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-01-0002

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SS: What were your parents like? Were they Issei?

HW: Well, my father was the fifth, fifth son in his family. And as such he was given, when he was a very tender age, approaching teenage, he was given to his uncle, who was childless, as a yoshi, you know. And that's where he learned how to, he was home taught by his uncle and aunt to read and write Japanese. And then by mutual agreement they decided they would part again and he wouldn't be a yoshi. But then he served in the Japanese army and fought in the Japanese-Russo, Russian war, was machine-gunned. And then after, soon after the war ended, as quickly as he could, he came to America because his oldest brother was already here. But I think that he did a circuitous thing, he came to Vancouver, British Columbia, worked in the timber industry there and then gravitated over to Blaine and on to the U.S. side -- [laughs] -- and worked in timber. And then, he met a Reverend Murphy who was there as a missionary amongst the Japanese timber workers there, and so he struck a deal with him that Reverend Murphy would teach him a little bit of English, and my father had a hobby of taking pictures, so he took pictures for Reverend Murphy. And my father learned English from him and a year later when he knew enough English to get around, why he, came to California where his brother already was. That was back in 1908.

SS: What about your mother?

HW: My mother is a "picture bride." They were married by exchange of pictures and she arrived in California in 1915.

SS: She must have been a very beautiful woman.

HW: Oh, yeah, like all mothers are, you know. And I was born in 1919.

SS: What do you remember of your parents then? They must have been very hard-working.

HW: Yes, yes, they were. Hard-working, and until we moved to the farm, my father did a lot of work supplying labor to farms. There were these itinerant Issei fellows that were here. And they would come, and pay room and board and then be taken out to work, you know. And, then he farmed on his own for a while. But the thing that I remember about him most is that he always despised anybody that looked down on anybody. You know, in Japan, they had the lower-caste (etas) and what they call burakumin and so forth, and he would always, he said, "They always accuse me of associating, being too friendly with them." But he didn't like it that people hated them, you know. It wasn't right. So, that was really brought to my attention by my father at a very tender age.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.