Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Jimi Yamaichi Interview
Narrator: Jimi Yamaichi
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Klamath Falls, Oregon
Date: July 4, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-yjimi-01-0002

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AI: And you mentioned that you had, there were ten of you -- brothers and sisters?

JY: Yes.

AI: And where did you come in the order?

JY: I'm the fourth one.

AI: What year were you born?

JY: I was born in 1922. So I have a sister that's here -- I don't know if you met her -- and she's just one above me, so she's a year and a half older than I am. So out of ten of us, there's still nine of us left yet.

AI: And can you describe a little bit about your farm that you grew up on?

JY: My dad...

AI: Oh, there it goes again. [Referring to background noise]

JY: Well, there's two parts to that question, and see what you think about it. Naturally, as you know, Issei couldn't own the farm land or anything. So he started a farm after he got married, came back, and in 1918 he started farming in Berryessa District. And it's a small farm, and then the farm itself was small, so he says, "We got to look for a larger location." So we went to another, larger location owned by Charles Bhrandt. Naturally when you farm --

AI: Excuse me, is that -- I'm sorry. Where is the Berryessa area?

JY: Berryessa, it'd be east of San Jose. It's a district, it's San Jose now, is Berryessa District now, but it's east of San Jose. We call it east San Jose. And he moved over there, far as I can see the records, about 1920 or 1921 he moved to Charles Bhrandt Ranch. It's a bigger farm, and about the only reason he went there because Charles Bhrandt would loan his name. So I think our ranch was Charles Bhrandt No. 11, if I remember correctly. And so every produce, (and) everything sold, the checks will come to Charles Bhrandt. He gets it, endorsed it, gets his share out, then you get the leftovers. And we had to pay rent and royalty as such, to use his name, Charles Bhrandt.

And Father's figured out, in ten years he has paid almost $30,000 over and above the rent of the land, and this is in the '20s. So he felt that, "Well, if I can put that much money out and be successful enough, I should own my own land." So in (1933) he purchased land. We bought 15 acres right off the bat. And he paid $325 an acre. That doesn't sound like much, but it was a lot of money then. This is just the beginning of the Depression year. So what he did, got rid of that farm, bought this farmland, and build a home, big house, a huge house. And that's when I myself was a youngster about ten, or ten years old, nine, ten years old.

My father hired this American carpenter to help build a house. Meantime, we had friends help him do this, he did a lot of detail work and such. And I says, "One of these days, I hope to be a carpenter myself." [Smiles] I was only ten years old. I always, my, "I want to be a carpenter." So I kept that in my mind always, all through the years, and just went through... so anything to do with carpentry work, my father let me do it even though I was a youngster. So, anyway, as I grew up on the farm, I went to a trade school. That's where I learned to be a carpenter.

But you asked what did we raise on the farm? Beans, cucumber, squash, bell pepper, tomatoes and such. But the hardship of the Depression years, as a youngster, I still remember very vividly how hard it was. Here we bought this 15 acre farm, with the whole 15 acres planted with all the beans, cucumber, squash, tomato, and few other item. And we had a few acres of tomato, and that year only thing we picked was tomato. And tomato, we survived with the tomato. Rest of it, we didn't pick one item; we just knocked it down, plowed it under.

So those Depression years was very hard years. I don't know, I talked to you about the cucumber. Did I talk to you about the cucumber? I always talk about it because our kids don't really realize the problems, the Depression year, how hard it was. My father, my mother, my oldest brother, the next brother, my sister that's here -- she was in Japan -- and then I came. There was five us, my other brothers, sisters too young. So five of us, we started Thursday morning, we'll pick cucumber, hold it, and Friday we pick all day, and Friday my father and mother, my brother start packing it. So we'll pack 200 boxes of cucumbers, lug boxes of cucumber, and the truck will pick it up two o'clock in the afternoon (on Saturday), Consolidated Produce truck (came) by. Because the truck had to leave two o'clock... it take over twenty-four hours to get to Los Angeles. This is in the '30s. Trucks didn't have the power they have today; the roads are a lot windier. So we sell the cucumber to Consolidated Produce in Los Angeles for 10 cents a box. So 200 boxes, what is that? 10 cents, what is it?

Steve Hamada: Two thousand dollars?

JY: Two thousand? -- $20. Right? $20. My father, my mother, my brother, and my (older) brother, myself; five people worked three days for how much you said?

AI: Twenty dollars.

JY: Twenty dollars, right. Okay. The 10 cents a box: the 5 cents goes to buy the empty box, so that leaves us $10, right. So we worked three days for $10 -- five people.

Knowing those situation, you know, that's why when I make the Walking Tour, I talk about, I'm so finicky about money, "How much cost per hour we got, this and that." That's the reason why those youngsters, money don't mean nothing to them. They have $20 in their wallet, that's not enough. They got to have a hundred dollars in the wallet. Things like that, that's my background. That's the reason why, when you're on the Walking Tour, the hardship. When people talk about hardship, when my crew -- I had all the different crew, like I said before, I had people old enough to be my grandfather, father, people my age, and younger. And they talk about their problems in their home. Yeah, "kodomo ga kore hoshii, are hoshii, komarimasu," they talk about this. Not to say they are griping, but the conversation, everyday.

And those youngsters -- who are youngsters, single, we kind of laugh about it because we don't have no responsibility. I get my $19, I give to my dad. Okay, here's $19. I just have a few dollars to spend. But what, I don't smoke, I don't drink, anything else, so, you know. And when I needed something I tell my mom, "Hey, I need two pods," or whatever. She get it for me, and that's true, that was it. So I grew up with, conscious of money, hardship, not to waste it. So that's where I come from. That's the reason why I stress that so much on the tour, and...

But finally, my dad, he was a very smart farmer; he did very, very well. From 15 acres he increased to 21 acres. And we bought the farm in ('33). In 1940 before we went to camp, it was all paid for.

AI: And it was in one of your older brothers' name?

JY: Yes. Well, when we first bought it, we borrowed our friend's name. My father's down the street friend, Calvin Hashimoto. He was twenty-one, so it was in his name. Then, a little later, why, my father changed it another person, Fred Inouye, it was in his name. Then when my brother turned twenty-one, it was in my brother's name. And then war broke out so my father said, "Well, we don't know what's going to happen to us," so change to my brother's name that was in the army; because he's going to stay behind, he be for sure be around. That's what we thought. Well, he was around anyway, he came back.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.