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)

 

SNOW ON THE COAST!


About three and a half months ago we had  Hurricane Harvey.  Today we had snow on the coast as did much of South Texas!  The last time it snowed was on Christmas Eve of 2004.  Early this morning neighbors were out again (as after Harvey but this time welcoming the change in weather) reveling in the magical wonderland that our neighborhood had become.  We were bundled up in coats, hats and gloves that had been stored away and seldom used.  The past couple of weeks have been very warm and air conditioners were still running and shorts were still being worn.  Kids and adults were trying to make snowmen but with meager results as most had little snow-making experience.

For those for whom snow is a normal occurrence, feel free to skip this post:  spoiler ahead, it is mostly of snow!  But perhaps I can be forgiven as it may not snow for another thirteen years.  Husband gets the credit for them.

EARLY MORNING BEFORE DAYLIGHT VIEW ACROSS THE STREET FROM OUR HOUSE

OUR HOUSE

PARK NEXT DOOR TO US

HUSBAND ON OUR DRIVEWAY WITH NEIGHBOR’S BOAT IN THE BACKGROUND

CRONE WITH COFFEE

NEIGHBOR’S HOUSE WITH CHRISTMAS LIGHTS ON

OUR BACK YARD

TREE LIMB IN BACKYARD HEAVY WITH SNOW

SAME TREE IN THE BACKYARD THAT LOST SO MANY LIMBS DURING HURRICANE HARVEY

HUSBAND AND CRONE AT THE PARK

By noon the sun came out beautifully and the snow began to melt, but for a time our coast was a magical place and children created memories of the year it snowed.  Cheers!

TALES OF THE BLUE INDIGO


My WordPress stats tells me that my last post was over two months ago.  It is probably the longest that I have gone without posting at least a quote or photo.  I confess that I have tried to keep up with many of the blogs I follow, but I know I have missed many good posts.  That will be my loss!

My goal for this year, as confided to Loren Rhoads of Cemetery Travels:  Adventures in Graveyards Around the World, was to finish a piece that I started several years ago and abandoned because I could not figure out who the murderer was going to be or what the motive would be.  Perhaps I don’t multi-task as well as I used to because I couldn’t seem to post regularly and finish my writing project.  Many bloggers manage write books and still post every day.  I had to choose to solve my murder and finish my novella-sized project, “Tales of the Blue Indigo,” although it does need a bit of polishing .  At least I can go on to other writing projects like another incomplete one I titled, “North Beach.”  Right now I am now sure what I will do with any of my writing.  Perhaps I will combine them into a collection in my other blog, Tales of the Blue Indigo, that only has one post  just published but I would be happy to have you visit.  The first post is a rather long story titled, “Sug.”  I would welcome feedback!

Here is the opening paragraphs of chapter one of my completed writing project,“Tales of the Blue Indigo.”

            Joe T. suspected that the old man had brought him along on the ride only to

open and close the gates…then he saw the snake.

     Will McNally, an old man at sixty in the eyes the young Joe T., stomped a worn

cowboy boot down roughly on the brake. The blue Chevy pickup stopped like an

obedient quarter horse as the dust it had been kicking up behind caught up with it

and started settling down on top of it.  The two cow dogs riding in the back stood       

with their front legs on the side of the pickup bed and began barking as McNally

opened the door and jumped out of the truck like a roper off a horse at a rodeo.

     “Buster, Lady! Shut up!” he growled. The dogs went silent as their owner crept

around the back of the truck like some Comanche in a raiding party.

Joe T., grateful for the air conditioner blowing in his face, could only stare ahead in

creeping fear as the rattlesnake dragged its heavy body out of the thick brush and

across  the gray dust and ruts of the dirt road. He jumped in his seat as McNally’s

face, tanned and lined as a fine cigar, appeared in the passenger window as his hand

motioned for Joe T. to open the window. With shaking fingers he pushed the

automatic button as the tinted glass glided down silently. McNally had left the truck 

running , its humming diesel idle was the only sound to compete with his pumping 

heart.  The heavy heat drifted into the truck and the cool air floated out.

