Saturday, September 25, 2021

During a year of suffrage campaigns, a ladies society forms in Wintersburg

ABOVE: A small news item noted the organization of a ladies society by Issei (first generation Japanese immigrant) women in the peatlands of Orange County, "said to be the first one known in this country." (Santa Ana Register, September 25, 2021)

   Days before California women gained suffrage after election day, October 10, 1911, Japanese women in north Orange County organized. Scattered across the rural countryside, ladies society meetings were a way to connect and talk with other women who shared a common culture and experience. As most were new to the country, they could freely talk about how to navigate their new surroundings and share their confusion, experiences, and lend each other support. 

   Prohibited from becoming U.S. citizens due to their Japanese ancestry, the majority were women who had been permitted to join their spouses in the United States following the 1907 Gentlemen's Agreement between the U.S. and Japan. It was only two years prior to the first of California's alien land laws in 1913.

   The Japanese women of Wintersburg Village, Talbert, and Smeltzer may have been aware of the organizing effort in rural areas of California by women for Equal Suffrage. There was opposition to women's suffrage in the urban communities of San Francisco and Los Angeles and on election night, October 10, 1911, suffragists thought they had lost due to that opposition. 

   San Francisco had voted "no" by almost 14,000 votes. Los Angeles had voted "yes" by slightly over 2,000 votes.  The Southern California counties had "rolled up a slight majority for woman suffrage" reported the Santa Ana Register. There were election observers watching the ballot count, tagging approximately 3,000 as "fraudulent." But after several days of ballot counting, Equal Suffrage had passed statewide by 3,587 votes (final tally 125,037 to 121,450).  The rural precincts had come through. 

RIGHT: In go-big-or-go-home fashion the Santa Ana Register wrongly predicted the night of October 10, 1911, that the State defeated women's suffrage. The next day, the Register corrected and reported suffrage was "still in balance" statewide, but had lost in Orange County by 38 votes out of the 3,600 ballots cast. By Friday evening, October 13, the Register conceded in a much smaller news item halfway down the page, "Suffrage surely carried in State." By October 17, buried on page 4 there were small news items on women registering to vote and possibly voting in the November election on the "wet or dry" issue in Fullerton. (Santa Ana Register, October 10, 1911)

   In Southern California, Maria Guadalupe Evangelina de Lopez was a prominent organizer for women's suffrage, frequently speaking to majority men audiences as they would vote on suffrage. "The first suffrage speech in Spanish that has ever been made in the State in this or any  other campaign was made at Ventura on Saturday by Miss Maria G. de Lopez, a member of the Los Angeles High School faculty. Many of the Spanish speaking people of Ventura heard the address which will be given in other parts of the State during the summer months when the State will be canvassed by the suffrigists (sic)," noted the Concord Transcript newspaper in Concord, California.

   The Santa Ana Register was certain the night of October 10 that women's suffrage had been defeated, running a large, below the banner headline, "State defeats woman suffrage."  The newspaper's corrections continued over the next several days in increasingly smaller headlines. On November 21, 1911, following state vote certification and women registering to vote, the Santa Ana Register predicted that "Riverside seems to have elected a socialist mayor" with the "woman vote practically all in by noon." By November 29, the Register seems to have accepted their new overlords, running a tiny article that bills had been introduced in Sacrament to make women voters eligible for all public offices "to harmonize the political code with the equal suffrage regime."

LEFT: Ten days after the vote on women's suffrage, the Santa Ana Register shared on page 4  opinions published by other Orange County newspapers, including the Huntington Beach News, which "rejoices in the victory of the woman's suffrage amendment to the California constitution." (Santa Ana Register, October 20, 1911)

   Japanese women organizing a ladies society in Orange County knew they would not be permitted to vote, since U.S. law considered them "ineligible for citizenship." But, their U.S.-born daughters would be citizens. The organization of women's society groups, sewing groups, and teas had long been a place where women could receive information and speak freely on political issues, and organize community causes. While there are no documents found to-date on the ladies society, the Santa Ana Register makes a reference in January 1920 of the organization meeting monthly and having met at the Garden Grove Japanese Institute.

   The year of 1911 saw significant social change and innovation in Orange County

   The Smeltzer Japanese Association entered its sixth year in 1911, electing a new board of officers (including Charles Mitsuji Furuta, Furuta farm at Historic Wintersburg).  The Association had been supplying Huntington Beach with day and nighttime fireworks for the annual July 4th events since 1905.

