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

<Begin Segment 1>

Alice Ito: Well, today is July 4, 1998. We're here at the Tule Lake Pilgrimage with Mr. Jimi Yamaichi, I'm Alice Ito. And I wanted to start out at the beginning, and ask you about your grandfather, who I understand came to the U.S.

Jimi Y.: Yes. My grandfather came -- the farthest back the records I can find -- he came around 1898 and 1897; so that makes our family being in the stateside for a hundred years. And grandfather was here earlier, and then my father came in 1906. He was fourteen years old. And grandfather got hurt when he was pruning a tree -- a twig got stuck in his eyes -- and he was having a lot of problems with his eyes, so my father came over. He was the only son; he had three other sisters. And he came to help his father. So, that part I knew. From there on... my father sent my grandfather back in 1914, so they must have worked six or seven years together -- well, 1914, be, what, eight years together, right? And grandfather went back. And my father was still a single bachelor, he worked. And then 1917, my father went back and looked for a bride, and got married to my mother, and they came back. So, that's 1918 the first child arrived, my oldest brother. From then, there's ten of us altogether. So there's two boys and a girl, boy, girl, boy, all down to the end. At the end there's two girls. So there's five boys and five girls. And, my family -- I lost my brother just above me, that was in the army. He's the only one that didn't have a camp experience, and he passed away about three years ago.


AI: So you were telling us about how your grandfather had come to the U.S., and then a little bit about your father, and your parents getting married.

JY: Yes. He worked on the farms, and most of the Isseis that came over here, most were fruit pickers, right? They worked on the farms and this and that. That's all the job they could get. So, like my father, he would travel the valley, San Joaquin Valley, up and down picking fruits and this and that, and ended up in San Jose in the winter months. They laid over in San Jose and then they start all over again. And to him it was foolish. So what he used to do the winter months, he'd be a houseboy, just to live in. And there he learned to eat meat and potato, so our family ate very little rice. It was a lot of meat and potato. My father would have bacon and eggs, ham and eggs, scrambled eggs, sunny side up for breakfast and toast and coffee, and most of the (other families) ate rice. At lunchtime we had rice, but dinnertime my father never ate okazu so my mother always made steak, or hamburger, or ham, steak, something meat. So meat was prevalent around our house, so that's where we learned to eat a lot of meat.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

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.

<Begin Segment 3>

AI: Oh, excuse me, may I back up a bit? So before war broke out, say, earlier in 1941, had you already graduated from high school then?

JY: Yes, yes.

AI: 'Cause you would have been about nineteen, in 1941.

JY: In 1941 I graduated. June of '41, I graduated.

AI: And you mentioned that you had a brother who was already in the army?

JY: Yes.

AI: He had been drafted?

JY: Well, he just... yeah. No, he was, they were talking about it. In August I think, if I remember correctly, in August of '41 he was drafted, because it was either my older brother or this second brother. So meantime, I went down with my father after I graduate high school, I want to go Cal Poly, that was in San Luis Obispo. So went down look at Cal Poly and said, "Okay, that'd be a good idea." Somebody have to go in college. My other two brothers never went to college, and my second brother got drafted so, "That's why you better stick around." So, I didn't go to school that fall of '41, but the war broke out.

AI: And what do you recall about that day of Pearl Harbor bombing?

JY: Okay. Just talking about the Consolidated Produce that we sell produce to, they were the biggest produce house west of the Mississippi River. They had a basement so big, they could put a whole boatload of bananas downstairs. And they were very powerful. That, we didn't know how powerful, they were big; we knew they were very, very big. And a fellow named Ted Myers, he bought from us from time we moved to new ranch, this was about (1933) we first met him. Since, all through the years to 1941, he was buying for (seven) years from us and other farmers that's around there, and really traded good crops so that he was always picking the best crop, or the best items he can get. So he was kinda' steady customer for them, and Ted Myers was a single -- well, he was a married person, but no child, he was childless. Very small person. My father was not very big either, he was a short person. And the language had a little problem, but still my father loves to drink. He loves to drink, so after he does all his round, does all his (buying) vegetables, he would come back and sit down, and drink and talk. I don't know what they talk about because I was working on the farm.

And December 7th the war broke out, and late in the afternoon Ted Myers came by the house and told us -- he always called my father Yamaichi. "Hey, Yamaichi, I have to go to Los Angeles. My boss is calling me." He never liked to take a train so he drove down there. And Wednesday he came back. He didn't go home; he came from Los Angeles, he came directly to our house, and... we were surprised to see him back, says, "Back so fast?" He went to Los Angeles and come back. He says, "Yamaichi," he just leaned on my dad shoulder -- he's about the same height -- he cried. He says, "Yamaichi, they'll put all of you away. The big boss told me to look at all the farmland. 'Get the best farmland you can, and all the equipment, and see what you can buy. We'll buy everything. All these Japanese farmers'll be all gone, so prepare yourself and start, take inventory of the farms that's available that you think that we should buy.'" And after that, Ted Myers was very, very disappointed. He just said he told his boss, "I can't do it." These people were good to him, all these years we were faithful to him. He want a certain thing, okay, we'll do the best to supply his needs. We're not the only one. So he was so brokenhearted, and it killed him. He died from it. And never did what the company that wanted him to do it.

So we knew at that time, so we harvest our crop. We didn't plant nothing. So my father says, "Well, if we don't plant nothing, people are gonna' start wondering what's happening." So we just plant leaf item like spinach, something that just grows fast and get rid of fast. So the time we're ready to go into camp, we had nothing on the farm; it was all clean. But we decided to sell the farm, and pack up and move inland. But we had a good friend who was selling insurance to us, he was a Frenchman, a guy named Charles... Charles Buron. He told my father, he says, "Why don't you do this: keep the farm, and sell the equipment, and I'll take care of your farm for you. I'll be a custodian. I don't want no power of attorney, or nothing. I'll just be a custodian, I'll collect the rent, and pay the taxes. That's it." So we thought about it and says, "Okay, we'll do that."

