Poston, Arizona, during WWII

Today, Poston is a small agricultural community in the middle of the Colorado River Indian Reservation in western Arizona. On the south edge of town stands a tall monument to the people of Japanese ethnicity interned in the Poston Camps during WWII. Three camps were built on the reservation over the objections of the Tribal Council; at their peak, over 17,000 people were interned for no reason other than they or their ancestors had come from Japan.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Plaque on the Memorial:

“This memorial is dedicated to all those men, women and children who suffered countless hardships and indignities at the hands of a nation misguided by wartime hysteria, racial prejudice and fear. May it serve as a constant reminder of our past so that Americans in the future will never again be denied their constitutional rights and may the remembrance of that experience serve to advance the evolution of the human spirit.

This memorial monument is erected in cooperation with the Colorado River Indian Tribes, former internees of Poston, Veterans and Friends of the Fiftieth year observance of the evacuation and internment.

October 6, 1992″

Desert at Poston in 2020
1942 contruction of the Camp (National Archives, Fred Clark photographer)
June 1, 1942, from the top of the water tower looking southwest (National Archives, Fred Clark)
Opening day at the Community Store, 1942 (National Archives, Fred Clark)
September, 1945 (National Archives , Hikaru Iwasaki photographer)

One of the most haunting photos; Left to right: George, son of Hisa and Yasubei Hirano with a photograph of their other son, Shigera, who had enlisted October 22, 1941. (National Archives, unknown photographer).

George Hirano was among the 611 internees who enlisted from the camps. Twenty-four internees from Poston Camp lost their lives fighting for the U.S. in WWII.

THAT DAMNED FENCE

(anonymous poem circulated at the Poston Camp)

They’ve sunk the posts deep into the ground
They’ve strung out wires all the way around.
With machine gun nests just over there,
And sentries and soldiers everywhere.

We’re trapped like rats in a wired cage,
To fret and fume with impotent rage;
Yonder whispers the lure of the night,
But that DAMNED FENCE assails our sight.

We seek the softness of the midnight air,
But that DAMNED FENCE in the floodlight glare
Awakens unrest in our nocturnal quest,
And mockingly laughs with vicious jest.

With nowhere to go and nothing to do,
We feel terrible, lonesome, and blue:
That DAMNED FENCE is driving us crazy,
Destroying our youth and making us lazy.

Imprisoned in here for a long, long time,
We know we’re punished–though we’ve committed no crime,
Our thoughts are gloomy and enthusiasm damp,
To be locked up in a concentration camp.

Loyalty we know, and patriotism we feel,
To sacrifice our utmost was our ideal,
To fight for our country, and die, perhaps;
But we’re here because we happen to be Japs.

We all love life, and our country best,
Our misfortune to be here in the west,
To keep us penned behind that DAMNED FENCE,
Is someone’s notion of NATIONAL DEFENCE!

From the National Archives

September 1942 Desert Magazine, p5; from an article that tries to downplay the hardships faced by the internees.

When I was growing up, one of my best friends was the daughter of a “Japanese-American” who had served in Europe, while his wife and their parents had been interned. They were as American as any of us.

Red Rock Canyon, Calif.

The Old West in Fact and on the Screen

A 1933 postcard of the rock formation, Western Publishing & Novelty
(C.T. Art-Colotone printer) (no copyright notice)

Located in the Mohave Desert at the southern tip of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Red Rock Canyon is a “pass” between the Sierra Nevada and the El Paso Mountains; it was used by Native Americans as a trading route for centuries. The local Kawaiisu used the area as a winter settlement at the dawn on recorded history in the area, calling it “the canyon with rocks on fire.”

In January/February 1850, pioneers who crossed Death Valley in the “lost ’49’s party” followed a native trail through here, finding water and passage to the west after having spent months in the desert on a “shortcut” to the coast. By 1862, a wagon route was established, used by freight wagons and stage coaches. In the 1890s, gold was mined, but the deposits were never plentiful.

1901 USGS photograph by Marius Robinson Campbell.
1901 USGS photograph by Marius Robinson Campbell.

From October 1908 until December 1910, the 8.35 mile Red Rock Railroad carried supplies to the local camp of the workers constructing the Los Angeles Aqueduct from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles.

Purportedly the first automobile trip through the Canyon was in 1905. By the 1930s, a paved road ran through the canyon on the route from Los Angeles to Bishop (along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas).

