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Essay by
  • Austen-Leigh DePinto
in response to
Essay by Alan Woodruff, March 3, 2000

Alan Woodruff was a young resident of Seabrook Farms in 1944. He describes his experience as a student at the Seabrook School when Japanese Americans arrived. According to his fourth-grade calculations, the school's population "increased by 50% overnight."

A young, white male living on an East Coast farm, Alan was largely removed from the pervading "yellow fever" and anti-Asian sentiment that led up to Executive Order 9066, events which were most acutely experienced on the West Coast. As a result of this blissful childhood ignorance, the tone of Alan's letter offers a fresh perspective on the influx of Japanese Americans at Seabrook Farms. Many of the children already attending school in Seabrook were told "not to ask" their Japanese American classmates about what happened prior to their arrival. It is unclear whether this request originated from the children's parents or higher up from Seabrook company officials who were concerned that legally-recognized differences in race and citizenship would lead to ostracization and conflict. What is clear; however, is that the mysterious circumstances of the Japanese Americans' arrival did not deter the children from forging bonds of friendship.

Alan describes the change in atmosphere after the arrival of his new classmates. As he recall, "whether recognizing it or not at the time, the diversity of the population…gave us an invaluable education and preparation for adult life in the diverse world we continue to live in."

Alan writes with the memory of a childhood unencumbered by racism, relocation, and the radical violation of civil liberties. His account offers a glimpse into the innocent perspective of a child who saw these events as a cause for excitement, untainted by knowledge of the inner workings that marked the failure to protect Constitutional rights. To Alan and other young residents of Seabrook, the influx of new classmates created excitement for new adventures and enthusiasm for new friends. Though memories are often viewed through rose-colored glasses, the willingness of young Seabrook residents to welcome new classmates speaks to a larger attitude of childhood innocence and acceptance. An attitude that sheds light on the largely favorable view of the Seabrook community that is still held by those who were young at the time - even to this day.

Alan's is not the only letter to offer this cheerful outlook, nor is this positive view limited to white residents. Letters from many others of all backgrounds, who lived at Seabrook during the 1940s, speak to fond childhood memories of laughter, games, and fun.