Another Side of Manzanar - Ben Baker

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Many thanks to Ben Baker for sending me the information for this page.

Manzanar Monument
Manzanar 360geographic Movie

Landis Bennett 360Geographics website.
Hi Ray,

Here's some Manzanar stuff. I thought I'd add a bit of another perspective to the story. It may not be polite politically but I really don't care as I know a bit more about it than some of the professed experts.

My folks, Ben and Margaret Baker (both pharmacists) owned two drug stores, one in Independence and one in Lone Pine. Dad also had the distributorship for the L.A. papers. He had a model A that was used by the Japanese man who worked for him at Manzanar. The bus would drop off the papers on U.S. 395 and the fellow would pick them up and distribute them to the various mess halls around the camp. I don't know what Dad paid him, besides the legal use of a car, but I do remember that when we visited Manzanar, my Dad would take him a case of ketchup for himself and his friends as the mess hall food was reportedly bland. We sold hamburgers at the Lone Pine soda fountain and evidently had access to ketchup.

On a side note, I remember that somehow my Dad had acquired a lot of fireworks and they were stored in the drug store basement. When the war was over he handed them out free. The old timers used to laugh about the time "Ben Baker, damn near blew up Lone Pine."

I watched the movie on TV about "Return to Manzanar" and told my wife, "Bullshit!" When we went out to Manzanar my Dad would leave me to play with the Japanese children while he did his business and never a problem. I remember the rock guardhouse and the soldier in it. I believe my dad liked me, and as a WWI vet had enough sense not to leave me in danger. When Hollywood gets a story it seems truth sometimes is not necessary.

The US made some big mistakes in their treatment of the Japanese and then we compensated all and not the ones who lost the most.

The fact is, it was not the "Hell Hole" it has been made out to be. As I type this in my home office, my telephone is sitting on a beautiful small table made by the Japanese at Manzanar. I am attaching a letter that my mother received shortly before her death from a doctor friend, Selda Anthony Palmer, who was in the valley and assisted at my birth. It tells it like it was from an actual participant. I remember her [Dr. Selda] as a kid because she had two parrots, Jimmy and Polly that did a duet to "South of the Boarder."

Ben Baker
Oro Valley, AZ 2009

 Another Side of Manzanar by Dr. Selda Anthony Palmer
January 5th, '95 already yet!

Margaret dear,

Brace yourself! I feel a real letter coming on! First of all, thank you for giving me East of the Sierra, by Katharine Krater. Wasn't she married to Frank Krater, who worked for the Water and Power, and didn't she have a cute little round face and a youthful appearance? I think that they were patients of mine once in a while. I can hardly realize how very long ago that was!

The book is well written, and it brought back memories way before 1937 when I first landed in the house on Edwards Street, now a museum. My mother's people were pioneers in Inyo County. Grandfather Richard Eldred was Sheriff and Tax Collector for the county in 1889 - 1890. The Eldreds live in Avena (West Bishop) by 1879. Later on they lived in the Blaney House. Birdie Yandell was my mother's best friend. All the family attended the little church in Independence. It was fun to read of early days in the county seat.

Farewell to Manzanar

Tokyo Rose

Original Tokyo Rose WWII recordings.
However, there was one part of the book that I didn't like, the story of the compound at Manzanar. I was in and out of that place from its very beginning until [its] closure. It was never at any time a "concentration camp!" The barb wire fence Katharine called a strong one was only a flimsy affair that anyone could duck under. The U.S. soldiers patrolled only outside the camp. The Japanese had their own security forces, clad in plum colored uniforms with natty breeches yet. To enter, one got a permit from a civilian guard outside the main gate, then passed the sentry box, and next showed the pass to one of the Japanese security guards. They usually took their time letting you and [your] car proceed too! We all had to drive slowly on the compound roads, of course, but all too often Japanese would stroll slowly in the middle of the road and hold up the car.