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

AI: So you were just talking about your family's thinking over what they are going to do about perhaps selling the farm.

JY: Yeah, voluntarily evacuate or not, because we had friends that moved into the B district, right, the Marysville area, which was not the A area. They said, "Well, why don't you come to Marysville?" We said, "Well," we debated, "maybe we should." We were contemplating. Meantime, we're preparing to leave. We're preparing the truck and this and that, to pull and take our equipment with us. When Charles Buron talked my father into it, so they said, "Well, we'll do just the opposite, keep the land." So we kept the land, and one car, and we sold everything else. And the small stuff, and all the personal belongings we put in one room, locked the doors, and gave the key to Charles Buron. And he just took over it and kept the land, collected rent, paid the taxes, that was it. And every month he report how much money is in the bank, from the rent and whatever may be. And when we got back, the farm was there, it was ready for to us move in. But, the contract read, "When the war ends..." we'll be able to move in. Well, war never, ever ends, because when war ends mean declaration of war is signed. Congress has to pass a law saying the war is ended, so officially World War II has never ended. So attorney says, "Don't say that. Just say the war is done, now we want the farm back." If they went to contest it, we could never get the farm back. So we soft-stepped the whole situation, and finally the people moved out. So we had to go back onto our farm, and we had a big house, so the whole family went back in the big house.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

JY: So, meantime we were still in camp here yet. My father and my brother -- the one in the army -- went back home. My mother, my younger brothers and sisters that hadn't, didn't need to answer 'no-no' or 'yes-yes', they all went back. And my sisters, older sister was married, next second sister got married in camp, so they were in our home, but they were in camp too. And then my older brother was still in camp, and my sister -- no, older brother and myself was left. And then my two married sisters that were living in the different part of the camp there. And we stayed, I stayed here until mid-February, then finally got released. And then, before I got released, they asked me whether I want to work for WRA for the final clean up and inventory of all the construction buildings, this and that. So I says, "Well, okay." My father says, "Don't come home," because we had the (small) bunk house. They're staying in that temporarily until the big house got evacuated, and they were nine of 'em in the little house. "There's just, there's no more room, so don't, stay away for as long as you can." So I stayed around Tule Lake until May, 'til Memorial Day, then I went back on Memorial Day.

So while I was up here my dad called and says, "We need a tractor," because they won't sell us no tractor, to them. So meantime we sold our equipment before that. So I asked the fellow workers -- Caucasian people -- I says, "My dad is looking for a tractor." I says, "Can we find a tractor around here?" "Well, we'll look around, let's look around." So this fellow named Christenson -- we call him Chris -- Chris' son was doing logging work at Medford. He called his son up and says I was looking for a tractor. He says, "Okay, we'll look for a tractor," and finally we found a tractor in Medford. It was pretty well beat, it was a logging, and it was a prewar tractor. We got it for a pretty good price because this was about its last end.

Now I had a tractor -- it was a fairly good size tractor -- and I had to haul it down to San Jose. And I was contemplating, "How in the heck am I gonna' bring the thing down there?" Couldn't get no trucks. I asked around and asked around and one of the Caucasian workers said, "Oh, yeah. My neighbor's son just returned from the army, and they have, they're gonna' start a hauling business. They had an old army truck and a trailer, they'll probably haul it for you." I says, "Oh, this'll be fine." So we talked to them. For $300, they said they'll haul it down to San Jose. Said, "Okay, $150 now, $150 when you get there." So three of us got in this surplus army truck and bumped around and went all the way to San Jose with this tractor. Got it down there, gave them the $150, then I stayed home for a couple days and then took the bus and came back to Tule Lake again. So...

AI: So...

JY: Meantime, my dad had, we had only one car, but they're using that to pull the trailer around. To pull, you need a truck, you just can't do it with a car all the time, so he calls up and said, "We need a truck." So I ask Chris again. I say, "Chris," I says, "I need a truck." "Well," he says, "my son is pulling lottery for surplus trucks in Portland," because a lot of trucks were there, because that was an embarkation point. So I says, "Okay. See what your son can do." And by luck he pulled a lucky number so we got a huge truck. He brought it down from Portland to Medford there and this trucks were, cab were locked this way upside down. They were all strapped together to ship oversea, right. And the radiator was off of it, and no wiring, and battery and everything else, tire, wheels are off, and they were big ones. And the guy says, "Well, there's some tools and there's a wooden pulley," I mean, "block and tackle." I looked at that, and I was all by myself and I thought, unpack truck, turn it over, right? To get the other truck off to get it going... and I struggled, and three days I worked day and night. Finally, took the truck upside down, put the radiator on, wire up the wires, get the wheels on, get the axles on -- huge axles -- block and tackle, just a few wrenches, army wrenches we had. So finally got it put together, and I drove it home. So that's kinda' a little funny experience that I had as far as that part is concerned.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

JY: But you were asking about my schooling. That part there, maybe I should go back to grade school to my, some of the ideas or thoughts of what I had when I was in grade school. Because my best subject was civics and history and geography. Grammar, math, was, I was terrible. So when it comes to Constitutional rights, I knew it backwards and forward. I knew Gettysburg Address, the Preambles and all that, I used to, I knew all. So at the grade school, I see these Caucasian people come in when the voting time they go in behind the canvas curtain, put their mark on the ballot, and I says, "One of these days, I be that point where I'll be twenty-one. I can register to vote." Says, "Boy, that'd be the day." That's one thing I look forward to, the day I be twenty-one and I can vote. Being in that civics class that's all they teach about, government.