By the 1920s, tourists has discovered the area, and soon the spectacular scenery caused it to be used for location filming for numerous movies and TV programs (Jurassic Park, Westworld, Wagon Train, Battle Star Galactica, to name but a few).

In the photographs above, Yuccas figure prominently in the landscape (1933 USGS photo).

After decades to talk about preserving the Canyon, in 1968 the area became a California State Park.

1999 USGS photo by Dominic Oldershaw

Yuccas are not as prevalent due to climate and geological changes, as well as humans disturbing the soil.

July 2015, by the author
The yuccas are returning.

These photos were taken on a trip up the Eastern Sierras in 2015; State Route 14 runs through the State Park. It was a hot summer day on the desert and the Park was not manned due to budget issues in the State government, so there was no one around when we turned into the parking area (there is very limited camping). This would be a spectacular year to visit the park as we had late rain and the wildflowers must be magnificent.

Red Rock Canyon is only a couple of hours out of Los Angeles, but a world away!

A Hero’s Story: Dr. Li Wenliang

History is made every day. We’re all touched by what is happening; this reblog celebrates Dr. Wenliang’s courage:

Odyssey

When the first coughs could be heard emanating from the markets of Wuhan in December, I would be willing to bet most people thought nothing of it.

It’s December- all kinds of coughs, colds, and cases of flu are going around – no need to panic.

However, those coughs would soon progress into a deep, grumbling wail from the lungs – incapacitating its hosts until they were left gasping for air in a hospital bed.

Soon, it became apparent that this was a new, unforeseen enemy – one much worse than a typical cold or flu that circulates every year. The new decade was to start in the hands of a new enemy.

One man who warned us was Dr. Li Wengliang. Just five months ago, blew the whistle on coronavirus – describing it as a SARS-type of illness to his medical students on WhatsApp.

Born in 1986, Li was…

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A Virtual tour of Yellowstone Park in 1897

COVID-19 has most of us staying home or only working in essential industries; a large part of my work is the farm I live on, so I’m doing both. In my “spare time,” I’m going through some of the things stashed away when a family lives in a house for 70 years; among the gems I found when my mother passed away 20 years ago was a red box of photographs with a gold label: “Yellowstone National Park in Water Color. Published by F. Jay Haynes, St. Paul, Minn.”

She loved books, new, used, antique, so I assume she purchased it in a bookstore. Inside the box was handwrotten “1897” so I think they were purchased at Haynes’ store in Yellowstone that year. Haynes was the official photographer for the Northern Pacific Railway and received his first photo concession in Yellowstone in 1884.

Minerva Terrace
Pulpit Terrace
Golden Gate, East Entrance
Golden Gate Canyon
Mammoth Paint Pots
Old Faithful Geyser
The Punch Bowl
Crater of the Oblong
Great Falls of the Yellowstone [River]
Point Lookout & Great Falls
Grand Canyon [of the Yellowstone River], From the Brink
Inspiration Point from Grand View
On the back of the mats.

I hope you have enjoyed this tour in time and space.

My heart goes out to everyone who has lost someone; Stay Strong!

Someday I’ll get back to history

A Medjool Date Palm

As most of you know, I love the real life stories that make up the history of the Southwest. But, my time is now taken up with living through what will be tomorrow’s history.

While most of California has been very quiet as we try to stay at home, I live in an agricultural area where life goes on with many, many precautions. We have fruit trees, dates, figs & sweet limes, so we’re in a “Critical Infrastructure Industry. ” We wear home made face masks, wash our hands constantly, & try to talk to our workers at a distance, which is a challenge to my hearing as I get older. My knees and back are also complaining.

Often the beginning of April is marked by a heat wave, and the attendees of the Coachella and Stagecoach Music Festivals walk around sporting lobster red sunburns from standing in the sun. However, this year even the weather is sad this year as the sky cries rain. I took this picture during a clearing in the middle of the storm that is slowly making it way east.

To anyone who reads this, STAY STRONG & WELL. I pray we will all come out safe on the other side.

The First Salton Sea

Prehistorically, the Gulf of California extended north through the Imperial and Coachella Valleys; over time geologic shifts and water borne silt changed the topography of the land near the Mexican Border, cutting it off from the Gulf to create the Salton Sink. Subsequently, the Colorado River would change course, on and off creating a vast inland sea, now called Ancient Lake Cahuilla. Around 1580, the last vast lake evaporated.