RIGHT: The Smeltzer Japanese Association holds its annual election of officers and states a mission "to reform the public morality and prevent misunderstandings among the Japanese and any other nations." (Huntington Beach News, republished in Santa Ana Register, April 21, 1911)

   Reverend Joseph Kenichi Inazawa moved to Wintersburg Village in 1911 to replace Reverend Junzo Nakamura at the Wintersburg Japanese Mission. Reverend Inazawa was joined by his wife, Kate Alice Goodman. They had attracted international attention in 1910 when they eloped to marry in New Mexico because the Inazawas' interracial marriage was illegal by California law. 

   Yasumatsu Miyawaki, who had opened the first Japanese market at 217 Main Street in Huntington Beach in 1907, filed his business name in 1911 as the Sun Rise Co. He opened his second market location in Talbert (Fountain Valley). Tsurumatsu "T.M." Asari, who had opened the first Japanese market in Wintersburg Village soon after his arrival in 1899, filed his business name in 1911 as the T.M. Asari Co. He became a prominent goldfish farmer and grower, helping earlier found the Wintersburg Japanese Mission and then the first Buddhist church in Orange County.

   The Wintersburg Japanese Mission was recognized by the Orange County's Young Christian Endeavor Union in 1911, presenting them with a banner they proudly displayed . They had raised funds throughout Orange County beginning in 1904 and worked to construct their Mission beginning in 1909.

   The Holly Sugar company began building their sugar beet factory in Huntington Beach in 1911, a boon for Japanese farmers who grew sugar beets. 

ABOVE: A wagon loaded with sugar beets races down Wintersburg Road in front of the Furuta farm, circa 1914. (Courtesy of the Furuta family) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

    Japan sent the first shipment of 3,000 cherry blossom trees to First Lady Helen Taft in 1911, as a national gift to create an avenue of trees near the tidal basin in Washington, D.C. A gift that draws visitors more than a century later.

   Women aviators Mathilda Moisant, Harriet Quimby, and Mlle. Detrieu--aka "bird women"---flew in the Dominguez Field air show in 1911. Glen Martin was flying over Orange County skies at the speed of 60 mph in biplanes he constructed in a Santa Ana church building in 1911. This would inspire Japanese celery field worker and college student Koha Takeishi to attend the famous Curtiss Flying School in north San Diego county and the formation of the Smeltzer Flying Company in Wintersburg Village. Takeishi's later demonstration flights in the U.S. and his final flight in Japan would make international news.

   While these 1911 events drew more attention and media coverage, the tiny news item about Japanese women forming a ladies' organization at the time California women were campaigning for suffrage speaks volumes.

ABOVE: Charles Mitsuji Furuta, standing near the entrance of the Wintersburg Japanese Mission, holds the Young Christian Endeavor Union banner presented in 1911 by Orange County Christian groups for their work opening the Mission in 1910. Reverend Junzo Nakamura is second from right, standing. They are facing the unpaved Wintersburg Road, now Warner Avenue. The women seated in this photograph most likely were members of the Japanese ladies' society. (Wintersburg Japanese Mission, 1911, Courtesy of Wintersburg Church) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

© All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Wintersburg blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima. 

Friday, April 30, 2021

When chili peppers were king

Chili peppers drying in the sun, the traditional method to dry chilies before Masami Sasaki perfected the use of an assembly line process for dehydrating at his Huntington Beach warehouse complex. (Postcard image, Anaheim Public Library)

    Huntington Beach weathered the Great Depression better than many communities, partly due to one hot reason: chili peppers. Chili peppers were first planted in the Anaheim area circa 1890 and their popularity as a crop ballooned into major enterprise for Orange County. The estimated crop value in 1919 was over $1 million and, by 1921, Orange County was the top producer of chili peppers in the country. 

   "The commercial cultivation of chilis is almost wholly confined to a small territory in Southern California, between the mountains and the sea," reported the California state legislature in 1921. "...the bulk of the chili peppers produced in the United States are from Orange County." 

   The state report noted there were 5,300 acres in Orange County planted in Mexican chili, California chili, and sweet peppers, or pimiento. (Journals of the Legislature of the State of California, Volume 4, 1921).

RIGHT:  As is the case a century after the 1918-1920 flu pandemic, hopeful rumors of antidotes spread like wildfire. One rumor was that chili peppers acted as an antiseptic and that workers in chili pepper canneries were immune due to the pungent odor of chilies. Peppers were good for the cuisine and for Orange County farmers, but not a cure for the flu. (Santa Ana Register, October 28, 1918)

The chili pepper kings

   Known as one of Orange County's chili pepper kings, Masami Sasaki farmed peppers in the Garden Grove, Smeltzer and Wintersburg Village farmland, setting up his pepper drying operation in Huntington Beach. Sasaki's compound of chili pepper dehydrating warehouses was on ranch land owned by William Newland, east of present-day Beach Boulevard and north of Adams Avenue. The warehouses were located where the Newland Shopping Center is today, at the north end.

