Today is March 26,1981. Louise Bachford is talking with Mrs. Mildred Garrison who
lives at 2232 Ridge Road in Littleton, Colorado. Dr. David Alexander, archivist at
Auraria Library is also present. Our subject is the Japanese relocation in Colorado
during 1942 to '45, with special reference to the Granada Relocation Center or Amache.
MG: I think the schools did a great deal to bridge the gap. And I have a lot of letters
here that were written to my husband upon the occasion of the people of that
community down there, Wiley I think it was called, canceled the game, a football game
that the boys were suppose to play with the boys from the Amache School. And they, it
seems three of the staff, my husband and the high school principal and his assistant,
went out to them, went to them to find out why they cancelled. Well it seems that five
parents, mothers apparently, had refused to let their boys play against the Japanese.
So the game had been cancelled. And apparently my husband held an assembly and
explained to these boys that it wasn't the children themselves who had the prejudice, it
was some adults who couldn't accept the Japanese and had a past prejudice. And I
think there may be a hundred letters there and I'll let you have some of them if you like.
MG: And I thought also some of these things, anything that I have a duplicate of, you
might like to have. But thats one example of how the school tried to breach the
LB: How did you come to go there? How did
MG: My husband had been working on a federal job. He had a Ph.D. from Yale and he
started out afterward in Jefferson City, Missouri as dean of a junior college. He had
majored in the junior college field and it was a combination two years of high school and
college. Well that's really not pertinent to your study. At any rate, he didn't want to stay
there. He found that he was just a high school principal which he didn't like. A high
school principal was much more. So he took some federal work for a year. Was on the
road, administering some federal funds for impacted areas, school funds where they
had, Lanamac, I believe they called it. And he was administering those funds. But then
Congress didn't vote any more money for the Lanamac and suddenly he was home
without a job. And we were still in Jefferson City and he came out to Colorado because
he had gotten his degrees out here and was well known out here.
^_B: Had he heard about this Center?
fVIG: No, he hadnt. He just applied at the federal office and in this area. We wanted to
130me back here anyway. Im an asthmatic in the East and one of our daughters was
Â§Decoming asthmatic so we wanted to come back. So they placed him down there.
Ifhere was a period of 3 or 4 months when he was just looking for something.
LB: When did he go down there?
MG: It must have been 40, when did the war break out? 4142
LB: Actually'42. Pearl Harbor, December'41.
MG: Yes. Then we didn't go until late '42 or '43, I think.
LB: Was the camp completed then? Schools completed?
MG: Yes, they were. He wasn't the first superintendent of education. There had been
a man who resigned.
LB: But he was Superintendent of Education?
MG: Superintendent of Education, right.
LB: Just for Amache?
MG: Amache. It was a big school system though and here's a picture, see how many
people he graduated. Well, that's staff, that's not the graduation.
LB: Oh, my, that's a big staff.
MG: Yes. That was not all school; that wasn't the staff of the entire Camp.
LB: Well, did you live in the camp at all then?
MG: No, I first went down. We didn't because we had five children. Thats the
graduating class, so you see it was a pretty big high school.
LB: Goodness, I should say so.
MG: They, some of the people lived out there. If you talk to Margaret Walter, she has
much more direct knowledge of the Camp than I had.
LB: Did she live on the Camp?
MG: Yes, she lived on the Camp. He was a high school principal and they were there
^when the people arrived and he helped them settle in and so forth. It was a tragic thing
Swhen they brought in trainloads of these people and put them into these small
|apartments with nothing in them but a coal stove. And brick floors laid right over the soil
|and a light bulb hanging down in the middle. And the only furniture were some army
^ots and blankets and that sort of thing. And from that time on though, the people
|)egan making their own furniture. And they had excellent people in the woodworking
|department and they taught the boys how to make things. I still have in my home one of
the benches that they left there after they were gone that, I use it like a, a suitcase
bench you know. And, but they did beautiful things in the schools with those children.
