‘Beyond Heart Mountain’ book and movie are for sale

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Buy Beyond Heart Mountain memoir published by Winter Goose Publishing. It is available as a printed book and ebook. Signed copies can be purchased from the author. The book was released February 27th. That week coincided with the 80th anniversary of President Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066 that sent 120,000 Japanese to 10 war relocation camps, that included Heart Mountain in northwest Wyoming.

Beyond Heart Mountain book and related are now for sale.

Remember to download the Beyond Heart Mountain promotional information booklet.

Boulder Community Media (BCM) produced a documentary that aired on PBS that aired in December 2021. The Nishigawa Neighborhood is a coffee table book that will soon be released.

During World War II, Cheyenne native Alan O’Hashi’s family avoided life in internment camps such as Heart Mountain.

As a Baby Boomer, Alan documents the overt and quiet racism pervasive in Wyoming and throughout the United States during and following World War II. He relates his experiences to current violence towards Asians and the issue of civility within society.

The backdrop to Alan’s account is the history of the once vibrant Japanese community in the 400 and 500 blocks of West 17th Street in the downtown area of my hometown, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

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“My grandmother and grandfather Ohashi and their large family lived in worked in that neighborhood where I spent quite a bit of time between elementary and high school. Having been away from Cheyenne for many years, I stashed those two blocks in the back of my mind until I learned that two classmates of mine were planning to build a housing development at 509 W. 17th St. The biggest obstacle was obtaining permission to tear down an old building. It was the last structure in the Japanese neighborhood. It was the site of a rooming house operated by Mrs. Yoshio Shuto.”

Buy the Beyond Heart Mountain movie

Buy the Beyond Heart Mountain DVD is mainly about the West 17th Street Japanese community history and a general overview of Executive Order 9066 that President Franklin Roosevelt signed that relocated 120,000 Japanese into 10 internment camps, including Heart Mountain in northwest Wyoming.

I interviewed four childhood friends for the documentary. Robert Walters formerly worked at the City Cafe. He still lives in Cheyenne, where he practices law.

Terie Miyamoto and her family-owned Baker’s Bar. It was the only racially-integrated bar in Cheyenne at the time. She now lives in the Denver Metro area.

Brian Matsuyama now lives in Seattle, Washington. He resided in Cheyenne during his childhood. His family owned the California Fish Market. Carol Lou Kishiyama-Hough is in Cheyenne. She and her family purchased the Fish Market from the Matsuyamas.

Buy the Nishigawa Neighborhood coffee table book. It’s a 11 x 8.5-inch hard-cover coffee table book with over 100 color, black and white images of the neighborhood. Signed copies are available from thanks author.

Nishigawa Neighborhood coming soon

Mrs. Shuto’s tenants were mainly Japanese residents who made their way to Cheyenne. She later opened the City Cafe across the street which became a gathering place for the Japanese in town.

My grandmother was a cook at the City Cafe. Next door, my grandfather was the third owner of a pool hall.

Whenever we went out to eat, the restaurant of choice was the City Cafe. It was a gathering place for the Japanese in Cheyenne. My friends enlisted me to do a cultural and historical survey of the Japanese residents who lived and worked there from the 1920s through the 1970s.

Buy a Beyond Heart Mountain cap are also available. They are low-profile baseball-style hats. Select Beyond Heart Mountain from the dropdown menu.

The logo is an adapted version of the Wyoming state flag. One size fits most.

1. Where were you?

ground zero 2001

The Yankees hosted the Arizona Diamondbacks for games 3 to 5 in the 2001 World Series that was delayed because of the attacks on September 11th, a little more than a month earlier. I went to two of the games and visited “ground zero” in October 2001.

It was an unusually hot day in September. I must have been in a hurry because I didn’t bother to turn on the Today Show or the Morning Edition on Colorado Public Radio while getting ready for my commute to work in Denver.

This particular morning I took the Regional Transportation District (RTD) route 205 bus from the stop near my Boulder condo to the RTD Walnut Street station in downtown Boulder.

The bus stop was next to the convenience store where I stopped most days for a cup of coffee.

“Looks like it’s going to be a good one out there,” I don’t think the dark-skinned clerk understood a word I said about the great weather predicted for the day. He grinned and handed over my change. I clunked a couple cents into the plastic leave-a-penny take-a-penny tray on the counter and cut through the gas pumps to the bus stand.

From the downtown Boulder bus station, few passengers waited to catch the B Express bus to Denver. There’s no free parking. I was okay with transferring from a local bus downtown so as to get the seat of my choice, which was one with extra legroom toward the middle of the cabin a couple rows ahead of where a wheel chair would be parked – similar to the exit row seats on an airplane.

By the time we reached the last Boulder stop at the Table Mesa Park ‘n Ride, the seats were filled with commuters rattling their morning papers, cramming for college classes at the Auraria campus, reading books, listening to music on iPods, catching up on sleep.

