Neighbors: WWII Japanese internment affected North Dakotans too

Bob Lind, Neighbors columnist. The Forum

During World War II, many American residents who were of Japanese descent were interned. As has been mentioned here in previous columns, one of them was Harry Hayashi, of Carrington, N.D.

Another name that popped up was Rinney Fujiwara, of New Rockford, N.D. But it was uncertain if he was among those who were interned.

Well, here’s an email from a grandson of Rinney, who bears the same name: Rinney Fujiwara.

The younger Rinney, of Billings, Mont., writes that he’d seen the column about his grandfather online, and he writes, “I know for a fact that my grandfather was NOT interned. But they did have their family’s assets frozen as well as having all rifles, shotguns and pistols confiscated.

“It was a pretty dark time in our history,” he writes.

This younger Rinney is a commercial loan officer for a mortgage company in Billings.

Emily Hilgers, Moorhead, who grew up in New Rockford, also wrote in, noting that the Hayashi family wasn’t the only Japanese family in North Dakota to be interned during the war.

Then there’s an email from John Hovey, New Rockford.

John, mentioning a column which told of the Rainbow Gardens in Carrington that Harry Hayashi opened before the war, writes “Rainbow Gardens was not only a hotel, but also a very popular dance venue and a restaurant. High school kids and many others loved it.”

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John also says Harry and the elder Rinney were not related, but he’s certain they were acquainted.

“Rinney (the elder) was married to a Caucasian lady by the name of Lydia, and they owned/operated the Rockford Cafe,” he says. “They had several children who went to school in New Rockford, and some of them lived in the Fujiwara home until recently (15 years or so ago?).

“Rinney (1899-1983), Lydia (1898-1954), and one son, Tayro (1928-1978) are buried in the New Rockford cemetery.

“I have heard some people say that the internment camps were not racially motivated, but were only established to move Japanese from the West Coast in case of an invasion,” John says. “But the fact that Harry Hayashi and Rinney Fujiwara, both living in the middle of the country, were treated the same makes one wonder.

“Having grown up in Minot, N.D., during World War II, I know there were several families of Japanese descent in the area. If they were the treated the same, I don’t know. “

And now, here’s a letter from Wes Kahl, of Carrington, who writes, “I knew the Hayashi family well and was a good friend of Alfred Hayashi from the sixth through the 12th grade. We graduated together in 1946.”

Wes believes a previous article mixed up Harry Sr. and his son Harry Jr.

“Per my recollection, Harry Jr. was the aeronautics person,” Wes says.

“I think Harry Jr. was the product of Harry Sr.’s first marriage, and his marriage with Auna resulted in Frank, George, Alfred,  Mary Ann and Robert.

“Though I can’t verify this, the word around town was that when Harry Sr. was interned, the reason was he had a radio (like most of us), that received shortwave broadcasts.

“I knew Harry Sr. well as I delivered groceries and meats to the Rainbow Gardens kitchen, where I always found Harry. He was a very congenial man and always had time to talk to a younger man.

“As a teenager, I spent time with Alfred at the Rainbow Gardens and helped with groundskeeping of the beautiful greenery and flowers there.

“I kept contact with Alfred until the death of his mother, after which he no longer visited Carrington.”

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 701-241-5487 or email blind@forumcomm.com.