Early in 1943 Amache reached its peak population and was ranked as the tenth largest city in the state of Colorado (Holsinger 1960: 76). Having been forced to live in this region many evacuees were unprepared for either the weather or the adjustments to a new form of living. Accustomed to the sunshine and fine weather in California it was hard for evacuees to become used to the bitter cold and snow during the winter and to the dry and hot weather in the summer. The evacuees had only been at Amache for a short period of time when the first snowfall occurred on October 23, 1942. By January the temperature had dropped to 22 degrees below zero. The cartoon 'Lil Neebo which appeared in the camp newspaper the Granada Pioneer often told of the difficult weather conditions the evacuees faced on a regular basis. By April the bitter cold weather had been replaced by clouds of dusts. Evacuees found it difficult to rid their barracks of dirt and dust which constantly accumulated in their homes. "Rain, which occasionally did come to help keep the dust down, often caused much damage to buildings and crops alike" (Holsinger 1960: 77).
A majority of the life at the center was restricted to group-oriented activities. The evacuees were forced to eat and bathe together. The greatest complaint concerned the community mess halls. Evacuees argued that the control of their families had its foundation in the family meal. The mess hall took away from the authority that the parents had over their children. "Because of this, they raised many bitter objections to the WRA officials at the camp throughout the years of their confinement, though to no avail" (Holsinger 1960: 77-78).
Another complaint among evacuees concerned the food served in the mess halls. Rationing of food came into effect on February 1943 even though the camp farm produced a surplus of food every season. The food served was standard army food with the exception of white rice which was served with every meal. "A typical camp menu for a day might offer dried prunes, scrambled eggs, cereal, toast, butter and coffee for breakfast; hot dogs, potatoes, vegetables, bread, jam and tea for lunch; and fried fish, stewed tomato, salad, pickled cabbage, tea and milk for lunch" (Lurie 1990: 75). The average cost to feed each evacuee at Amache came to about forty cents per day. Animals were raised and slaughtered at the camp farm. Children under the age of six was restricted to three-quarter of a pound of meat per week including the bone. Children from six to twelve got one and one-half pounds of meat while everyone else received two and one-half pounds. The food was not very good on many occasions. One evacuee stated that:
Actually the food is none too good . . . There are two meatless days and on "meat days" one often has to carry out a thorough investigation to find the meat. Spoons, knives, and napkins are luxuries not often seen . . . menus at the camp must be changed and rechanged by the cooks on the basis of what they actually have. As a result of these hit and miss tactics, unbalanced - and sometimes unpalatable - menus are served (quoted in Holsinger 1960: 79).
The evacuees had little freedom of movement outside of Amache. Evacuees were allowed to go outside of camp to shop at Lamar or elsewhere if they could find their own transportation. These short-term leave clearances were only granted once a month to each person. Evacuees were also permitted to take seasonal leave which allowed people to take a temporary employment in industry and agriculture. The last type of leave granted by the WRA was indefinite leave. Indefinite leave allowed evacuees to leave the camp to pursue higher education, employment, or to resettle elsewhere in the U.S. (except on the West Coast since the exclusion was not lifted until January 2, 1945). There were WRA offices located in Chicago, Denver, Cleveland, Kansas City, Salt Lake City, Little Rocks and New York City which were established to aid in the reintegration of camp residents back into society.
At Amache there were several activities which the evacuees could participate in during one's spare time. Many Issei men participated in chess and woodcarving. While the women participated in sewing, knitting, and weaving. There were poem writing clubs, theatre groups, song fests, and dances. Movies were further shown in a rotation around each block. The first movie shown at Amache was "Mexican Spitfire Out West." Various athletic events were also available for both the young and old. "The Boy Scouts and a dozen allied activities, church and school groups, recreational activities, and competitive games held both locally and throughout the area were equally important in keeping the residents from complete boredom" (Holsinger 1960: 83).
FACTS ABOUT AMACHE:
Population: 6,550 (January 1944)
First Birth: September 22, 1942 (a girl)
Births: 199 (January 1944)
First Death: October 1, 1942
Deaths: 47 (January 1944)
Internal Security: 3 WRA officers, 30 evacuee police
Average rainfall: 15.75 inches
Average snowfall: 23.40 inches
Average low temperature: 31.1 degrees F.
Average high temperature: 77.8 degrees F.
Elevation: 3,592 ft.
(statistics: WRA 1944: 32-33)
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