the small section of the cemetery where they buried their dead.
    According to the History of the Tacoma Eastern Area, written by Jeannette (Larin) Hlavin and Pearl Engel, there were several stories regarding the appearance of the Japanese in Eatonville. One is that they were brought here early in the century by H. S. Mitchell, then manager of the Eatonville Lumber Company, the first of them arriving at the railroad station in a box car.
    The story goes that a leading citizen of the town failed in an attempt to organize a party of armed men to meet them at the station and drive them away. Another story goes that many Japanese section hands had been employed by the Tacoma Eastern Railroad when they constructed their line through Eatonville in 1904, that some of them found work at the mill and formed the nucleus of a colony which later grew to about 100. The Japanese population at its maximum numbered about 150.
     Japanese workers were employed at the mill until they were "relocated" in 1942. They received the same pay as the white employees, manned the saw mill (with the exception of the sawyer and a few others) and the green chain; several tallymen and the yard foreman, Akiijoshi, were Japanese. After the Japanese were taken away, the green chain had to be raised several inches to suit the greater height of the white workers. For years the company maintained a dairy, also managed by the Japanese. The company store handled some items (like Japanese potatoes and rice) solely for the Japanese customers. One Japanese clerk was employed in the store.
     During these years, many Japanese children attended the local schools. In 1929 there were 18 Japanese students and 18 white students in the kindergarten. In 1940 Miss Shinako Nakatani was salutatorian of the graduating class. Chester Sakura was secretary of the Community Church school in 1925. Many Japanese were outstanding players on the school basketball team. When the Japanese students had to leave town, the high school lost 11 pupils, many of them class leaders; from the graduating class, George Mukai, basketball and baseball letterman, student body treasurer and president of his class in his junior year.
     The Cruiser edition of the Dispatch in 1942 states, “Students who will be missing from school activities next year are: Hiroaki Hosokowa, junior, basketball and baseball letterman and secretary of the Big E Club; Pete Yoshino, sophomore class president and basketball letterman; Taro Kawato, freshman class treasurer, honor roll student and an active participant in football, basketball and baseball; Jack Murakami, baseball manager; and Jeanne Akiyoshi, sophomore member of the spelling team for two years in a row.”
     After attending regular school all day, Japanese children also went for two hours each afternoon to a Japanese school. According to the History of the area, it was common practice for the Japanese to send their children between the ages of 10 and 14 to Japan for a few years “to learn manners,” they said.
    The Japanese lived quietly, keeping to themselves except for school activities, and no official record appears that in those 30 years any Japanese was arrested for any crime or was involved in any public brawl.
    They lived with their families in wooden row houses within the mill. They had a community center building there where they held celebrations, church services, wrestling matches Japanese style and other events. The Eatonville Lumber Company sponsored a Japanese baseball team which won most of its games.
   Sunday, December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor, and the lives of Japanese Americans in this country were changed forever. Immediately after the attack, the State Patrolmen searched the homes of Eatonville’s Japanese and took away all firearms, some of which were stored in the town hall for a long time.
   The December 9, 1941 issue of the Dispatch published a letter signed by Mack Nagaki, chairman of the Eatonville Committee of the Japanese American Citizen's League, “…the members of the Eatonville committee of Japanese American Citizen's League in complete accord with the National Organization in this time of war and national emergency do hereby pledge our wholehearted support to our country, the United States of America, to our community, our leaders, and to all the principles for which they stand.
    “American soil has been ruthlessly invaded even as we sought peace, American lives have been taken. There should not be any slightest doubt in the mind of any true citizen as to the course which we all must follow.”
   “We pledge our all to prosecute this war to the bitter end and victory. America needs every American, and every American must do his share. We will all work together for the country we love, and to crush a foe gone mad.”

