A Winters Express op-ed column
The Lost Japanese Community of Winters exhibit now on display at the Winters Museum is informative, thought-provoking and insightful, and embodies the best of what a historical museum can offer to a community. Untold hours of research and preparation were wisely spent on this project. It’s best if you go and see for yourself, for I cannot do it justice in the few words of this column.
However, a few passages written under the heading, “World War Two and the Internment” brought to mind a story told to me in the 1960s. These are portions of the verses: “Two weeks later, on May 21, 189 Japanese from western Yolo County were evacuated by train …. thus further dividing the Japanese community that had lived in the Winters area for several generations. Several Japanese men joined the U.S. Army serving in the 442nd Battalion ….”
Oki Nursery was the largest container-growing wholesale nursery in Northern California at the time. I worked for them in the 1960s and early 1970s. George and Dick Oki were brothers and co-owners of the business. They were of Japanese descent.
George related to me that when his family was ordered to be transported to an internment camp during the Second World War, he joined the U.S. Army and served there for the duration. His father had secreted cash savings in an old suitcase, which he kept under his bed at the camp. They still held title to farm land on the outskirts of Sacramento and the stash in the suit case became the seed money to start over when they returned.
As a child, I witnessed the propaganda and strong feelings held against the Japanese both during and following the war. Throughout our nation’s history other forms of intolerance have surfaced and still do to this day.
My own ancestors were targets of religious persecution. Great Grandfather John Taylor was assaulted by an angry mob of 60 to a hundred armed men with black painted faces. Two companions with him were killed. Three musket balls pierced his body. Nearly bleeding to death, he survived crude surgery to have two slugs removed. The third, which lodged in his knee, caused him to limp the rest of his days.
This event occurred in Carthage Illinois on June 27, 1844. On Feb. 16, 1846 his family and some 400 other families fled Nauvoo, Illinois by crossing the Mississippi River on ice. They spent the first winter night almost within view of the homes they left behind. The Taylors’ stout brick home stands to this day and you can see it by accessing Google, John Taylor home Nauvoo.
To quote one passage from The Life of John Taylor by B.H. Roberts, “… to tell all this (referring to the many hardships and suffering of that winter) would fill a volume by itself.”
I need to repent as I have made some disparaging remarks in the past about Labradors lacking intelligence. Even so, I will never understand why a dog of any breed will voluntarily jump in the cold water to chase a stick.