Monday, July 16, 2012

Put Down the Book and Go Visiting

Photo by SP8254
Today I delivered an early birthday present to my friend Gladys, who will turn 102 at the end of this month. I gave her a book about the 1875 Chinatown wars in Los Angeles.  Gladys remembered her parents talking about this event plus the Tong wars in San Francisco, so she wanted to read this new book after seeing it reviewed in the local paper.

I told her that I didn't know much about these events, but I had recently finished The Buddha in the Attic and  the Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, which are very engaging novels about hardships endured by Japanese immigrants and their children. I shared with her what I learned about picture brides and the Japanese internment.

Gladys is an avid reader, but she replied, "Well, I haven't read either of those books, but I can tell you a little bit about my experience with the Japanese internment."

While she was living in Marysville, California in the 1940s, the government had asked all people with Japanese ancestry to report for internment.  As a minister's wife, she had been asked to help a Japanese woman prepare. The shopping district in town was segregated, which prevented the Japanese woman from purchasing items that she was told to bring with her to internment.  Gladys went for her and bought sheets and other items on the government list.  

Gladys explained how many had to sell their homes and businesses. Her own brother-in-law purchased land at a good price, land and property that were very kept up very nicely by the Japanese family that was relocating. Her brother-in-law lived and worked their for decades following. 

When the time came, those with Japanese heritage had to report at the train station. There was a spur of tracks in Marysville where they congregated for boarding.  Gladys remembers hearing the noise that arose once people started to board. "I suppose you would call it howling. It was horrible.  I felt so bad for the Japanese people, but the government had ordered it, so what were we all to do?"  I asked her if she ever witnessed their return. She had no memory of that happening.  

"But I haven't read much about it."  As much as I enjoy reading historical fiction, I need to remember that assisted living centers and skilled nursing centers are filled with people who can give me eye-witness reports of many historical events of the 20th Century.  I hope that I can set down the books and take the time to talk with her and other witnesses to history.  Happy 102nd Birthday, Miss Gladys. Thank you for giving me the present of your time.


Talking with Older Adults, Serving as a Witness

1 comment: