BOOK: “THE TRAIN TO CRYSTAL CITY”


Here is a quote from the jacket of the book, The Train to Crystal City by Jan Jarboe Russell.

“From 1942 to 1945, secret government trains regularly delivered civilians from the United States and Latin America to Crystal City, a small desert town at the southern tip of Texas.  The trains carried Japanese, German and Italian immigrants and their American-born children.  The vast majority were deeply loyal to the United States, were never charged with any crime, and did not understand why they had been forced to leave their homes.

The only family internment camp during World War II, Crystal City was the center of a government prisoner exchange program.  During the war, hundreds of prisoners in Crystal City, including their children, were exchanged for other ostensibly more important Americans – diplomats, businessmen, soldiers, physicians and missionaries – behind enemy lines in Japan and Germany.”

Growing up in South Texas about one hundred miles from Crystal City, I had visited this small town with my parents but never knew that it had been home to an internment camp that some called a concentration camp. 

Those internment camps for the Japanese got more attention in the history books.  These immigrants had committed no crime but were still detained and held behind a 10-foot high fence as if they were prisoners.  In time it came to resemble a small town with stores, churches, schools, libraries, a hospital and a swimming pool.  Families lived in small one-family cottages.  While the detainees were treated well, they were still the equivalent of prisoners.

 Russell interviewed more than fifty survivors and gained access to private journals, diaries, FBI files, camp administration records and more.   Through her research she follows the camp from opening to closing and provides detailed descriptions of daily life in the camp.   One focus was on two American-born teenagers, one Japanese and one German, and how they were affected by the camp, their repatriation to Japan and Germany and finally the choice they made to return to the United States.   

During the war some were released, paroled or repatriated; others were kept for the duration of the war.   The camp was finally closed in 1946.  

The author  has also written a  biography,  Lady Bird:  A Biography of Mrs. Johnson.

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After I learned of this little known part of the history of WWII and the part this remote Texas town played in the drama, I wanted to visit Crystal City again after all these years.   Husband and I drove to Crystal City one cold November day and on our way passed through the small Texas town of Freer where I grew up.  The first stop was in Crystal City at the Popeye statue; more people probably know that the city claims to be the Spinach  Capital of the World than that there was once a camp for alien enemies outside of town. 

Since the former camp is not exactly a tourist attraction, we stopped at the local library to ask directions.   A young woman gave us directions and informed us that there was not much to see but there there some markers.  We followed the directions toward the edge of town and passed several public school campuses.  The pavement ended and we were on a dirt road.

The area was marked by these simple wooden information signs describing the site; I had expected something more than these humble, almost reluctant, reminders of history.  Although we did not find it that day (it was cold!), there is a stone marker that reads, “World War II Concentration Camp 1943-1946” installed in 1985.  In 2014 the site was listed on the National Register  of Historic Places.  Wikipedia has a photo of the stone memorial and more information.

A marker with a “you are here” on a map of the former camp.  Note that it was described as “American Enemy Alien Internment” while photos appear to  more like people at  a summer camp enjoying swimming, diving and other activities.

Description of the reservoir that was converted into a swimming pool.

This seemed to be a tank used to mark a reunion of survivors of the camp and the site of the swimming pool.

The area is quiet today with nothing but a few foundations to remind us of what had been outside this small Texas town south of San Antonio.   It is rough flat country with heat and sun and dust, just miles from the border of Mexico.  What must have those families have thought when they arrived?  How did they face the unknown with no control over their fate?  How did they feel about the  government of the United States?

There are lessons to be learned from this period even today as the loyalty and patriotism of some immigrants is sometimes questioned.  We saw the reaction when we were attacked on 9/11.  Some of that fear still lingers.

Related books:
The Crystal City Story:  One Family’s Experience with the World War II Japanese Internment Camps by Tomo Izumi (non-fiction written by a survivor of the camp)

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner (historical fiction)

 

GEORGE ORWELL’S WORDS


Through wordsmith.org I subscribe to A Word a Day for daily emails with a new word each day with a theme.  Examples are words  that are eponyms or words that sound dirty but aren’t.  A few weeks ago it was words from George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four(published in 1949),  that have become part of our language.   I recall reading  his dark novel in high school and thinking how very far into the future the year 1984 was, why, I’d be an old woman of 40 years.  Today we are 34 years beyond that doomed year,  and I have become a crone.  Below is a photo of my worn copy of the book; I think Daughter used it when it was required reading for a class.