Reports of a Japanese "Riot" in Eatonville

     In the same issue of the Dispatch, the editor reported that he was called by the Tacoma News Tribune and the Seattle Times, and the Associated Press sent a representative to Eatonville to investigate rumor of a “riot” in the Japanese settlement. The editor, Eugene Larin, was unable to learn of any disturbance of that kind. He went on to explain that there were about 62 men of Japanese origin employed by the Eatonville Lumber Company, of whom almost half were American-born citizens, and a number of them were born in Eatonville and had lived here all their lives. In the draft rolls were many names of young Japanese men.
     Regardless of their pledge of loyalty or the fact that they had lived in Eatonville all their lives, on May 16, 1942 all Japanese but one family were loaded on buses and taken away in a single day. The evacuees were given two month’s notice, and had sold their cars, furniture, personal items and even some businesses to local people for any price they could get. During the forced evacuation Japanese people were allowed to take what they could carry away. There have been many stories around Eatonville at that time, of residents going into the Japanese homes after they were removed, and taking various articles which had to be left behind.
     In December 1941 the treasury department had prohibited withdrawals from bank accounts in the United States by Japan or Japanese people for any purpose including living expenses. Freezing the bank accounts was modified to allow the Japanese who had no income to withdraw $100 per months.

Chet Sakura Begins Writing to the Dispatch from "Camp Harmony" at Fairgrounds in Puyallup...

     "Camp Harmony" in the spring at Puyallup Fairgrounds. This muddy, desolate place was said to have been named by an Army public relations officer while the facilities were being built to lock away Japanese men, women and children. Leave it to a PR person to provide a "happy" name to an offensive area. This is where Eatonville's Japanese citizens, and thousands of others, were forced to live after being taken away by the military. The fair was canceled that year for the first time in its history.
     Some of Chet Sakura's letters to the Dispatch were written in this dismal place, for some reason named Camp Harmony. Taking thousands of people from their homes and jobs was not harmonious. The Japanese were allowed to only take with them whatever they could carry. From The State of Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation - PI Photo.

      The Japanese were first imprisoned in a temporary concentration camp in Puyallup, across from the fairgrounds. Chester Sakura of Eatonville wrote many letters which were printed in the paper telling in detail the life of the Japanese, at Camp Harmony in Puyallup, and in Idaho. In a letter dated June 1, 1942, Sakura thanked all the people and organizations of Eatonville who made their long residence in town a pleasure.
     He wrote that there were 3000 people at the camp to feed at a sitting, but once they got organized they could feed 3000 in two hours. He told of how they spent their time making the barracks livable, since they were bare except for a wood stove or kerosene heater. The only boards they had to work with were shiplap and two-by-fours. But Sakura said they succeeded in making shelves, closets, benches, tables, etc. "Camp Harmony" housed approximately 7000 people in 1,892 apartments. Sakura added a P.S. “I just received the Dispatch this evening and it seems strange to see my letter in there. It seems as though I should be there in Eatonville helping with the local war effort, but I guess I just have to wait now. But my hopes and wishes go with your efforts.”
     June 12, Sakura wrote, “It seems strange to see people outside the gate wanting to get in and people inside wanting to get out, all for the mutual interest of friendly visits.”
In an excerpt from a letter dated June 18 and published July 6, Sakura writes: “It’s rather hard to start a letter this week after reading in the Dispatch of another Eatonville casualty in this war. I knew Chuck Biggs well  (killed in action in Alaska at Dutch Harbor during the Japanese attack there on June 3. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Biggs, Sr.) well and saw him grow from a little lad like my boy, to be a soldier. And now, as those close to us make the supreme sacrifice, we feel more determined in doing the things Uncle Sam asks us to do willingly to help with the war efforts.”
    Sakura ends this letter with this statement, "I have received many letters commenting on this series  of letters and appreciate the interest taken in our welfare."

From "Harmony" to "Eden"

     Minidoka "relocation camp" in Idaho where Eatonville's Japanese population were taken after spending time at "Camp Harmony" the equally, but differently, miserable concentration camp at the Puyallup Fairgrounds.

