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Archive for May, 2014

“The Red Kimono tells it all—the bitterness and pain as well as the joy, pride and patriotism of a people too resilient to be beaten by racism.”
—Sandra Dallas, New York Times bestselling author of
Tallgrass and True Sisters

In my previous post titled “Updates: Japanese-American Relocation Camp Museum; Camp Nine; Relocation, Arkansas” I examined these three subjects a year after I had written about them in posts on my blog.

Since that time there has been one correction. There have now been visitors to the museum from forty-five states and more than one hundred cities in Arkansas.

(To read the original posts from a year ago, click on the following titles: “Opening of WWII Japanese American Internment Camps Museum” (March 20, 2013) and “Camp Nine: A Book Review with Quotes about the Arkansas Delta” (April 18, 2013.)

Now in this follow-up post I present an update of The Red Kimono, by Jan Morrill, the other book about the relocation camp at Rohwer, near my hometown of McGehee, Arkansas, which I reviewed a year ago. (To read that review titled “The Red Kimono: A Book Review about WWII Japanese Relocation Camps” (May 9, 2013), click on the title.)

Jan Morrill at book signing in Tulsa

Jan Morrill at book signing in Tulsa

In order to write this update I requested that Jan send me information and photos about her and her book since that post a year ago. (To learn more about Jan and her writings, visit her Web site at: http://www.janmorrill.com/.)

Jan Morrill holding copy of her book The Red Kimono

Jam Morrill holding a copy of The Red Kimono (to magnify, click on the photo taken from Jan’s Web site)

Following is part of what Jan wrote to me in response to my request for an update:

1) In August, The Red Kimono was selected as an Editor’s Choice by the Historical Novel Society. [A review of the book can be found at]

http://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviews/the-red-kimono/

2) In May, The Red Kimono was selected as the Best Published Book by the Oklahoma Writers Federation.

3) I recently published a book of haiku titled, Life: Haiku by Haiku. Many of the haiku from The Red Kimono appear in the book, and were read by Susan Gallion [curator of the WWII Japanese-American Museum in McGehee, Arkansas, see the previous post] at the anniversary celebration of the museum.

4) In August, I will be speaking to the Japan America Society of Chicago.

5) I am currently working on the sequel to The Red Kimono.

Jan Morrill (in red) with George Takei (Star Trek actor who was interned at the camp) at the Rohwer Japanese-American relocation camp in Arkansas

Jam Morrill (in red) with George Takei, a Star Trek actor who was interned in the camp (leaning over with a white box in his hand) on the speakers’ platform at the Rohwer Japanese-American relocation camp near McGehee Arkansas (to magnify, click on the photo)

I am sure that all who are interested in the relocation camps, especially the two near McGehee, would like to congratulate Jan on her writing awards and will look forward to the sequel to The Red Kimono. I will keep readers updated on this subject in this blog.

Meanwhile, to view a brief video interview with Charlotte Schexnayder, the former editor of the McGehee Times, on her experience with the camp at Rohwer, click here.

The Clique Meeting in Tulsa

“The Old South will never die, not as long as there are darling debutantes, doting docents, indomitable dowagers, and other groups of proud Southern women like the Junior League, the Ya Ya Sisterhood, the Sweet Potato Queens, the Steel Magnolias—and the Maggie [McGehee] Clique!”
–Quote by Jimmy Peacock in letter
to Charles Allbright, the Arkansas Traveler columnist,
dated June 10, 2002

As indicated by the self-quote above, my next update is about the Maggie Clique, a group of “girls” from the McGehee, Arkansas, high school class of 1960 who have met together annually since 1991, which must be some kind of record.

This particular update marks an addition to a blog post I published on June 8, 2011, almost three years ago, titled “My Annual Tributes to the Clique.” (To read those annual poetic tributes accompanied by photos of the Clique over the years and of the greeting cards I sent to them with each tribute, click on the title of the post.)

