Fresno Grapevine (newspaper)

Publication Name Fresno Grapevine
Camp Fresno (detention facility)
Start of Publication May 23, 1942
End of Publication October 17, 1942
Predecessor Fresno Center News
Mode of Production Mimeograph
Staff Members Ellen Ayako Noguchi (editor); Howard Renge (associate editor); Richard Itanaga (city editor); Otoichi Noma (Japanese editor); Tad Hitomi (translator); Fred Harada (reporter); John Hirohata (reporter); Carl Kurihara (reporter); Lily Koyama (reporter); Sam Nakagama (reporter); Alice Sumida (reporter); Tom Toyama (reporter); Seico Hanashiro (editorial assistant); George Mochizuki (copy editor); Haruko Kawano (artist); Eddie Kurushima (cartoonist); Shiro Kurihara (circulation, business manager); Mari Asakawa (secretary); Kimi Hiwano (senior typist); Sumi Ishii (senior typist); Hazel Mizusaki (senior typist); Marion Nakatsuma (senior typist); Kiyomi Nakamura (head technician); Ben Fujii (technician); I. J. Iwamoto (technician); John Kikuta (technician); Hugh Muranaka (technician); Tsugio Nakagama (technician); Shunji Yamagata (technician)

Newspaper of the Fresno Assembly Center that had one of the longest runs of any assembly center paper, forty-four issues. In addition to the twice weekly newspaper, Grapevine staff members also printed various forms and announcements for the administration and produced a one hundred page yearbook titled Vignette upon the camp's closing. Ellen Ayako Noguchi was the editor throughout the paper's lifespan.

As with other camp newspapers , the Grapevine provided inmates with basic news about the camp—announcements of events, sports results, news of weddings and births, profiles of white administrators and inmate workers, and the like. It featured regular columns by Editor Noguchi ("Pineknot Portrait") and City Editor Richard Itanaga ("Between the Barracks") along with updates on other camps, editorials, and cartoons by Eddie Kurushima. Associate Editor Howard Renge handled the editorial page. The paper also printed various official pronouncement by Camp Manager Ellis P. Pulliam and other staff. Also as with other assembly center newspapers, the Grapevine was subject to censorship, which was acknowledged in a July 4 story about how the paper was put together. [1]

The first issue of the paper was titled the Fresno Center News and appeared on May 23, 1942, seventeen days after the official opening of the camp. This first issue ran six pages, four in English and two in Japanese. Subsequent issues would include only English. With the second issue on May 27, the name Grapevine had been chosen, based "a careful study of the 46 suggestions received." [2] From the third issue, a six-page format was established that would rarely vary. One of the most stable of the assembly center papers, the Grapevine appeared regularly on Wednesdays and Saturdays. With the exception of the Japanese language staff that disappeared after the first issue, the rest of the staff remained nearly entirely intact for the run of the paper. Housed initially in a cramped space in Barrack 20, the Grapevine office moved to a larger space in Section A in early June. [3]

The editorial staff was very young and many had ties to the Japanese American Citizens League , including Noguchi and Itanaga, and reporters Fred Harada and John Hirohata. [4] As was true for the population at large, most came from Fresno and the surrounding rural counties. Editor Noguchi, a native of Tulare, California, and well-known for her prewar contributions to the Rafu Shimpo and Nichibei Shimbun newspapers, was just twenty-two years old, while Itanaga, a Fresno native, was 22 and Associate Editor Howard Renge, a law student at the University of California, was 23. Two of the reporters, Lily Koyama and Sam Nakagama (who wrote a weekly sports column) were just seventeen. [5]

No doubt due to both the political inclinations of the staff and the reality of censorship/self-censorship, the tone of the paper was relentlessly positive with little in way of dissent or bad news appearing. In his first column, Itanaga put a dubious positive spin on the confinement due to enhanced romantic possibilities, claiming that it was "a dream come true for many lads who no longer have to choose between conserving tires and paying court to their heart's desire—what a happy hunting ground for free lancers who have the cream of the valley practically in their laps." [6] In reporting as one of the advance crew from Jerome, Carl Kurihara wrote that while there "will be century towers and military police all around the center as in Fresno... their main purpose is to keep curious people from coming in." [7] At the same time, hints of the difficulties of concentration camp life can be gleaned from articles on treating sun stroke or sunburn or what to do if someone faints, along with terse official notices about curfews or requiring the turning in of all Japanese language materials ("except Bibles and hymnals"). [8]

In a special, two-page edition issued on Monday, September 28, the Grapevine announced that the Jerome , Arkansas, camp would be the destination of Fresno inmates. The remaining issues focused on the imminent departure, providing necessary information and looking back at the time at Fresno. The final issue of the paper was dated October 17, just under two weeks before the official closing of the camp on October 30. Additionally, the staff put out Vignette: A Pictorial Record of Life in the Fresno Assembly Center , an expansively illustrated (mostly with drawing by Eddie Kurushima) 100-page yearbook that reviewed nearly every aspect of life at the camp.

