Pluralism and Postwar Life at Seabrook
The end of the war began a return to more tolerant attitudes about American cultural diversity and the United States’ status as a “nation of immigrants.” In line with liberal pluralistic thinking, which emphasized American culture as a “melting pot” of different traditions, Seabrook provided spaces for its diverse workforce to display and share their heterogeneous traditions. Images of Japanese American and Estonian workers reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and brandishing the flag were juxtaposed with photos capturing Japanese dance ceremonies, traditional flower-arrangement classes, and mochi making. Estonian choirs and folk dancers enlivened holiday ceremonies.
Pluralism was both a matter of public celebration and an unavoidable fact for the workforce. Despite the existence of job and housing segregation, in the cramped spaces of the company town workers invariably interacted on and off the job. While the company maintained strict work schedules, they were also allowed some free time for socialization. Workers integrated as members of Seabrook-sponsored sports teams that competed against teams in the area. There were dance parties and beauty contests held in the Seabrook Farms recreation center; places of worship included a church and a Buddhist temple where marriages and funerals were held; and, cafeterias, health centers, and administrative offices used by all.
This self-sustaining community that Seabrook built restricted and isolated laborers from American society beyond the company town’s confines. Lacking the capital to purchase their own farmland meant that many workers staked their families’ prospects on the ability of their children to gain an education, go to college, and enter professional life. Workers did show solidarity against Seabrook Farms. Paul Noguchi, for instance, recalled the camaraderie that existed among bean pickers working in the fields, and their shared sense of resentment at having to meet daily “mysterious” picking quotas that always seemed to shift. Workers typically picked crops for 15 hours a day and even longer during harvest season. In one instance, Noguchi remembered how Jamaican and Puerto Rican guestworkers brought in a seasonal labor in the postwar period, made a “good natured” offering of extra beans that allowed slower workers to meet their weight quota. Workers would teach each other the trick of soaking baskets in water to increase their weight. Resiliency and agency united all of Seabrook’s laborers.
Pledge of Allegiance
Seabrook Farms, similar to the internment camps, promoted a system of limited self-governance. In both situations, Japanese Americans were encouraged to make decisions regarding how the community was to be run - even if their word was not the final say. Limited self-governance allowed authorities to both highlight how rituals of democracy were continued while also alleviating officials of some of their duties. Seabrook allowed Japanese American residents to elect "mayors," who then served as community leaders and representatives to the company. Here, "Mayor" Fuju Sasaki, Harry Ogata, and Herbert Brauer recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center, New Jersey Digital Highway
Entertainment for the Brownie Scouts
Nancy Morinaka Kuramoto performs a traditional dance for the Seabrook Farms' Brownie Scouts. After the war, the company encouraged various ethnic groups to preserve and share their cultures. Whereas Japanese traditions were once marked as suspicious and indicative of permanent foreignness, by the 1950s Americans were more willing to tolerate this heritage as part of the "melting pot." Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center, New Jersey Digital Highway
Estonian refugees were also encouraged to perform ethnic music and dance, and to maintain folkways. In the context of the Cold War, the ability to preserve one's culture was considered an expression of American freedom. Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center, New Jersey Digital Highway
Seabrook Farms sponsored softball team showing off new uniforms
C.F. Seabrook was a major supporter of the women’s softball team, which frequently won the local recreational championship. He provided players with new uniforms. Iddy Asada recalls that the softball team was rewarded by Seabrook with an invitation to use the pool at his house. Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center, New Jersey Digital Highway
Cafeteria used for many activities as well as for dining purposes
The cafeteria was another common gathering place for Seabrook workers, and was also used for social events such as wedding receptions. When paroled internees and refugees first arrived, often without savings, Seabrook served free meals to employees until they had earnings to purchase them on their own. Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center, New Jersey Digital Highway
USIS Video Clip (Softball)
A clip from the propaganda film that the United States Information Service showed in Japan after the war shows workers playing softball. United States State Department, United States Information Service.
USIS Video Clip (Labor and Management)
A clip from the propaganda film that the United States Information Service showed in Japan after the war paints a rosy picture of management and worker relations at Seabrook, suggesting that the company was run through a system of power sharing. United States State Department, United States Information Service
USIS Video Clip (Harmony)
"Seabrook is one of the best examples of workers working efficiently, harmoniously, and happily together." United States State Department, United States Information Service