 September 5, 1942 Sakura wrote from "Minidoka, Eden, Idaho." He explained his contingent left Camp Harmony August 18 and went by train to Idaho, “Dust was everywhere, in the house, in our clothes, in our bed, and in our mouth. The wind blows it up in clouds, and it’s very uncomfortable to say the least. When the wind blows the dust comes in through the slightest crack, especially around windows and doors. But now the Engineering Department has been sprinkling the streets and eventually the dirt will be packed down. The bright spot of all this dust is the grass planting program, as soon as water is available.”
     In October, Sakura and several others went to the beet fields, where they averaged $5 a day. In his letter to the Dispatch Sakura said, “I would still rather be in Eatonville working as a common laborer at $6.60 tho [sic]. I often think of work and things back home, and at the same time compare with the locations we’ve been settled in.” Sakura had been a radio repairman in Eatonville.
     January, 1943, Sakura told of Christmas in the camp, and said, “In these columns I repeat time and again how glad we are to be Americans and give our reasons, and even if we lack an apparent reason we will always say, ‘I am glad I am an American.’ Then again, I always repeat ‘back home’ a lot, because that phase means so much to us. It’s like a childhood memory, only more vivid. And of course a mere longing to return. We’ll be back some day."
    “Some day” never came for Chet Sakura, or other Eatonville Japanese who wished to return to town. Upon investigation they found their return would not be popular with some of the local people. An “Anti-Jap Association,” with headquarters in Sumner, had a branch in Eatonville. Even the veterans of the war entitled to their former job status, did not return.


Back Story Continued...

Sakura Brothers Enlist...

      "Mrs. Misa Sakura's four sons -- Kenny, Ted, Chet, and Howard ('Chip') -- signed up with Uncle Sam's army the other day, and edged out the Onodera brothers as the largest contingent of volunteers to come from one family. 'Long before Dad died,' Chet explained, 'he told all of us that if Japan and America should ever engage in war, there would be only one thing for us to do -- live and fight to uphold the U.S.A.' " -- Minidoka Irrigator, February. 27, 1943

     The boys have volunteered for service in the combat team of the United States Army which is composed of Americans of Japanese ancestry. They are fulfilling a vow made to their father, who died 20 years ago, to live and die for the United States, if Japan and America should ever go to war. -- Photographer: Bigelow, John -- Hunt, Idaho. 3/12/43

Meeting Chet Sakura on Paper...

      Eventually, in those yellowed papers I met a man, Chester Sakura, whom I have admired, and have been inspired by, ever since that time. As time went by, I learned much, much more about the treatment of our Japanese citizens after Pearl Harbor. I then  met another man, Eugene Larin, whose dedication to the truth after Pearl Harbor, amazed me. I never had the pleasure of meeting Eugene Larin, as he died before I moved back to Eatonville. But during such a terrible time Mr. Larin kept the community informed about Eatonville's Japanese citizens by publishing letters from Chet Sakura.
     I thought Mr. Larin was treading a fine line between the Japanese who were the enemy and those who had been neighbors, worked alongside the white population, were friends and classmates. It couldn't have been an easy task, but I admire him tremendously for having the gumption to give Chet Sakura true freedom of the press by publishing letter after letter describing the forced relocation of all Japanese, including those who were born American citizens. There was somewhat of an anti-Japanese sentiment after Pearl Harbor; Irwin Frye from Eatonville, was killed during that "day of infamy." Feelings against Japanese people ran high in some places, but Eugene Larin didn't let that stop him from being a true journalist and keeping his eye on history.

Eugene and Joe Larin...

