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Lauren Kessler

Stubborn Twig – Excerpt

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As the winter of 1941 blanketed Hood River valley with its first snow, Masuo found himself even busier than usual. His business ventures, now recovering from the worst of the Depression, kept him working late most nights. His community service, expanding as his own stature continued to grow among the hakujin (whites), demanded more time than ever. He was still the only Japanese member of the Apple Growers Association Board of Directors, representing scores of his countrymen who would otherwise have been voiceless in the organization that determined their livelihood. He was a model Rotarian. Now, with the war escalating in Europe and draft boards all across America readying themselves for the inevitable, Masuo was asked to perform yet another vital service as a link between Hood River’s selective service board and nisei boys who might be called for military duty. The board wrote to him dozens of times throughout the fall of 1941, asking for Masuo’s recommendations on various draft-eligible nisei. What was their family situation? Were they necessary to the operation of their farms? Should they be exempt from service? The board depended on Masuo’s intimate knowledge of the community as well as his personal integrity. He responded promptly and succinctly, most often recommending against exemption.

During the first week of December he was busy checking special orders for the hectic Christmas season. On Saturday evening, December 6, he, along with many members of the nikkei community, stayed late at the Japanese Hall rehearsing their annual Christmas show.

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