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Starkey visits Japanese American Relocation Site


Tyra Starkey, Loranger High's American History teacher, stumbles upon a unique piece of history as she was traveling to Arkansas this past week.  

While traveling to Hot Springs and Little Rock for a mini-vacation and a basketball camp, Ms. Starkey stopped in a very small town, McGehee, Arkansas, to grab dinner.  Her stop at Hoot's BBQ not only provided her with some of the best BBQ in the state, but offered her an opportunity that changed her life.  Ms. Starkey visited the site of a Japanese American Relocation Center in Rowher, AR and the museum, in McGehee, that tells of the many experiences of the time.  While at the museum, she even had the chance to meet and visit with an 88 year old lady who was passing through town.  June Watanabe, who was interned at Rowher during '42 - '45, at the age of 17, had not been back to the location in 47 years. Their meeting was one Ms. Starkey will not soon forget.   

"I love traveling off the beaten path, you never know what, or who, you may run into along the way," said Ms. Starkey. In conversation with her waiter at Hoot's Tyra discovered he lived in LA for some time. and that he was originally from a town about 10 miles from their location, Rowher, AR.  Although Rowher currently reports a population less than 100, it was once home to many more.

Rowher, Arkansas  was once the site of a Japanese American Relocation Center, often referred to as internment camps. The center was open between 1942 and 1945, interning up to 8,000 Japanese Americans on a 500-acre camp surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards.  Although most physical remains of the camp have been wiped away from the landscape, there are many important stories to be shared.  The site is now a National Historic site with many Japanese Americans buried there and monuments erected.  Another relocation site is only 35 miles from Rowher, in Jasper, Arkansas.  Ms. Starkey plans to visit Jasper on her next trip.  Follow the link below for more information.
The WWII Japanese American Internment Museum opened in April 2013 and is housed in the renovated south building of the McGehee Railroad Depot.