And I always had that back of my mind. So went to grade school then went onto high school, and went to trade school, a carpenter class. And this is before the war, the union are very, very powerful. The school was -- so far, so basically in the background run by the union. Union controlled how many carpenters, how many plumbers and this and that, and what nationality. Especially sheet metal shop, just no blacks, no yellow, no nothing. Plumbing shop same thing. Electrical shop same thing. With carpenter shop, our teacher Arthur Morgan, he was more broadminded, so I signed up for his class because I always want to be a carpenter since I was a youngster. So I signed up and talk to Mr. Morgan and he says, "Well, when you get out of school, I don't think I can help you." I said, "I'll just do my, the best I can, but when I get to that point, I can just get to the point..." He says, "Well, I'll do everything I can to teach you what I can teach you. It's up to you to learn what you want to learn." So I graduate from school, and he was one of the, my mentor-type of deal, person that really helped me, you know, even though I was Japanese. I know I can get a job -- he know I couldn't get a job.

So when I graduate high school in '41, my classmate, they were all Caucasian people, kids, one Italian, one... it's a Lithuanian boy. Anyway, they got a job as a carpenter right off the bat, no problem. So I went to union hall myself, and asked for a card, and they just give me, he says, "We know SOBs like you, we don't let you in." Because the Bylaw state that no Asian people allowed in the carpenter's union. So, I guess so.

So meantime, like I said, I was gonna' go, keep on going to school so I don't have to work as a carpenter. So I just kind of forgot about that. But I stayed on the farm, and if I was going to stay on the farm I wished I could be a carpenter, work as a carpenter, but my dad says, "Well, you better stay on the farm and help us out temporarily, until we get over this hump." So the war broke out, so that was the end of that dream of being a carpenter. So the experience that I learned being a carpenter... I did a lot more than just carpenter work. Morgan, he really taught me different thing -- management, how to work with people, how to understand people, and to trust people. And that's the biggest thing. He says, "You have to understand people, and trust people. If you trust people, the job will go easy." And I always remember that.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

JY: So, I went to Pomona Assembly Center looking for a job, naturally we were the last one there.

AI: Why was that? Why were you the last ones there?

JY: See, Pomona Assembly Center, they just want to fill it up, so San Jose train was one of the last ones, and one train from San Francisco was the last train to go into Pomona. That filled the Pomona camp up full, and most of San Jose went to San Anita. So when I went to Pomona, well, we looked around for a job and couldn't get a job, everything was filled. And I was chopping away, making geta -- because all the lumbers were gone, because all the rest -- we were last ones there, so we found some scraps, and this and that, and chopping away making for my brothers and sisters, and all my, everybody have a pair. Banging away and I brought a few tools with me. The kids would come around and says, "Hey, make me one." Okay. Then got to be the point where I'm making for everybody else. I says, "Wait a minute. Why don't you make it?" "We don't have no tools." These are kids, (nine to ten) year old kids. 'Cause they have no shame, they ask you anything, right? It was teenagers, they kind of shy, 'Well, maybe we shouldn't ask that man or not,' but those kids come around and ask me.

I said, "Okay. Let's do this -- " Meantime right around the corner, another fellow from San Francisco was a carpenter, too. He's a little older than I, he had about four years experience already. He was working in the trade for a Japanese contractor, Jun Iwaoka. Got talking about this and that, and he was chopping wood, making geta too, right. "Hey, Jun, these kids want me to make geta. How about you?" He says, "Yeah. They come around my house too." He says, "Let's start a class. And then between your tools and my tools, they can make their own geta." So before we know it, we had about twenty kids coming around the place, making geta. Then the girls says, "Hey, you're helping the boys, how about us?" Oh, jeez. So we ended up, we had kids in the morning, kids in the afternoon, girls one day half a day, and the girls never knew how to read a ruler. In school they didn't... so I told 'em 1/16th, 1/8th, this and that. Oh, we had a hard time. Anyway, so we had girls' class. So all these kids made geta in the assembly center. They're chopping away all day long, and they were having a ball. And so the younger kids -- said, "No, you got to be at least ten." I says, "You can't cut straight and chisel, you get hurt." And this one little kid -- I remember his name was Takeshi -- he comes around there, look at me, and he was about eight year old kid, "Can I do it? Can I do it?" "No, you're not old enough, I'm sorry." His brother was doing it, see. And finally I had to consent to give it to him, let him do it. Oh, this kid was so happy that I was to let him do it. Naturally I cut the grooves for him, and he chopping away, eight year old kid chopping away like this, and making geta. It was so satisfying to do that. Both of us enjoyed it. Then camp closed, went on to Heart Mountain.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

