On August 27, 1942 the first railroad train carrying 212 evacuees from the Merced Assembly Center arrived at Camp Amache. The evacuees from the Merced Assembly Center mainly came from the farming region in the Central Valley of California. With only a portion of the camp actually finished these evacuees were chosen due to their diverse skills. "These first men and women were artisans, stenographers, clerks, cooks, and other specialists who could aid the WRA officials in preparing the center for settlement" (Holsinger 1960: 47). When the evacuees arrived only two blocks of barracks, one mess hall, and one lavatory had been completed.
James Lindley, the project director, described the problems the evacuees faces at first:
The contractors failed to have the buildings ready by the scheduled date but the West Coast Defense Command refused to change the schedule for departure of the evacuees. As a result the evacuees arrived before adequate facilities were prepared. Trains arrived, usually at night; lighting facilities were extremely sketchy, and families stumbled around in the dark, individuals often falling into excavations when being led to their quarters. Candles with their ever present fire hazard in this city of cardboard homes, were their only light. Hot and cold water was provided in only a few blocks; mess hall installations lagged. The evacuees had to walk several blocks to find a bath house with water provided. One mess gall served as many as four blocks, 1000 to 1200 people, serving in three or four shifts. Water for drinking and washing dishes had to be hauled in truck tanks from Granada as the center water was impure and inadequate. The toilets in the wash rooms were used before the water connections were made and a clean up hose squad was necessary to clean up the attendant litter. Wooden privies were finally provided, neither sightly or sanitary . . . but out of chaos came order (quoted in Holsinger 1960: 49-50).
On September 1 the first regular arrival of 557 evacuees left Merced Assembly Center headed for Granada where they arrived two days later. In the next two weeks the population of the center increased from 212 to 4,492 people (Holsinger 1960: 48). As soon as the evacuation of the Merced Assembly Center was completed the Army began evacuating the Santa Anita Assembly Center. On September 19 the first evacuees arrived from the Santa Anita Assembly Center. Many of these evacuees were from the Los Angeles area. By the end of October Amache had reached its peak population of 7,567 evacuees. Two-thirds of the evacuees were American citizens with 2.123 out of over 7.500 were resident aliens (Holsinger 1960: 55).
The barracks were comprised of bone insulation-board walls, exposed roof rafters, and brick floors set in dirt. The families decorated their apartments by using their own skills and resources. The furniture was homemade from scrap lumber which was found around the camp perimeters.
Community Council and Block Managers
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