crafts in the family

I was digging through my mother’s button box yesterday when I made a discovery–the button box originally belonged to my grandmother (i.e., my father’s mother). At the top of the box are the buttons and snaps on cardboard backings. Through all these years there was also a small, folded-up piece of paper. Well, I finally unfolded that paper, and here it is:

button box doc.jpg
It took me a while to figure out what it was. The “Mrs. Fujinaka” in the note is my grandmother. In 1943 she, along with my grandfather and father, were in the Minidoka Relocation Center (a nice euphemism for an internment camp) in Idaho. A quick Google search revealed that Mr. Townsend was the Director of Community Services at the camp. Anyway, it was really interesting to unearth this little piece of history and also to discover that my grandmother taught knitting (for free!).

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32 Responses to crafts in the family

  1. Jan says:

    What a fascinating piece of family history!

  2. mari says:

    Wow! That’s such an interesting thing to find about your grandmother. I am always amazed at the bits and pieces I hear about my family friends who lived in the internment camps. Great “primary source” material! (Sorry, I’ve taken one too many Social Studies methods classes the past semester!)

  3. Amy says:

    Wonderful find! Such history is good to have as sad as it may be.
    Here in BC Canada the Japanese who were treated similarily were compensated financially some 16 years or so. I hope the same happened in the USA or will happen. My sister in laws parents were both subject to a ‘relocation center’.

  4. debbie says:

    wow! that bit of family history gave me “chicken skin” and watery eyes – such a precious find….

  5. sally says:

    What an amazing find! So knitting is really in your genes!

  6. Jessica says:

    That’s an incredible piece of family history. Amazing.

  7. *karen says:

    Fascinating. What I wouldn’t give to know more about my own family.

  8. Jaime says:

    That is an amazing piece of your family history to have. And isn’t it great that we have resources, like the internet now, to investigate such things!

  9. Emma says:

    That’s so interesting! It’s weird finding things like that – my mum’s a librarian and once found a letter from an internment camp left in a book!

  10. Michiko says:

    Wow. I remember your grandmother…I wonder if your grandparents and my grandparents met at Minidoka or whether they were friends or acquaintances before they left for camp. It’s strange but there was such a strong crafting community in camp. We still have some of the most incredible embroidery that my grandmother did, with all the patterns and left over threads that she saved so neatly. My grandfather made some really beautiful wood ornaments and played a lot of baseball.

  11. carolyn says:

    that’s totally nuts dude. NUTS.

  12. chris says:

    Wow, that is so cool (not that your grandmother was in a “relocation center” — that’s crappy)! I love finding little bits of family history like that — they always seem to turn up in the most unexpected places, too.

  13. marielle says:

    What a fascinating find!

  14. P-la says:

    An amazing discovery for sure!

  15. Mary-Heather says:

    Oh, my… what an incredible letter to find!

  16. Amy says:

    A former coworker’s grandparent’s were interned in the Minidoka center. They were removed from their family home and business, a huge produce farm in the Imperial Valley. The grandson had a photocopy of his grandmother’s reparation check, along with a photo of his 90-something grandmother, on his wall. Not America’s finest moment, for sure.

  17. carol says:

    wow! how exciting…a piece of family history in the button box!

  18. Gina says:

    That is wonderful…about the knitting and the piece of history. Not wonderful about the internment camp.

  19. libby says:

    checking to see what crafting you were up to, it was quite the jolt to see your grandmother’s note – so much of our country’s history is still so painful, and seeing this bittersweet note, makes me Not Proud to be an American at times.

  20. Sarah says:

    Such a bittersweet tie to your grandmother. I love learning things about my family that make me feel a part of them, even if it’s just that we loved the same craft. Thanks for sharing!

  21. Kathy says:

    Definitely not America’s finest moment. But interesting to find that your Grandmother taught knitting 🙂

  22. tania says:

    wow, isn’t that something-
    they should have paid her anyway!

  23. jess says:

    fascinating! Though darn them for not paying her for her lessons, and for putting them in camps. But a fab bit of family history.

  24. Laura says:

    Wow Mariko. That is just incredibly cool. I don’t know about you but that sort of thing would make me SO emotional. I’m choked up reading about it and I don’t even really know you! It just strikes me as very significant to you and something special.

  25. susanne says:

    how cool is it to find such a great piece of family history!? funny timing, i just borrowed a book about arts and crafts in japanese internment camps–don’t remember any knitting, wish there were some in the book.
    i also visited a small exhibit about world war II this past weekend and as usual when i read about the internment camps i got misty eyed.

  26. Lydia says:

    What a bittersweet, yet important discovery, both for you and your family, Mariko. Thank you for sharing your find, since I don’t often hear much of the internment camps and the individual experience.

  27. Kay says:

    Apart from everything else, I can’t get over that you found this in the button box, all these years later. People who went through such experiences could be so matter-of-fact about it. Now this scrap of paper gives you a concrete connection, just a glimpse, some 60 years later.
    Thanks, Mariko.
    xox Kay

  28. Daphne says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  29. Silvia says:

    Wow is right! What an interesting find and such a connection to you now finding it in your button box.

  30. rachel says:

    i am intrigued that the reason that she couldn’t get paid was that there was a qualified person in her section. How much knitting was going on in the camps?

  31. Mariko, this is so amazing to see. I still can’t get my head around the fact that there were US citizens who were rounded up and carted off to internment camps during WWII. How scary must that have been? To leave lives, homes, businesses, communities and be a prisoner. Thank you for sharing it and reminding me of the good and the bad.

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