     I have always been sorry I didn't know Eugene Larin.  However, I did know his son Joe Larin. When I began as editor of the Dispatch in the early 1970's Joe was already a well-established columnist in the paper. He was a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat and a controversial writer among Republicans. Joe was a character in his own right, and an awesome historian of the area. He regularly wrote articles for the Tacoma News Tribune as well as the Dispatch.
    After reading Chet's letters I felt the need to share some of his story with Dispatch readers, which I did in 1974. Unknown to me at the time I wrote the story, Joe had kept in touch with Chet Sakura who lived in the middle of America at that time. Joe sent Chet my story, then told me Chet was extremely pleased. I was surprised, but happy, Joe had done this.
    About a year later I heard the front door of the Dispatch office open, turned toward the door and saw  three older Japanese men coming into the office. The first words I said were, “One of you must be Chet Sakura.” And, sure enough, there was the man whose dignity, and courage, I admired so much standing in front of me. Chet, one of his brothers, and another man were on their way to Mount Rainier, and Chet wanted to see if he could meet me. I was beyond delighted. This man was an icon in my eyes and it was a joy to meet him and have a chance to chat for a time. I was always thankful to Joe Larin for that opportunity.
   The men were taking a last look around before heading to Africa on a “mission.” Sadly, Chet died there a year or so later of a heart attack. Although I only met the man once, I felt as though I had lost an old friend and I feel the same today.
    Eugene Larin owned the Dispatch from May 1927 until February 1932. He then sold it, but because the new owner had financial problems Eugene took the paper over again in June 1933 and ran it until 1949. I think fate stepped in and put Mr. Larin back in the place where he would excel during one of the worst periods in American history. Along with other town leaders, Eugene was a friend of Chet's. Jackie Van Eaton Parnell's father, Frank Van Eaton, was Eatonville's mayor at the time Pearl Harbor was bombed by Japan Sunday, December 7, 1941.

Chet Sakura at Minidoka...

     Chet Sakura, a radio repairman tried to get a "job" working with radios at "Camp Harmony."  His expertise was largely ignored and instead he was sent to work in the "canteen." Eventually Chet was transferred to radio repair at the fairgrounds. In Minidoka he also used his skills with radios. The caption under this photo says, "Radio Repair Shop. Chester Sakura, Radio Repairman. Former occupation: radio repairman. Former residence: Eatonville, Washington. Photographer: Stewart Francis - Hunt, Idaho, December 19, 1943

    Chet was in his 30s and a leader in the Japanese community. When the news came of the surprise attack on America's fleet of war ships, Chet went to the mayor and asked him what to do. The answer was keep calm and stay in “camp” which was the vernacular used during the era for the Japanese neighborhood. Most of them worked at the Eatonville Lumber Company.
    A story of Eatonville Japanese celebrating the bombing of Pearl Harbor was investigated by Eugene Larin. If he found out what actually happened the publisher chose not to tell the story. I have known the story over half my life. It was told to me by one of the participants and I swore to keep it a secret. However, several years ago I heard the same person telling some others about it. It seemed he thought enough time had passed that their identities need be hidden no longer.
    In keeping my promise I won't give you the names as a couple of those who did this are still among us in the community. There were a number of Eatonville “boys” stationed at Pearl Harbor and in those days news wasn't instantaneous as it is today. A couple of boys who were in high school thought it would be a good thing to light firecrackers off behind the Japanese neighborhood. They were kids and had no idea their actions would create a such a response. But it did.

Japanese Citizen's League...

     April 12, 1939 – Written 20 months before the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor began the Pacific Theater of World War II with America.

     According to the History of Tacoma Eastern Area by Jeannette (Larin) Hlavin and Pearl Engle. “An Eatonville committee of the Tacoma Chapter, Japanese American Citizen's League was formed April 12, 1939 with the following officers: Howard Sakura, president; George Funni, treasurer; M. Nakamichi; T. Okubo, Kaz Naiitor and T. Akyoshi; advisors. Its purpose was to create a better understanding between Japanese and American people, and to teach Japanese youths the principals of Americanism.”

     Below is a shortened timeline of events that took place after Pearl Harbor.

Unfounded Rumors...

     Eugene Larin - December 9, 1941

    “Unfounded rumors of a 'riot' in the Japanese settlement in Eatonville spread abroad during the week. The Dispatch editor was called up by phone by the Tacoma News Tribune, and by the Seattle Times, asking for particulars of the 'riot,' and a representative of the Associated Press was here to investigate for that news agency.
   Not having been able to learn of any disturbance of that kind, the inquirers were told they had evidently been made victims of a hoax.
   There are about 62 men of Japanese origin employed by the Eatonville Lumber Co., of whom almost exactly  half are American-born citizens, a number of them born in Eatonville and living here all their lives. The mill workers among them are members of the Lumber & Sawmill Workers Union.”

