Santa Anita Race Track in Arcadia, Calif. is usually associated with racing and being next to a large shopping mall but now it is also home to a new exhibit on the use of the track in World War II history. Dara Dunn, curator of The Arcadia Historical Museum, hopes that people will have a better understanding of the history and the exhibit brings some collective healing and better cultural understanding.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, President Roosevelt ordered Japanese Americans to internment camps. During the time that these camps were being built, Japanese Americans were held at assembly centers like Santa Anita beginning in March of 1942. 19,000 Japanese Americans were held at Santa Anita in barracks or converted horses stalls. The Army covered Santa Anita’s parking lot with rows of identical barracks and camp was divided into seven districts. Each person was given an Army bed, blanket, and straw tick. In these conditions, the racetrack was also surrounded by barbed wire and residents were not allowed to have any Japanese literature. By September 1942, residents were relocated to different assembly centers and Santa Anita camp was empty by the end of the month. The racetrack then turned into an Army training camp.
The Arcadia Historical Museum details Santa Anita’s history in an exhibit called “Only What We Could Carry: The Santa Anita Assembly Center.” The show includes photos, stories, and other artifacts opening November 10 through January 16. On November 14, there will be an opening reception for the exhibit beginning at 11AM.