This was well before laptops internet hot spots and smartphones. I was one of the few who had a cell phone. It was the size of a small box of Velveeta cheese. I didn’t think to call anyone.

“Did you hear what happened in New York,” the guy sitting to me asked. “No, I hadn’t heard anything.”

“An airplane crashed into one of the Twin Towers,” he said. “No, I hadn’t heard. What kind of plane?” The guy shrugged.

Other passengers murmured about the news and I overheard, “It was a small plane, like a Cessna.” Hmmm, small plane, nothing to see here, folks, and soon we all returned to being immersed in ourselves.

The bus pulled up to a stall in Market Street Station. We disembarked and made our ways up the stairs and escalators to the 16th Street Mall.

My connection on 17th Street was for the eastbound RTD 20 bus that dropped me off near my work in a converted single-family home in an older neighborhood.

I walked up the steps and creaked open the wrought iron screen door before winding my way up the stair case towards my office.

“You can go home if you want,” my boss greeted me at the top of the stairs. “Two planes hit the World Trade Center. There isn’t much more information but all the air traffic is grounded.”

“There was talk on the bus about a plane hitting one of the towers,” I said.

My colleagues had all gone. I had the longest commute to and from Boulder and the last to hear.

I walked back to the bus station and noticed the eerily quiet streets – no car engines, no airplane noise, not many people out and about. When I stood waiting for the light at Broadway and the 16th Street Mall, I glanced up at the Denver World Trade Center that I later learned was a similar target as its namesake in Lower Manhattan.

The bus back to Boulder was a-buzz with rumor, but I didn’t engage.

My last meal won’t be cold pizza

black ice tie siding

Blowing snow over black ice near Tie Siding outside of Laramie.

I spend quite a lot of time on the road traveling around mostly to other towns in Wyoming and haven’t had any death-defying driving experiences nor any really close calls other than a couple 360 degree black ice spins and sliding off the highway after winter weather closed the road behind me.

Recently, I took a drive to Laramie for a meeting. I overnighted in Fort Collins.

There was snow in southeast Wyoming. I was undecided if I wanted to make the trip, in the first place, but figured if I got on the road fairly early in the morning, there would be plenty of daylight if I had to turn back.

Do Mother and Father Nature plan for weather to drastically change at the Colorado / Wyoming state line?

After an uneventful Saturday drive through Fort Collins and north toward Wyoming, the trek suddenly became very eventful at Virginia Dale.

Early-morning sunlight glistened off 30 miles of the black ice encrusting the highway. Blowing and drifting snow buffed the icy road surface to an opalescent sheen from the state line to Laramie.

I didn’t eat anything before I left thinking I would get something along the way. Based on these road conditions, that may not happen. “What if my ‘last meal’ was nothing,” I thought to myself. That reminded about a drive from Riverton to Laramie that I made in November 2015.

What’s your “last meal” – you know the one you’d snarf down if you’re on death row and your fateful number finally pops up.

It was a typical November fall day in 2015 when I was driving back from Riverton. The weather was pleasant with the skies a little overcast and the outside conditions requiring a light jacket.

As is my routine I made a stop in Rawlins for a gas and a pit stop. The clerk informed me that I-80 east and west were both closed due to snow and blowing snow.

What gives?

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I-80 was officially closed when I was driving back from Riverton recently. White knuckle driving is an art form in Wyoming.

It’s calm, sunny and warm in Rawlins. The options were to turn around and return to Riverton or backtrack and go way out the way to Casper and Interstate 25, which would likely be worse. I stuck it out in Rawlins.

It was early and I decided to get a room before the truck traffic started to back up.

I didn’t want to give an arm and a leg for a nuisance stay-over and took a room at the Econo-Lodge. Even as Econo-Lodges go, this one was stark. It’s nestled up against the northside of a bluff where it didn’t get much afternoon sun.

Might as well make the best of it.

I cruised around downtown Rawlins. The streetscape has drastically improved over the years. Before Rawlins created its Downtown Development Authority in 1991, it was a declining business district. The year I drove through, Rawlins was awarded the coveted Great American Main Street Award.

alan i80 topo chico

I stopped at this Tex Mex place in downtown Rawlins. I was impressed with the offering of TopoChico agua mineral.

I prefer local joints to the chain restaurants and tried a chili relleno at a small Mexican place called Rose’s Lariat. The meal was pretty good especially when I could wash it down with Topo Chico fizzy water, which is my go-to agua mineral when I’m in Mexico.

I made my way back to the room, if that’s what you want to call it. The Econo-Lodge was more of an Econo-Fridge. The heater hadn’t been on for quite some time. I flicked it on. The heater parts banged and clicked and finally started began to whir and spit out heated air.

