Thursday, March 4, 2010


I am in Sacramento. I will be here for two weeks, the sole purpose of this trip being research. Leaving a cold, grey landscape behind as I drove through Donner Pass and into California, the energy of Spring was everywhere. The thought crossed my mind, that I could find an excuse to drive this way each March. Just when I've had about all I can take of the dormancy of Winter, to drive into greenery and blooming trees . . .

Daydreaming of all the beautiful places to visit nearby, I reminded myself why I came here. Sacramento is an old place, with a multitude of repositories and a robust pride in their history. I came loaded for bear. I packed my laptop, my binders of documents, my thumb-drives, my external storage drive, digital camera, and a rainbow of pens, pencils, and highlighters.

Day One of research, I drove downtown and paid $20 to park for the day. Ouch. All the documents I could pay for with $20 ! So for my second day, I googled the bus route, gathered my gear, and schlepped out into the rain and rode the bus. The Center for Sacramento History was only a little ways from the bus stop, so I barely got wet. As the Center closed, up, I retrieved my bags of technology from my locker. Somehow I lost my camera.

Somewhere on my route, I must have put it down. No amount of mental retracing of my steps served to bring about any recollection of where on earth I left it. It was just plain gone. Now, I am not normally very hung up on THINGS. There were hardly any pictures on the camera, and while certainly very handy, a digital camera is not essential to my research. Still, I was fuming.

Today, as I prepped for another visit to the same repository, I was still perturbed, but tried to get a grip. Requesting an assortment of original Sacramento Police Records, I was gifted with a wheeled cart full of ledgers-crumbling and held together by straps tied around them like Christmas ribbon. Sergeants Daily Logs, Mugshot Indexes, Evidence Registers, Seized Property Reports, and Insane Commitment Orders. I love this stuff. I was wading through it all, and came to the Seized Property Reports.

I was hoping for lists of criminal contraband, guns, knives and the like. What was in the folder was receipt after receipt for cameras. There were hundreds of them. Issued in 1941, all the people named on these papers were of Japanese descent. In the War Department's efforts to keep our country safe from communism, they had felt it necessary to seize all the cameras from our Japanese citizenry before sending them into the desert to live and die in tarpaper shacks.

Another folder held copies of letters sent to those who later tried to recover their possessions. Barely more than a form letter, each person was told that their cameras had been stored in such a way as to make their return impossible.