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Boy Scouts of Seabrook by Erin Weinman

Many of the residents of Seabrook Farms were children, and there was an effort made to allow them to continue to live their lives as any other child would under more normal circumstance. School was available for them to continue their educations, clubs were established, and many children made friends within their communities. Still, they continued to live restricted lives. Because the parents of many children worked long shifts, a number of children were often left alone at care centers for hours on end and might not have time with their parents for days. For the Japanese American community at Seabrook, parents wanted to ensure that their children were protected from the racial discrimination and loss of civil liberties that the war had brought to the Nisei. As a result, the children of Seabrook Farms had a different perspective from that of their parents, who spent their days toiling away in the factory and fields.

The Scouts was just one of several organizations that the children were able to join. An organization that continues to be an icon of patriotism and citizenship in America, the opportunity to join the Scouts gave children a chance to commit to being good citizens at a time when their citizenship was questioned. Additionally, Seabrook Farms itself had a long history with the Scouts. There had been a previously failed attempt to recruit children involved with the organization as a source of labor, with Seabrook advertising the work as a summer camp in order to meet its seasonal labor needs. As new groups of employees were recruited, several brought entire families to live in the Seabrook community. Children balanced work and play, but for the Japanese Americans, children held the additional burden of having to prove their citizenship after being forced into internment camps in the wartime years.

It only seemed natural to use the Scouts as an excuse to continue building up the use of child labor under the guise of helping the country. Victory gardens were created, and children would spend time building gardens on Seabrook grounds. To labor was to display love for country, and for several children, the show of patriotism was a necessity. As more families were recruited to Seabrook Farms, child labor was increasingly used, both to benefit Seabrook Farms monetarily and to promote ideals of American citizenship. The photographs of Boy Scouts served multiple purposes for Seabrook Farms. To be seen receiving a reward was beneficial especially to the Japanese Americans, proving to the public that the children were just as dedicated to the country as any child. As for Seabrook Farms, it showed that the Company was justified recruiting a source of labor that many considered suspect.

Even though children at Seabrook were compelled into performing patriotism through joining the scouts, some good came out of the arrangement. Many were able to make new friends and join communities with other youth whose childhoods had been restrained by the war. Several people recalled fond memories of their childhoods at Seabrook despite the trying circumstances that brought them there. As children they may not have known better — parents often kept silent about their captivity and preferred to keep their children calm about their confinement.

Cub Scouts work on building a garden, just one of the several activities they were involved in at Seabrook Farms.
Credit: "Victory Garden," 1950, Seabrook Farms Education and Cultural Center, Rutgers University Community Repository Collection.
A scout rides his bike to the gardens in Hoover Village.
Credit: "Scouts riding bike to garden with Hoover Village in the background," 1950, Seabrook Farms Education and Cultural Center, Rutgers University Community Repository Collection.
Credit: "Boy Scouts receiving their awards at the Court of Honor," 1950, Seabrook Farms Education and Cultural Center, Rutgers University Community Repository Collection.