LEFT: An advertisement in the Santa Ana Register boasted of the "one million dollar pepper crop" industry, citing Masami Sasaki, who "lives south of Garden Grove," as one of the major pepper producers. (Santa Ana Register, April 24, 1923). 

   Sasaki was born in Hiroshima, Japan, and immigrated to the United States in 1907 at age 19. By 1929, Sasaki's chili pepper dehydrating operation was described by the Santa Ana Register as "the largest pepper drying plant in the world", with a growing annual output of a quarter of a million dollars.   

   Preserving California's Japantowns--a statewide project that documented historic resources from pre-World War II Japantowns--reported that "by the 1920s, Japanese Americans were responsible for half of all chili production." They also perfected the method of dehydrating peppers to move them to market quicker, much like Henry Ford's method for manufacturing Model Ts.

   "They had modern dehydrators with heat from a gas furnace blown through a tunnel stacked with chili trays, which dried in a day or so as compared to the about two weeks it took to dry chili pepper in the old kiln dryer," explained Clarence Nishizu in his 1982 oral history with California State University Fullerton. 

RIGHT: As chili peppers became a lucrative crop, chili pepper thievery became a growing concern. The targets of chili pepper thefts reported in the Santa Ana Register were the biggest producers: Japanese American farmers. The Smeltzer Japanese Association in Wintersburg Village and local growers offered rewards for information leading to the arrest of thieves who stole from local chili pepper drying houses. (Santa Ana Register, July 15, 1929)

LEFT: Chili peppers were precious cargo in 1929. A few days after Black Friday, this advertisement for Firestone Tires boasted their tires could handle a load of "15 1/2 tons worth $4,280." (Santa Ana Register, November 3, 1929) 

Chili peppers during the Great Depression

   Just five days before the Great Depression stock market crash on October 25, 1929, Sasaki completed major improvements to his pepper operation in Huntington Beach

   "M. Sasaki and associates have just completed and put in operation at their pepper drying plant here, the first commercial pepper dehydrating plant for peppers ever operated on a commercial scale," reported the Santa Ana Register on October 20, 1929, adding the dehydrating equipment was from the Chapman Dehydrating company, makers of most of the fruit dehydrating plants in California. The equipment cost Sasaki a whopping (in 1929) $15,000 to install and the faster drying time saved him $30,000 annually. 

ABOVE: Scenes from chili pepper production in Orange County from the 1933 publication, Echo, produced by the Nisei (second generation) associated with the Smeltzer Japanese Association in Wintersburg Village. Local residents recall the pungent odor of roasting chilies vented from the dehydrating warehouses on the Newland Ranch land off Beach Boulevard. (Echo, 1933)

    "The pepper plant pay farmers near Huntington Beach over $100,000 a year in land rentals, the pepper growers paying the highest rental on land of any agricultural industry," reported the Santa Ana Register in 1929, adding the local pepper crop was sold all over the nation and that Sasaki's annual output from his dehydrating plant was 40 train carloads and that he also shipped "immense quantities" of peppers for canning. "It is said the majority of the pepper crop is produced in Orange County, with the Huntington Beach district leading in production."  

   The chili pepper crop returns of over $800,000 in December 1929, following the "Black Tuesday" stock market crash two months earlier, were greeted with enthusiasm in Huntington Beach. Sasaki's dehydrating and drying operations on the Newland ranch were credited with processing 600 tons for market, roughly two-thirds of the local pepper crop. Chili peppers were providing jobs and revenue during the Great Depression.

RIGHT: The Santa Ana Register reported a 1000-ton crop at the end of 1929, with the majority of chili peppers processed by Masami Sasaki and his associates, Yamamoto, Yoshikawa, Aoki, and Tatsukawa. Sasaki's drying warehouses were on land leased from William Newland off Hampshire Avenue, the old name for the section of Beach Boulevard near present day Adams Avenue. (Santa Ana Register, December 30, 1930)

LEFT: Dried chili peppers were quickly bought up by the spice industry, including companies like Ben Hur, Gebhardt Chili Powder Company, and C.B. Gentry Chili Powder company. C.B. Gentry located their onion dehydrating operations near Masami Sasaki's pepper drying warehouses in Huntington Beach. C.B. Gentry, founded in 1919, also produced onion and garlic powders. The owner, George Clausen, hired Japanese Americans returning from WWII incarceration in 1945. (Santa Ana Register, August 1, 1933) 

A community leader
   Sasaki was one of the "prominent Japanese" reported by the Santa Ana Register to be invited as a regular speaker at Huntington Beach High School Parent Teacher Association meetings in the 1930s.  He also had been part of a local Business Men's Association, supporting the formation of an Orange County Red Cross chapter in 1917.  

