Summer Recreation Program (6/30/1943) – Personal Journal of EC

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Searching for Summer

Tanner Wrout

            It is amazing to see the unique, and sometimes small ways that recreation boosted morale, created stronger ties, and provided some education to the kids in internment camps. The meeting recorded gave thoughtful insight into what plans were attempted at being made to make life in Block 324 more enjoyable for all groups and ages of the Japanese Americans who were incarcerated. This journalized account exhibits how brining everyone together to becoming a community is much more complex then just issuing classes and activities to keep everyone occupied. By taking into account the age difference, the scarcity of supplies, and the difficult task of uniting everyone in the camp, it is apparent that much thought went into these Summer Recreation Programs to make them successful.

One of the major hurdles that stood in the way of these Summer Programs was making it interesting and amusing for all ages of kids from toddlers to young adults. Miss Hemingway, a member of Summer Recreation Program committee, states in the journal, “… that it isn’t necessary too plan a program for the older one – many of them will find jobs here for the summer or will be leaving the Project… When the subject came up of a summer program, those invited to discuss it said, ‘Just leave us alone is all we ask.’”[1] This excerpt reveals that as the kids begin to mature into young adults, that these plans of recreation and camps don’t sound that intriguing to them. It also possibly could have been said with a strong tone, which could be led to believe that these young adults are beginning to develop their own voice and opinion. At this point in their still young lives they are more concerned and committed to finding work, making money for their family, or possibly starting their own. By contrast, occupying the attention of their younger brothers and sisters is much easier, as Mr. Urata simply puts, “… with a young group like that you can please them with anything.”[2] They continue to explain that it still must be broken up so that middle school aged children won’t be sitting with the three and six year olds listening to story time. As well, these words could be said out of despair and that the committee is just trying to put together whatever they can with the resources made available. The committee then arranged how they could plan dances and picnics for the teenagers so they wouldn’t get bored with woodshop, carving, and knitting clubs. Sports were also mentioned. Judo and boxing classes were recommended for boys and swimming for both males and females. But as important as these fun activities were for moral and enthusiasm, it was just as or more significant to assure that they were getting educated in different skills from these clubs and programs.

Due to a lack of funding for resources it was extremely difficult to structure some of these programs that were designed to teach, encourage, and entertain the youth of the Japanese American internment blocks. “Miss Lambert says there are certain supplies that will not survive the summer here, such as crayons. Those left over at the end of the school could be turned over to the summer program… the carpenter shop was very good about providing them with scraps.”[3] This issue emerged a number of times as different members of the committee in the notes explained that they would be forced to improvise or ask for more materials to keep their club or program running. Even food was mentioned as insufficient when the notion of a picnic arose, “Mrs. Burge says she understands that the present ruling on food is that they may take food out for the meal, but they can’t eat a meal in the mess hall and then have additional for a picnic.”[4] This could be noted that they were attempting to be resourceful and not waste any extra necessities to camp life. Furthermore, Emiko Hastings in his paper entitled, “No Longer a Silent Victim of History,” explains that many Japanese Americans lost many of their belongings due to the War Relocation Act.[5] This confiscation meant that these families would have to replace these items, which they could not do inside of the camps. Yet, despite the disadvantageous position they were put in, they would still find light that would brighten up the lives of the camp.

Bringing together the whole camp, regardless of age, was the ultimate goal of the Summer Recreation Program by utilizing their current knowledge of American ideals. However, maybe different clubs and classes could have been more effective, for in the notes of the committee meeting they mention the summer program consisting of dance classes, carpentry, and knitting. Yet, I feel like raising the morale in Block 324 could have accomplished much quicker and more efficiently if they allowed everyone to have a say in what classes and activities they would be directly involved with. For example, it might have made the young adults more content with the recreation program if they were allowed to choose what they wanted to do from a variety of options. However, Valerie Matsumoto explains in her story, “Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies” that space might have been the best thing for everyone in these camps as it was extremely cramped in the living quarters. She describes, “Each single room or ‘apartment’ housed an average of eight persons… Because the partitions between apartments did not reach the ceiling, even the smallest noises traveled freely from one end of the building to another.[6] One reason this might have been challenging is because of the extremely limited amount of supplies that was allocated to the camp. And to prevent the camp from forming cliques, there could be a huge camp wide feast on one of the days. This would serve as a way for families and friends to be with each other after a long week and share stories of either a newfound passion or the excitement in the air of a new beginning. No food would be wasted, as anything that was expected to expire soon would be prepared in the feast to be as frugal as possible. Furthermore, since all the camp had limited supplies and food, this would provide the people in the camp with something to look forward to every week.

Overcoming the obstacles that impeded the committee’s goals and dampened the mood of Block 324 was the ultimate objective. Yet, instead of focusing on the materials they didn’t have the Summer Recreation program members tried everything they could to overcome these adversities and enhance moral of the camp. By providing the children with something to be excited about as well as a small education, it would provide a sense of hope and excitement for the parents that one day their child would walk out of this camp and find work and happiness in this country. The Summer Recreation Program might have been directly associated with the youth of the internment camp, but everyone in the end benefitted from its existence as it gave these Japanese Americans something to joyous and excited about.

[1] “Summer Recreation Program (6/3/43) Personal Journal of EC,” Japanese Relocation Centers Records #3830 Page 6

[2] “Summer Recreation Program (6/3/43) Personal Journal of EC,” Japanese Relocation Centers Records #3830 Page 6

[3] “Summer Recreation Program (6/3/43) Personal Journal of EC,” Japanese Relocation Centers Records #3830 Page 5

[4] “Summer Recreation Program (6/3/43) Personal Journal of EC,” Japanese Relocation Centers Records #3830 Page 7

[5] Hastings, Emiko. “No Longer a Silent Victim of History:” Repurposing the Documents of Japanese American Internement. N.p.: Springer Science and Business Media, 2010. Print.


[6] Matsumoto, Valerie. Frontier: A Journal of Women Studies. Vol. 8. N.p.: U of Nebraska, n.d. Print. Ser. 1, pg 8.


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