The Clique card for 2014

The Clique card for 2014 (to magnify, click on the card)

This year the Clique met in Tulsa on May 1-4 with a special luncheon to which I was invited to attend at Miss Scarlett’s Tea Room in the historic Southern-style residence called the Burnett Mansion in Sapulpa where we live. The Clique had met the two previous years on the beach in Florida. Mari missed those two meetings because of my failing health; she would not leave me alone while she was gone that far away for a whole week. So the Clique graciously voted to meet this year closer to our residence.

The Burnett Mansion in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, where the Clique held its formal luncheon on Friday, May 2, 2014

The historic Southern-style Burnett Mansion, home of the fashionable Miss Scarlett’s Tea Room, in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, where the Clique held its formal luncheon on Friday, May 2 (to magnify, click on the photo)

Here is my tribute and thank-you to them accompanied by a bouquet of red and white spring flowers and a greeting card with this poem inside which I composed:

 The Maggie Clique came to Tulsa . . .

. . . for the sake of my dear wife,
to try to save her husband’s life.
I wish that they would never [de]part,
‘cause they take with them my grateful heart!

Blessed art y’all among women!

The Clique on the side steps of the Burnett Mansion at their formal luncheon meeting on Friday, May 2, 2014

The Clique on the side steps of the Burnett Mansion at their formal luncheon on Friday, May 2, 2014 (Mari is the blonde on the left in the first row) (to magnify, click on the photo)

Since I have known these “girls” most of their lives and dated and/or double-dated several of them, as an “honorary member of the Clique” (a title conferred on me in 2000 with the gift of a tee-shirt with that inscription on it), I felt I could take the liberty of sharing with them in my card a bit of “chick reunion” humor from an older Southern Gentleman and Scholar:

 “The Ladies’ Meeting at the Ocean Springs Café”

The Clique in their matching white robes at their bed and breakfast inn during their May 1-4 meeting in Tulsa

The Clique in their white bathrobes at breakfast in their bed and breakfast inn in Tulsa during their May 1-4 meeting (to magnify, click on the photo)

Here is a story about a group of Southern ladies who met together like the Maggie Clique, except that they met every ten years.

When they were forty years old, someone said, “Where shall we go to eat?” One of them said, “Oh, let’s go to the Ocean Springs Café, because the waiters there are all young, handsome, flirty, and wear tight uniforms.”

When they were fifty years old, someone said, “Where shall we go to eat?” One of them said, “Oh, let’s go to the Ocean Springs Café, because the food there is delicious, and it is all low-fat and low-cholesterol!”

When they were sixty years old, someone said, “Where shall we go to eat?” One of them said, “Oh, let’s go to the Ocean Springs Café, because the restrooms there are so clean and so big and well-equipped that you never have to stand in line!”

When they were seventy years old, someone said, “Where shall we go to eat?” One of them said, “Oh, let’s go to the Ocean Springs Café, because it is handicap accessible with wheelchair ramps and everything!”

When they were eighty years old, someone said, “Where shall we go to eat?” One of them said, “Oh, let’s go to the Ocean Springs Café, because  . . .  we’ve never been there!”

 —Jimmy Peacock, quoting Dr. Paul Talmadge
his former dean in Anderson, South Carolina

 My High School Senior Trip and Graduation

“When the ivy walls
Are far behind,
No matter where our paths may wind,
We’ll remember always
Graduation day.
We’ll remember always
Graduation day.”
“Graduation Day”

(To hear this song being sung by the Four Freshmen,
click on the title above.
To view the full lyrics to the song, click here.)

In a post titled “Moments to Remember/Selma Methodist Church Update” published on May 23, 2012, I quoted some of the lyrics of another graduation day song titled “Moments to Remember.” That song happened to be our McGehee High School Class of 1956 graduating class song.

McGehee, Arkansas, High School class of 1956

McGehee, Arkansas, High School Class of 1956; I am the fourth student from the left in the second row from the back (to magnify, click on the photo)

Jimmy Peacock in cap and gown at graduation from McGehee, Arkansas, High School in 1956

Me in cap and gown at graduation from McGehee High School in 1956 (to magnify, click on the photo)

To read this post about our senior class trip to Petit Jean State Park, click on the title above.

Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas

Petit Jean (pronounced Petty Gene) State Park near Morrilton, Arkansas

However, although the post was published on May 23, 2012, the actual graduation ceremony took place on May 14, 1956—fifty-eight years ago!

In either case, regardless of the precise day, it is another one of the precious “Month of May Updates” in this nostalgic blog post in an effort to assure that “we’ll remember always: Graduation Day.”

In the next post I will provide a follow-up and progress report on the other subject on this post, the Selma Methodist Church and a few more month of May updates.

 

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“Don’t let your memories fade . . .”
—Advertisement for Tulsa Clinical Research,
Tulsa World, May 5, 2014

“The two most engaging powers of an author are
to make new things familiar and familiar things new.”
—Samuel Johnson, quoted in Today’s Cryptoquote,
Tulsa World, May 5, 2014

In this post and the next one, I will offer updates on past subjects and events discussed in my blog that relate to the months of April and May.

As indicated by its title, this first post in that two-part series marks three such events, each one the subject of a previous post on my blog:

First, the opening of the WWII Japanese-American Relocation Camp Museum in my hometown of McGehee, Arkansas, an event that originally took place on April 16, 2013.

Second, an update on the book titled Camp Nine, a historical novel based on the relocation camp at Rohwer, Arkansas, near McGehee, which I reviewed a year ago.

Third, a report on the progress of the planned documentary on the relocation camps in Arkansas titled Relocation, Arkansas, with two introductory videos featuring Star Trek actor George Tekai, who was detained in one of those camps as a child.

First Anniversary of Opening of WWII
Japanese-American Relocation Camp Museum

“The anniversary event is not about the museum itself, but about the people and families who were affected by the camps.”
—Susan Gallion, curator of the WWII
Japanese-American Museum

On April 2, 2014, the McGehee Times published a front-page article titled “Museum grows as anniversary nears.”

That article referred to plans to celebrate the first anniversary of the opening of the WWII Japanese-American Museum in McGehee, which took place on April 16, 2014. It noted that the museum, “also known as the Jerome-Rohwer Interpretative and Visitor Center, officially opened its doors inside the walls of the south building of the downtown railroad depot.”

The Times article went on to note that several hundred people, many of whom were directly affected by the interment, gathered for the opening and dedication. Since that time more than 2,200 others have visited the museum which “serves as the permanent home for the exhibit ‘Against Their Will, The Japanese American Experience in World War II Arkansas.’

Some of the Japanese-Americans who attended the first-year anniversary of the opening of the WWII Japanese-American relocation camps near McGehee, Arkansas

Some of the Japanese-American internees of the relocation camp who attended the first-year anniversary of the opening of the WWII Japanese-American Museum in McGehee, Arkansas (to magnify, click on the photo scanned by permission from the April 25, 2014, issue of the McGehee Times)

“The exhibit tells the story of life inside the internment camps in Rohwer and Jerome where more than 17,000 Japanese-Americans were incarcerated during the war.”

According to the article, “A number of historical items and publications have been donated to the museum since its opening, including a collection of publications from the War Relocation Authority during WWII. An archivist from Drury University donated the publications to the museum, all related to the evacuation of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast.

“In addition to the new publications, visitors at the April 16th anniversary [had] a chance to view the artwork of renowned artist, Nancy Chikaraishi. The college professor’s father was a Rohwer internee and her works [will be] on display for several weeks after the celebration.”

