APRIL 26, 1943
LOS ANGELES , Sunday—At 8:30 last Friday morning, with several members of the War Relocation Authority Staff, we left Phoenix, Arizona, and drove to Gila. This is desert country which flowers only when water is brought to it. Water is available if you work hard enough to irrigate the land. The War Relocation Authority has leased some of this land for the Japanese evacuees from the Pacific Coast.
The contractors who built the barracks to house the fourth largest city in Arizona, simply scraped everything away, so there are temporary barracks set down in a field of sand and hard baked ground. When the wind blows everything is covered with sand.
The sun beats down on these rows of barrack buildings, which are divided into spaces about 25 by 20 feet, and in these spaces families have begun their lives anew. Many of them have made screens out of anything they could find available, and these are used to create privacy.
Everything is spotlessly clean, and it is quite evident that the community washing centers, both for people and clothes, are frequently used. The community mess halls have nearly all been decorated with paper streamers, paper flowers and paintings. The food is adequate within the limits of rationing. We shared a meal that was served to the staff, minus meat, butter, sugar and coffee.
The people work and around almost every barracks you can see the results of their labor. Sometimes there are little Japanese gardens, sometimes vegetables or flowers bloom, sometimes bushes transplanted from the desert grow high enough to afford a little shade. Makeshift porches and shades have been improvised by some out of gunny sacks and bits of wood salvaged from packing cases.
There are several industries going on to aid the war effort. To take part in them, you must be an American citizen, and you must be checked by the FBI and the War Relocation Authority for loyalty to the United States.
The city, itself, can employ a good many people and the 7,000 acres under cultivation for the community require much work and attention. This is under the direction of an expert farmer and they produce an astonishing amount of food.
When the war came there were in the United States about 127,500 Japanese, two-thirds of whom were American born and, therefore citizens. 112,000 were on the Pacific Coast. The center at Gila happens to have more agricultural land than some of the other centers.
Fortunately, many of the people have been specialists in the growth of some particular type of vegetable or flower. They are now learning to be more all-around farmers than they have ever been before. Of course, like any other city of its size, there is a great variety of backgrounds and a larger percent of college graduates than is usual in a town of about 13,000 inhabitants.
(COPYRIGHT, 1943, BY UNITED FEATURE SYNDICATE. INC.)
About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, April 26, 1943
Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007
- Brick, Christopher (Editor)
- Regenhardt, Christy (Associate Editor)
- Black, Allida M. (Editor)
- Binker, Mary Jo (Associate Editor)
- Alhambra, Christopher C. (Electronic Text Editor)
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