AI: When, excuse me. When was that, that Pomona closed and you went --

JY: Pomona, I was there in Pomona from Memorial Day to latter part of September. We were the last train, 'cause my dad wasn't feeling too good. He wanted to come to Tule Lake, of all places, his heart condition. But they won't let him go so we had to go to Heart Mountain. So we were last train out of Pomona. So when I got to Heart Mountain, there was no job actually. So like I said earlier, I want to go into engineering, so I went to the engineering office and met a couple guys, and tell 'em what I want to do. And they found out what I can do, carpenter work in the trade, I didn't actually work at the trade. "Hey, we need guys out to the field." So I started working outside doing carpenter work. And they had this, built this canal in Heart Mountain, and this canal -- I have to go back -- was built during Depression years as a WPA labor. You probably heard the WPA. They built the Shoshone Dam, and the big canal across the Shoshone River. And they finished the canal, they had canal all around the foot of Heart Mountain. And when they got that done they said, "Well, let's turn the water on." So they turned the water on, and the water came across the Shoshone River to the big siphon pipe, and they got past the river and the water all of a sudden disappeared. Huge gopher hole, the hole must have been about 50 yards in diameter, like a big gopher hole. It went down, 5 miles down the line, it shot up at Shoshone River, the other side. And those WPA labor, they ran out of money so they left it there. So the Bureau of Reclamation just sat on it. So meantime, Bureau of Reclamation is the Interior Department, right. Said, "Hey, let's make a relocation center at Heart Mountain. Then maybe we can get some funds to fix the canal." So that's how Heart Mountain got picked. So meantime, they were talking about it, says, "We're recruiting guys to go fix the canal." "So, okay. Maybe I'll go over there." It's outside work, so it's seasonal work. So winter of '42, went out there and start working on this canal, filling, backfilling, compacting, get ready to line it with concrete so the water won't disappear. So we worked that fall and the winter, except we had to shut down in the wintertime because it freezes. Then went back to camp and worked in camp, and next spring went back out there. And it was March, everything was frozen, but we heat the water, we heat the gravel, we heat our sand, and then we poured concrete and got the canal all finished, ready for the summer crop. It was '43 summer, they have to start farming. And that's how that canal got fixed.

AI: How did -- what did you use for heating, for heating all the water? Heating all the...

JY: We used oil.

AI: Oil.

JY: We had oil, oil burners. Coal was impractical so we had oil burners, we had blow burners to heat the oil up. So that's how we did the canal. We finally got the canal done, and the water ran down and irrigated the Heart Mountain basin. And I talk about that, and nobody knows about that. So one of the research people from Wyoming University heard about it and called me, "We would like to talk to you about it." Because I got the only photo of the canal, was and the construction that we did. So those little things come up.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

JY: So anyway, that's one of the things, and I got back to camp and meantime guy says -- I was working on different projects in spring -- and says, "Well, you want to go seasonal work, pick peaches?" I says, "I don't know. Yeah, I guess I'll go." So from Heart Mountain went to Grand Junction to pick peaches, seasonal leave, and that's when first time I met the German POW.

AI: Excuse me. Where is Grand Junction?

JY: In Colorado. In middle Colorado. It's a peach country, peach and pear. Climate's like here. And we weren't allowed to go to town by ourself, we had to go with our boss, the owner of the farm. Yet these German soldiers, POWs, are walking around the place, Grand Junction. They had these armed guards down there, but they just walk around and do, you know. And that's the first time I encountered the POWs in Grand Junction. And these were all fair complexted German kids, eighteen, nineteen, twenty year old kids. And Grand Junction is a lot of mosquitoes, 'cause the river part of it. And poor guys had mosquito bite (like) chicken pox. To us, we were on the farm, chicken, I mean, mosquitoes don't bother us one bit and don't bother me at all, but we felt sorry for those people. And then I didn't think nothing of it then. So when this situation in Tule Lake came up 'bout POW, it dawned on me. Were they free or were they behind barbed wire? Then that's where I started researching it a lot about this POW camp here, and talking to different people, and went to the restaurant and start asking about that. Then they start volunteering to talk about this, about the POW, how they celebrated the 50th anniversary and such. That's where it came from, because I, when I first ran across them in Grand Junction in 1943.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

JY: And then your question saying, did I answer, 'yes-yes' or 'no-no'. Before I went to Grand Junction -- wait, after that, it was '43, right. So I answered 'yes-yes', because I want to go to school again. I didn't tell my dad I want to go to school so I signed up and I was registered to go to Miami University in Ohio, and they accepted me and everything else. So I said, "Well, I'll go to Grand Junction, pick peaches, and then I'll come back and I'll take off to go to Ohio." So I came back in, let's see, about mid-August. They wanted me to stay and pick pears but, "No," I said. "I want to go back." So we got back about mid-August, and I told my dad well, I'm going to go to Ohio -- I mean go to the state of Ohio, Miami University. He says, "No, no, no, no, no. We're going to go to Tule Lake." What can I do? I had no money. Everything you make you give to your parents, right. I didn't have a dime on me. Without no money, I didn't know where I could borrow any. I can't borrow, beg, or steal. So I says, "Okay. I guess we have to go to Tule Lake." That's how I came to Tule Lake. I came as a 'yes-yes' boy.

AI: So you had actually said 'yes-yes', but your father had his own reasons.

JY: No, he didn't answer 'yes-yes' -- I mean, 'no-no'. He answered 'yes-yes' and asked voluntarily to come. So as soon as the war was over, he was out, because he was 'yes-yes'.

AI: Do you know why he wanted to come to Tule Lake?

JY: I don't know. Well, I think selfish reason, I would say maybe. Maybe he didn't want me to go in the army, my brother to go in the army maybe. If I went outside, I probably go into the army, but I don't know. He never said anything about that, but he says, "The family got to stay together, and we are going to go to Tule Lake." So my college went out of the window again. So I came to Tule Lake.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

AI: What was that, that you came?

JY: In '43.

AI: In fall of '43?

JY: September '43 I came to Tule Lake, the segregation. So that's how I came. And back again I go to the engineering department, 'cause, you know. I say I want to be an engineer's aide, and that's how I end up outside again, doing construction. So, the...

AI: What was the position you were hired for?

JY: Huh?

AI: What was, was, what job were...?

