Remembering historic events at the Big Fresno Fair

FRESNO, California

Just inside the Chance gate of the Fresno Fair grounds a labor of love, three years in the making, is coming together. Amid the shade trees, benches and cooling fountain visitors will find the stories of what happened here in 1942.

More than five-thousand Central Valley Japanese Americans - men, women and children were detained in barracks at the fairground's race track.

Their numbers have dwindled with the passing of seventy years but memories of being forced to leave their homes for makeshift internment barracks at the fairgrounds are strong. Helen Shirakawa was thirteen when her family was brought here.

"There was no privacy, the bathrooms and the showers," said Shirakawa. "And even the rooms, the walls didn't go up very high so you could hear the neighbors all the time."

Ironically her brother was already in the US Army. He died in battle as his loved ones were considered 'the enemy'.

Nancy Suda's family left behind a home and farm east of Hanford. "When we came home it had all been broken into. Our truck was gone and all the farm implements were gone."

Donations from the Fresno Fair Board and private donors made this Fresno Assembly Center Memorial possible.

Rev. Saburo Masada said, "To think that this place is now being recognized as historic... so this is a way of educating people."

This permanent reminder of a dark chapter in American history pays tribute to those who lived it and offers the rest of us the opportunity to meet it face to face.

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