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Essay by
  • Karenjot Kaur

Rei R. Noguchi, a resident of Seabrook for seventeen years, recalls his childhood as idyllic and taking place in a suburban town, through a stream of memories chronicling his route as a paperboy. Noguchi remembers the path he took to deliver newspapers, and his routine of attending school, returning home, and then heading to work on his prized bicycle. As he describes his paper route, Noguchi explores what his younger self perceived of the surroundings, passing by scenes of classmates playing baseball or participating in the Seabrook Boy Scouts. To a young Noguchi, Seabrook was a suburban town like any other in the United States, with general stores, repair shops, churches, and even bullies. Noguchi's memories are shaped by the omnipresent community life; the town housed Japanese, Estonian, German, Latvian, and Polish families who sent their children to school and then worked in warehouses of which the children had no significant knowledge. Noguchi reminisces about a life where work does not really enter the picture: fishing on the weekends, playing sports, and attending community dances.

As a child, he was unaware of the labor his parents were performing. Seabrook Farms was not a historic site to a child who routinely struggled with the stresses of "afternoon naps and the awful tomato juice" offered in school. Instead, it was a "typical" community, offering him far more than the stresses of survival in the face of displacement, incarceration, and parole. The looming warehouses were background, never explained to the children as anything other than places of work, and never intruding upon the memories of a tranquil childhood spent in the neighborhoods of Seabrook.

Seabrook School, December 2, 1952," 1952, Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center, Rutgers University Community Repository Collection.