JY: When I first came out it was engineer's aide, $16. In Heart Mountain I was a supervisor, I was the, what you, carpenter foreman, they called it, they didn't have no supervisor, just carpenter foreman, so I was $19. I didn't say anything about that, I says, "I just want to be engineer's aide." They found out that I was a carpenter, I was the foreman in Heart Mountain, what I did. "Hey, we gotta' put you outside," so that's how I got to know the chief engineer that was head of the division, the construction department, and then Booker. And I was working right directly under Booker, taking my orders. So that's how I had connection with the front office, and that's why I was in the office. A lot of times I had to go back to the office and report, and the construction crew was outside by the warehouse. So we, that's how I got into the construction business.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

AI: Well, so tell me a little bit about what was the atmosphere of Tule Lake camp when you came in at that time? What was going on then?

JY: Well, it wasn't friendly, that's for sure, because we come from Heart Mountain, people came from Jerome, people came from Rohwer, from Gila. We're all mixed in one block, right? When we're in Heart Mountain, we knew each other because half of 'em came from San Jose. Even though we came late, "Oh, yeah -- ," so and so and so. We go to mess hall, we talked to each other, drink cup of coffee, sling the bull, but come to here, "Geez, who are they?" So you have to... kinda' gun shy. We didn't mix too well. Even through the camp life, when I went to Tule Lake reunion, a guy came to me and says, "Hey, aren't you Jim Yamaichi?" I says, "Yeah." He said, "Don't you remember me? We lived on the other side of Block 27." Well, the one side, we lived on the 0 number side, 07, 04 side. They were in the 12, 11, 16, number side. "Geez, we were next to..." so and so, and so and so. "I guess so."

So that's how close we were; we just didn't get too close to each other. 'Cause we didn't know... well we don't get involved because then that's when all this 'Wasshoi, Wasshoi' stuff was start coming up gradually, and Japanese school. They want to go to Japanese school, do this and that. So to get by to go to regular Japanese school, went to private Japanese school. That way there, my father won't be coerced to have me go to a Japanese school. Because I was the prime age to join that group, right, the Hoshidan group. So that's why I stayed away from some of the private Japanese schools on our block. And then Tanaka was a Japanese schoolteacher, so I went to his class, just to pacify the... my father said he doesn't... "Going to Japanese School?" "He's already going to Japanese school," right, that's the answer. So he wasn't coerced to send me to the regular, the big Japanese school. So like you asked me, well, wasn't unfriendly, we got to know the people gradually as time went along, but we never really got that close.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

JY: Myself, I was in construction. I worked almost seven days a week. Saturday's half day, but I work all day Saturday, only Sunday day off I get, and do this and that. That's it, right. I go back to work. So that was my life. So later someone asks me, says, "How was your love life in camp?" I says, "Well, I was working every day." I says, "No chance." So really, then you get shy. Geez, should you or shouldn't you talk to the girls? Right? Because you don't know where they come from; you don't know their background. Because Issei, we have to know the background before you should get too serious with a girl. And they still carry that idea, "You have to know what they are first," and, "Don't get serious." They'll always tell you that. So yeah, we joke around with the girls at work, this and that, that was it. Really didn't go around with no girls.

Social life, besides, I was at the age -- I didn't fit into the junior YBA. I didn't fit into the older group, so I was kinda' in between. My younger brothers and them had a high school group, right, then my older brother was in the YBA, and I just got out of high school so I was not in the YBA yet. And I didn't... so, with the YBA, then, he kinda' tied into the YBA in camp because he was mid-twenties, so just right, right, for YBA.

AI: YBA is Young Buddhist Association.

JY: Yes, Senior YBA, Young Buddhist group. So he fit right into the group because he already, he knows the mechanics of YBA. I didn't know first thing about it, 'cause I never went to YBA meeting, so that was the end of that. So I didn't really get involved in any organization such. So work was busy enough, so I just didn't pay too much attention to it.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

JY: But Okamoto... well, I don't know. I don't know how you want to phrase that, 'cause a lot of it I said on the Walking Tour, a lot of it you caught on the Walking Tour. Well, we'll go back over it again and talk about Okamoto. The oddity of the whole thing, Okamoto, actually he got shot and killed. And then one of the workers was hit with the butt of a gun, and was knocked off the truck. And you hear the talk, story about that. And time went along, it's ten, fifteen, ten, fifteen years or so after we got out of camp. Then my sister that's here, her husband's sister married Hisao Hido. Hisao Hido, yeah. He was the one that got hit with the butt of a gun, and he told me how it happened too, see, so it kind of all jived together. And he says, "Yeah, I was guy that they hit with the butt of the gun, and knocked to the ground." And then he says, "I almost got shot," himself, he said. "And Okamoto got shot right there, point blank." So talking to different people, all these things jives together how it all happens. That's why I emphasized today, on the Walking Tour, that that's where he got killed, and on the map I show the whole story. So that way there everybody can understand what, exactly what happened.

And that was a part of the problem, the farm strike. Like I said, before on farm there, the farm was just, all the crops were planted out there, but nobody to harvest it type of deal, and then hog farm got shut down. And I think what broke the straw, the straw that broke the camel's back for the army, they had to haul the garbage out there, pick up the... and that's the worst thing they hated, to come around and pick up our garbage. So first thing they did was release that part of it, to have evacuees haul the garbage out to the hog farm.

AI: So you were still under martial law, but they decided that you could handle that.