   Dispatch, December 9, 1941 39 SIGNERS

   In the same Dispatch issue members of the Eatonville Committee of the Japanese American Citizen's League immediately pledged their whole-hearted support to their country, the United States of America, and their all to prosecute the war to the end, “to work together for the country we love, to crush a foe gone mad.” The statement was signed by 39 members.” The signers were: Mack Nogaki, Chairman; Ken Nogaki, Chester Sakura, Howard Sakura, Kenneth Sakura, Frank Mukai, Bill Mukai, Tsutomu "Stony" Uyeda, Takeo Yamaguchi, Haruo Arai, Toshi Arai. George Funai, Hiroshi Masuda, Jim Doi, Akira Saito, Isao Saito, Jimmy Kubo, Yoshiro Yoshida, Johnny Shigeno, Sam Kumata. Min Nakamura, George Tanaka, Frank Doi, Jack Nagaoka, Eddie Nakamura, Tom Matsumoto, Frank Fujimura, Isamu Nagatani, Min Shimokon, Harry Anzai.  Sadakichi Fujita, Toshi Kirihara, Sho Okazaki, Mrs. Chester Sakura, Mrs. Howard Sakura, Mrs. Bill Mukai, Mrs. Jim Doi, Mrs. Jack Nagaoka, Mrs. Tsutomu Uyeda. It is interesting to note five women signed this pledge, two of them married to Sakuras.

   Many Japanese citizens had good friends in Eatonville. When the news came that all people of Japanese heritage, whether American-born citizens (Nisei) or born in Japan (issei), would be removed from town, it was a shock to a large number of townspeople. Through the years I've heard many stories from individuals about the tears shed by whites who were losing friends. It was a terrible and traumatic time for just about everyone here.

 May 6, 1942 Eugene Larin wrote on the front page of the Dispatch:

Farewell To Eatonville By Japanese Settlement...

   “Eatonville's Japanese settlement will soon be [a] thing of the past, according to word received here to the effect that all local Japanese residents, whether American-born or foreign born, must leave here by May 17. The evacuation may take place at any time before the date. A number have already gone, joining parents and other relatives before being located  in places of concentration.
    The Eatonville Lumber Company mill will probably operate under handicap of lack of workmen for an indefinite period, cutting down production.
    Eatonville's Japanese settlement has been here for about 30 years. About 100 Japanese, including women and children, were here recently. The maximum at any time was about 150, it is stated."

May 13, 1942 Dispatch - there was a boxed display ad reading:

Card of Thanks...

     “Before leaving Eatonville, we wish to thank most sincerely all our friends and patrons for their many favors and kindnesses. Wishing you all the best of luck, we are, Yours very truly, FRED T. YOSHINO and FAMILY”

From The History of Tacoma Eastern Area - Bootstrap Book - 1942

     Eatonville Japanese, both native and foreign born prepared to move in accordance with Army orders. The Eatonville Lumber Company found it difficult to fill their places, due to the pull of men into war industries. James Sakamoto, president of the Japanese American Citizen's League of Seattle, wrote a letter addressed to all the people of the Northwest, stating the feelings of the Japanese; that this was a war which they abhorred and renounced and was brought against their country (the United States) by a military clique in Tokyo. The Japanese people, he said, cheerfully and loyally accepted the decision of the military authorities of their removal. “This is the greatest forced mass migration in the history of the North American continent,” he stated, “It will interrupt the lives of more than 135,000 persons and uproot them from homes they have established. It will bear heavily on the aged and infirm. It will also interrupt the economic, social, civic and cultural progress which the younger people have been making.”
    In direct line with this last sentence, was a list in the 'Cruiser,' Eatonville's High School newspaper, of eleven Japanese high school students who had withdrawn to go to concentration camps with their parents. They were: George Mukai, basketball and baseball letterman and Student Body Treasurer; Hioaki Hosokawa, basketball and baseball letterman and Secretary of the Big E Club; Pete Yoshino, Sophormore Class president and basketball letterman; Taro Kawato, Freshman Class Secretary, honor roll student, and an active participant in football, basketball and baseball; Jack Murakami, baseball manger, and Jeanne Akiyoshi, Sophormore, member of the spelling team for two years in a row. Withdrawn earlier had been Masumi Kudo, Mary Miyamoto, Masamichi Miyamoto, Annie Naagie and Polly Inouye.