Here are five of Orwell’s words featured and defined for that week:

NEWSPEAK:  Deliberately ambiguous or euphemistic language used for propaganda.

UNPERSON:  A person regarded as nonexistent.

BIG BROTHER:  An authoritarian person, organization, government, etc., that monitors or controls people.

DOUBLETHINK:   An acceptance of two contradictory ideas at the same time.

OLDSPEAK:   Normal English usage, as opposed to propagandist, euphemistic, or obfuscatory language.

My old paperback copy has this afterword by Erich Fromm and begins with this paragraph.

“George Orwell’s 1984 is the expression of a mood, and it is a warning.  the mood it expresses is that of near despair about the future of man, and the warning is that unless the course of history changes, men all over the world will lose the most human qualities, will become soulless automatons, and will not even  be aware of it.”

Fortunately, the soulless world of Winston Smith (main character from the novel) has not become reality.  There have been dark days and some parallels can be drawn from that world and some events even leading up to 2018, but the course of history has surely changed.   Here are some of my humble observations.

Let’s start with the most commonly quoted word from 1984, Big Brother.  Some would think that we already have a Big Brother in the form of federal government imposing rules, regulations and laws and tracking us and  strongly distrust the government.  Internet and social media could be considered as Big Brother the way our smart phones track us as well as Facebook, Twitter, etc. that track our locations, likes, friends and shopping habits.  And what of television?  Can we escape that glowing eye from home or almost anyplace we go?  And security cameras seem to be everywhere.

Newspeak is often used by those who want to put a certain spin on a statement or situation.  Those in power appear to be the most skilled at newspeak.

The unperson could be those without a political voice whether by poverty, circumstances, gender, place of birth or sexual orientation.  The Black Lives Matter movement quickly comes to my mind.

Our current President of the United States of America appears to be skilled in doublethink as he often says one thing and then acts in a completely different way to support, oppose or propose a policy.  There ought to be an Orwellian word for the way he tweets.

Oldspeak was the language of truth and honesty.  Lies were not treated as the norm and truth was not labeled as fake news.

Where did the inspiration for this post come from?  Perhaps I just wanted to write one last 500-word essay on George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and convince myself that a negative Utopia did not become a reality in 2018.  Or has it?

BOOKS AND BIBELOTS


BEDSIDE READING

Fascism, a Warning,  Madeleine Albright
A Restless Wave, John McCain
Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry
A Higher Loyalty, James Comey

WRITERS I HAVE DISCOVERED VIA THEIR BLOGS:
The Contract, John W. Howell & Gwen M. Plano
Plover Landing, Marie Zhuikov
Dancing with the Sandman, L.T. Garvin
A Cry From the Deep, Diana Stevan
Wish You Were Here, Adventures in Cemetery Travel, Loren Rhoads

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From Wikipedia

From wikipedia

BIBELOTS OF THOUGHTS
About a week after the city of Portland announced Stage I of water restrictions based on the lake levels and where we get our water from, our rain gauge measured almost eleven inches in two days.  We did not get that much rain from Hurricane Harvey!  Perhaps we toasted Chac, the Rain God, one too many times.  My rain barrels and jugs are full but the effects of the rain won’t last long with the summer heat.

Husband ordered a portable solar generator, Goal Zero, and a couple of solar lights.  The generator will power a few things to keep us going  and it is not noisy like a gas generator.  We may have not another hurricane for several years, but we are prepared this time and it will help if we lose power in an electrical storm also.

“Courtesy is contagious.”  That statement (in red letters) was taped inside a cabinet door in our kitchen by my father as I was growing up.  Whether it was meant for his three daughters or my mother, I never knew nor questioned it.  Today it seems that discourtesy has become an epidemic in the United States.  It appears to have its source at the top with a president that began setting the tone as he campaigned.  Winning the highest office in the land did not change that attitude.

Surely we can disagree  strongly, passionately, loudly and truthfully; protest and speak out, yet
display respect and civility!

 

Let us be thankful this Independence Day 2018 for all that we have as Americans.  May we never take for granted the freedoms and rights that we have.

ODDS AND ENDS


Hello!  I had taken time off from blogging since I was volunteering four mornings a week through United Way of the Coastal Bend for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.  My last day was April 18 (deadline for filing income taxes!) so I have stretched my hiatus a bit and just enjoyed reading other blogs without pressure to post something.  This first post is a rather jumbled collection of thoughts.