   For the Nisei (second generation), he was an advisor to the Orange County Young Men's Association, coaching them about how to get ahead in business. He also helped organize the first Japanese American Citizens League chapter in Orange County and served as president of the Smeltzer Japanese Association, which met in Wintersburg Village. Sasaki was embraced as a local community leader.

   One of Sasaki's and his business associate, Kamenosuke Aoki, generous acts was to offer his warehouse for local students to learn martial arts, circa 1930. Orange County's martial arts' team won awards and was invited to be part of the first martial arts demonstration at the Xth Olympiad in Los Angeles in 1932. 

RIGHT: Masami Sasaki provided practice space for an award-winning martial arts group taught by Yaju Yamada in the Aoki warehouse at Sasaki's Huntington Beach chili pepper production complex, circa 1930.  Orange County judo students were invited to participate in the first Olympic martial arts demonstration at the Xth Olympiad in 1932 at the Los Angeles Coliseum. (Photo snip, Center for Oral and Public History, California State University Fullerton, PJA 260) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED ©

War and loss
   In April 1941, "well known pepper grower" Masami Sasaki was a featured speaker, along with Reverend Sohei Kowta of the Wintersburg Japanese Mission, at a large community banquet at the Huntington Beach Memorial Hall honoring Japanese American youth who had enlisted in or were drafted into the U.S. military. 

   Other speakers at the 200-person banquet included W. H. Gallienne of the Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce, Col. M.B. Wellington, and G. Nakamura of the Central Japanese Association of Southern California, for which Sasaki had served as vice president. The event included a violin solo by Mary Toyoda of Santa Ana and a koto performance by a Miss Takahashi of Los Angeles.

   Eight months later on December 7, 1941, Sasaki was arrested by the FBI and taken first to the Santa Ana jail.* Sasaki's prominence and success as a businessman, his role as a community leader in numerous organizations, and his connection with martial arts put him on a list. 

   With the arrest and incarceration of community leaders in the agricultural industry, "wartime incarceration of Orange County's Nikkei farmers led to a 75-percent drop in chili production" by 1942.** The removal and incarceration of Japanese American farmers opened the door for those who would take advantage of the loss.

Possession of farms and equipment
   In
May 1942, with only days before Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from Orange County, the Wartime Civil Control Administration announced that "Japanese farm machinery will be kept in motion on west coast land through direct transfer to new operators or redistribution by cooperating equipment dealers." 

LEFT: Masami Sasaki with a truck loaded with chili peppers, circa 1937. (Photo courtesy of Walk The Farm, Tanaka Farms)

   Those unable to sell their equipment in the remaining days were told to give it to equipment dealers or agents with the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Equipment frequently was sold for pennies on the dollar. Equipment deemed "abandoned" could be possessed and sold through the California Evacuated Farms Association under provisions of Section 5(b) of the Trading With the Enemy Act, an indication that all Japanese Americans, including U.S. citizens, would be treated as the enemy. 

      The total number of farms operated by Japanese Americans in the four states in Military Area No. 1 (Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington) was 6,664, but involved only .3 percent of the total farm acreage. The FSA reported in 1942, "These percentages, however, give an entirely misleading indication of the importance of Japanese farming enterprise in the area. The average value per acre of all farms in 1940 was $37.94, whereas that of Japanese farms was $279,96. This difference in value is due primarily to the fact that Japanese agriculture has been a highly intensive and productive enterprise."

BELOW RIGHT:  A complex of warehouses on the William Newland ranch land, circa 1938, including the Masami Sasaki chili pepper dehydrating operations. The warehouses were located on the east side of Beach Boulevard, north of Adams Avenue, the location of present-day Newland Shopping Center.

   "The estimated value of crops grown by Japanese farmers in 1940 in California was $32,317,700," continued the FSA. "it may be fairly stated that the Japanese people were the most important racial minority group engaged in agriculture in the Pacific Coast region. Their systems of farming, types of crops, and land tenure conditions were such that their replacement by other farmers would be extremely difficult. Highly technical personnel would be required to handle such a transition...

   Laurence I. Hewes, Jr., Regional Director for the FSA reported on June 5, 1942 to Col. Karl R. Bendetsen, on the "agricultural phase of the Japanese evacuation" in Western Defense Command Military Area No. 1.

   Hewes wrote, "For purposes of historical interest and the record, it should be borne in mind that the undertaking involved, namely that of transferring, during a period of ten weeks, the farming interests of 6,789 farm operators and 231,492 acres of intensively cultivated land is probably one of the most dramatic events in the agricultural history of the United States. No function heretofor [sic] performed in so short a period in the domestic affairs of the United States can compare in magnitude and intensity with the Japanese evacuation in Military Area No. 1."

