Prisoners of War in New Mexico Agriculture
Abstract of Interview
Margaret L. (Myers) Livingston
OF BIRTH: December 31, 1931
OF INTERVIEW: July 11, 2000
Livingston residence, Lordsburg, New Mexico
OF INTERVIEW: NMF&RHM__X___OTHER_______________________
OF TAPES: One
ABSTRACTOR: Sheila Klug
ABSTRACTED: April 23, 2001
OF RECORDING (SPECIFY):
AND CONTENT NOTE: Mrs.
Livingston, who was still in school during the time in question, relates her
memories of life in Lordsburg during World War II, including the town’s
attitudes toward the camp, social life in the town, items made by some
Japanese detainees, and some of the work done by the prisoners of war.
RANGE: Circa 1942-1945
(IMPORTANT TOPICS IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE):
ONE, SIDE A:
Livingston first heard about the camp early in 1942. She remembers the men looking forward to having jobs, while
she thought it was great to have “somethin’ goin’ on in town.”
After the camp was there a while, there were so many boys gone from town,
either because they had joined the service straight from the CCC and WPA camps
or because the National Guard had called them up (many in the National Guard
ended up in Bataan), that the farmers and ranchers began to use some of the
prisoners as workers.
only contact with the prisoners was to go to the edge of the camp to “see what
was goin’ on,” seeing them in town when they were building houses and doing
work, or when her mother drove out
there to borrow a friend’s car. She
felt the camp was good for the economy. She
did not hear much about the way the prisoners were treated except that there
were some escapees once. She
didn’t think the prisoners were being coddled, but they were watched very
She describes her delight in receiving wooden and felt sandals from a Japanese detainee. The same person gave a friend of hers a little wooden stool, and her mother received a toolbox with Japanese writing on it. Mrs. Livingston still has the toolbox. She felt the Japanese seemed pretty happy and were well treated. They had small gardens at the camp.
feels that because she was raised near the border and was used to Spanish and
American Indian people she did not feel it was un-American to have the prisoners
of war working in New Mexico agriculture. In school, however, the children were cautioned to stay away
from the prisoners. She did hear of
some gunfire out at the camp, but she believes that was when the Italians were
there was not much land under cultivation in the Lordsburg area then, the
farmers around Virden and Deming employed Italian and German POWs in the fields.
German prisoners also built houses. She
mentions the construction of the Howard Lunt house and relates how her cousin
rode his bike to the building site one day.
One of the prisoners asked to ride his bike, and he let him.
The American soldiers told him to take the bike home, as they did not
want to take the chance of a prisoner’s escaping.
Mrs. Livingston describes some dances for the USO in the Knights of Pythias Hall which the older girls attended. In addition, Lordsburg was a “jumpin’ little place on a Saturday night with all the bars they had up an’ down the main street and . . . dance halls.”
She also talks about the duties of the local Civil Air Patrol and describes the nightly curfew at 9:30, which was signaled by a siren. Young people were not allowed out on the streets after that time without a note from their parents.
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