     And on May 20, 1942 the Front Page Headline Read:

All Eatonville Japanese Removed but One Family

     Scenes like this could be seen up and down the west coast after Pearl Harbor. Strong anti-Japanese sentiment and bigotry sent all Japanese to what we essentially concentration camps although the American government did whatever it could to avoid using that phrase.

    “Eatonville Japanese left Saturday morning at 8 o'clock for Puyallup, where their post office address is Camp Harmony, Area D-1-114, Puyallup. One family is still here on a ten days leave, due to measles. A few Eatonville Japanese are in detainment camps in California.”

The Akiyoshi Family Stayed Behind...

     When I wrote my first story about the contribution to our community by the Japanese, I had no idea who the above mentioned was. However, my husband, Bob Walter, several years ago had been in contact with Bev Gollehon who was one of the local people who kept in touch with a friend she went to school with.
     Bev gave Bob her friend's phone number and he called and talked with him about his Eatonville days and the relocation. Then a few months ago, while looking for something else, he again found the number for William Akiyoshi, Bev's friend, who lives in California. Bob and Bill have been in contact for months now and it turns out it was Bill's family who is mentioned in Eugene Larin's story. He was in eighth grade when his family was evacuated to “Camp Harmony” in the Puyallup Fairgrounds. Bill and his wife, Ruth, are traveling to Eatonville from Whittier, California for the Centennial and will be among those riding in the parade Saturday, October 17.
    Sprinkled throughout the pages of the Dispatch were letters from Chet Sakura after the forced “relocation” of the Japanese from Eatonville. Chet wrote lengthy letters, in great detail, about the odyssey the Eatonville families began once they were removed from our town.
    When writing the story about Japanese citizens of Eatonville, I was forced to keep my story relatively short, but kept my research because it was so important and such a sad era in the history of our town. The Internet gives us as much space as we want, so I am able to share more information with you than was published in 1974.

Excerpt from Chet Sakura's first letter to the paper dated June 5, 1942. In this letter Chet gives an update on some of the “Eatonville Hi boys.”

    “…Camp Harmony is directly under the Wartime Civilian Control Authority (WCCA) Supervision, with details carried out by our own camp staff. Chief of Staff is the well known editor of the Japanese American Courier, James Y. Sakamoto. Under him is a capable staff and many workers among which, of course, are many Eatonville people. We police the camp with our own police force and among them are Mack Nogaki, Isa Saito, Kaz Naito and Ken Nogaki.
    The military are conspicuous by their absence within the camp. They merely guard the entrances and exits. The postal department is headed by Howard Sakura, so we get our mail through in fine style, especially we from Eatonville. With nearly 3000 people to feed it is surprising to see such fine quality of food, and our cooks – of whom many are first-rate chefs from the best restaurants in Seattle – are really to be commended. The food is regular army rations except that more rice is eaten here than in the army camps. The food is served cafeteria style, except that there is no choice of entrees. In the mess hall Ken Sakura and Ben Ogino rate as second cooks and surely like it, with all the young lady help around! In connection with the kitchen is our bakery, which turns out cakes and pastries for nearly 8000 people daily.
    In the kitchen clean-up crew we find a number of Eatonville Hi boys, Pete Yoshino, Hiroki Hosokawa, Taro Kawato and Mas Kudo, and of the others there’s Sumitani, Nakatani, Hashimoto and Takeda (Setter). Everybody gets in and digs here, in even the lowest jobs. In the children’s mess hall I found Jerry Kurose, the head dishwasher, with Shorty Nozaki his assistant. Of course all the sanitation and general maintenance is kept up by our own crews and we find Sam Kumata one of the foremen of a work crew.
   This letter is getting a little long, but before closing I might tell of the movements to permanent centers. One group of 200 left for Tule Lake, California, last week, among them Ken Nogaki, Kaz Naito, Tak Yamaguchi and Eddie Nakamura.  Another group of 13 left for the Montana beet fields, with them Jack Nagaoka and family. They left as a trial group and reports are so favorable that more are going soon. Howard and Alice Sakura and Mack Nogaki have signed to go with the next group. We’re all anxious to be permanently settled and view each announcement with great interest.
    Well, there’ll be more next week, with additional details of work and recreational programs, so, until then,  

