Narratives are personal stories that help enrich the reader’s understanding of a time period, person, place, or event. These are first-person views of history taken from personal recollections, memoirs, diaries, and oral histories.


Information included in this section is not fact checked by the Encyclopedia staff. The author of the Narrative is entirely responsible for its content.


My parents were Southern Baptist missionaries to Japan in 1934 and 1935. After my father's repatriation from internment in Tokyo after Pearl Harbor (my mother and sister had returned earlier), my parents served with Japanese-speaking congregations, first in Houston and then in Arkansas, his home state. They lived in McGehee, between the centers at Rohwer and Jerome, until their landlady sold the house from under them. At this point, the U.S. government contacted my mother, asking if she would teach third grade at Rohwer. She demurred, first on the grounds that she was certified for secondary and not elementary teaching, and then because she was pregnant and would not be able to finish the year. They were desperate, so they got a teacher and my family got a home. I was born in the camp clinic on April 23, 1945—contrary to some information I have seen saying the camp was closed prior to that date. [Editor’s note: The center closed in November 1945.] I have the Red Cross Yearbook for 1945, which includes a group picture of the Rohwer Federated Christian Church Congregation, with my father, W. Maxfield Garrott, fifth from the right on the front row.
I have long wondered how many, if any, other Anglo babies were born in the camps.

Alice Garrott Hooker
Berea, KY


I've met a couple of people who were interned at Rohwer and Jerome. Although I am a Fayetteville native, I now live in San Francisco and am a minister's assistant at the Buddhist Church of San Francisco, a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist temple and the national temple of the primarily Japanese-American Buddhist Churches of America.
Many of our members spent part of their childhoods or their young adult years in the camps throughout the country. It's not at all unusual to hear older members, meeting others for the first time, ask where their families were interned. From there, connections are made when they realize their uncle or their mother knew so-and-so's sister or cousin at Tule Lake or Manzanar or Rohwer or Jerome.
A few times now when people have asked where I'm from, they've told me about their experiences in Arkansas, or mentioned that friends of theirs had been interned there. In each case, I believe, they add that they've never been back. That’s not hard to imagine.
As a minister’s assistant, I conduct worship services in an assisted-living home for seniors, the vast majority of whom are Japanese American. Those who experienced the camps are old now and are dying off. Many of our temple’s members have told me about their experiences in the camps and about their struggles to rebuild their lives after they were freed. I’m grateful they thought enough of me to share their stories.

Eric Burkett
San Francisco, CA


My mother and her immediate family (Sagara) and my uncle, George Matsuoka, were internees of the Rohwer, Arkansas, Relocation Center. They related a story to us illustrating the humiliation they suffered in the center. One day, the men were organized into a work detail and sent out to gather wood and clear brush outside the wire fence surrounding the camp. At some point, they were gathered up and forced to march down the center of town, where they were taunted and pelted with rocks. This was a pivotal experience in my Uncle George’s life, as he decided from that point on to never allow people to be treated in that manner. He became a champion of human rights in his life and won the admiration of many.
Also of note, t
he Issei farmers in Rohwer included many from the Stockton and Lodi California area. These farmers succeeded in farming the San Joaquin Delta. Many had tried before them and failed. A building is named after George Shima “The Potato King” on the San Joaquin Delta College campus.

 


Diane Lee
Wailuku, HI