Ten weeks
  
In ten weeks, the farms and equipment of Japanese American farmers had been transferred or possessed by the U.S. government. 

   Sasaki and his business associates gave "power of attorney to Mr. Monroe, president of the Garden Grove National Bank...to assign the ongoing chili business and the dehydrator operation," recalled Clarence Nishizu in his 1982 oral history with California State University Fullerton. Nishizu also was in the chili pepper business and had been one of the martial arts students at the Sasaki warehouses.  

   "Mr. Monroe, according to Iwao Aoki, consented to let Yoshimura's Caucasian neighbor take control of the whole property including the chili growing operation," remembered Nishizu. "This fellow became very wealthy by taking over these farms. After all, with the Japanese growers gone, he had control of chili growing and dehydration." 

Fighting for civil liberties
  
Sasaki was taken from the Santa Ana jail in Orange County to Fort Missoula Alien Detention Center, Montana, then to a detention center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, then to the Amache prison camp, Granada, Colorado, and finally, to Tule Lake Segregation Center, California. 

   At Tule Lake, Sasaki, was among the 5,500 prisoners forced to sign papers regarding repatriation to Japan or renunciation of citizenship in the United States. The government planned to remove the citizenship of U.S.-born Japanese Americans and then deport them to Japan. This included those who had never been to Japan. Sasaki helped lead a legal effort to halt the deportations and protect civil liberties.

   American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney Wayne Collins worked for years to restore the rights of those who would be known as "renunciants." The renunciants included children made to sign documents at legal disability (minors with no representation). Among the recorded counter affidavits submitted by Wayne Collins was the affidavit of Masami Sasaki testifying that he was made to sign documents under duress. 

 LEFT: The American Civil Liberties Union News reported on the legal cases of the renunciants, specifically mentioning Masami Sasaki. (American Civil Liberties Union News, Volume XL, December 1946)

   The renunciations were voided as they were forced "under pressure of duress and coercion induced by actions of the United States Government" and that their hearings were unfairly conducted and lacking in procedural due process, and that the law applied was unconstitutional.***  

   Subsection (i), of Section 801 of Title 8 U.S.C.A. was added to Section 801 by the Congress on July 1, 1944, prescribing the "means of losing United States nationality." It was a law specifically created during World War II to remove citizenship of Japanese Americans for the purpose of deportation, or as the federal government referred to it, "involuntary departure."

   In his 2009 oral history interview for Densho Digital Archive about the renunciants, Tetsujiro "Tex" Nakamura describes Sasaki as "a well-established man in Southern California." Nakamura recalls Sasaki saying, "We can't let all these kids go back to Japan. Find a lawyer in San Francisco and see if we could stop the deportations." 

RIGHT: ACLU attorney Wayne Collins in his San Francisco office, ca. 1942.  (Photo courtesy of The Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley)

   The Tule Lake prisoners organized with ACLU attorney Collins, who came to Tule Lake to talk with them about their constitutional rights. Collins filed a class action suit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, in which Sasaki is named as a plaintiff. To fund the lawsuit, they collected small amounts from prisoners, raising between $80,000 to $90,000 from thousands of incarcerees to form the Tule Lake Defense Committee.

   "In the San Francisco U.S. District Court we won the case against deportation on Nov. 13, 1945, but the government soon appealed the case and it then went to the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.," Tex Nakamura told Rafu Shimpo "Senior Moments" columnist Phil Shigekuni in 2013. "...the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a mass class action suit for 10,000 renunciants could not continue, and we were then referred back to the San Francisco U.S. District Court. Each renunciant had to be filed individually and tried individually. It took 10 years to restore all of the renunciants’ citizenships, but it was done!

   In 1952, Wayne Collins announced the renunciations were void by court action. Citizenship for U.S.-born Japanese Americans was restored.

   "You may now register as a voter and vote at elections. You can purchase and lease land and buildings, hold public office, obtain civil service positions and hold public employment on the same basis as any other citizen," wrote Collins. "You cannot be classed or treated as an alien. You cannot be required to register as an alien or to apply for an alien registration card. You can obtain a California fishing license and all other licenses on the same basis and on the same rates as other citizens."

Rebuilding a life
  
Sasaki did not return to Huntington Beach after his release from Tule Lake.

    Walk The Farm, a project initiated by Orange County's Tanaka Farms, reports that Sasaki "invested in real estate after the war. He owned and operated the New Olympic Hotel and later the Miyako Hotel in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles.

   He again involved himself in civic activities, serving as chairman of the Evergreen Cemetery Preservation committee, raising funds for a monument to commemorate Nisei servicemen  killed in action, serving on the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, and helping raise funds for the New Hompa Hongwangi Buddhist temple in Los Angeles.

