About Me

 
 

When I was a kid, 4 or 5 years old, it was 1962. My brother and I played war. It was all about shooting the enemy soldiers with our wooden rifles. We had an army helmet, it had a little white cross on the front of it, if I remember, could have been on the sides. It was really cool to wear it and carry the rifle. My older brother had always wanted a German helmet, he finally got one later. We stabbed with our bayonets, shot our machine guns and knifed the enemy in the trenches. Yelling for them to surrender or be shot, spreken de deutsch?!!! Put your hands up! Or I'll shoot! Handfuls of dirt flew in the air as the grenades would go off almost killing us, dodging into the dirt patch it was hand to hand combat and all out war in our back yard.


I have no idea where I learned all of it. I was the youngest. I am sure some of it was from my brothers and probably parents. I watched TV too. Certainly wasn't reading the newspapers. My best birthday gift at 7 years old was the Rat Patrol Combat set.


I don't know how much we were influenced by WW ll or how much from the Korean War. As I got older the Vietnam War was going on and seemed kind of scary. They were talking about my older brother going to war. It was all kind of becoming very real. The idea of playing war took on a new meaning. It looked like my oldest brother was going to have to go somewhere. I still remember the fear that he may be killed. Really killed.


When I first heard the story of the Japanese Camp it never seemed ominous to me. It was not until I started the research that I began to realize it was a very serious event. I began to think about the social climate in 1942 and the research quickly led me into the history of WW ll. It was not the history of the war in Europe and Japan that got my attention; it was closer to home, the social prejudice within our nation and the realization of how deeply our nation developed a preconceived racial bias toward immigrant and native born citizens who were merely descendants of hostile nations. I wondered, from where did we learn this behavior? How did we arrive at such a conclusion so easily?


The research I am doing today has caused me to look into the past, to explore the social environment of a time before I was even born, of a time that appears to have greatly influenced my growth as a child. I think about the environment we grow up in as children, modes of behavior we develop and unconsciously follow. The development of a belief system that influences our present thoughts and actions. While some images and stories from our past seem to fade away, others seem to be magically carried forward. The Japanese camp story has endured because it reminds us of something. Of a mystery that few will be able to explain. On the surface it is a simple story of a refuge camp but it is the unspoken words that begin to tell the real story. It leaves most of us with a sense of knowing that we don’t quite have an understanding of what really happened. The roots of this story are laid in our childhood and it is from there that the complex growth of branches have been covered with the leaves of everyday life. To fully understand the story of the camp it is necessary to stop for a moment, to look back in time for a brief introspection, to further understand the dynamic nature of our youth. Reflecting on our journey, we can see the leaves of summer are turning and autumn is now upon us, it is time to discover the truth.

 

Kid Stuff

My Story

When I was first told about the Japanese Camp I was 19 years old. Still just a young man, I had no idea where I was going in life and it appeared to be one big adventure. Somehow the intrigue of hitchhiking up and down the Pacific coast was more appealing than being confined to the structure of a classroom. I dropped out of a couple semesters of college and moved to the desert in 1977. I have often said that I had no idea what to do with myself and my parents didn’t know what to do with me either. With infinite wisdom they purchased 5 acres of land and commissioned a retired army sergeant living nearby to be my mentor. I was to begin a new journey, living in a 15’ travel trailer, 150 miles from Los Angeles, out on the western edge of the Mohave Desert. The army sergeant was Bill Pullen and he took an interest in me, he never gave up on me, and he began to teach me the common sense about life that will be with me until I am gone. He was like a second Dad to me.


In his retirement, Bill had been doing construction work in the valley. He could build anything from the ground up. It was to be my course of life, to learn all of the building trades and develop the confidence I needed to keep me from wandering all over the country. Slowly over the years my life began to change.  I learned to build houses, entirely of my own labor. It taught me perseverance. It taught me to think. Bill would sit down with me when we took our breaks and he would ask me, “Okay, is there a better way to do this?” We talked about the history of what we were doing and the possibilities of how we could do it better. I learned to calculated our rate of completion and then learned how to adjust the estimates based on our partial work. Early on I remember calculating how long it would take me to dig a foundation, estimating every shovel full and every wheelbarrow load. I had to decide whether or not I wanted to earn the money or let some guy on a tractor get the money. I decided to dig the foundation by hand and I got to keep the money. I grew to understand the value of work and it was a good feeling to know that not only could I physically accomplish the work but that I had been learning the skills to calculate the result before it was begun.


I now have over 30 years of dedicated experience and education in the building trades where I learned to research the best materials to use, transport, handle, install and finish countless materials, all the time knowing I was the only one responsible from start to finish. My work has evolved to include supervision of multi-million dollar projects, managing all trades toward successful completion of the finest homes in the desert. Whatever I am building it has to work and it has to work well. I have great pride in the quality finished work I have accomplished.


I have also worked on my family genealogy for many years. The skills I developed from that work has proved invaluable for this research project. I have the patience and persistence that allows me to endure hours upon hours of searching. My brother once told me that it was not enough to find your family on a census record but to read every page of the census, as a walk through main street, introducing yourself to every person in the entire town. I believe he is right.


I will see this research through to the end and it will include turning over all of the information to the Japanese American National Museum and the San Bernardino County Historical Archives. I will continue to pursue all resources until I know the entire story of the Japanese Camp.


Phillip


Me, my army rifle and birthday cake, 1962