And the girls, they're smart people you know.
Well, I think if I were to, if you were to ask me one thing that most changed the attitude
while the people were there, it was the deportment of those people. They came into the
school, into the stores in Lamar where we were living,18 miles from Camp.
LB: You lived in Lamar, not in Granada.
MG: No, we lived in Lamar. here wasnt housing in those places. And we had five
children in school, needed a good school. So they, as I was saying, it was the way
those people carried themselves and behaved themselves that changed the attitude of
the amar people more than any other one thing. They, first the Lamar merchants
would hide some of their things, you know. Things were scarce. If they didnt want
them to get the soaps and so forth, toilet paper, all those things that were so scarce
during that war. They would hide them. And then gradually these people were so
courteous and never any shoplifting or thievery at all, and practically no trouble in the
Camp. Nobody ever had to be disciplined. I don't think they had a jail out there. Of
course, there were guards on the walls all around.
MG: Just for them not to leave, but they had passes to come and go all the time.
LB: They could come on pass; they didn't have to have someone with them when they
MG: No, they came into shop regularly and we entertained my husbands office staff.
And I remember they came in alone. Nobody came with 'em. And they were so grateful
when they came. And one of them was a young man. He was playing ball out in the
yard before dinner with our little fella who was 5 or 6, and somebody came by. And the
little boy turned and said to them very proudly, he is a Japanese American. He knew.
He is a Japanese American.
But gradually the people of the town began to accept them and in fact, I don't think we
were really royally accepted when we first went there. The people that were working
out there. But you always have a group of people who are prejudiced______and I think
they won't yield. But when it came to the vote, we were there when the, the, I think it
^A/as the State voted upon whether or not Orientals could become citizens. Have you
Â§bund that in your study? There was a vote at that time and the people in amar voted
I'yes" quite the majority. That they should be made citizens. I don't remember just how
fhat vote, whether it was a national vote or what it was but I do remember that the
People of amar
|_B: Well it would have to be national if they were citizens.
MG: Yes, at any rate, there was a vote taken and the people of that area were very
strongly for it. And they began to accept them and some of 'em used them as maids I
think and gave them some employment.
LB: Were there any special groups that tried to help? Were they necessary?
MG: Well, the YMCA came down there and organized a YMCA. And I notice in this
material that they had a Hi-Y. Now Alice Papes, who is retired here, told me that the
day she had been down there to help organize that school YMCA. So, there were
groups that came in and. Well, I dont know just.
LB: One thing I was sort of wondering, when you first went down, did they give you any
kind of orientation or did you have to?
LB: They just tossed you in.
MG: Just tossed us in. There was such a hurry to get that post filled, they just. You
made your own way.
LB: There weren't staff meetings or anything like that?
MG: There may have been in the school. But you see I wasn't out there that much and
I don't know about the. I'm sure they did have staff meetings all the time for the school
but, and they employed a great many Japanese in the schools. Now, as I looked over
this list of teachers, there were a lot of Japanese teachers. Some of them I think came
with the refugees or, not refugees
MG: Evacuees, yes. But others, I noticed had degrees from Denver University, and
places like that. Or taught some place else. And I think they were doing it as a gesture.
Some of the attitudes of teachers down there carried over beautifully to the children.
The school was the social life of the area. Their school games and all that sort of thing
were the things for their parents to go to, you know and they were. I really think the
school children and high school were happy. They were all with their own people, you
know and didn't have to adjust to any hatred because there wasn't any there. Nobody
Jthat was there that disliked them. They didn't go if they disliked them.
fThis is an example I've often thought was the most beautiful things I have ever, ever
nown of any person doing. There was a teacher down there whose parents were
^nissionaries in the Philippines. And they harbored some Japanese there and the
papers were full of it when they were executed. Then the little boy, son, were
|Deheaded I think it was by the Japanese. And they were her parents and her brother.
