World War II Minority Students

Like the 11 Japanese American senior citizens (". . . Seek to Correct 1942 Injustice"), I also would like to comment on another historical injustice.

Dan Isaacs, the assistant superintendent for Los Angeles Unified School District senior high schools, would be of help if he would be so kind as to search the district's archives to verify if it was a citywide policy, or just individual schools that forbade students to wear zoot suits, particularly during the so-called "riots" of June 1-10, 1943. (If you please, we lads called them drapes, not zoot suits!)

At an eastside junior high school, the vice principal, Ernest H. Buck, issued an order that any student wearing that garb would be subject to suspension, and also those associating with same on campus! "You will never amount to anything," was his admonition. (Does anyone recall the comments of Los Angeles County District Attorney Fred N. Howser on June 9, 1943, that "all zoot suit wearers were not lawless"?)

Anyway, on June 9th or 10th, a few students from Home Rooms 120, 127 and 246 led a walkout after the lunch period. This was the first ever in the school district! The majority of the hundred or so walked around the block and over to nearby Roosevelt High. Of course, they were monitored by the junior high administration and some of the PE teachers.

The next day was judgment day. Most of the leaders received two swats. I was asked if I knew what a fascist Sinarquista was. I replied that I thought it was a new Mexican dish (like fajitas ), or a new pan de huevo (Mexican pastry). I took three swats. But the Constitution lived!

And, oh yes. Before our graduation ceremony, Mr. Buck sent a few home to change their attire. The record shows that many of that class quit school to join the armed forces. And among those, many have completed or are completing over three decades of teaching in the Los Angeles school district and other Southland districts. Memories!

VAL RODRIGUEZ

Signal Hill

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
57°