At the end of the article was a piece of art work by Nancy Chikaraishi. It featured a quote from her father on a banner at the museum, which will be on display soon. It had to do with the rigid racial segregation of the era and area:

“I got on the bus and my first decision I
had to make outside of camp was ‘Where
do I sit? The white people sat in the front
of the bus. The blacks were in the back,

‘And so I got on and I thought, ‘Gee, I
don’t know where should I sit?’ So I said,
‘Gee, we were confined so long and we
were discriminated so much that maybe
I’ll be considered black,’ so I went to and
I sat in the black area. The bus driver
stopped the bus and he says, ‘Hey, you
gotta sit in the front.’ So I got up and
moved, but I didn’t come way to the front
either, I sat right by the dividing line.”

Ben Tsutomu Chikaraishi,
Rohwer inmate

“This museum has been good for me,” states Susan Gallion, the museum curator, who says that she will never stop learning from it. “Not a day goes by that I don’t see something different [in it], learn something new [from it].”

Susan Gallion, curator of the WWII Japanese-American Museum in McGehee, Arkansas

Susan Gallion, curator of the WWII Japanese-American Museum in McGehee, Arkansas (to magnify, click on the photo scanned with permission from the April 2, 2014, issue of the McGehee Times)

Later, on April 23, 2014, another McGehee Times article was published titled “Internees return for museum anniversary.”

In that updated article the personal stories and experiences of several of the Japanese-Americans or their children or relatives interned in the camps at Rohwer and Jerome were presented.

One internee was born in the camp before it closed in 1944. “Having the museum means a lot to us,” she stated. “This place will touch many lives.”

Another internee was too young to remember what life was like for herself and her parents while incarcerated along with nearly 130,000 other Japanese-Americans in ten such camps throughout the Western United States. The two camps near McGehee were the only two in the South. Together they held more than 17,000 Japanese-Americans against their will.

Another family, detained at the camp in Jerome, were among the many “who returned to the area to mark the first anniversary of the museum.”

Another young Japanese-American was born four years after her family was released from the camps. Her uncle was killed in action during the war in France as a member of the U.S. Army 442nd Infantry, one of the units in which the Japanese-Americans from the camps served with distinction.

Nancy Chikaraishi, mentioned above in the first article on the museum anniversary, is a professor at Drury University and grew up listening to the stories of her people detained in them. Her artwork depicting those stories is currently on display in the museum where it will remain until July 16.

According to a third article in the April 21, 2014, McGehee Times titled “Local museum to feature works by Missouri artist”:

“Her solo exposition explores her parents’ experience in the Japanese American internment camps. Her artwork includes charcoal drawings, and canvasses painted in both oil and acrylic. She does sculpture as well, but their size makes shipping prohibitive. The art exhibit will be open during regular museum hours.”

The museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

“This museum is fantastic opportunity for generations to come to know this story,” she notes.

Nancy Chikaraishi, a proffesor at Drury University in Missouri, as she speaks at the first-year anniversary of the opening of the WWII Japanese-American Museum in McGehee, Arkansas

Nancy Chikaraishi, a professor at Drury University, in Missouri, as she speaks at the first-year anniversary of the opening of the WWII Japanese-American Museum in McGehee, Arkansas, where some of her art work will be displayed until July 16 (to magnify, click on the photo scanned by permission from the April 23 issue of the McGehee Times)

“Keeping these stories alive is not the only goal of the museum,” state museum officials.  “Sharing these stories with the world is equally important.”

Those officials estimate that 2,355 people have visited the museum since its opening a year ago. These visitors have come from four foreign countries and forty-five cities in Arkansas.

“Every day these people bring different stories to us,” museum officials report. “And every day we get emails from more families wanting to share theirs.”

In an address to a group of state leaders in Little Rock, McGehee mayor Jack May stated:

“We met yesterday at the Governor’s office so I got the opportunity to talk about our museum. I talked about the injustices these Japanese-Americans endured. In McGehee, we’d long hoped for a museum to explain that to people. . . .We’re proud of this museum and I was so happy to help spread the word [about it].”