RIGHT: Masami Sasaki, representing the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, assists with a friendship flight of food and relief aid heading to Nagoya, Japan, following Typhoon Vera. The humanitarian effort was coordinated with the City of Los Angeles and U.S. military. (Los Angeles Times, November 4, 1959)

   In 1984, Masami Sasaki was recognized with 38 pioneer Issei of Orange County at a tribute banquet emceed by Tritia Toyota with KNBC-TV.

   The Issei honored included Wintersburg Japanese Mission clergy, Reverend Kenji Kikuchi, and Wintersburg Village goldfish farmer, Henry Kiyomi Akiyama. Honors included messages from President Ronald Reagan, California Governor George Dukemejian, Orange County Board of Supervisors, state legislators and city councils, and recognition scrolls from the Consulate of Japan. A year earlier, a federal commission issued a report condemning World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans by the U.S. government, stating it was a result of race prejudice, wartime hysteria, and political expediency, following a history of anti-Japanese agitation and legislation.

   "You are our nurturing generation, the one who has passed on our heritage, who paved the way (in America), who led us through the troubled and confused times of the internment," said Ernest Nagamatsu to the group. The tribute was organized by the Bowers Museum Foundation's newly formed Japanese American Council, noting that the Japanese American community's origins in Orange County date back to 1893 yet the history had not been recognized.

   When it was time for Masami Sasaki, age 97, to receive his honors, he strode up to the podium "a frail, but still stately-looking man," reported the Los Angeles Times, adding that "he charmed the crowd with a candid admission that he had forgotten what he was going to say, 'but thank you anyway.'"  From the chili pepper fields and warehouses, to the legal fight for the civil liberties of thousands, Sasaki's work, advocacy, and civic deeds were his statement.

ABOVE: Thirty-eight surviving Issei (first generation) of Orange County at a banquet in their honor in 1984. Huntington Beach's chili pepper king Masami Sasaki, Wintersburg Japanese Mission's Reverend Kenji Kikuchi and his wife, Yoshi, and Wintersburg Village goldfish farmer, Henry Kiyomi Akiyama, were among the honorees. (Los Angeles Times, April 4, 1984)

*Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice, Communications Section, Los Angeles bureau telegram to Washington, D.C.
**Preserving California's Japantowns
*** (Tadayasu Abo v. Clark, 77 F. Supp. 806, N.D. Cal. 1948) 

© All rights reserved. No part of the Historic Wintersburg blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, Mary Adams Urashima. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Announcement: Collaboration with Heritage Museum of Orange County!

 ABOVE: An exhibit installed by Historic Wintersburg at Heritage Museum of Orange County for the Smithsonian Institute traveling exhibit "Hometown Teams." The display focused on Japanese American sports in early 1900s Orange County, including the first Japanese American baseball team in Orange County circa 1920s and Orange County Japanese Americans participating with martial arts demonstrations at the Xth Olympiad in 1932 in Los Angeles. (Photo, M. Urashima, August 19, 2017) © All rights reserved.

   Historic Wintersburg is pleased to announce our formal partnership with a longtime collaborator Heritage Museum of Orange County (HMOC). We will work together on the future preservation of the Furuta farm and Wintersburg Japanese Mission at Historic Wintersburg.

   HMOC has been a cultural and natural history center in Southern California for three decades. The Museum property covers 12 acres, with a historic plaza featuring several buildings from the 1890s set amid extensive floral gardens and citrus groves. The Gospel Swamp Farm at HMOC is maintained by local high school and college volunteers. They are an established 501c3 nonprofit and will be the umbrella nonprofit organization for donations to the Historic Wintersburg preservation project.

RIGHT: The Kellog House at the Heritage Museum of Orange County. This favorite of school groups is one of several historic structures on the 12-acre property. (Photo, Heritage Museum of Orange County)

   Importantly, HMOC's board of directors is committed to honoring and sharing the diversity of Orange County history and actively working with the neighborhoods and communities where history lives. HMOC also has taken a stand against rising hate crimes and incidents targeting Asian Americans. "As a cultural museum, we celebrate and cherish the beautiful diversity that exists around us. And, as a community museum, we provide support through provision of services and resources."

   They're excited about working with Historic Wintersburg and the neighborhood around the property, as well as Huntington Beach's civic, education and arts leaders. And, we're excited about working with HMOC. As a county museum with a large acreage and multiple historic structures, HMOC is a working model for the future of Historic Wintersburg.

LEFT: The 29-year-old taiko collegiate group Jodaiko, with University of California, Irvine, joined Historic Wintersburg at Heritage Museum of Orange County in 2014 for the Smithsonian Institute traveling exhibit Journey Stories. Historic Wintersburg's exhibit shared the journey stories of Japanese Americans. (Photo, M. Urashima, October 25, 2014) © All rights reserved.

