Tuesday, February 15, 2011

You never know

I never know what facts I'll learn or who I might run into when visiting the Pasadena Museum of History. That is part of the appeal of the place.

On Friday my archive buddy George Hiyakawa introduced me to his friends - Esther Takei Nishio and Shig Nishio (left to right). Esther was the Japanese American who was brought from camp as a "test case".

The following is from an article in Rafu Shimpo. "Nishio was born in Los Angeles and attended Venice High School when the war began...she became the first Japanese American student to return to the West Coast in September of 1944. Thanks to Hugh Anderson and William Carr, Esther was able to enroll in Pasadena Junior College, which became Pasadena City College.

Of her enrollment, Esther recalled, 'The news about my return leaked out to the city newspapers. Then all the patriotic organizations protested'...After about a month, the furor died down and Esther was able to continue her education."

George brought Esther to the Museum to look at archived articles and letters regarding her experience. Occasionally they read segments of the letters out loud and shared comments. Some of the letters were heavy with vitriol.

When I spoke with Esther she referred to her being sent to concentration camp with no bitterness in her voice and with a gracious smile. Like other civil rights icons, Esther endured hate and prejudice and then succeeded in attaining her education. Like increasing numbers of others who were interned, Esther has shown great resolution at sharing memories that have been both bitter and sweet. We are better for knowing these memories - even the painful ones.

Thanks, George.


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