Granada Pioneer (newspaper)
|Publication Name||Granada Pioneer|
|Start of Publication||October 14, 1942|
|End of Publication||September 15, 1945|
The Granada Pioneer (Oct. 14, 1942 to Sept. 15, 1945) was the camp newspaper of the Granada "Relocation Center," more commonly known as Camp Amache. The newspaper, which was primarily in English with two or more pages of news in Japanese at the back each issue, was published twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays from its inception until after the war. The staff worked out of a newsroom at 8F Recreation Hall for the early issues but by the Nov. 11 issue it had its own Pioneer Building.
The population of every Japanese American concentration camp was served by both English and Japanese language newspapers. Like typical small-town newspapers, these publications kept prisoners abreast of the news of the day in the camps, but they didn't enjoy full freedom of the press. At Amache, for instance, the administrators regularly met with the Japanese American newspaper staff to make sure the editors understood the perspective of the War Relocation Authority (WRA).
The Granada Pioneer distributed its first mimeographed copy with the name Bulletin on October 14, 1942. The four-page issue featured on its front page a big story about upcoming camp elections for block leaders and a story about plans for a 4,000-acre farm project to provide food for Amache and other camps. The first issue also included a call for entries in its "Name Our Newspaper" contest, with a year's subscription to Reader's Digest and five extra copies of the newspaper as the prize.
Three more Bulletins were printed on Oct. 17 (a Special Election Issue that listed the voting results for each barrack's block representatives), Oct. 21 and Oct 24. After the printing equipment arrived and a makeshift newsroom was set up, the Granada Pioneer officially made its debut on Oct. 28. The contest's winner was Edith Kodama in 6E-12F.
The paper was authorized by camp administration, but staffed by camp prisoners. Most of the articles were in English with one or more pages of news translated into Japanese. The newspaper was delivered free to every block twice a week.
Li'l Neebo Debuts
That same first issue with the new name also featured a cartoon character who would keep Amache residents chuckling through the next several years. Lil' Neebo, short for "Little Nisei Boy," was the creation of cartoonist Chris Ishii (1919-2001), who created the character when he was in the Santa Anita Assembly Center, a converted race track in the Los Angeles suburb of Arcadia, to show the lighter side of life under such extreme circumstances. Lil' Neebo became a regular feature in Santa Anita's newspaper for the few months that the inmates were imprisoned there, and when Ishii made the rail trek to Colorado with others from Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Clara counties, Lil' Neebo came along for the ride.
Ishii wasn't new to cartoons. He had attended art school and was working for Disney when war broke out. When WRA officials saw Ishii's talent, they recruited him in 1943 to make propaganda posters, and he eventually served with the Military Intelligence Service in Shanghai. When Ishii left Amache, friends continued drawing the cartoon because Neebo was so popular.
The articles in the Granada Pioneer covered everything going on in the camp, mostly the mundane management of camp infrastructure, the occasional exciting news (finding an antique old west rifle in the desert landscape), or occasional news (mostly bad) from home, like the time inmates were told property stored at one of the Buddhist temples in LA would be removed. Once men began serving in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service, the Pioneer also covered their exploits and losses, such as an article about a memorial tribute on Aug. 12, 1944, for six Amacheans who died in battle in Italy.
The paper also published helpful lifestyle tips, especially to the newcomers arriving from Santa Anita with Lil' Neebo. One article explained the winter weather to come, and warned the newly-relocated Californians about the sub-zero climate they'd face in just weeks. The article also had a quote from the general manager of the Lamar Daily News, the paper of record from a town about 20 miles away, warning Amache residents that the coldest day the previous winter was 24 degrees below zero, and that "every little hole should be plugged because during blizzards snow will penetrate any places that air can come through." He also advised that the barracks' brick floors should be covered with something to "prevent frostbitten feet." Welcome to Colorado!
The final edition of the Granada Pioneer was published on September 15, 1945, and led off with a cheerful farewell note from the WRA administrator who worked with the "staff that put in so many hours and that worked so cheerfully and faithfully as that of our little Amache newspaper." The 12-page edition ended with a list of inmates and the dates they would be released (many had already left by then), and where they would go.
The final page featured the same illustration that introduced Lil' Neebo in 1942, but with a farewell message and small caricature of the two artists who had carried on Chris Ishii's work.
For More Information
Densho Digital Repository, Camp Newspaper Collections includes PDF digitized copies of the Granada Bulletin, Granada Pioneer, Amache Hi It, Junior Pioneer and other camp publications, http://ddr.densho.org/ddr-densho-147/.
Pacific Citizen Archives, http://pacificcitizen.org/digital-archives.
"Behind Barbed Wire," University of Denver website focusing on Camp Amache, produced by the DU Museum of Anthropology; the Anthropology Dept. is conducting ongoing excavation at the Amache site, http://www.du.edu/behindbarbedwire/.
- Takeya Mizuno, “The Creation of ‘Free' Press in the Japanese American Camps: The War Relocation Authority's Planning and Making of the Camp Newspaper Policy,” Journalism & Mass Communications Quarterly, Vol. 78 No. 3, 2001: 510.
- "Edith Kodama Wins Paper Naming Contest," Granada Pioneer, October 28, 1942, 1.
- "Newspapers of Amache," Behind Barbed Wire, University of Denver, http://www.du.edu/behindbarbedwire/newspapers_of_amache.html.
- "Sub-Zero Weather to Face Center Populace," Granada Pioneer, October 28, 1942, 3.
- "L'il Neebo," Granada Pioneer, September 15, 1945, 12.