   There will be future updates on the progress of discussions with Republic Services regarding the sale of the Historic Wintersburg property for preservation, as well as on our collaborative vision with HMOC and Historic Wintersburg's neighbors and schools.

   Meanwhile, take a stroll through the 12-acre HMOC's website to learn more about them.  Join the Historic Wintersburg Facebook page and also the Facebook page for HMOC. If you would like to support the Historic Wintersburg preservation effort, you can contact HMOC at info@heritagemuseumoc.org and your donation can be sent to: Heritage Museum of Orange County, 3101 W. Harvard St. Santa Ana, CA 92704, with a notation in the subject line for "Historic Wintersburg Preservation." 

ABOVE: Film and television actor Derek Mio--a Huntington Beach High School alumnus--and Academy Award-winning director and actor Chris Tashima, at an outdoor screening of their film, Day of Independence, with Historic Wintersburg at Heritage Museum of Orange County during the Smithsonian Institute traveling exhibit, Hometown Teams. (Photo, M. Urashima, 2017) © All rights reserved.

© All rights reserved. No part of the Historic Wintersburg blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, Mary Adams Urashima.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Giving Thanks: Opening doors during hard times

 

ABOVE: The Wintersburg Japanese Church building is the third of the Wintersburg Japanese Mission buildings, following construction of the 1910 Mission building and 1910 manse (parsonage). It was constructed during the Great Depression, funded by small donations from around Orange County. This photograph was taken for the official dedication in December 1934. At this time, the mission effort had been official recognized as a church by the Presbyterian USA. (Photo: Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church, December 10, 1934. Courtesy Wintersburg Church.)

   Thirty years after the founding of the Wintersburg Mission in 1904, the third of the Mission buildings was planned for completion by Thanksgiving 1934. It had not been easy. Fundraising for the new mission building had begun before "Black Friday" shocked the nation in October 1930, shutting down banks and freezing funds. The Church fund lost over $500, its initial seed money for the project.

   "We collected donations little by little. First, we deposited the money in the Huntington Beach Bank, a state bank. But in the prime of the Depression, the deposits were frozen," remembers Rev. Kikuchi.  "Charlie's (Ishii) father and I ran to the Huntington Beach Bank but the bank was closed. We almost felt like crying. But, later, when we fixed pews in the church, we could draw our deposit from the bank after the arrangement by the government. In this way, we collected small amounts of money little by little."

RIGHT: The Huntington Beach Bank at Main and Walnut streets in Huntington Beach, circa 1910. The bank was established in 1904, the same year the Wintersburg Mission effort was founded. It eventually became the First National Bank of Huntington Beach and the Savings Bank of Huntington Beach. (Photo courtesy of City of Huntington Beach archives)

   As construction neared completion in 1934, the Santa Ana Register noted, "the building plans of the congregation were set back several years ago when the closing of a bank wiped out more than $500. Through contributions from Japanese of Orange county and members of other county Presbyterian churches, the fund has been replenished". The Santa Ana Register also noted the building would open on the 30th anniversary of "one of the oldest Japanese missions in California".

   The cost of the 1934 Church building was $5,500. The main sanctuary space was set to seat 300 people, initially divided by a folding partition to provide quarters for the Christian Endeavor and Sunday school groups. The Santa Ana Register reported the Church also was "fitted up" with a kitchen, a pastor's study, restrooms and a cloak room, and would be finished with a white stucco exterior. 

RIGHT: A sugar beet wagon races down an unpaved and dusty Wintersburg Road in front of the Furuta farm, circa 1914. The road was still unpaved when the Church building opened in 1934 and wooden planks were placed on the ground as walkways. (Photograph courtesy of the Furuta family)

   In order to construct the 1934 Church building in a prominent location in Wintersburg Village fronting Wintersburg Road (Warner Avenue) and Southern Street (Nichols Lane), the 1910 wooden Mission building was moved back from the main road. The three mission buildings were constructed on a parcel of land donated to the mission by Charles Mitsuji Furuta, who owned the entire five-acre goldfish farm now known as Historic Wintersburg. The 1910 Mission building would be used as a social hall, for Sunday school, and as a boys club, once the new, larger Church building opened.

   Orange County architect Everett E. Parks designed the 1934 Wintersburg Japanese Church. Parks architecture office was in Santa Ana, which he shared with his partner, Irene McFaul, one of the few women licensed to practice architecture in the state of California at the time. 