And so I am.

To read more about the opening of the museum, visit my earlier post titled “Opening of WWII Japanese American Internment Camps Museum,” published on March 20, 2013.

 Camp Nine

“I know that Camp Nine was something that should never have been. It destroyed lives and separated families; it interrupted joys and brought, in their stead, wretched sorrows. But the experience was mine, too. On a deeper level than I had ever understood, Camp Nine [like the Delta itself] had defined my life [and the lives of all who have ever lived there].”
Camp Nine, p. 196

A year ago in my post about the opening of the WWII Japanese-American Relocation Camps I inserted a link to a book of historical fiction titled Camp Nine about the camp nearest McGehee.

As I noted then, that fictional work was written by Vivienne Gould Schiffer, the daughter of former McGehee mayor Rosalie Santine Gould who was instrumental in collecting, preserving, and displaying many of the artifacts from the camps.

Rosalie Gould, Vivienne Schiffer, and the Paul Takemoto family at the Butler Center in Little Rock

Rosalie Gould (center) and her daughter Vivienne Schiffer (right of Rosalie), surrounded by members of the family of Paul Takemoto, the principal subject of Vivienne’s documentary film on the Japanese-American internees in Arkansas, at the Butler Center in Little Rock (to magnify, click on the photo provided by both Vivienne Schiffer and Pat Scavo)

In a following post published on April 18, 2013, I presented a review of that book with quotes, photos, and links about it, especially ones that relate to the Arkansas Delta. (To read that post titled “Camp Nine: A Book Review with Quotes about the Arkansas Delta,” click on the title.)

Since it has been a year since that post about Camp Nine I thought I would offer an update on the book which I requested from the author. Here is her response sent to me in an email dated May 4, 2014:

“In connection with Camp Nine being named the 2013 selection for the If All Arkansas Read the Same Book program, I travelled the state in October of last year, presenting at libraries, and I continue to get requests for readings.

Vivienne Schiffer reading her book Camp Nine in Malvern, Arkansas

Vivienne Schiffer reading her book Camp Nine in Malvern, Arkansas (to magnify, click on the photo)

“The Arkansas Studies Institute has a fine program for history teachers which they conduct in June, where they teach about specific moments in Arkansas history, then lead teachers on a tour of sites. They have asked me to keynote open their series with a lecture and preview screening in the new Robinson Theatre in downtown Little Rock. I am so excited to be a part! So far, the film [Relocation, Arkansas, see next section] has kept me from making much progress on a follow-up book, sadly.”

Vivienne Schiffer reading her book Camp Nine in Malvern, Arkansas

Vivienne Schiffer previewing her film to the Northern California JACL Time of Remembrance celebration in Sacramento in February 2014 (to magnify, click on the photo)

On my blog I will continue to offer updates on the book and any subsequent books by the author on the subject of the WWII Japanese-American relocation camps in Arkansas.

Relocation, Arkansas

“In the post-war rural south, a person could only be one of two things: white or black. For the Japanese Americans [from the relocation camps in Arkansas] who stayed behind, it was necessary to fit into one or the other—and how did they choose?
—Vivienne Schiffer, author of book Camp Nine
and producer of documentary film Relocation, Arkansas

As noted above, the third section of this post is an update on the film documentary about the WWII Japanese-American Relocation Camps in Arkansas being developed by Vivienne Schiffer, the daughter of former McGehee mayor Rosalie Santine Gould.

One of Vivienne Schiffer's cameramen standing on top of a bus to film the ttower of one of the Arkansas Japanese Relocation camps

Vivienne Schiffer’s cameraman for Relocation, Arkansas, standing on top of a school bus to film the tower at one of the Japanese-American internment camps in Arkansas (to magnify, click on the photo)

Since it has been a year since my last blog post on this subject, I requested an update on its progress from Vivienne Schiffer. Here below is her response:

“We continue to make great progress on Relocation, Arkansas, now that our major funding is in. We have at least one more filming trip to Arkansas (probably in June) to finish out the fascinating story of the Japanese-Americans who stayed behind in Arkansas after the camp closed.