But she had been married and her husband was in service and this is why she was
down there giving her service I guess. And she refused to let anybody tell in the Camp
that those were her relatives. And she was so brave that none of these Japanese ever
learned, see because she has a different name and it was all in the newspapers. But
she asked everybody out there to be very careful not to let it be known because she
didn't want them to have the pain of feeling that her parents had been killed by
Another thing that was sort of a little funny incident was, one of the teachers was going
along one day out there and there were a lot of little boys playing war. And one little
fellow was sitting off the side crying. And she stopped and said, what's the matter with
you? He said, well they're playing war and they want me to be a dam Jap. (Ladies
laughed) That was how much they identified themselves with the Americans.
DA: Mrs. Garrison, you characterized the merchants attitudes somewhat changing
over time as they came to know the Japanese.
DA: Do you recall any experiences that you had personally or that friends of yours told
you, or even the merchants themselves, or signs in the windows or what have you, that
would show this kind of change and how long it took and over what time it, how it
MG: I can't because I'm only dependent upon memory for this part. And you see it was
about 40 years ago, it was in the 40s. And I just don't remember. However, I do not
remember ever seeing a sign in the window, no Japanese. I dont remember that there
were any. And
LB: You went in late '43, did you say?
MG: No, it, the war started in 42. That was the fall of 42 and we went in 43 but it was
fall, fall of '43.
LB: Fall of '43. Then you were there. No wait a minute.
MG: I think I'm wrong.
I think youre a year late.
'41 in December. So the first year of the war would have been 1942.
42. Then it was 43, 43 when we went in.
You weren't in the first year then?
MG: No, we weren't in the first year. We came in, I don't think my husband was really
employed there much over 18 months. When they closed the Camp he went back into
some federal work on the road. And then he came up here to Denver University.
LB: So there could have been changes during, after your time by 1943, might have
worked out better.
MG: Now Margaret Walter can probably tell you more of these things. I would very
much suggest that you follow her leads.
LB: I talked to her briefly a couple of summers ago, but just on the phone.
MG: Well, I think that, because they were there the very first and I can give you her
phone number before you leave if you'd like. And Margaret was very sympathetic. I
know her husband Herb helped carry the suitcases and luggage for those people when
they got off the trains, and helped them all he possibly could. And I met a Japanese
American here at a program or something down UM, and then when I told her that we
had been there, at Amache, her eyes filled with tears and she said the teachers down
there were our saviors. They really were our, helped us so much and gave us
confidence and sort of thing. But, turn it off now because Im running
LB: Well, one of the things was whether within the community or not, with your
neighbors, your friends, there was any uncertainty, any fears, any resentment
expressed. Did they talk to you about anything like that or?
MG: I think they avoided it because they knew we were pro-Japanese to a certain
extent. They knew that we, we were doing this voluntarily and that we. I don't believe
they would have said much. I could almost tell sometimes though which ones were a
little bit incapable of speaking about it or something, you know. But they didnt resent it
when we had the Japanese come in there for a meal or something, they didn't resent it.
And some of them I'm sure were sympathetic.
DA: You just mentioned that you had several of them for meals in your home. Do you
recall any of those meals, either the kind of environment it was? Did they perhaps
speak about their experiences in the Camp or did they wonder at the wonderlust at the
house that you were living in compared to theirs? Do you recall any of the experiences
that you had when you brought them into your home?
MG: I have two letters there, two at least, from those people, thank you letters that I've
-saved. And they were just happy to be in a home and to meet our children and were,
they were thinking of us, not speaking anything about the home. Our home was very
Imodest. It was a large house that we rented, an old house. And we were far from
|wealthy so I don't think there was anything there to make them feel ill at ease. So I just
^I'm sure they were welcome in the church and I recall seeing a Buddhist, they had
iBuddhist services out there and Christian services too, and seeing the, what is it they
icall it, the paper they give you when you go into church, your bulletin. The order of
worship and it was so much like ours you would have been surprised, you know. It was
printed in English and it wasn't so different. But
DA: Do you recall others entertaining as well as yourself? Others entertaining the
Japanese in their homes and anything that they might have felt towards the Japanese,
or can we assume that because they were invited in, they obviously were sympathetic?
