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My Division


Amache Archeology Collection

Connecting the Pieces: Dialogues on the Amache Archaeology Collection Online Exhibit

Abalone Shell Fragment

Seashell, 2.75" wide. Found in Block 11H.


Native to the coast of California, this abalone shell may have served as a reminder to Japanese Americans living in Amache of their West Coast roots. Cut on one side, it might have been used for arts and crafts in camp or to decorate a garden. Japanese families could have brought abalone shell with them from California or purchased it at the Granada Fish Market. The Granada Fish Market offered a variety of traditional foods found in small Japanese markets such as seafood, chicken, soy sauce, and noodles. The abalone shell, along with other traditional groceries delivered from the Granada Fish Market, provided an outlet for Japanese people living in Amache to express a culture that government policies often suppressed.

- Todd Savolt, DU Student Curator


Building on his pre-war expertise, Frank Tsuchiya left Amache to start a business in nearby Granada. The Granada Fish Market, pictured here, was so successful that it spawned two post-war markets, one in Denver and one in Los Angeles.

Courtesy of Jack Muro, Japanese American National Museum collection.


Complete example of an abalone shell found in an Amache garden.

Courtesy of the DU Amache Project.

Personal Reflection

This piece of abalone shell collected on the surface in block 11H brought back memories of pre-World War II for me. My mother always included abalone among the many foods prepared for New Year's Day.

The abalone shell had a row of perforations along one side and was lined with mother of pearl. It was beautiful and I wanted to keep it for myself. The abalone meat was very rubbery and chewy, but we enjoyed it. I, myself, do not ever recall eating it in Amache.

- May Murakami, Community Curator. May lived with her family at block 7H at Amache.


Example of intact abalone shell from DMNS.

Photo by DUMA.

May's Amache Story

My parents, Joichi and Yu Yasumura, were both born in Hiroshima, Japan. My sisters (Mary, Tomoe, Grace, and Lily), my brothers, (Edward and William) and I were all born in California. Our lives, as well as other Japanese Americans, were changed forever when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order #9066 on February 19, 1942, which paved the way for the internment of Japanese Americans.

May at Amache HS, Sophomore, AHS Yearbook, 1945.

As ordered, on May 22, 1942 (my brother Eddie's birthday) our family went to the Merced Assembly Center which was on the Merced County Fair Grounds. The barracks we were assigned to were located at the edge of the camp and a guard tower was right outside our room. A fence was right behind our barracks and a grape vineyard was behind the fence. We were at the Merced Assembly Center for about three months, leaving for Granada towards the end of August 1942.


The first group of internees from the Merced Assembly Center arrive in Granada. They boarded waiting buses and trucks for the ride to Amache.

Courtesy of the National Archives & Records Administration.

After being on the converted coal train for three and a half days, we arrived in Granada at night. A bus took us to Amache. The barracks we were assigned to (7H) had no electricity yet. We were tired and grimy so were asked if we wanted to shower and we said "yes." We proceeded across an open block with a lantern or flashlight to the "shower" building and found only cold water. Somehow we managed to clean ourselves and returned to our dark new home. In the morning, we looked outside and saw this large expanse of nothingness – no trees, shrubs or plant life of any kind.

My two oldest sisters had completed high school so they sought jobs in camp and found some by inquiring where signs were posted "help wanted." My father got a job as a cook but at another block. He had been a cook at Merced. Prior to evacuation he was a truck farmer. The rest of the five children were students. I attended 8th grade in the barracks and 9th and 10th grade in the new high school. I remember walking backwards up the hill to fend off the wind and sand. My friends and I joined the girl reserves of the YWCA and spent most of our time going to school and the Y club called Gamma RHOS, which was a service club. Those of us who took typing and shorthand got jobs at the administration building.

May with fellow Girls Athletic Association Members, Amache High. Onlooker, AHS Yearbook, 1945.

On August 15, 1945, one day after V day, our mother, brother William, myself, Grace, and Lily left Amache for Denver. My brother Eddie had left camp in 1944 for Denver and eventually joined the Airborne Paratroopers and was still in the service. Unfortunately, he was not sent overseas during the war but was in service during occupation in Europe.


Last of the Amache internees awaiting train departure to western United States.

Courtesy of the National Archives and Records.

My mother, two younger sisters, and I went to live with our two oldest sisters who acquired an extra room at an apartment house so we could join. My brother Bill went to live with our father on Larimer Street. Our oldest sisters had left camp in 1943 and worked at schools and went to Barnes Business College while our father paid their tuition. Our father had left camp before them to cut trees in Wyoming but eventually found it too cold and went to Denver and became a cook. Our sisters already had jobs in an office long before we left camp.

- May Murakami, Community Curator. May lived with her family at block 7H at Amache.

Left: May Murakami, Community Curator. Right: Todd Savolt, DU Student Curator.