They Wore Their Best

I take transit every day – usually MUNI in the morning and BART in the evening.  And I love it. I love it more, having moved from New York, because I have the option of driving when I want to – especially to go grocery shopping or on other errands involving schlepping. But mostly, I love it.

I love having time to myself for 20-30 minutes twice a day. Usually that time is used to prepare for the day at work, to read (I just finished Ira Levin’s A Kiss Before Dying which was phenomenal) or listening to audiobooks/podcasts (recently started At Home by Bill Bryson, which is great). And when I do the latter, I play a lot of Scramble with Friends and Draw Something.

But sometimes, I start random conversations that lead to new found obsessions (as I detailed in my post about Maximum Fun and Bullseye here) or end up doing my makeup (I only do this if I have two seats to myself).

But, although I love transit, rarely do I get to learn something new or see something moving or beautiful. And especially, I very rarely think about the world beyond my own day-to-day life.

San Bruno BART has changed that with “They Wore Their Best”  – twelve then-and-now photograph comparisons about the Japanese interment in California during World War II.

The photos from the 40s were taken by famed photographer Dorthea Lange and the modern photos were taken by Paul Kitagaki, Jr., who discovered that his own family’s interment had been documented by Lange. San Bruno’s Tanforan – then a race track – was converted into a detention center where many gathered before being sent to the interment camps.  All the images are moving and strong and, I think, an important reminder of the past.

120,000 individuals  of Japanese descent- two-thirds US Citizens – were sent to interment camps under presidential Executive Order 9066 two months after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Upon discovering Lange’s photos, Kitagaki “wanted to find out the rest of the story: how the internment had changed the lives of people who’d lost their homes, businesses and sometimes their families.”

I’m afraid I don’t do either photographers’ work much justice with my camera phone, but I recommend taking a little transit trip to San Bruno to see this exhibit. You can use the time on the train for yourself, and the time in the station to connect to this important and sad part of our American and Californian history.
“The issei (first generation) are all gone and the nisei (second generation) are in their 80s and 90s,” said exhibition organizer Richard Oba, of the Tanforan Assembly Center Memorial Committee. “I felt like this was the last hurrah. These pictures were frozen in time. But now Paul has unlocked them.”

SFGate article (where the above quotes are from) about the exhibit:
Photos illustrate effects of WWII internment camps by Patricia Yollin (May 12, 2012)

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