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A letter from my jichan

In 1942 my jichan [Japanese for grandfather] wrote a letter to a friend and despite all that was going on, he talks about baseball

A letter
A letter
Yokomi family

My maternal grandfather or jichan was a farmer in Central California and was raising his family when World War II began. I'm not going to go too much into this part as there are historians that do it much better but in February 1942, the President of the United States signed an Executive Order 9066 which ordered persons of Japanese descent out of certain areas of the country, primarily California.

I am not going to debate that order nor go into much else about that, I do suggest if you are interested, you should look it up. But this is how that order affected my mother's family and how that relates to the letter.

My grandfather moved his family from Central California to Roggen, small town east of Denver. There, he settled his family on a farm where they leased land and farmed it for the duration of World War II.

When I was growing up, there wasn't a lot mentioned about this time, they would tell us kids about cold winter nights in Colorado and the small amount of food they had to share. No one talked about the politics or even the war, it was just something that happened.

I kind of recall my grandfather mentioning seeing barnstorming teams back in the 1930s, seeing Ruth and Gehrig, but never that much about playing baseball himself.

So when I saw this letter and saw the part about playing baseball in Roggin, I was surprised. He talks of how they had formed a team and how "they sure looked like heck" because they didn't have uniforms. He says how lucky they were to win a few games and how there are so many good players in Colorado.

Mind you, this in August 1942, not quite six months after learning you had to leave your homes and so after gathering your family and what little belongings you can bring, then traveling hundreds of miles, you set up your new life and you still find time for baseball.

By the time us grandchildren entered the picture, my grandfather wasn't playing baseball, we watched games at his house and on a few occasions he and I went to a Dodger game, I think I went with him to Opening Day in 1982 when the Dodgers got their 1981 World Series ring.

I have always wondered what I would have done if I had to make the decisions that my grandfather did, would I have had the belief in myself to move my family all those miles to a place I didn't know just to stay together. I am glad, I won't have to make those decisions and I am very glad he did because who knows what would have happened if he didn't.

But now I am also glad that baseball was a tonic for him, that he could use that game as a refuge from the everyday struggles he had. I share that with him and for that I am thankful that I got more than just my heritage from my jichan.