by Joe M. Abo
I first met Jimmy Clements at Griffin School, located about 8 miles northwest of Olympia, in 1946. It was a mostly “white” elementary school except for a couple of Native American kids and me, a Japanese American kid.
Our family left Tule Lake camp a few months before. This was the second school outside of camp that I had attended. I was 6 years old. The school was located at the crossroads of Highway 101 and Steamboat Island Road. Nearby were a grocery store and a tavern.
Behind the school was a large grassy field dotted with big oak trees where we would play during recess. It was at Griffin where Jimmy and I became friends. He lived about two miles up the road from Oyster Bay where I lived. Being more outgoing, Jimmy introduced himself when we first met.
It turned out that he listened to the same radio shows that I did such as “The Lone Ranger”, “Straight Arrow” and “The Cisco Kid”.
One day on the school bus, Jimmy and I were talking about a recent episode of “Straight Arrow” which was about an Indian with a white man side kick who righted wrongs, similar to the “Lone Ranger” except the Indian had the lead role. A boy in the seat in front of us overheard our conversation. When I mentioned the name of “Straight Arrow’s” horse, he turned around and started arguing with me about the name of the horse.
I said it was “Purie” but he said it was “Fury”. The argument got pretty heated as we shouted back and forth. The bus driver told us to be quiet. Anyway, Jimmy who was sitting next to me finally said it was “Purie.” That seemed to settle the argument. But the other boy was still mumbling under his breath that I was wrong.
Sometime later, I learned that the horse’s name was “Fury”. I was wrong, but I thought it was pretty nice of Jimmy to stick up for me.
To this day, I’m not sure if Jimmy really thought it was “Purie” but he was backing me up because he was my friend. That incident clinched our friendship.
I guess what made me feel like we were “real” friends was when he invited me to his birthday party. It was the first birthday party I had ever been invited to.
After attending Griffin for three years our family moved to the Shelton side of the bay and I enrolled in Oyster Bay School. I lost track of Jimmy after that.
Thinking back, Jimmy Clements was the first “white” boy to be my friend.
Joe Masatsugu Abo and his parents were incarcerated at Tule Lake during World War II. They returned to their pre-war home near Olympia in 1946. He is a Shelton high school graduate and holds a chemical engineering degree from UW. He and his wife, Mary, also an active Omoide participant, live in Bremerton and have a son and daughter and four grandchildren.