An early outpost in the Valley, Pinedale grew up to have a somewhat tarnished history. Established as a town for the Sugar Pine Lumber Co. employees, there was great potential. At the time, the Sugar Pine Lumber Mill of Pinedale was the largest and most modern mill around. Then came the dark years.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor the closed lumber mill was converted into a temporary assembly center to hold Japanese Americans. The story of hate starts with the policy of exclusion and the forced removal of Americans of Japanese ancestry. Facilities such as Pinedale were intended to confine Japanese Americans until more permanent concentration camps could be built in isolated areas of the country.
Following the transfer of the Japanese prisoners to concentration camps, the induction center became Camp Pinedale receiving soldiers selected for training as military communication technicians for the war effort. By war’s end, the post had trained thousands of soldiers as electronic specialists for allied army assignments.
The story comes full circle with healing in the Remberance Plaza, an interpretive memorial telling a truly American story of a these Japanese Americans triumph over adversity. Today, Camp Pinedale has a special memorial honoring Japanese Americans processed through there (625 W. Alluvial Avenue). http://pinedalememorial.org
The Valley also has a few more gems of Japanese heritage and an expression of hope for the future.
August brings the Toro Nagashi Lantern ceremony. Also at the Shinzen Garden in Woodward Park, fall colors will soon paint the gardens with nature’s crisp colors.
A short drive or train ride to Hanford will bring you to the largest Asian community in the valley. Reopening in September, be sure to check out the Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture
While you’re there, you should not miss China Alley in downtown Hanford featuring 11 historic buildings. China alley served as the hub for Hanford’s Chinese population beginning in the late 1800s. Near 7th & Green Sts.
Carrying on the thread of healing and hope, this fall around Fresno, you will find many cultural exhibits from reading lists to film screenings to upbeat jazz nights and even college students’ artful tribute to their ancestors who lived here in the Valley but were forcibly moved into the camp at Pinedale. Fresno County Library is presenting the Manzanar project sharing the compelling story of the Japanese experience through World War II. The events begin in August and run through September; join the discussion and pick up a detailed flier at any library.