Although Hood River garnered national notoriety for anti-Japanese American sentiments during World War II, it’s noteworthy that a small number of local citizens stepped forward on behalf of their neighbors. In individual acts of support for Japanese Americans and – in some cases – as members of the League for Liberty and Justice, they demonstrated courage and a respect for civil rights. Join Gorge Owned for this Sense of Place program as we welcome Linda Tamura to reflect on incidents of that time and place. She will be joined by community members Sydney Babson Blaine, Jack Sheppard and Dorothy & Joan Laurance who will recall stories of their families’ acts during and leading up to the Internment. We will reflect on the past while also recognizing lessons for our community’s future.
Tamura will summarize the immigration, wartime incarceration, and return to the valley of local Japanese Americans. Integrated throughout will be remembrances of locals about their own family members. We also plan to invite and recognize family members of affected individuals during the program. This program will be appropriate for youth as well as adults.
Tamura is Professor Emerita, Willamette University and author of two books about her hometown, Nisei Soldiers Break Their Silence: Coming Home to Hood River (University of Washington Press, 2013) and Hood River Issei: An Oral History of Japanese Settlers in Oregon’s Hood River Valley (University of Illinois Press, 1994). She also co-curated “What If Heroes Were Not Welcome Home?” an exhibit, now traveling, through the Oregon Historical Society.
Sydney Babson Blaine of Parkdale is granddaughter of an East Coast settler who hired and befriended Japanese workers. Her family dedicated a plaque at the Mt. Hood Railroad Depot in 2012 to memorialize the forced removal of local Japanese Americans.
Jack Sheppard is retired businessman and son of the co-founder of Shepard’s downtown farm machinery business. He discovered correspondence between his father and Japanese Americans whom he endeavored to support during and after the war.
Dorothy and Joan Laurance, both of Hood River, are the widow and daughter of the late Capt. Sheldon Laurance, who apologized to a Japanese American veteran who had been denied a haircut by a downtown barber. Capt. Laurance wore a letter, published in the Oregonian in 1945, decrying “such unjustified prejudices and insults to…some of the nation’s best fighting men…”
Tamura will speak on Wednesday, March 15, at Columbia Center for the Arts. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the lecture begins at 7 p.m. Come early to enjoy a glass of wine or beer and meet others in the community. Gorge Owned’s (GO!) Sense of Place is an annual lecture series that seeks to foster a deeper understanding of and connection to our landscape and to one another.