Mystery History No. 19

Aug 5, 2013

Mystery History 19Where are we and what’s happening?

In the photo to the right, an unidentified man waves farewell just before dawn on March 23, 1942, after being processed at the Rose Bowl Stadium for residency at the Manzanar internment camp.

The stadium, Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia and the Fairplex in Pomona were among the processing centers and assembly areas for persons of Japanese descent living in western regions of Pacific coast states who would be relocated temporarily to camps in interior regions of California, Arizona, Utah and Wyoming.

I didn’t know until I heard Joel Sheldon speak at an event that Vromans Bookstore regularly sent boxes of books to Manzanar during this period.

Excerpt from the Los Angeles Times, March 22, 1942:

Tomorrow morning approximately 1000 Japanese will leave for the evacuation city on a special train and in busses, while a huge motorcade, again under the convoy of the Army, will depart from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena for the same destination.

General instructions to Japanese leaving here for Manzanar tomorrow morning were issued yesterday by Maj. Gen. Walter Wilson, commanding the Southern California area.

Each person, the orders declared, will be required to bring all bedding except mattresses, all tools of his trade, clothing, cooking utensils, a one-gallon container of drinking water and his personal belongings. Baggage will be limited to what each person can carry with him and to what can be carried by baggage facilities on train or bus.

Before the war there were several businesses in Pasadena owned by Japanese American residents, most in the area bordered by Walnut Street, California Boulevard, Orange Grove Boulevard and Marengo Avenue. See a map showing businesses in 1940 here.


Many Japanese American residents belonged to the Pasadena Union Presbyterian Church. There is an honor roll displayed on the front window in this photo that lists the 117 Japanese Americans from Pasadena who were serving in the U.S. military at the time. The church offered free storage for the belongings of Japanese Americans who were interned at camps during the war years, then served as a dormitory and job placement facility when they returned to Pasadena.

It was one of hundreds of buildings demolished to make room for the 210 Freeway. Although the structure is no more, the ministry lives on as part of the First Presbyterian Church in Altadena.

President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, legislation on behalf of the U.S. government that apologized for the internment of Japanese Americans, called for public education about the camps and provided for restitution. More more than $1.5 billion in reparations were paid to individuals and heirs.

The Japanese culture lives on in our community with organizations such as the Pasadena Japanese Cultural Institute and the Pasadena Buddhist Temple.

Many thanks to Pasadena Public Library.

Copyright © 2009 Ann Erdman

Ann Erdman Pasadena CAAnn Erdman is happily retired after decades of loyal service to the City of Pasadena as Public Information Officer. Her blog can be found at



Flintridge Books

Lyd and Mo Photography

Louis Jane Studios

Homage Pasadena