The reason I could go there so much is that I had a dear friend inside, a Doctor Yoshiye Togosaki. "Togi," as we all called her at the Los Angeles General Hospital, was first an intern (as I was) and eventually became head of the Contagion Hospital there. Togi set up the immunization program for all of the camps, and she made several trips to Manzanar from Los Angeles as a head of the convoy before she finally entered to stay. I got free immunization for myself from her, and then watched while she spoke in Japanese to a few scared mamasans or in English to others.

A fact that is ignored by all the liberal do-gooders is that if a Japanese chose to move inland on his own for the wars duration, he was never placed in a camp. Dr. Hara, a specialist in ear, nose and throat and diseases of the lungs, chose to do this. Later on, Togi left the camp to go to Italy and work under UNRA as a physician.

I had dinner with her there often, and the food was excellent. She gave me a pound of coffee once in a while, as they were "limited to a pound a week" and preferred tea anyway,.

Snow on Cedars

Miss Breed
Another fact not known generally is that each person was paid money each month. Eight dollars if they chose not to do any work at all in camp, and sixteen dollars if they chose to work in some capacity. Togi, of course, was on duty in the hospital. Incidentally, that hospital had access to medications that we couldn't get outside. A Dr. Goto, also trained at L.A. General, was a bad actor from the start. He gave Dr. Togi a bad time and when the second December 7th rolled around, he was with the masked bunch who terrorized the folks (Japanese) there. The men were hunting for a Japanese man who had been given U.,S. citizenship after WWI. The medical staff at the hospital hid him out in the sagebrush, probably saved his life. It was pretty dicey there until extra soldiers arrived to help guard. The masked guys were all taken to Death Valley and held there until they could be sent to another compound, the one where insurgents were interned.

Do you recall when they had that prisoner exchange via the ship Gripsholm? We sent fat and sassy Japanese and got back gaunt, abused Americans. Well, when they were lining up just who might be exchanged to Japan, some white do-gooders were trying to argue some of the young people in the Manzanar camp to go back to Japan! Those of us with any sense at all argued against that. The war was not over, and what would have happened to young Japanese Americans dumb enough to go?

The only reprehensible thing about Manzanar was that some bureaucrat had the Japanese cars left out in the desert sun to gradually fall apart. They should have bought them, given the money to the owners or held it for them, and sold the automobiles to the rest of us driving cars ready to collapse!

war poster

American Pastime
The only thing that Dr. Togi said to me about the internment was that the Germans and Italians should have been interned as well. To which I replied "Togi, they couldn't identify them as well." Those of us living on the coast of California had good reason to be leery of the Japanese in our midst. Many a family working as dirt farmers were close to the Emperor and sent much information to Japan. Furthermore, every Japanese who lived on the coast would have been suspect, and there would have been atrocities committed against them. In fact, when Dr. Togi drove up to Inyo two white nurse friends of hers went with her "to see that no one hurt her en route." They all had a meal in a restaurant en route, and someone spit on her car. Actually, internment protected the Japanese from such treatment, or worse.

My father and mother lived in Japan for some time before I was born. At that time, a young Japanese woman father had been teaching English said, "When we conquer your country, Dr. Anthony, I will see that you are protected." Later on, around 1910, another young man said much the same thing to him. The Pearl Harbor attack was planned long before it ever happened.

Well, dear, I have exploded in print! Hope that you're not worn out reading it. I had a nice Christmas and New Year's right here at New Silver Beach. Knocked myself out putting on my Christmas Eve at home, but it was worth it. Spend New Year's Eve having an early supper with a little family just down the street. All young folks, which I liked! Now I must continue trying to catch up with correspondence.

Bye bye and Love,



WW2 War Relocation Authority Center History  
Manzanar - American Memory Project  

Manzanar High School Portraits & History  

Aubrey Hemming - More Manzanar Journal

Manzanar Free Press


Manzanar Town, Owens Valley


 Owens Valley Aqueduct Portraits & History

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This page was last updated on 03 October 2019