Do you recall any friends that also had them in their homes?
MG: I dont.
DA: Are you the only
MG: There were so few of us that lived in Lamar. There were 3 or 4. Now they may
have entertained people from time to time and not even mentioned it to me. I mean that
was just taken for granted.
LB: I have only one real odd question that has nothing to do with what we're talking
about. What kind of meals could be served for 42 cents a day? In that
MG: Oh, that discussion of this in this material. That was one of the worst hardships for
those people to have to go 3 times a day and eat in the big dining room. And the little,
they were benches and you know how short Japanese people are. Some of the
women, their feet didn't touch the floor, especially the older women you know, the little
r grandmothers and all. And they were so modest and to have to crawl over that
bench and sit with their feet hanging down was, they really couldn't enjoy their meal.
Um, this said in here about the meals that I read last night, that there were 2 meatless
days a week. The diet was rather starchy but that they supplemented so much with the
food from the farm. Those Japanese farmed that land that hadn't been farmed, had
been just pasture or something. And they farmed it and produced the biggest things
you ever saw. They had swiss chard still growing at Christmas time, and they had
beautiful cucumbers. They had things they entered in the county fair. The things they
grew out there. Of course, that supplemented their diet very much and there wasn't
much milk available. The milk was largely for mothers of young babies and anybody
that was ill and so forth. But now these pictures I have of the children, high school age
and so forth, all look very healthy. They, they look well nourished and well dressed.
They dressed themselves well, largely because they made their own clothing and they
were so clever at that. And had a marvelous homemaking teacher there, Miss Lottie
More that was just marvelous. And she set up weaving in their schoolroom there, and
they wove beautiful drapes for their schoolroom, for their homemaking room. And she
^taught them so many things. And this woodworking teacher I referred to did the same
with things that were so applicable to their rooms. And I was, I think I was only in one
JJapanese homes, one of those. They didn't invite people in very often. And when I
ent out it was to something at the school. But I think I recall being in one and they had
made it into a livable little place, you know with curtains and draperies and just little
things here and there. Some of them had some money when they came. If they had
|had to just abandon the farm and everything for maybe $4,000, they did have some
cash. And they had a little bit of money to spend, to do things but they didn't go out and
really buy furniture. It was all such a temporary sort of living that they didn't do
everything, but they had livable areas in their homes.
DA: Mrs. Garrison, do you have any ideas why they would not have invited people very
often to their homes? Do you have any feelings on that?
MG: Into their homes? I think they were ashamed of it unless they had made it very
pretty or something. Now, Mrs. Walker may have been different. They may have
invited her. She lived in one of those units for, until they got a house built for them. And
she may have had a very much better relationship than I had in that respect. But they
didnt know me.
DA: I thought perhaps one reason might be that some of the people in l_amar did not
want to go. In other words, their attitude was such that they didn't want to visit. Im
wondering if that might have been one of the reasons.
MG: There wasnt much visitation from the amar people out there that I know of. I
don't know whether the, whether they discouraged it or whether you had to get a pass
to get in, I don't know. But I don't remember of anybody but staff going in and out of
there. They may have.
LB: When they had programs and entertainments then, they weren't necessarily open
to the public?
MG: Well, I dont think so.
LB: Or were they?
MG: I trunk they needed all the seating space they had for their own families and all.
They did some beautiful things to that high school. I saw them, they made arches of
flowers, how beautifully they can do paper flowers and that sort of thing. And the juniors
made these arches for the seniors to walk under and it was really a beautiful graduation.
DA: You mentioned that they were outstanding farmers, growing humungous type fruits
or vegetables. Would that not have competed against maybe local farmers and do you
recall if there were any kinds of, the behavior of the farmers, not just maybe the folks,
but the people that produced other goods?
