WWII Internment Barracks

Internment. For some reason this is one of those words that always looks like it is spelled wrong.  Is it a subconscious or semi-conscious rejection of the imprisoning of fellow Americans for no fault other than their ancestry?  I consciously reject that as well. Below is a satellite image from google maps that shows WWII Internment Barracks, for the housing of families of Japanese ancestry. These, in particular, are of interest to me because I lived there.

As the story goes, the military wanted to clear these out and sold them. It would have to have been for next to nothing, for they were then moved out to the middle of a horrid little place called El Mirage, California, whose claim to fame (if it has one) is that it is, or has been, a spot used for filming movies, TV shows and commercials. That scene in Lethal Weapon out on the dry lake bed? El Mirage. There was an old show with Dabney Coleman that was often shot out there. None of that matters, except to tell you that if you’ve seen those movies, you never once thought about moving to such a spot. This is a spot for those who end up there, and for those who desperately want to get away. My father-in-law called it God’s Country, with the kind of reverence that others use for Santa Barbara or San Diego. It was no paradise. It was hot, ugly, dusty, desolate. The kind of place that winds up with places that if they aren’t actually WWII internment barracks (and how would I really know that?) certainly are so awful that they give great credence to the story.

Internment is also the word sometimes used for burial. The word is for forced confinement, imprisonment, incarceration.

I can tell you that this place had two small bedrooms, a tiny living room, a very small kitchen (supposedly eat-in) and a 3/4 bath. No one would live there who had a choice, and we had none. We were poor. I sometimes watched kids for the ladies Bible study because they offered to pay me. I am almost the last person on earth who should be watching kids, especially at that time. What I needed was the Bible study and the fellowship with adults, but I was not given that opportunity. I’m sure they thought they were doing me a favor. I was going crazy in my own internment. With no car, I was stuck. It was 10 miles to the nearest little town, and quite a bit further to any place with an actual grocery store, or a job. So, someone would come to pick me up to watch little kids, the thing I did every moment of my waking life. For a brief, oh so brief, time I was out of the little apartment only to be imprisoned in the nursery.

Winters in the desert are cold and desolate, with winds whipping the sands, beating you with their fierce grains. Often, coyotes would line the fence, staring in at my dog, or my children as they played. It was a daily fight to stay cool or to keep warm. The swamp cooler didn’t work right, so I would have to climb up a rickety ladder onto the roof to hose down the pads manually, or to hook up the hose to the system, only to have to climb back up to unhook everything or to wet the pads again. In the winter the propane furnace blew nasty black particles which coated everything, requiring constant cleaning, and propane was a luxury we could ill afford.

Some of the neighbors were very nice, but some were frightening, to the point that I willingly took on a Husky mix named Babe, with one blue eye and one brown, a sweet but scary looking dog that made me feel a bit safer living so far out, and without a phone.

Looking at the satellite image, it makes me sad to think that people still live in these tiny little places. They should be part of a museum or demolished. I have no fond memories of this place, the place of my internment.

One thought on “WWII Internment Barracks

  1. This piece is so poorly written that I’m rather embarrassed to have it here, but I have felt compelled to post that satellite image of those barracks, those sad barren places in that desolate spot. One of these days I will go back and edit the piece, but not today. I have to get through finals.


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