   Your correspondent,  CHESTER SAKURA

   P.S. - I just received the Dispatch this evening and it seems strange to see my letter in there. It seems as though I should be there in Eatonville, helping with the local war efforts, but I guess I just have to wait now. But my hopes and wishes go with your efforts.”

 In the June 12, 1942 issue of the paper Chet writes of a “few visitors from Eatonville” to Camp Harmony. He explains how difficult it was for parents to keep their children engaged...

   “…It is such a problem for parents to keep the kids occupied, and having only one room to live in complicates the activities of the youngsters. I understand that in the permanent centers regular schools will be maintained through high school. As many teachers as possible will be recruited from our university graduates, with the government filling in with other competent teachers.
   We have had a few visitors from Eatonville and all of us certainly enjoyed the visits. Fred Roeder and family visited last Sunday and brought some household goods to us. They also brought a few flowers that were greatly appreciated. After having a garden full of flowers, we certainly miss them and tell any other visitor that flowers will be very welcome.
   “Butch” Snyder dropt [sic] by and we saw Ray Nadeau and family at the gate too. It seems strange to see people outside the gate wanting to get in and people inside wanting to get out, all for the mutual interest of friendly visits. We wonder which side of the gate is which and why there should be a gate there with so many visitors. There are visitors at the gate at all times and on Saturday and Sunday the gate is jammed. All this indicates that the American people are the friendliest people in the world and makes us all feel good inside.
   Next week I’ll write more on what activities are sponsored here and what we do with our spare time. Of course there are many not working because just essential workers are used. Eventually, in the permanent camps, every able-bodied person will be enlisted in the War Relocation Work Corps, but that will be another story later, after I enlist.
   Be seeing you next week and in the mean time “keep ‘em rollin.” Yours, CHESTER SAKURA”

This Headline was Found in the June 24, 1942 Dispatch...

No Puyallup Fair this Year...

   “There will be no Western Washington Fair at Puyallup this year. Cancellation of the event for the first time since it was inaugurated in 1900, was announced this week by Dr. J. H. Corliss of Sumner, president of the Western Washington Fair Association. He explained that the association has renewed the lease of the grounds to the United States Army Engineers until July 1, 1943. The lease covers the use of the fair grounds as a Japanese evacuation center and of fair buildings for storage purposes.”

No Bitterness from Chet Sakura...

   Surprisingly, to me, none of the letters written by Chet showed any bitterness. I was struck by that lack of resentment then and I still struck by it today. Although the “relocation” was harsh on the people taken away, Chet wrote matter-of-factly about the hardships and preferred to see the proverbial half full glass much of the time.
   Only once does he mention the civil rights of American citizens being assailed. From Camp Harmony, Puyallup, Wash., Aug. 4, 1942 Chet describes an art exhibit showing art done by Camp Harmony artists, then writes about civil rights and longs for the trees, asking area residents to “keep the forests green forever.”

Eatonville Dispatch June 5, 1942...