JY: Yeah, we could handle that. And then to deliver food, that was too lowly a job to deliver food, so the commissary was opened up. And then we were running short on coal, they said, "Hey, that's a dirty job, we don't want to shovel coal," so they had guys go volunteer to start loading coal up. So gradually they were breaking down, not us, because 18,000 people out there looking for something, but the food was getting bad, worse to worse. And it was so bad, at one time they delivered, I think, one crate of cauliflower per mess hall. That's 300 people, you feed one crate. And they cut the flower part, and they save the leaf. Now what the good is, what could you do with a leaf? You can't really boil it and eat the leaves. Ingenious, right, if the food is short, what you do with it? They chopped it up, made tsukemono out of it. Salt it up, put weight on it, had tsukemono out of it. All this is just like with the, the story about the fish, the salted herring. We had a week's supply of food gone down the drain. We couldn't eat it, right. Now, we screamed for food. They bring a little bit here, a little bit there, but they have to do something to feed the people. So only thing we had was rice. They had a lot of rice, so we had rice almost three times a day. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And then what you put on rice? Nothing really. So they concoct something, just juice to pour over rice, that's all. That's what we had during the riot.

So that didn't sit too well, so that created more problem. The administration didn't feed us properly, so people got angry, and then the Hoshidan people got more power. Say, "See, these guys don't fight, these guys don't fight the administration, that's why they just treat us the way they do." So that's where they got a lot of strength, because the administration is getting weaker, and army was getting us lousy food, and they had good ammunition to fight to get more people in the group. They used that very well, so that's how they were able to pick up so many people in so short of time. Normally, when they started out, it was a small group. Those guys just running around morning exercise, that was it. Nobody didn't think nothing about it, but gradually they got stronger, and stronger, and stronger, bigger. Then when the five, six hundred went down to the front of Bess's house and start doing calisthenics, then things got a little worse, but still, I myself kind of shied away from it.

People asked me today on the Walking Tour, says, "Here you were riding on the (car). Didn't they feel as if you were a favorite of the administration, or inu," or whatever it is. I says, "No." I says, "That was my job, to get the water in the camp." They knew what I was doing. I wasn't just joyriding, and wave to them. I went down, take care of the water, let the water run down and whatever water is doing, and check the water and go back again. So I was working for the people, I wasn't working for nobody else. I wasn't working for the administration, I was taking care of my own camp people. So even... I checked my (car) and walk back, and nobody says anything. So I didn't really feel that I was overstepping my boundary or I was, say, being a favorite boy to the administration. No, I just doing my job. So that's the first thing they ask me. Several people ask me on the Walking Tour, "Didn't they feel that you were kind of special boy?" Said, "No, no." [Shakes head] So I had a lot of friends that had shaved heads, but we never had any idea that you were good, or I was bad, or that type the deal. It was no problem there.

AI: Well, during the time of the riot, were you actually on the site then, or did you, were you affected by that tear gas?

JY: Yeah, we were here. You see, the thing is, when they had the riot and all this and that, it was wintertime. See, even they throw tear gas, it doesn't do much good. The dampness was so damp and cold, and the only thing that... in November they came through with the whole army force. They started from Alaska side, they came through the, searched every building. They were looking for two people; the leader of the so-called group -- which group I don't know. And they didn't find 'em. So they just literally threw out stuff that... anything. They broke things, and that didn't set too well with the people too, see, so it was all this thing, culmination of all this stuff coming up. So meantime, people that went to work -- we still went to work, administration workers went to administration. But for awhile, nobody was allowed to go, then we will call in. There's only one telephone in the ward, but we call in and say, "We want to come in and talk to the boss." He said "Okay, we'll have a special pass to come in." So, gradually, people had pass to get in because the staff, they don't want to do menial work, or bookkeeping, time keeping, making payroll. They care less, right, so the evacuee had to do all that work. And so I finally went back, because there was a lot of maintenance problem. And then they didn't want to come into the camp to do the maintenance work, so we had to do the maintenance work. So I find, round up my crew, started up, started doing maintenance work. And eventually, the army just gave up because they didn't want do all the dirty work. And that's when the staff got increased to 550, because they were placing us doing the menial work, like delivering oils to the army quarters, delivering oil to their own quarters; because they had oil burning stove, but we had coal burning stove -- so they took care of their peoples. They had to do all those menial stuff.

AI: So eventually, it sounds like things as far as work life eventually got back --

JY: Normal, back to semi normal. Then, as you read many times, they picked up 200, 300 people here, 400, 500 people. Haul 'em all out so the camp will settle down. That's what they did, but the youngsters that were left behind, they still were doing it, but the main leaders, they took the starch out of them.

AI: And they were put in the stockade, and...

JY: Yeah, they were stockade and they were shipped to Bismarck, then Crystal City, New Mexico. They were all just, split 'em in... they didn't want to put 'em all in one place because they have a problem again, so they just split the whole group up all over the country there. So this way here, the WRA won't be responsible, it'll be the Justice Department, because that was Justice Department; it was not the Department of Interior. So that way they got away with the problems.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

AI: Well, now, somewhere along here, did you receive your draft notice?

JY: Yes. [Laughs] That was 1944. Yes, 1944. And, if I remember correctly, in January of 1944 my draft status was changed to 1A. And then in March, I got a notice for pre-induction physical. And it says, if you do not report for physical, you have a fine and be jailed for not reporting, and such. But it didn't say how much or anything, just a penalty.


AI: -- what the reaction was to what you did.

JY: Okay. The reaction is, like I said before, when I was going to grade school that, "One of these days I want to vote, be twenty-one." I was twenty-one, so I asked the Caucasian workers, says, "You know, I'm twenty-one. I'd like to get registered to vote and be a voter." And they just kind of laughed at me and says, "No way you can get no..." Says, "How could you vote here? You're in a condition where you can't vote," this and that. In the meantime I get this draft notice. I said, "Here I can't vote, I can't register, and they want me to join the army."

