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Amache Archaeology Collection

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

Cracker Jack

Lead and Tin Alloy, .86" long. Found in Block 7K.

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Cracker Jack toys are an iconic and nostalgic phenomenon spanning generations. Archaeologists found this fragment of a metal toy in block 7K at Amache. Student research into the object's design confirms that this is a Cracker Jack toy. X-Ray analysis shows that this toy is crafted from a mixture of lead and tin alloys, a combination that was only used between 1939 and 1941 during the tension-filled years preceding the United States' entry into World War II. This fragment was found in front of the Yokoyama family's barrack in Amache. Since there were few other families living in this section of the block, it is very likely that the toy belonged to someone in that household and was probably brought from home to Amache.

- Megan DeBard, Student Curator

personal reflection

This fragment of a Cracker Jack toy immediately conjures the memory for generations of kids, of opening a box of the candy-coated peanuts and caramel corn and shaking out that prized pouch to get to the toy. Opening the pouch, you might be delighted or disappointed with the toy, depending on whether it's something you wanted or not.

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Cracker Jack Toy Packet.

Courtesy of Dennis Miyashiro.

This rider on a horse was probably one of the cool toys. It's easy to imagine the young boy Yoshio of the Yokoyama family, in front of whose door the fragment was found, kneeling in the dirt of Amache and playing with the rider. Maybe it was part of a bunch of riders, or maybe it was a lone cowboy.

The Cracker Jack was probably purchased not long before the family was sent to the concentration camp. Yoshio may have clutched it in his hand, or kept it in his pocket for safe keeping, during the long train ride from Los Angeles, where his family had lived before the war. Playing with the toy was a way to make life as normal as possible in the camp.

Somewhere along the line, it got lost, or dropped, or broken and discarded.

This tiny fragment of a mass-produced toy is a key to an entire life. Imagine playing with it at Amache, and you're transported to that time and place, and can feel the injustice of sending a boy to such a place to treasure a Cracker Jack toy as a prized possession.

- Gil Asakawa, Sansei (third generation Japanese American, Community Curator. Author of Being Japanese American.


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Reproduction of 1930s era packaging.

Courtesy of Jason Liebig

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Left: Gil Asakawa, Community Curator. Right: Megan DeBard, DU Student Curator.