     “…We had an art exhibit here recently and the work was done by the evacuees since arriving at Camp Harmony…Other posters were made for Puyallup announcing the Defense Stamp Drive. The best one was entitled 'Stamp out the Rats with Defense Stamps.' It depicted a large rubber stamp with the replica of a Defense Stamp crushing out three 'rats': Adolph, Benito [Mussolini] and Tojo. These artists weren’t hesitant in putting a Jap face on a rat being crushed out. These sign painters are not only artists but also depict our feelings behind the war effort.
    Up till now I haven’t said much on what we’re thinking about and just how we’re taking this evacuation. We Americans of Japanese descent evacuated with a loyal feeling in cooperation with the war effort because the Army considered it a military necessity. We are more than anxious to show our loyalty by doing all we can and I think we have shown our cooperation from the very start by various activities, Defense Bond purchases and by unequivocal conduct of all the Japanese both alien and American citizens.
    But now we hear of various attempts to infringe on our civil rights by certain groups, and, as I see it, an attempt by a minority group to foster their own ends. One such is a bill introduced in the Senate by Stewart of Tennessee. This bill in part authorizes 'to take into custody any and all Japanese persons residing in or found in United States, regardless whether or not said Japanese were born in the United States.'
    As I said before, we evacuated on Army orders because of military necessity out of a military area, but now it looks like an attempt is made to take all our civil rights away, even out of the Military Area.
    This strikes pretty close to me personally, because I was considering trying to locate out of the Military Area in radio work or sawmill work. We have been brought up to believe in 'equal opportunity for all' and I certainly have enjoyed that, especially among you Eatonville people. Other persons have enjoyed that phrase in practice in other communities, and it seems far-fetched that a small group of politicians could carry out such a program of Hitlerian 'race purging.'
    I don’t want to start a controversy on such a subject, but I do know our friends will want to know our position. But enough of that, and to give you more dope on our immediate future. Authoritative 'grapevine' has it that we will be moving pretty quick now to our permanent center. The 'grapevine' also has it that it will be in Idaho. Well, since we first came here, rumor has had us on the move in the near future and every new rumor is the 'straight dope.'” You know how it was after the mill burnt[sic] down!
    I want to mention a couple of personal items before I close this letter. The writer has now transferred to the electric shop, where his duties are mainly to repair radios. More of that later, though. A few of my friends have asked about my accordion. I guess it isn’t generally known that I had one, to say nothing of my playing one a little, but I do – a very little. Anyway, I played my accordion at church last Sunday and sad to report that I’m as nervous as ever. Well, till next time, keep the forests as green as ever!


August 5, 1942 - Eugene Larin's headline read:

Japanese Moving, Puyallup to Idaho

    Evacuation of the 7,300 Japanese at Puyallup will begin Aug. 9, when an advance contingent of 200 picked men will be sent to the Minidoka relocation center near Eden, in Southeast Idaho, about 15 miles east of Twin Falls. Mass evacuation will begin Aug. 15 and will continue at the rate of not more than 600 a day.
   The Minidoka camp covers 68,000 acres of public lands. Sugar beets, potatoes, beans, onions and hay are grown in the area, where the Japanese will be located until the end of the war. Over 100 Japanese from Eatonville are among the Puyallup camp population.

Chet Sakura Writing from the Train to Eden Idaho (excerpts): September 9, 1942

    "…We weren’t expecting an air-conditioned diner with excellent service, but so far as everything was concerned, we were just regular passengers. The only thing was that it took four hours to feed the whole trainload, so when the last was finishing breakfast the first batch was coming back for lunch. We were the last to eat so were hungry most of the time knowing that the next meal was being served already, and we had to wait four hours more.

...and after arriving "in Eden:"

     Our first reaction to Minidoka was the distaste for dust. The slightest breeze threw up clouds of dust and that certainly got us down, especially after a long journey…Well, there’s lots of detail to give about our new “home,” so I’ll try to keep this coming regularly for our friends back home in Eatonville. After being here for two weeks and not seeing any trees, I wonder if you people appreciate the green forests in your backyard. I certainly hope you will make a double effort to keep our forests fire free – so, keep ‘em green!

    Yours,  Chet

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