Letter from Kenji Okuda to Mr. and Mrs. Farquharson dated September 9, 1942

Letter from Kenji Okuda to Mr. and Mrs. Farquharson dated September 9, 1942. Mary Farquharson Papers, 1942-1945, Acc. 397-5, Box 1, folder 1. University of Washington Libraries: Manuscripts, Special Collections, University Archives.

Page 1
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4

Granada WRN Center

Dear Prof. and Mrs. Farquharson,

It is when one is taken away from friends and thrown into contact with strangers that one fully realizes the value and worth of those friends. Here, away from anyone whom I know and having had no opportunity to get acquainted as yet. I realize more than ever the inestimable worth of friends who have been so sacrificially kind to us - and you are the prime examples. Your kind gifts, your thoughtful presentation of serious literature to the benefit of the camp - these I don’t know to repay or even thank you for. I cannot help feeling so helpless, humble, and unworthy - and I appreciate it all the more.

Here I am, finally settling down, resting up, and making ourselves comfortable here at a center far from where we had expected to go. To be “kicked out” of Puyallup before we had an opportunity to even think - I find myself here in southeastern Colorado not far from Kansas in the Arkansas River Valley. I am finally able to collect my thoughts sufficiently to be able to look back upon the events of the last two weeks with a clearness and objectivity which is so necessary to straight thinking. Why was I shifted out of Puyallup? The theories are many and divergent, but I doubt very much whether the real truth will ever be uncovered until the end of the war – if ever.

This is hardly the time, however, to look backwards or to cry over the past. The future is clear cut – it seems quite certain that until the end of the war, which I pray and hope will end quickly, my future will be here. As a stranger, I’m starting from the bottom up to be entirely on my own. Here I’ll be able to work quietly, and I hope be of some effect, to work where I see the need, and to live my Christian beliefs as best I can. The challenge is clear – will I be able to meet it and conquer? That is entirely up to me.

This camp which is planned for 7,500 now has a population of some 2,300 or half the Merced Assembly Center with whom we moved in here – another trainload of 500 odd is expected at any moment now – and they are coming in every other day. This camp is still far from finished – only about 12 blocks are liveable – and the people are moving in as fast as new ones are made liveable. I’m afraid that in a day or two the influx will exceed the construction, and then the people must be temporarily housed in recreation halls, mess halls, and all available bed space ? a condition which existed, and might still exist in Idaho. The schools, the church and the administration building are all only in the blueprint stage - the elementary school term should be starting any day now, but they do not have the physical facilities.

I happened to meet the man in charge of elementary education who arrived only today from Denver. He stated that the staff (Caucasians) were all ready to go to work, and that temporarily they might plan to use the recreation halls and other facilities which are available. I am very much impressed with the W.R.A. administrative personnel - they seem interested, to have a social vision, and are the type of men we can easily work with. The half prepared state of the camp cannot be blamed upon them - they did their best to have the general movements stopped, but the Army insisted that the people be moved - ready or not. The Army must continue to demonstrate its remarkable efficiency - or the WCCA is running out of funds - I have heard both theories advanced.

The camp itself is on a very gentle slope overlooking a green valley containing several groves of trees. The Santa Fe mainline and U.S. Highway 60 running thru them are easily visible not being more than ¾ of a mile away. The town of Granada where we got off the train amid armed soldiers and a crowd of curiosity seekers is visible from vantage points located in another grove of trees. As far as the eye can see are rolling prairies varying from green to the desert brown - no high hills can be seen - just rolling plains. The camp will, when finished be 7 blocks long in a N S direction and 4 wide. There will be several lanes, 5 blocks wide making a total of 30 blocks and one business district in the center of the camp.

These barracks are of double wall construction - the center layer of tar papered fibreboad and the inner of another type of fibreboard. In each room is the beginning of a closet, a huge iron coal burning stove, and floors of red brick laid upon dirt enclosed within a concrete outer foundation. The ceilings are 7 feet high, the barracks of a roof construction instead of the plain slope as at Puyallup. I understand that the winters here are very cold, but at the moment we are enjoying Indian summer, but the sun’s rays are very warm at midday. If the heat we have now is any indication of the summer heat, I dread the arrival of next summer. Of course, life here is no comparison with that in the Arizona hell-hole Poston where temperatures of 120° are everyday occurrences.

There is a strong wind blowing now whipping the dust all about - ordinarily the dust here is no worse than at Puyallup, but these winds which start blowing suddenly and then quit as suddenly are going to make life tough on us. A warm breeze is blowing thru the room now - the midday heat which was the warmest since we arrived almost a week ago - has gradually subsided.

I got tired doing nothing except reading and writing and generally feeling useless so I went to work today. One good thing - all employment is centralized and all newcomers are interviewed personally to determine their qualifications. I seemed to fill the bill of a Junior Accountant, but no openings are available at the moment, so until further notice, I have taken the task of making a room to room inventory of all government issue articles. This is an excellent opportunity, to study the composition of the camp residents, although only very sketchily, but I am beginning to get an idea of the type of people with whom the Army has decreed that we live. These people are mostly farmers, but a number of the younger generation were on their way to forsake the soil and lead an urban existence. A number of business college and junior college graduates are to be found within camp - there are an excess of stenographers and typists. It certainly seems a waste of human energy to put all of these capable girls into camp with the tremendous labor shortage of skilled personnel being faced on the outside. But who am I to question the wisdom of government action?

Bill Makino is getting out to go to Oberlin, but my exact status is still a question mark. I am awaiting word from Tom Bodine in San Francisco as to my possibilities of leaving for school - the Army definitely frowns upon the idea, but I don’t know what authority they have now that I am in a WRA Center. Set us hope that the WRA has some powers with which to challenge the Army - otherwise I will probably be lodged within camp for the duration.

I wish that I had more time to write, but since I must be getting up at the unheard of hour of 7 tomorrow morning - it becomes a habit to take life so easily within camp - I’ll have to hit the hay soon.

Again, I must state that I have no way in which to adequately thank you for all that you have done for me. I wish to thank you again for your courtesies and kindness - and my only hope is that we will be able to meet again - soon - under normal conditions. Until again__

Kenji Okuda