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Life of Post-War Japan at Fullerton Library’s Town and Gown

Fullerton, CA – Take a glimpse into the daily life of post-war Japan through a set of over 100 hand-written letters and typed aerograms written by an American couple, Joan and John Greenwood, who were living and working in the cities of Kobe and Osaka after World War II.

Presented by Dr. Kristine Dennehy, Professor of History at California State University Fullerton, where she teaches classes in Japanese, Korean, and modern world history, “Post-Occupation Japan Through American Eyes,” is a special program presented by the Fullerton Public Library Tuesday, September 9, as part of its “Town and Gown” lecture series.

The Greenwoods, long-time Fullerton residents, wrote these letters to John’s parents in Vermont between 1957-1959. At the time, John was working at the Bank of America in Osaka and his late wife (former CSUF English Professor) Joan Voss Greenwood was teaching at Kobe Women’s College while finishing her dissertation in English literature from Stanford. Their letters give amazing insights into the daily lives and broader global context of this young American couple at work, at home, and out in Japanese society more generally, including their interactions with their maid Takeo, who had left an abusive marriage and son in rural Japan to work for foreigners in the international port city of Kobe.

Excerpts from some of the letters include:
May 4 (no year): Tomorrow night we are having the acting manager to dinner… Reilly is a raunchy Irishman, typical far east bachelor, yet an old woman in his complaints about the difficulties of foreign life – roads, plumbing, etc. Feb. 21 (no year): … our maid told me it was very funny for me to make a cheese dip and serve it with crackers – for the guests to put cheese on their own crackers. She said no one in Kobedid that, that it was prettier to have the food arranged on each cracker in the kitchen.

Jan. 31, 1958: The English majors here and in most schools in Japan, except for the brilliant science students are definitely the best students, work hardest, and are asked to work hardest by their more western oriented if not western teachers… And girls like my students, who are intelligent, know English well, and have graduated from a school with a good name (not always the same thing here as a good school) have the best opportunities despite the difficult employment situation, and the best chance to change their society for the better.

June 7, 1958: … we are planning a simple buffet for the people who work with John… I have told John to say no married Japanese man may come without his wife unless she is ill or away; I won’t welcome anyone to my home who perpetuates such reactionary social policies, because while old women have long since accepted such things, younger women hate them.
The program, which is free to the public, will begin at 7 p.m. in the Osborne Auditorium of the Fullerton Main Library, 353 W. Commonwealth Ave.

In addition to being a professor, Dr. Dennehy is Vice Chair and Credential Adviser in the History Department at California State University Fullerton. She received her Ph.D. in History from UCLA (2002), with a dissertation entitled, “Memories of Colonial Korea in Postwar Japan” which focused on contrasting evaluations of Japanese imperialism among former colonial officials in Korea, progressive historians in the postwar Japanese academy, and ethnic Koreans who were still living in Japan after 1945.

The “Town and Gown” programs are held the second Tuesday of each month at the Main Library.
Further information about the “Town and Gown” program or the September 9 lecture may be obtained by calling the Fullerton Main Library at (714) 738-6326.

Persons requiring special accommodations to attend the lectures are asked to notify the library staff prior to September 9.

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