Meantime my brother was in the army after all the problems of segregation -- they were segregated in the army too. I don't know if I told you the story that, like my brother was in Camp Robertson, California. Then about a month after the war broke out, they were shipped into inland. About two months, two, three months after the war, they were shipped inland. And they were kind of status quo, didn't do much. Then all of a sudden they took all the rifles, bayonets away from, sidearms, and gave 'em wooden ones. So he's marching with a wooden gun and the next buddy there is marching with a real rifle. How degrading that is. And when the general comes by, they push all them in the corner and be a watch over them, and says, "Don't come out." Soldiers, right? American soldiers cannot see their commanding officer. And then when the commanding officer leaves, they were free to roam around the camp. So like I said before, my brother raised vegetable for the NCO club. He came from a farm, so he wrote letters back, and 'Yeah, the pepper's doing pretty good.' 'The tomato's coming up now.' He used to tell what he used to raise. So hear all that and here my brother is army personnel, yet he's treated that way."

Then too, like my cousins -- actually, they're second cousin to me -- they were farming not too far from where we were -- and two brothers, Mamoru and Noboru, was drafted in the army in 1940, '41. And one of 'em was stationed in Texas, and I forgot what the other one... Nob was stationed in Texas, I know that, the other one, I forget what it was. And we were sent, went to Pomona, and Uncle came to Pomona himself, and got ill. As soon as he come he got ill. So Pomona didn't have any hospital, so they took him to San Anita, and that's the last we heard. Meantime, went to Heart Mountain, and we got there and says, "What happened to -- ," Araki is his name -- "Where's Araki?" He says, "Well, he probably come on the last train because he's not feeling too good." " Okay." They didn't communicate. My father and them didn't get along too well, didn't communicate too much. And, finally he came from San Anita and he wasn't put on a pullman, he was put on a stretcher -- this picture of him, I saw some pictures of him -- they shoved him through the window, and the stretcher was laid across the back of the seat. He was there for five days and five... five nights and four days on the train. He had stomach cancer, he was laid on a stretcher. He just, with pain he just went into coma. So when he went into coma, he didn't, couldn't eat, just, his wife was just feeding him water. No intravenous, no nothing, no nurse, they came on the train.

And before that, the family wrote the brothers should come visit him in San Anita, because probably he'll never make it to Heart Mountain. 'Cause the other two brothers was with the father. He had two brothers, yeah, two older brothers. And so they asked for leave to go to see the father in San Anita. They says that, "You know that no Japanese Americans are allowed in the West Coast, so we have to hire escort to take you. And we can't afford to have escort to take you to San Anita, California, so your leave is denied." So, when the father was on his way to Heart Mountain, they wrote to him, says he's leaving, and they'll be arriving at a certain time. So when they arrived at Heart Mountain about three days later, the boys came, and naturally went to see him right away. He was laying on the hospital bed. He didn't know he was in there or not. There was nothing left of him. Just literally gone, and he just laid there with his mouth open and his wife would just -- when he opened his mouth, they just put a couple drops of water and he shuts his mouth. That was it. And he survived for about eight days or nine days, and he was the first person to pass away in Heart Mountain.

With that back of my mind, I says, "Geez, if I go to the army, that's how I'll be treated." So then and there I made up my mind that I'm not gonna' go to the army, so I just didn't report. Then I got a notice in July to be, to report to the front gate, to be taken with the marshal to go to Eureka for the court case. Naturally I was exonerated. We had a strong case, and we had a judge that was very understanding. He knew the Korematsu case, the Hirabayashi case. He wrote in his brief, he says, "They're arguing their case is not completed, but still this case here is, were not given due process of the law." That's what he said. We were not given due process of law, so we were not subject to be drafted. The draft board has no right to draft us, and so we would be returned to WRA as a free citizen. So if I went, it would have been five years in federal penitentiary and $10,000 fine.

But one of those things that, it isn't... I took a chance, I felt that I can't vote, I don't have no freedom to travel, even if you're a soldier then... I mean, the restriction was lifted, naturally would be, 442 was being formed, the 100 Battalion was being formed. But then again, same thing might happen again, so I felt... my father says, "Well, you have to make up your mind. You're the one who's going to live with it, not me." So I decided, well, "Then I'm not gonna' go." So there's twenty-six of us and none of us knew who was who, who was going. There was just two fellows that I knew, once we got together, two guys I knew, but rest of 'em I didn't know who they were. So we had no chance that we would -- they could never say that we got together and made up our mind. Meantime, reading different articles, and at that time sixty of 'em volunteered, went to the army, very quietly, middle of the night. If they went out in daytime, they would have seen 'em, so most of 'em during the night slipped out of the front gate and went to the army. That's the only thing I could find out as far as who went to the army then, but we didn't go. So there's twenty-six. I got, finally got all the names of the twenty-six of us.

AI: Well, now, that's a very unusual experience.

JY: Yes, it is.

AI: Compared to the other draft resisters.

JY: Yeah. Because nobody writes about it, because nobody knows about it, and nobody talks about it.

AI: But there were twenty-six of you.

JY: Twenty-six of us. I have all the names.

AI: And then, all, you were all exonerated.

JY: Exonerated, yes.

AI: You returned back to Tule Lake camp.

JY: Returned back to Tule Lake.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

AI: Well, and then, eventually, then Memorial Day came and you went home. Now, afterwards, may I ask, afterwards, did you ever get any trouble or harassment for having resisted the draft?