MANCHESTER ARENA
Sadly, another vile act unites us against the ineffable evilness of hate that inflicts death and harm upon the innocent.  Our hearts go out to those killed, injured and those left with the memory of a happy experience that turned dark.  In March of this year my son attended an Ariana Grande concert in California; a few years ago he attended a concert in Manchester.  Somehow it seemed very close to home as if it could happen to any of us.  Queen Elizabeth visited survivors in a hospital.  Click for a photo.

VITA EXPERIENCE
It was a rewarding experience to assist people of varied backgrounds – elderly, first time tax filers, couples, individuals, students and retirees.  We all have taxes in common as citizens.  Volunteer recognition was held at a local baseball game at Whataburger Field.

VOLUNTEERS FROM THE DIFFERENT VITA SITES WITH THE MASCOT OF THE HOOKS, THE LOCAL BASEBALL TEAM

BOOKS
Current book I am reading:
“Thunderstruck” by Erick Larson 

Last three books I have read:
“Catherine the Great” by Robert K. Massie 
“MY GRL” by John W. Howell   
“Just What I Always Wanted” by Nancy Roman 

Books on my list to read:
“Just Women Getting  By” by Linda Swain Bethea 
“A Cry from the Deep” by Diana Stevan 
Ice Ghosts” by Paul Watson 

FUTURE POSTS
My blog has never had a set schedule of posts but I did try for a time.  Perhaps if I imposed a schedule and deadlines on myself I would be more disinclined.  However, I do want to continue with a writing project so I will just see where it leads me.  Thanks to all of my readers and fellow bloggers for encouragement and support!

Below is a gargoyle with laptop that sits on a bookcase by my desk.  Perhaps he will serve as a muse.

PRINT OR E-BOOK?


As an old bibliophile I have clung to my paper pages, full bookcases and stacks of books scattered throughout the house.   I have no trouble reading magazine articles, news, blogs that I follow, newspapers and anything else I might come upon while surfing the Internet. But I want to read books in old-fashioned print.   Husband bought a Kindle and bragged about the books he could download anytime without having to order and wait until it is delivered or drive to find it at Barnes and Noble or Half-Price Books.

My beautiful picture

 

“Not me,” insisted, “I want to hold my books and turn the pages.”

“You can turn the pages on a Kindle.  The pages are numbered and you don’t even need a bookmark.  It remembers where you shut down and comes right back,” he insisted.

I collect bookmarks and have a basket full of them.  No, I would never want a Kindle or other reading device.

Husband continued to enjoy his Kindle so much that he upgraded to a new one.  He told me it was a really good deal.  I could have his old one if I wanted it.

“No, thanks,” I declined.

“Well, if you change your mind, let me know and I will set it up for you and even an Amazon account so you can buy books,” he remarked eagerly as he set it down on a stack of books by my nightstand.  I do most of my reading at night.

Some of the blogs I follow feature writers who have published their own books and are available in print and e-books.  Some are e-books only.  Was I missing out?  Perhaps.  So I decided to try just one or two e-books.  What could it hurt?  I wouldn’t be giving up print books.

The first e-book I bought was John W. Howell’s action thriller, “His Revenge.”  John lives along the same Texas coast as I do.  I like an action books occasionally and this book delivered action, a little sex and a hero, John Cannon, that we can all cheer for as he tries to say do his best for the United States.  John’s books can be found on Amazon in paper or e-book and you can follow him on his blog, Fiction Favorites, for daily fiction and fun.  He is working on the third book in this trilogy featuring John Cannon.his revenge

The second e-book I bought was a novelette by an author from the  western coast of Canada, Diana Stephen.  Her novella, “The Blue Nightgown,” caught my attention with its fifties-style pattern for a cover.  Set it is set in a Winnepeg, Canada boarding house in the 1950s, it reflects the mood of the time when men and women tried to remain within the boundaries of their roles and where sex was often hidden away in a bureau drawer. It is available in e-book only on Amazon.  Her latest novel, “A Cry from the Deep,”  is available on Amazon in e-book or paperback.   You can find out more about her on her blog, Diana Stevan.

blue nightdown

To my surprise I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading both of these books even though they were read on my Kindle.   Perhaps I had been a bit of a literary snob.   Reading was reading no matter what form  it has evolved into over time.  Now we have choices.  And isn’t the reading the important thing?  However, print books are still my first choice!

For now I will go back to a print book I have started, “Hitch-22, A  Memoir”,  by Christopher Hitchens, and perhaps fall asleep in bed and lose my place.