Vivienne Schiffer's crew filming Paul Takernmoto while he was surfing the Maryland coast in January

Vivienne Schiffer’s crew filming Paul Takemoto, the principal subject of her film Relocation, Arkansas, while he was surfing the Maryland coast in January (to magnify, click on the photo)

“That story is interesting on many fronts, but the one that we will likely focus on is this: in the post-war rural South, a person could only be one of two things: white or black. For the Japanese-Americans who stayed behind, it was necessary to fit into one or the other—and how did they choose? [See the quote of Nancy Chikaraishi’s father on this subject earlier in this post.]

“The community chose for them that they would be white. We intend to explore that decision and how it impacted their lives in the civil rights era that followed. This story will intersect with our other stories—the impact of the incarceration experience on the generation that was born after camp, the sansei; and how their loss of identity leads them to return to the scene of their parents’ and grandparents’ deep pain: Rohwer and Jerome, and the one person they’ve heard they must meet: former McGehee mayor Rosalie Santine Gould. The film will also explore how Mayor Gould became a legend in the Japanese-American community.

Rosalie Gould (left), Skip Rutherford (center), and Pat Scavo (left)

Rosalie Gould (right), with Skip Rutherford (center), and Pat Scavo (left) (to magnify, click on the photo provided by Pat Scavo)

“I had been invited to attend the PBS [Public Broadcasting Service] annual meeting in San Francisco in the middle of May, but it appears now that that trip may be in jeopardy.

“But my co-producing partner, the Center for Asian American Media, will be there to meet with the PBS team to discuss whether or not they want to officially become involved with our film. Even if they don’t contribute funds, we remain hopeful for a PBS broadcast in 2015.”

Vivienne Schiffer (right) and her friend Pat Scavo (left)

Vivienne Schiffer (right) and friend Pat Scavo (left), who provided several of the photos and much of the material about Vivienne and her book and film (to magnify, click on the photo provided by Pat Scavo)

Videos on the Japanese-American Relocation Camps

To view a very moving twelve-minute preview video of the film titled Relocation Arkansas, about the Japanese-American relocation camps in Arkansas, especially the one at Rohwer near McGehee, click here. This trailer for the full documentary was made two years ago. It features scenes of the flat Arkansas Delta, the cotton fields and cypress sloughs that surrounded the camp, and comments from Japanese-Americans who were confined there, as well as Arkansans Bill Clinton, former U.S. president and governor of Arkansas; officials of the programs and efforts to preserve the camps’ history; and Rosalie Gould, former mayor of McGehee, who was instrumental in preserving the artifacts of the camp and reviving interest in preserving them and the memory of the camps and their internees.

To view a similar but updated video trailer with the same title made in 2014, click here.

To view a seven-minute video interview with Japanese-American actor George Takei about his experience at the Rohwer camp and why he and his family were later sent to an even more restrictive camp in California as “enemy aliens,” click here.

To view a similar interview with George Tekai titled “Allegiance,” click here.

Addendum: Blogger’s Note

Coincidentally, this post marks the third anniversary of this blog titled “My Oklahomian Exile Literature by an Exiled Arkie of the Covenant,” which was officially launched on May 12, 2011, with a post titled “My Story Begins.”

It also marks the first post to be published after the blog had produced more than 60,000 visits during that three-year period, an average of 20,000 visits per year or about 500-plus visits per post.

Sources

Rachel Denton Freeze, “Museum grows as anniversary nears,” McGehee Times, Wednesday, April 2, 2014. Used with permission.

Rachel Denton Freeze, “Internees return for museum anniversary,” McGehee Times, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Used with permission.

Author unknown, “Local museum to feature works by Missouri artist,” McGehee Times, April 23, 2014.

 

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