Another Side of Manzanar - Ben Baker
thanks to Ben Baker for sending me the information for this page.
Manzanar 360geographic Movie
Landis Bennett 360Geographics website.
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."
Oro Valley, AZ 2009
Side of Manzanar by Dr. Selda Anthony Palmer
5th, '95 already yet!
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
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
Original Tokyo Rose WWII recordings.
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.
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
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,.
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.
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!
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,
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,