Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Masao Watanabe Interview
Narrator: Masao Watanabe
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 19, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-wmasao-01-0004

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TI: So he was at the Seattle -- I guess at that point they called it the Farmer's Market -- and he was a seller of produce. Where did he get his produce to sell? I mean, was there a distributor or did he go directly to the farmers? How did that work?

MW: There were quite a few wholesalers in Western Avenue at that time. My dad's sources were a combination of the wholesalers, and then in the right seasons -- I can't believe it now, but there was a lot of little truck farms out by Green Lake and the valley. I'm talking about small farms. And they used to, in season, they used to get produce, fruits and vegetables locally. Or if the season was off, they'd go down to the Western Avenue markets. And all the big wholesalers down on Western Avenue... gosh, I think without exception -- because of the large number of Issei resellers, they all had a salesman, Niseis or younger Isseis. So the sources weren't that difficult. It was quite an interesting deal, from the wholesalers, the growers, wholesalers, and the market.


TI: And describe for me how the Japanese, sort of, retailers, how they were configured. I know there were a combination of permanent stalls and temporary stalls. Can you sort of describe how the Japanese were selling down at the market?

MW: I guess... my guess is that there were about eleven or twelve permanent stalls, and I think the Isseis operated about seven. And the others were actual farmers, or sons of farmers, or Italians in South Park, Green Lake, and the valley. The Desmones, who started the market -- all big families, and each brother had a few acres. So it was a conglomeration of actual farmers.

TI: And your father's, so he had a permanent stall. Was his pretty similar to the other Japanese stalls, and was his sort of background similar to the other Japanese who were selling?

MW: I suspect it was, but I can't say for sure, 'cause the ones I knew came from different parts of Japan. And I think their similarities, if any, just came from where they were from, from Japan, and the stalls were about the same, you know, with, in footage and the displays and then what they were selling.

TI: Can you talk a little bit more about -- you said the farmers, or the, I'm sorry, the stalls were actually oftentimes from different parts of Japan. So I guess from different kens?

MW: Yeah. I'm not too sure where they were all from, but...

TI: But just the idea -- I mean, did where you came from in Japan, did that have a part in playing in terms of the farmers that you worked with or the people you worked with? Was there anything like that involved that you recall?

MW: Not that I'm aware of, 'cause I think they were all from various parts.

TI: So it sounds like, for the permanent stalls, it was pretty much a combination of Issei and Italians.

MW: Right.

TI: And were the Italians, were they sort of first-generation, also, Italians?

MW: First or second. They were all from these big, big families. Like if you go down to the Pike Place Market now, you'll find Joe Desmone Bridge or Desmone's, I don't know how many brothers he had, but quite a few had stalls, and they all went on to different businesses associated with production or growing of fruits and vegetables.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.