Tufa deposits mark the shoreline of Ancient Lake Cahuilla, Coachella Valley

Before construction of Laguna Dam in the early twentieth century, the Colorado was still an active river, draining much of the Western US. Springing from watershed high in the snowy Rockies, the “Red River” raced southward and downward, carving the Grand Canyon and other marvelous canyons as it dashed on to the Sea of Cortez. As it approached the Gulf of California, the landscape changed, leaving behind the rock canyons and allowing the river to meander, creating an alluvial delta with the material carried downstream. Captain J. H. Mellon, who operated steamboats on the Lower Colorado, estimated the silt extended the delta fan into the Gulf by more than 6 miles over the course of the 40 years prior to 1905. (H.T. Cory, The Imperial Valley and The Salton Sink, Part IV, (John J. Newbegin, 1915), a reprint of Irrigation and River Control in the Colorado River Delta, from Vol. LXXVI, Transactions American Society of Engineers, p. 1214.)

Smaller overflows of the Colorado River banks continued into the nineteenth century, down the New and Alamo River channels, flowing into the Salton Basin and duly evaporating.

The winter of 1890/91 was the wettest since readings began being kept in 1850. In February, 1891, a number of breaks in the west bank of the Colorado allowed water to spill over into the delta and the New River channel. In June, when Spring runoff brought high water again, more water spilled into the streams running north into the Salton Trough reaching Salton, site of the New Liverpool Salt Works.

From The Californian: Illustrated Magazine, Vol. I, No. 1 October 1891.

The sea was approximately 40 miles long and 10 miles wide, but only 4 feet deep. (B. A. Cecil-Stephens, “The Colorado Desert and its Recent Flooding,” Journal of the American Geographical Society of New York, Vol. 23 (1891), pp. 367-377)

In July 1891, the New York Times printed remarks by John Wesley Powell, Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, that even if the lake were filled to the level of the river, it would evaporate at the rate of approximately 6 feet per year.

In 1892, a wood engraving (based on the Cecil-Stephens map) was published in La Nouvelle Géographie universelle, la terre et les hommes, 19 vol. (1875-94), text by Elisee Reclus. The Cartographer was Charles Perron (vol 16, pg 575). A hand-colored copy of the engraving is shown here.

The first Salton Sea did indeed evaporate due to the extreme heat and lack of sufficient incoming water sources. The situation was totally different following the 1905/07 flooding, as the entire river was diverted into the trough creating the lake, and runoff from agriculture in the Imperial Valley provided a new source of water to replenish that lost to evaporation.

For information on the 1905/07 flooding that created the current Salton Sea, my blog page Creation of the Salton Sea has a preview of a book I’ve written. historytrove.com/creation-of-the-salton-sea/

Needles, CA

Snoopy’s brother Spike lives near Needles with his Cactus companion. As he said in Peanuts on October 12, 1993: “Life in the desert is exciting. Last night the sun went down and this morning the sun came up. There’s always something happening.”*

The Needles rock formation that lent its name to the city.

Needles was, and is, a railroad town

The Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad founded the town in 1883.

After the first station burned in 1906, ATSF built a new station, El Garces Hotel, and a Harvey House restaurant that was considered the jewel of the system.
Vehicle approach to El Graces today.
The hotel & restaurant were closed in 1949 and the building was totally abandoned in 1988. In 1999, the City purchased the building; in 2007, renovation was begun with the goal of reopening a hotel, shops, restaurant and train station. However, due to problems with loans on a municipal building and restrictions on use of federal funds, the private part of the project was abandoned.
The World War I memorial sits before a largely unused, beautiful building. In 2016, a waiting room for Amtrak passengers was created, open 11pm to 2am when the Southwest Chief passes through. There is also The El Garces Intermodal Transportation Facility which occupies a small part of the building. The park in front is often occupied by transients.

Needles is also on Historic Route 66

Traveling East to West on Route 66. the first city in California is Needles.
The Old Trails Inn used to greet travelers heading West on Route 66.
Today the remaining cabins are The Palms Apartments
The trains still roll through; tourists still travel Route 66; and the sun still goes down and comes up on Needles

*As a boy, Charles Schultz lived in Needles 1928-1930.