Before Pearl Harbor
In 1918, Haruo Hayashi's father, Yeiji Hayashi, immigrated to the U.S. from Japan by going through South America and Mexico before being brought over the border by a paid coyote smuggler. In California, he married his wife Toyo and they settled down in Arroyo Grande, where Hauro was to be born in 1926. In 1942, his family had been farming lettuce, celery, and beans on a 100 acre farm, which his family leased.
Executive Order 9066
But on February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, forcing 120,000 people of Japanese descent—even American citizens—who lived in the Western part of the United States to flee from their homes, separate from their families, and live in detention camps. That included sixteen year old Haruo Hayashi and his family. At first, the order only asked the Japanese to leave the so-called military areas, but when the government realized that summer that most of the Japanese had no where to go, families were put on buses and forced to leave. Hauro remembers looking at Arroyo Grande High School and sitting on a school bus with his parents and little brother, while his friends stood outside, watching him leave.
Detention Camp in Arizona (Image Source here)
First, the family went to a detention camp in Tulare that once was a horse track; therefore, they were forced to sleep in old stables that, "didn’t smell that good, but you get used to it, you have to,” said Haruo. Eventually, their family was moved to the Gila River intermittent camp in Arizona. Essentially, they stayed in 20 by 100 feet wooden shacks that four families shared. Those camps were "crowded and noisy, hot in the summer, and windy and cold in the winter. But life went on. The government tried to create a sense of normalcy at the camp, with school lessons for kids and jobs for the adults. Haruo worked for a time as a dishwasher for $6 a month, while his dad worked as a foreman at the farm where they raised food for the camp. Haruo wrote letters to his friends back home and even formed a big band group with some of the other teens at the camp. Still, it wasn’t exactly life as usual. Living situations were substandard, food was distributed, and basic necessities like soap were carefully rationed."
Later in the war, when the opportunity arose, Haruo opted to serve because his friends were in the navy and army as well. Despite the intense training, "much of Haruo’s time in the Army was uneventful due to his bad right eye. During target practice his fellow soldiers would yell 'Hayashi’s on the line!' So instead of being sent abroad, Haruo was stationed at the military base in Monterey. He was released from service in 1945, just before the war ended. After that, Haruo picked cabbage in Utah for six months to save enough money to get his parents out of the camp. Then, the Hayashi family returned to the farm in Arroyo Grande."
Back on the Farm
When they came back to Arroyo Grande, they found everything ready to go, for their friends had leased out their land during the war so the Hayashi's didn't have to start building their new life from the ground up, unlike the fate many Japanese Americans faced. However, racial prejudice against the Japanese still existed, for the Pismo Beach movie theater refused to admit Japanese Americans and "The families that owned land were often able to come back to that land, but the vast majority weren’t able to own land and couldn’t return."
His Later Days
Eventually, Haruo met his wife Rose and they had five sons (two of which are doctors), and seven grandchildren. Today, the Hayashi farm is 300 acres and their famous strawberries can be found at the Thursday night farmers' market in downtown San Luis Obispo. Additionally, in June of 2019, 93-year old Haruo Hayashi received his high school diploma after being unable to graduate in 1944 because he was sent to a concentration camp during World War II.
Cooley, Ryah. “Imprisoning Our Own: SLO County Families and Executive Order 9066.” New Times San Luis Obispo, New Times San Luis Obispo, 9 July 2020, www.newtimesslo.com/sanluisobispo/imprisoning-our-own-slo-county-families-and-executive-order-9066/Content?oid=2978896.
Dickinson, Laura. “He Spent High School in an Internment Camp. Watch Him Get His Diploma - with His Grandson.” Sanluisobispo, San Luis Obispo Tribune, www.sanluisobispo.com/news/local/article231291218.html.