At Jerome, several Grapevine staffers worked on the Denson Tribune newspaper, including Noguchi, who became its features editor, and Itanaga, who reprised his role as city editor. Both also wrote columns. Noguchi married Grapevine head technician Kiyomi Nakamura at Jerome, and the couple were among those who settled in Seabrook, New Jersey, where Kiyomi was an accountant and Ayako a public relations person for Seabrook Farms . They would remain there throughout their lives. As did Ellen Nakamura, Noguchi became one of the founders of the Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center in 1991, an institution dedicated to telling the story of Japanese Americans at Seabrook Farms, serving as its initial board president. [9] Itanaga volunteered for the army from Jerome and served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team , later working in advertising and public relations in New York. Renge served in the Military Intelligence Service , then finished his law degree at Fordham Law School, eventually returning to the Central Valley to become the first Nisei lawyer in Fowler. [10]

All 44 issues of the Grapevine are available in the Densho Digital Repository.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

For More Information

Fresno Grapevine Collection. Densho Digital Repository. .

Vignette: A Pictorial Record of Life in the Fresno Assembly Center , October 1942. Guy & Marguerite Cook Nisei Collection, University of the Pacific Library. Available on Calisphere website.

Polfer, Tiffany Anne. "'All of Us Must Make Sacrifices to Help Towards Upholding American Ideals': Japanese American Internment Print Culture During World War II." M.A. thesis, California State University, Fresno, 2011.


  1. According to the story, Service Division Head Walter E. Pollock "and a government press representative" review the paper, at which time they "give the death sentence to one or two" stories." Fresno Grapevine , July 4, 1942, 3, Densho Digital Repository, accessed on July 17, 2015 at .
  2. Fresno Grapevine , May 27, 1942, 1, Densho Digital Repository, accessed on July 17, 2015 at .
  3. Fresno Grapevine , June 6, 1942, 3, Densho Digital Repository, accessed on July 17, 2015 at
  4. Pacific Citizen , Aug. 13, 1942, 7, accessed on Jan. 11, 2018 at
  5. Vignette: A Pictorial Record of Life in the Fresno Assembly Center , October 1942, Guy & Marguerite Cook Nisei Collection, University of the Pacific Library, Calisphere, accessed on July 19, 2015 at , staff profiles on pages 28–30, 62, 68, and 77. On Noguchi, see also Kenny Murase, "Who's Who in the Nisei Literary World," Current Life , October 1940, 9, and S. Joseph Hagenmayer, "Ellen Nakamura, 80, A Community Activist,", Apr. 29, 2000, accessed on July 19, 2015 at .
  6. Richard Itanaga, "Within the Barracks," Fresno Center News , May 23, 1942, 3, accessed on July 19, 2015 at .
  7. Carl Kurihara, "No Alligators, Snakes in Jerome, Scribe Says," Fresno Grapevine , Oct. 14, 1942, 4, accessed on July 19, 2015 at .
  8. Fresno Center News , May 23, 1942, 1; Fresno Grapevine , May 30, 1942, 5, June 10, 1942, 4, June 17, 1942, 3, and June 24, 1942, 1, all accessed on July 19, 2015 at ; ; ; ; ; quote from the last.
  9. Hagenmayer, "Ellen Nakamura"; Pacific Citizen , May 27, 1944, 8, Oct. 28, 1944, 3, both accessed on Jan. 11, 2018 at and .
  10. On Itanaga, see Pacific Citizen , Apr. 22, 1943, 8, Joe Oyama, "Mannahatta," Oct. 28, 1950, 2, and Bill Hosokawa, "From the Frying Pan," Aug. 19, 1955, 8, all accessed on Jan. 11, 2018 at , , and . On Renge, see Pacific Citizen , July 17, 1953, 1 and Aug. 21, 1953, 5, both accessed on Jan. 11, 2018 at and .

Last updated Jan. 13, 2024, 4:43 a.m..