Friday, May 14, 2010

A Florin Evacuee (From 1942)

Community Analysis Section
Manzanar Relocation Center
December 15, 1943

A Florin Evacuee

This is a Florin evacuee’s reaction toward evacuation as related to me.

This fellow is married and has four children. He is about thirty-one years old.

This young man was a landowning farmer in the Florin district prior to evacuation.

He has forty acres of vineyard. He had just finished paying for and installing a new water pump on his farm. This investment cost about $1800 dollars in cash. He values his other farm equipment at around $4000.00.

Prior to evacuation he had an oral agreement, as did all other adjoining farmers, with the Florin Fruit Growers Association whereby any farmer doing work on farms other than their own would get $11.00 per acre. On the other hand, if the farmer plowed his own farm, he would get only 55¢ an hour. Five acres can be plowed in a day whereas only 11 or 12 hours can be put in. The Association advanced the money for the labor either on a man’s own farm or on the farm of another. The crops were sold through the Association and these preliminary expenses for labor deducted from the value of the crop.

The Farm Security Administration acted as a non-profit organization in this war emergency but the Florin evacuees who worked under an oral agreement did not receive one cent toward their wages or toward what was due them for the farm labor they had performed.

This fellow estimated that he had about three hundred dollars coming to him for labor performed. He went to the office twice but he was unable to collect. The first time he went he was told that they did not have the money on hand and that he should come back later. The second time they told him that they would send it to him. He has asked the project attorney what procedure can be followed in order to collect the back wages. He has been told that it’s pretty hard, in fact almost impossible, to do anything as it was only an oral agreement.

The evacuation year this fellow received a deficit statement from the Florin Growers Ass’n. After he was evacuated he received a statement telling him that his farm only shipped about 4,000 lugs of grapes, whereas in the year prior to evacuation, he shipped 7,500 lugs. There should not have been this much difference as he estimated at least 6,000 lugs by scanning the vineyard before he left. He suspects he has been cheated. The company made an agreement to pay the taxes on land and equipment if they made a net income of $1,000 from his farm, but since they showed a deficit, the fellow was responsible for paying his own taxes. When he received the statement showing a deficit in farm crop, he got sore as hell but he said, “What can I do about it?”

Another thing that made him pretty bitter toward evacuation was this. He happened to be a guardian of a thirty acre vineyard. There was a mortgage on this land, but it was foreclosed without notice or without giving him a chance to do anything about it. This fellow couldn’t do anything about it but tell the widow and her young sons what happened. The mortgage was somewhere around $4,000, but the land itself was worth three times that and on top of that, a new house was just built on it.

This year he received a contract from the Florin Fruit Growers Ass’n which made him extremely angry. This contract had no provision for payment for equipment and made no guarantee to take care of equipment. He refused to sign it therefore and sent it back. In return he received this letter which practically threatened that his equipment would be damaged if he did not sign. As a result he signed, saying, “Well, I’ll do it for another year.” The letter he received follows:

We are returning the copies of the contract to you hoping that you will change your mind about signing it. We could not change the clause that you object to as there are over 75 of these contracts made out and signed, mostly among former members, but a great many on vineyards that were not handled through our Association before, so therefore, it would not be fair to the others to make an exception in your case.

As you probably know the feeling against all persons of Japanese origin had reached the point where many irresponsible persons were actually stealing and destroying property owned by your people. Practically every evacuated home in the district has been broken into and personal effects left behind stolen or destroyed. You can readily see that it would not be fair to anyone to take the responsibility against these acts of vandalism caused by the war hysteria. You equipment now stored with Mr. Carl Smith is in exactly the same position as Carl could not be responsible against theft or damage to your equipment. In fact, your equipment is much safer in the hands of a renter than being stored and not in use, as there is a very definite move being made to find some legal method whereby the unused equipment of evacuees can be put into use as there is an extreme shortage of farming equipment at the present time, especially for track laying tractors for use in the sandy river bottom lands.

In regard to your responsibility, for any indebtedness that may be incurred by the Lessee, you are already covered throughout the agreement. In this regard please refer to paragraph 8, 11, 12, and 15.

I have contacted the Federal Loan Bank in regard to your request and they are very much disturbed by your return of the lease unsigned on account of the lateness of the season and they left me with the impression that they contemplated taking some action to protect their loan interest if work on the vineyard isn’t started within a short time.

We hope that you will reconsider and return the signed lease copies to this office. If you decide to accept this lease, we request that you notify us by wire as we must have an answer not later than March 12 and if no answer is received by that time, we will turn the matter back to the Federal Loan bank who originally requested our assistance in finding a renter for your property.

Florin Fruit Growers Ass’n

When this Florin evacuee read this letter, after returning the contract he didn’t know what to do. He was mad all right, but finally consented to the lease.

Most of the Florin district farmers were landowners, and have had experiences like this, hence such bitterness towards this evacuation.

Another thing he told me. When the evacuation date was set the white people from around the country came into the fields and began to pick strawberries. They said, “You’re going to leave tomorrow.” They never offered to pay anything for the fruit. Imagine the gall!

Just before evacuation, this family went to Sacramento for a health examination. There, this family was told that the youngest child had measles. The baby had to be left behind. The father was indignant and said “Over my dead body. She goes with us or we stay also.”

The authorities finally decided to let the baby go along.

On the train during the night, the conductor forgot to put the heater on, whether deliberate or not he does not know. This baby who had the measles caught a cold. When they reached Manzanar and when the doctor looked at her, she said it was hopeless. The father was in tears and was boiling mad and said he would “kick hell out of any hakujin who got in his way.” The baby got well miraculously and the family is not so bitter as before. They have changed their answer and /are planning to stay in America. But for a long time, because of this kind of treatment and because of property losses these people were in a mood to answer “no” to anything and very nearly went to Tule Lake.

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