LEFT: An advertisement placed by architect Everett E. Parks is on the upper right of a full-page feature with congratulatory messages in the Santa Ana Register for the opening of a new, larger venue for Tony's Cafe in Santa Ana. Parks designed the new cafe in the Spanish Revival style popular during the 1930s in southern California. (Santa Ana Register, August 6, 1937)

   Parks is noted as the architect for the Automobile Club of Southern California office in Anaheim and the second building for the First Baptist Church of Santa Ana in 1953.  He also designed Tony's Cafe on Bush Street in Santa Ana for longtime, popular Orange County restaurateur Tony Barrio in 1937. Parks was president of the American Institute of Architects Orange County chapter in 1952, bringing national affiliation for the former Orange County Architects organization. 

   Designed in the Spanish Revival style, the Wintersburg Japanese Church kept with a simple aesthetic. The interior structure is comprised of old growth redwood, which has retained an almost new appearance today when viewed through the open ceiling. Additional investment was made for two features of the Church building: the front entrance door and the tall windows running down each side of the rectangular shaped sanctuary space. The front door, when viewed from the interior is carved walnut. 

RIGHT: Fragments of the original amber-color glass from the 1934 Wintersburg Japanese Church building. It was intended to fill the sanctuary space with light and energy. (Photo, M. Urashima, 2016)

   The windows were amber-colored glass. The ancient Greek word for amber is "elektron" meaning sun. Ancient Greeks knew that amber, when rubbed, produces an electric charge. The use of the color amber in ancient religious settings is a reference to spiritual energy and light, the sun or fire, including its use in Zoroastrian temples. The symbolism of the color amber as relates to a Christian house of worship is referenced in the Bible (Ezekial 1:27) as representing a bright and overwhelming presence. When it came time to choose the glass for the windows of the 1934 Church building---which was washed with white paint on the interior and exterior---the color amber was chosen to fill the space with light and energy.

   The goal of completing construction by Thanksgiving was accomplished, with the official dedication of the Church building on December 10, 1934. Over 700 people attended the dedication event in Wintersburg Village, contributing that day an additional reported $667.29 toward the $5,500 budget to help with interior furnishings. 

LEFT: The program for the dedication ceremony of the Wintersburg Japanese Church on December 10, 1934. Charles Mitsuji Furuta, an elder with the mission and the first Japanese to be baptized as Christian in Orange County, spoke at the dedication which featured a violin solo, "Romance" by composer Johan Svendsen, by Furuta's niece, Sumi Akiyama. Sumi would marry Judge John Aiso, who directed the Military Intelligence Language School and was the highest ranking Japanese American in the U.S. Army during WWII. Listen to a version of "Romance." (Image courtesy of the Furuta family)

Reverend Kenji Kikuchi, who had been with the mission throughout the planning and building process said during his address that "Go Forward" had been the congregation's slogan as they continued fundraising and building through the Great Depression. Earlier clergy for the mission were at the dedication, including founder Reverend Barnabus H. Terasawa of San Francisco, Reverend Paul Nakamura of Los Angeles, and Reverend Watanabe of San Diego. 

   Another featured speaker was Hisamatsu Tamura on behalf of the Smeltzer Japanese Association in Wintersburg Village. Hisamatsu Tamura is the father of Stephen Kosaku Tamura for whom the West Justice Center in Westminster, California, was renamed on November 6, 2020. Historical background on Stephen Tamura provided by Historic Wintersburg was used in the renaming application that went before the California Judicial Council.

  The Santa Ana Register reported on December 10, 1934, that congratulatory telegrams were received from around California and that there were speakers and well-wishers from other Orange County and Los Angeles churches. The dedication program included official photographs and "motion pictures" were planned to have been filmed*, after which there was a reception serving "Japanese dainties and tea." 

     In its life, the 1934 Church would be witness to the upbringing of Fountain Valley's first mayor James Kanno, Orange County's first Japanese American attorney Stephen Tamura, community carnivals, marriages, funerals, and the interrogation of clergy and congregation by the FBI in 1942. The Church would be shuttered during the forced removal and incarceration of Orange County's Japanese American community during WWII, reopening in 1945. In 1948, the memorial services for SSgt. Kazuo Masuda, a hero of the "Go For Broke" 442nd Regimental Combat Team recognized in 1945 and again in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan, were held inside the Church with military honor guard. There are multiple Congressional Medal of Honor recipients among the congregants.

   Conceived prior to the Great Depression, the 1934 Wintersburg Japanese Church building--one of six historic structures on the endangered National Treasure Historic Wintersburg property--was born during hard times, and achieved through the perseverance and "go forward" mindset that would see the community through the years ahead.

ABOVE: An image from the Santa Ana Register, reporting on the dedication of the 1934 Church building of the Wintersburg Japanese Mission. (Santa Ana Register, December 10, 1934)

*Motion pictures referred to in the program for the December 10, 1934, dedication have to-date not been found. Please contact Historic Wintersburg if you have information.

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