When EO 9066 was signed 80 years ago, I was 2 months short of turning 8. We lived, in what I found out years later, the Seinan area. My older sister, Evelyn (or as she prefers to be called, “Evie”), and my divorced mother, Lillian, were put on a bus and, with shades drawn, taken to Santa Anita. 

The six months we spent there were not memorable, except for the time on Sundays when Christian services were held in the grandstands. Sitting there I was able to look out at the distant mountains and fantasize about being free from the dismal barracks where we were housed. The lively Christian choruses we sang provided some measure of comfort.

In 2003, I was able to get money from a state fund that was set aside from redress money to produce a DVD featuring four Christian ministers who played important roles during these troubling times:

Bishop Roy Sano was about 12, and was sent with his family to Gila River in Arizona. At the time of the interview, Bishop Sano had recently retired as bishop of the California Pacific Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

Rev. Paul Nagano and Rev. John Miyabe were about 20/21. They ministered in one of the three camps in Poston, Arizona.

Rev. Sam Tonomura lived in Canada and was sent to a farming area with his mother. In Canada the men were separated from their families and sent to labor camps.

At the start of our discussion we talked about our meeting in the grandstands in Santa Anita. When I mentioned the enoouragement I got from singing Christian choruses, I was surprised that the men remembered them. At the suggestion of one of the men, we joined in together to sing one of the songs, “Are We Downhearted?”

Are we downhearted? No, no, no!

Are we downhearted? No, no, no!

Troubles may come and troubles may go — our trust is Jesus, come weal or woe. 

Are we downhearted? (the tune is whistled)

Are we downhearted? (the tune whistled again) No, no, no!

This DVD is entitled “Comforting the Afflicted,” and thanks to a friend, David Osako, it was put on YouTube. To see it, type in, then enter “Conforting the Afflicted-Phil Shigekuni.”

Especially if you were in a camp, I think you will enjoy seeing this part of our history.

Phil Shigekuni writes from San Fernando Valley and can be reached at Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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