While the room warmed up, I’d always wanted to take a look at the “Frontier Prison.” It was the old state penitentiary that was abandoned in 1981, but now a tourist attraction. As a kid one of the parental threats when I was scolded was, “You don’t want to end up in Rawlins making license plates, do you?” The prison made money from inmates stamping out car tags.

I pulled up to the now historic sandstone block building. By this time, it was snowing again and the attraction was closed, probably because of limited “winter hours.” It was getting late in the afternoon and I headed back to the room for good.

Closed roads are a growth industry in Wyoming.

The Department of Transportation closes the interstate because there are no more parking spaces along the route to accommodate any more trucks, let alone passenger cars. All the cities lining the road sell out motel rooms from Cheyenne, Laramie, Rawlins, Wamsutter, Green River, Rock Springs to Evanston.

Pizza Hut advertises on the plastic room keys. Bored, I decided to order my “go to” Canadian bacon and mushroom thin crust with extra cheese. I was able to eat half of it.

Rawlins has pretty good cable. There’s not much to do here on a school night in the dead of a snow storm.

I dozed off with the TV on and at 2am, the “REEEEE REEEEE REEEEE!” screeched out on the TV speaker. The roads were open. I would still wait to get out around 10am when the sun is higher.

After waking up, I gobbled the rest of the cold pizza and downed a warmed over cup of yesterday’s coffee before getting on the road.

It was a bumper-to-bumper parking lot from Wolcott Junction to Laramie. Traffic was stopped by an accident on the westbound lane. It took three hours to go 90 miles.

Wyoming winter driving takes practice – more like baptism by fire. If you can successfully drive in Wyoming during any small snowstorm, you can drive anywhere.

Riverton, like most other Wyoming communities, is centrally isolated from just about every place else when the weather gets nasty. There aren’t any places to stop. In the event of road closures, there are lighted barriers like at a railroad crossing that prevent traffic from passing and drivers are required to turn back.

wreck on i80

Roads can be treacherous, even when there isn’t much snow.

I grew up in Cheyenne and let me tell you, if you’ve never experienced a blizzard in southeast Wyoming, it’s quite the experience. During certain times of year, it’s so windy, there’s no Final Net hair spray on any store shelf.

I always felt lucky about living in Lander and now Boulder, Colorado along the Front Range foothills.

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Icky John C’Hair explains the traditional Northern Arapaho bison uses to Wind River Reservation students.

It’s so nice to wake up, look out the window and notice that the snow has fallen into neat little piles on tops of fence posts and not rudely strewn about in seven-foot-high drifts.

I’ve met several people in my travels who have been to Wyoming.

Besides having visited Yellowstone Park, the second most frequent comment is, “Oh, yeah, one winter during the War, my train was stranded in Cheyenne at the depot while going to California.”

The Battle of Okinawa was probably a more pleasant memory than their winter experience in Wyoming.

eggs verns

Last Breakfast – Eggs over easy, bacon and hash browns from anywhere,

I was in Riverton to document a traditional Northern Arapaho tribal bison ceremony.

This was my third trip to the Wind River Indian Reservation in three weeks. It takes a while to come to consensus.

It was a successful hunt and traditional ceremony. I was anxious to get back on the road but didn’t think to check the road reports.

Hmmm.

Under most circumstances, I’m a calm and collected driver, but when the interstate suddenly disappears in a puff of white, the highway turns into the “Snow Chi Minh Trail.”

pork noodles 20th street

Last lunch – Pork Noodles at the 20th Street Cafe in Denver

Luckily, I didn’t get stranded on the interstate this time. When that happened back in the days before cell phones and GPS, travel could get problematic. The seasoned drivers keep on plowing ahead since the weather will likely get worse before it gets better.

Back in those days, cassette tapes played music mixes through the stereo that soothed me while my car pounded through invisible snowdrifts and crept around 18-wheeler convoys near Elk Mountain.

White knuckles.

This time, the roads were open but barely navigable. Espying disgruntled travelers examining their jack-knifed u-Haul trailer and contorted semi-truck silhouettes in the highway median made me realize how out of control these drives can be.

I couldn’t imagine being killed by a wild and crazy trucker or freezing to death knowing my last meal was cold pizza and day-old coffee.

My romanticism has me eating bacon, eggs over easy with a pancake for my last breakfast at the Luxury Diner in Cheyenne; Japanese-style pork noodles from the 20th Street Café in Denver as my last lunch; and a good steak from just about anywhere for my last dinner.

verns prime rib

Last Dinner – Prime rib at Vern’s in LaPorte

Black ice covered the roads right into Laramie. It was a relief to negotiate slushy roads in town.

By the time my meeting was over around 4pm, the sun had warmed the pavement and dissipated the ice.

Just another winter drive in Wyoming.

I pulled into the parking lot at Vern’s Place in LaPorte for a well-deserved prime rib dinner, hopefully, it won’t be my last.