JY: No, 'cause when I got home I have to be registered, right, changing of address. And then draft board called me up again, so I went for pre-induction physical. I had to go to pre-induction physical, and they says, "Well, will you be called within a month," so I waited 'bout three months, nothing happened. So I called my draft board and says, "Well, I guess I don't have to go in the army." He says, "Well, you have to come back for rephysical." Every three months come back for rephysical, so I went back second time. And twenty-sixth birthday, then you're over the draft age. Up to twenty-sixth birthday, you're still liable for draft. So I called the draft board second time -- and I was in Los Angeles then, second time around -- and says, "Well, there's enough volunteers right now to fill the quota because the..." Bill of Rights, the Veteran's Bill of Rights they used to call it, that you have this chance to go to school. If you join the army you can go to school for so many years, this and that; so everybody taking advantage. The war is over, just want to join the army, then you get this free schooling. So it was enough volunteers so the quota is being filled every month, so I didn't have to go. So I turned twenty-six so my draft status was over.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

JY: But I encountered many hardship after I returned. Like I told you about the union. I'll go back to the union story again. A little bit wiser, a little older -- when I was out of high school, I wasn't that smart. So I walked into the union office and Jorgenson and Swain is a business agent, carpenters, and they were there before I went to camp, after camp they're still there. And so I talked to Jorgenson -- we used to call him Jergy -- and Swain. And Swain is kinda' a mild person, not too rough, but Jorgenson is rough. He just cuss you up and down, and he says, "You son of a bitch. We don't allow Japs in here, you know that." He says, "Get the hell out of here." So what else can I do, just walk out. So I went back, and back, and back.

Finally, about five or six visit back there -- meantime I was working with non-union construction company, get paid peanuts compared to the union work. So I guess they got tired of looking at me, or whatever it was. And so I went in there one time and Jorgenson said, "Okay, Jim." We got to know each other pretty well, but then still the language was rough as heck. He says, "You get a job with a union shop, we give you a card, it's a deal." I said, "Deal." So okay.

So I got in my car and went down to (Santa Clara) Street and looked around. And there was a job there (at the) drive-in restaurant there, there was a job they were doing for a hospital there, not too far from the union hall. So I was deciding what I should do. Well, maybe I'll go to this drive-in restaurant. So I got off the car -- made a U-turn, got off the car, went in there and asked foreman there, says, "I'm looking for a job." He says, "Sure." He says, "I'll give you a job." He says, "Get your tools. You go to work right now." This was about ten o'clock in the morning. And I got my tools out, and Jorgenson and Swain followed me around. Then they were parked across the street, they come across and says, "You son-of-a-gun. You got a job. Come down to the hall, we give you a card."

And then after that they changed the bylaw, erased that Asians are not allowed in the union. They just erased that part of it. So it's open to anybody.

AI: So you opened it up. You were the first Asian in the union.

JY: Even they open it up for the black people too, black carpenters. So after that -- there's a lot of Japanese peoples working for non-union shop -- they all got their union card, went on. So quite a few of 'em are my age, and got into the union after that. So it's a one man battle, but, you know, just be persistent. Like my teacher Morgan says, "Just don't give up. Just keep at it, keep at it, and eventually you'll succeed." So little, one step forward.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

JY: For about fifteen years I was in the store fixture business. I manufactured store fixtures, like this cafeteria with eating area, I do that, hotel, a lot of restaurants, lot of restaurants. That's when I was up Port Angeles, doing Denny's. We had, we used to install Denny's every other week. One week we installed Denny, L.A. company would install Denny, and Denny's was moving eastwards. And we did a lot of Elks Club. Elks Club then, no Asians were allowed then, but we did a lot of Elks Club with all the bars, interior work, and this and that. And after the job's all done they have a big open splash we called it "Purveyor's Night." And I'm never invited, what the heck. They said, when I do the job, they says, "You know, Jim, even though whatever you do -- we like you, but you can't come in and join us, because that's the club rules." I says, "Well, I understand that. This is strictly business." But you know, it hurts that all the rest of the guys can go, but I can't go.

So this went on, and I did seven or eight Elks Club. And one of the last one, I was doing Redding Elks Club, and it was a nice job. And I went up there to do the job, and this guy who was running the haberdashery -- we used to call them haberdashery, they call 'em men's clothing now. This is in the late '60s, and I went up there and did the job. And he was, the haberdashery guy was the head of the Elks organization. In the meantime, they're going to have this grand opening that Saturday or Friday, Friday... yeah, Friday. So the head guy from Chicago, the head office -- he had to be from Chicago -- so he was up for the grand opening 'cause, being the head of the Elks organization. So, and I went to the office to see this guy here for something, and I was ready to finish up. And... I forgot his name; anyway, he says, "This is Jim. He's the one putting the bar in there. Did you like the look of the bar?" He says, "Yeah. It looks real good." "Well, I invite him to come to our grand opening." And I know that I'm not allowed, so I said, "Well, don't worry." I said, "I have to go home. I'm too busy, I can't afford to stick around here that long. So let me..." you know. I knew, because that one time. So I left, and following day I went back, talked to him. He was so angry. He talked to head man, the Grand potan, about me coming to the party, and he told him politely he says, "He's not allowed. No Oriental or Asians are allowed in the club, even though as guests." And he was so pushed out. The next day he was just blue, he was just so mad, he says, "Those darn guys. We're all human beings." He was really down-to-earth kind of person, and I think that's the beginning when the change came in Elks Club. A few years after that, the bylaws changed, it was opened up to everybody. But, you know, I didn't want to join the Elks Club, I care less, but then again, to discrimination, I've gone through so much discrimination. This is one of the prize story I think I have as far as discrimination is concerned, the time I was doing all this work. I was doing NCO Clubs, Navy Officer's NCO club. All over the country. I did Whidbey Island and Los Angeles I did, down in San Diego I did the Admiral Kidd Club -- that's the headquarter for the Southern Fleet -- did the (Naval Air) Club, Alameda, Moffet Field. I did all over the country, we went back east. Anyway, I was the general contractor of the Admiral Kidd Club in San Diego. Redo the outside face and redid the whole interior.


<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.