     “That’s a big son of a bitch,” McNally whispered, “just watch – maybe you’ll

learn a new trick. Here, take my hat. Be quiet and stay out of my way no matter what

happens,” he warned as he took off his tan felt Stetson to reveal wavy silver hair with

remnants of black that had once been the majority.

FRIDAY FOTO: Boobs and Betty Bombers


OCTOBER IS BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH

On Saturday, October 17, I participated in a walk to raise money for the American Cancer Society as a member of the BETTY BOMBERS team from the USS Lexington on the Bay Museum  where my daughter works.  Husband trailed along to take these photos.  My daughter and I walked in honor and in memory of my niece, CHERYL LYLES SMITH, who died in 2012 of cancer.  There were 16,000 walkers who raised $460,000; the BETTY BOMBERS raised $5,374.  Below are photos that Husband took  on a gloriously beautiful South Texas day. 

2015 10 17 Making Strides (108)

 2015 10 17 Making Strides (22)Some of the Betty Bombers getting ready to walk.

2015 10 17 Making Strides (1)Young walkers arriving.

2015 10 17 Making Strides (2)Pink Men from Radiology Associates, a sponsor.

2015 10 17 Making Strides (7)Walkers checking out the booths before the start.

2015 10 17 Making Strides (12)Harbor Bridge and floral sculpture

2015 10 17 Making Strides (13)The Water Garden was turned pink.

2015 10 17 Making Strides (17)Crone and Daughter

2015 10 17 Making Strides (24)Source of the “pink” fountain with the original part of the Art Museum in the background.

2015 10 17 Making Strides (26)Old Glory raised with a pink crane.

2015 10 17 Making Strides (30)They’re off and walking/running along the bay front!

2015 10 17 Making Strides (86)The pink gorilla in the walk.

2015 10 17 Making Strides (35)Cooks walking for a cure!  Their aprons read, “Cooking up a recipe for a cure!”

2015 10 17 Making Strides (87)The marina is in the background; many of the boats had pink flags.

2015 10 17 Making Strides (89)This blood hound and his parents wore tutus.

2015 10 17 Making Strides (118)We made it!  So did the pink gorilla!

2015 10 17 Making Strides (126)At the pink Corpus Christi fire truck with ribbons for each type of cancer.

2015 10 17 Making Strides (128)Husband/Photographer

This post is dedicated to those who survived breast cancer and to those who fought and lost and to all whose bodies have been marked with cancer of any type.

MONDAY MADNESS: Old Buckaroos


Those in the class of 1963 have turned 70 years old or soon will.

There were only about 36 graduates that year in the small south Texas town of Freer.

Many of us had started first grade together and everybody knew everybody.

Graduation would scatter us like dust in the brush country where we grew up.

We would journey into the 1960s with hopes and dreams of the young

and then emerge in a new millennium where all the dreams may not have come true.

The memories linger sweetly.

A PLUVIOPHILE ON THE COAST


plyviophile

After days of endless searing heat we have beautiful rain today!  It may not be enough to break the drought, but it is welcome relief.  Husband and I had coffee on the veranda and put out extra containers to catch the rain water and rejoiced that the rain barrel would be replenished.

I love the rain.  Perhaps that comes from growing up in South Texas where rain is usually scarce.  I remember the severe drought of the 1950s when ranchers asked the preacher to pray for rain and put a little extra in the offering plate while contributing secretly to a plan to seed the clouds.  Rain was always critical to my father as a rancher.  He would stop whatever he was doing and watch it rain  As a child I learned to do the same, and  I can still remember the smell of the first drops of rain on dry, dusty ground.

Today I still appreciate the rain as we are in Stage II for lawn watering restrictions because of the current drought across Texas.  We don’t want a hurricane but a little disturbance in the gulf that would bring us some moisture is always welcome.  So far our rain gauge measures 3.4 inches and it is still coming down.  Thank you Chac, the Rain God!

Disclosure:
The illustration I used came from Facebook, but I did not know the source.