Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Harvey Watanabe Interview
Narrator: Harvey Watanabe
Interviewer: Stacy Sakamoto
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: November 4, 1996
Densho ID: denshovh-wharvey-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

SS: Harvey, tell me a little bit about your early family life and where you were born.

HW: Well, I was born in California -- Exeter. And when I was about four and a half years old, myself and my sister and a newborn baby brother, we moved to Visalia where my father was operating a farm, sharecropping with the owner of the farm. And I guess one thing I remember is, soon after we got there, a neighbor boy came along and started talking to me, and I turned to my father and I says, "I don't know what he's sayin'. Doesn't he know how to talk?" You know, because he was speaking in Italian-English and I barely knew any English at all, so...

SS: You still spoke Japanese at home.

HW: Oh yes, uh-huh, still spoke Japanese at home, and I really got into learning English when I went to school, first grade, and my sister went into kindergarten.

SS: What was it like growing up in a farming community like that? It must have been hard work.

HW: Well, it was interesting. When we were small, we noticed, the first thing we noticed was that after the harvest was over, like the peaches, the mothers and families from town would come in, and everybody would go out and glean peaches. Then the mothers would all get together. They had the kerosene stoves out there, and they would can the peaches. It was all free, you know, they would just come down and have fun canning peaches, things like that. And having horses around, and little chores like feeding the horses, things like that. Pumping, priming the pump so they can irrigate. Those were little chores that we did. And, oh, all kinds of little minor things that we could do, because Mother and Father were busy working if they weren't around the house.

SS: Was your family a lot like Edith's? Were they poor at that time?

HW: Well, they were not hurting for anything. But they were wishing they could make more money. 'Cause I remember when I was about seven or eight years old, I was standing in the barn with my father and the raisin crop. Raisins had just been dried and brought in, put in what they called sweat boxes and stacked in the barn. And my dad was fingering the raisins in there and he says, casually saying, "Well, if I can get 2 cents a pound for the raisins instead of the 1 cent I'm gonna get, we'd be rich." [Laughs]

But yeah, it was neat to be on a farm, be around a farm horse like Teddy, that I loved dearly. Who I poked a hole in his nose because I let him in the barn before I pitched hay into his, where he's gonna eat it. And he stuck his nose in there and I stuck the pitchfork full of hay in there, and at the same time poked a hole in his nose. And I didn't know it. Until next day Dad says, "How come Teddy has a hole in his nose?" [Laughs]

SS: Did Teddy forgive you for that?

HW: Oh yeah, Teddy's a nice horse.

SS: What was it like growing up the oldest son? There's a lot of responsibility that goes along with that, wasn't there?

HW: Well, I guess we didn't perceive, I didn't perceive it as responsibility so much, other than that I was the older so I could do more things. Yeah, that's about the size of it.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.