MG: I don't think so at all. I think it was almost all used there. They didn't sell it you
see. It was just used in the Camp. And there weren't any trees in that Camp when they
Icame there, it was just barren, completely barren. And the men went out on a holiday.
=They each one had a job of some sort. But when they were free, they went down to the
driver and dug up saplings and brought them up and planted them. And most of them
|grew. They took good care of 'em. They had to carry water to them but they grew and
|they had little flowerbeds. I went back there oh, I dont remember what year, but many
years afterward, we went out to the Camp. And all there was left were the foundations
and here and there a little flower blooming that had existed. And the trees were still
quite healthy. Just from nature, the trees were growing and had grown quite large so
that it looked almost like a park around there compared to the rest of the area. And I
was, at that time I was thinking about writing a story about them. I was doing some
writing class and I wanted a picture of that, how it looked now compared. But just its a
deserted city where there had been 5,000 or 6,000 people living. Now its gone.
DA: Because you lived in the city, you probably would have had to have some
interaction with, say some people involved with civic government, the local Chamber of
Commerce. Do you recall any kinds of programs or any kinds of social gatherings that
were ever sponsored for, on behalf of, or did any Japanese ever attended? In other
words, was there any kind of support in the city for any kind of Japanese coming in and
joining in with the Lamar people themselves?
MG: I don't think so.
DA: Or did you never see anything?
MG: I never saw that. And I don't recall, but the newspaper was very liberal. It was a
very good daily paper, run by Fred Boetz. You may have heard of Fred Boetz, he was
one of the. You know who Fred Boetz was. Well, Fred Boetz was the soul of the city of
Lamar and he did more to make that into a good city than anything. That's another
LB: Right, and the fact that his son is a trustee of
MG: Is he still on the board of regents?
LB: He's still on the Board.
MG: Well, Fred was a marvelous man. I guess he's still living. He did beautiful things
and I think he helped set the tone there. But I don't think they felt as though we have to
go out there and do something for those people. They didn't have that attitude. They
knew they were being housed and fed and there was one. You asked about
competition. There was a group of men that set up a fish market outside the gates.
Have you ever heard of the Granada, Granada fish market here? Well, down there they
call it Granada but the Granada fish market started at Amache.
sLB: By residents at Amache.
IMG: Yes, they allowed them to go out and set this up.
=in the town of Granada, which was the closest town. I
^he outside, that's the only place. And they sold meat,
|in there. And then when the Camp closed, they came
I think they must have set it up
never did see it but it was set up
fish. I don't know how they got it
up here and opened up the
market downtown and later one out east somewhere. I think they still have two. I think
one of them's still down in that center, Sakura Square.
DA: So you think that's an indication that in fact the townspeople both in Granada or in
Trinidad or anywhere locally didnt feel that competition was hurting them. In fact, they
maybe welcomed it.
MG: Oh, I think they liked to buy the fish there. There wasn't any other good fresh fish
market. I don't know how they got it sent in but they got it and sold fresh fish. You
might interview one of those people down at the market, you might find one.
LB: I just might.
MG: See what he has to say.
DA: As you look back Mrs. Garrison, as you look back in time, do you feel that your
feelings have changed much since the early '40s, by the '60s or the 70s, or do you feel
that your acceptance of them at that time has pretty much remained the same, and
anybody else you've known at that time, have they in a sense also followed your, in the
same path? Fairly much either accepted or rejected all the way through?
MG: Oh, of course we were accepting of 'em or we wouldn't have accepted the job and
been there. And, but dont think that, Ive been amazed at the way the Japanese
people have made themselves accepted since the war. Theres almost no resentment
against them anymore at all as a group. And they're just accepted everywhere. I sold
real estate here in Littleton about 20 years ago. Pardon me. And, turn that off while I
get a drink of water.
I NEVER FOUND ANY MORE CONVERSATION WITH Mrs. GARRISON on the tape.
daa suopualloulelusd^ue saA-IPJV