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FALL 2015

Roosevelt Student from 1942 Happy to See New Campus


Frances Ishii attended Roosevelt Elementary in 1942Frances Ishii was a fourth grader at Roosevelt Elementary School when she and her kindergartner sister were suddenly pulled out of class and relocated with their parents and other Japanese Americans to the Santa Anita detention center in Arcadia, California.

Her parents, who owned a downtown Long Beach flower shop, had to abandon their home and business, despite the fact that they and their daughters were American-born.

The year was 1942 and Congress had just ordered the incarceration of all West Coast residents of Japanese descent as a precaution because the U.S. was at war with Japan. The Ishii family was later sent to an internment camp in Jerome, Arkansas and then settled in Chicago because they were not allowed to return to the West Coast for several years.

Despite this experience, Frances, 83, and now known by her married name of Lyon, said she has fond memories of her childhood in Long Beach. At age 15, Frances and her family finally returned to Long Beach, where she attended and graduated from Poly High School.

She has lived and worked in Long Beach ever since, except for the years she was in college in Ohio. After retiring from 35 years as the library director at Long Beach Memorial Hospital, Frances and her husband, Bill, started Lyon Art Supply in 1990, just a few miles from her former elementary school.

Now, Roosevelt has just been completely rebuilt and reopened this fall.

"I was fortunate to be invited back to Roosevelt a few months before it was torn down and now to see it rebuilt—I feel that we’ve come full circle," said Lyon. "I am happy to see that the spirit of the historical building has been retained,” she added.

The new Roosevelt Elementary is actually the third set of buildings on the Linden Avenue site. The original school was badly damaged in the 1933 Long Beach earthquake and was rebuilt in 1935 in the popular Deco style of the day.

The student population ballooned over the years, growing to more than 1,000. Many portable classroom structures crowded the aging campus, which was in dire need of rehabilitation.

Three years ago, thanks to funds from the Measure K School Bond program, the campus was leveled to create a modern school with almost twice the square footage and 50 percent more playground space. Roosevelt students, temporarily housed at Butler Middle School, are now back on their original campus.

"I have nothing but happy memories from my days at Roosevelt Elementary", said Lyon. "I'm glad there are still students there now."

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