Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Frank Miyamoto Interview IV
Narrator: Frank Miyamoto
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Tatsuya Fukunaga (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: July 7, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-mfrank-04

<Begin Segment 1>

AI: And today is July 7, 2003. We're here at the Densho office with Dr. Frank Miyamoto. I'm Alice Ito with Densho and co-interviewing is Tatsuya Fukunaga, our visitor, researcher, and Dana Hoshide is doing videography for us. So, thanks again Dr. Miyamoto, for being here to talk about the canneries in Alaska, your own individual experience, as well as giving us an understanding of how the cannery work was organized, and the situation there. And I wanted to ask you to begin by giving us a short overview of your own cannery experience.

FM: Well, as you know, I'm a sociologist by background and I feel that the cannery system was a very important part of the Japanese community here in Seattle, which is one of the areas of my sociological interest. And that inasmuch as I understand Densho does not have an extensive account of this cannery background of Japanese Americans, I feel that it would be desirable to fill in the picture as much as possible. Briefly, with regard to my own background, I think I got into sociology because my father, who was a... who was from Japan, came to this country in 1905 and established himself ultimately in the furniture hardware business in the Japanese community, had a point of view of... that Japanese immigrants should absorb themselves as much as possible into the American society, which is a different point of view than the sojourner attitude that characterized most of the early immigrants to this country from Japan. And with that point of view in mind, he, very early then, about the time I was in the second grade in elementary school, he moved our family out to the Beacon Hill area at a time when only two other Japanese families were out there. In short, he wanted to put us into the American system as much as possible and become part of it. The result was that, because he had a business in the Japanese community, I got necessarily drawn into the Japanese community through his business connections, and also our family connections, but also I was part of the American community living on Beacon Hill with lots of American friends. And what struck me as I grew older was the difference in characteristic of the two communities I was in touch with. And it was this kind of contrast between the Japanese community and the American community that drew me, I would say, into the profession of sociology, which I got into as my life career.

Going back into the question of cannery work, which is the topic of the discussion here, I think I... well, I should say that although my father and the family had a kind of middle-class orientation, and we, for example, had a summer place out on Faunt-, out in Fauntleroy Beach, early in life, and I thought I had a very easy life of it. Nevertheless, my father also had this kind of Benjamin Franklin orientation that one should learn how to work. And so, very early in life, we started going to berry picking in Bellevue, but mainly out in Bainbridge Island, and I also ran a Taihoku newspaper route in my early career. I was not, not unaccustomed to working, therefore, even in my earlier years.

Now one of the things that occurs to me is that the Immigration Act of 1924, which brought about the closure of immigration from Japan, and was a major, I think, one of the most important political... international political relations that ever occurred, came into effect in 1924 and stopped the immigration into the United States, which had been going on for twenty years or more. And the effect of that was to close down substantially the amount of business that Japanese Issei businesses were carrying on in relation to the immigrant population, the flow that was coming in annually from Japan. My father's business, therefore, from 1924 on went steadily downhill, and by the time the Depression came in 1929, it was on the verge of, well, I wouldn't say bankruptcy, but very severely damaged by the effects of the 1924 Immigration Act. My father never said so, but I think he was glad to have me go to work in a place like Alaska for that, for that reason, that we were beginning to feel the pinch as a family which we had not before the Immigration Act.

Now the other reason why I got into the family -- cannery work, was that in my Japanese community connection I was particularly related to my cousin's family, the Hashiguchi family, which had, as it happened, eight boys in it, no girls, and therefore, to me, with no sibling males, was a very attractive setting in which to relate myself. Anyway, it was a... one of the cousins, a year older than I, to whom I connected up with respect to all kinds of activities. And when he went to, to Alaska as a worker, the year after that I followed as a kind of a natural course of things in my... that is to say, I was interested in going to this kind of summer job that he was interested in. The other thing I should mention here is that I went to this Waterfall Cannery, which is in southeastern Alaska, that was under contract with the Nagamatsu Contracting Company. And Mr. Nagamatsu, they were brothers, Mr., two Nagamatsus; the Messrs. Nagamatsu knew my family, father, who was in business in the Japanese community, and as usually happened in the Japanese community business life, if you knew each other, why, you could then arrange to have your son work for them, or work out relationships that would not be possible without that kind of relationship beforehand. So, I know that my father talked to the Nagamatsus and made sure that I would be safe, even though I was at that time only fourteen years of age, and therefore, pretty young for going into something... going a distance from, away from Seattle and also working in something that was, to our family, strange and unknown territory. Anyway, that is how I got into the cannery work initially.

AI: And that was in 1927, was it?

FM: 1927 and not only did I get into the thing in 1927, I continued for twelve summers thereafter except for one summer where I went to the Eatonville saw-, Eatonville sawmill. I worked continuously, summers, because the cannery work enabled me to save enough money to go through college. As it happened, unfortunately, my father died when I was only sixteen years of age, and therefore I was pretty much on my own and the cannery work enabled me to not only go through undergraduate college, but do at least two years of graduate work both at the University of Washington and University of Chicago. In effect, the cannery work paid off for me very handsomely in setting me up in my career.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

AI: Thank you. Well, that explains a little bit about your beginnings in the cannery work, and perhaps, at this point, you'd like to shift in discussion to give us a background picture of the industry itself.

FM: Yes, I would like to give you more of a background of the industry and of the role of the Japanese immigrant in this kind of business. As you know, the Japanese immigrants to the Seattle area, or the United States, but also, particularly the Seattle area, started to come around 1890 or so, particularly about that time. And about by 1900 they were becoming a very steady flow into this country. And most of them were coming as, what we call sojourners, birds of passage, people who were interested in coming to the United States, not to become part of America so much as people who would make their mint of money and return to Japan, hopefully as persons of advanced status, which they aspired to very much. And in order to do this, the immigrants, coming as they did, with, as they said, no more than a backpack and twenty-five dollars in the pocket, had to find work that was easily available and suitable to them. There were four kinds of work that they especially went into as immigrants: sawmills, one of the dominant industries of the Pacific Northwest; railroad work, which would take them to, especially, the Northern Pacific and Great Northern would take them into Montana and as far east as the Dakotas; the farm labor, which, of course, was the background basis on which the Issei farmers ultimately established themselves; and, finally, fishing and cannery work, into which a certain number of Issei were able to, got into and made a saving.

The reason they were, in particular, the reason these Issei were interested in these jobs were not so much to, as to become laborers in those industries, but of saving enough to, so as to establish themselves in some kind of independent entrepreneur, entrepreneurial industry and this, these kinds of jobs then were, for them, mostly, kind of temporary means of making enough savings so that they could establish themselves independently. The Japanese immigrants, thus, were very strongly independently-minded, entrepreneurially-minded. And I would say that they were, therefore, a very different kind of immigrant population than many others coming to the United States in that same period. It is said that the immigrants from Europe, for example, were largely proletarian-oriented in the sense that they could not establish themselves as independent entrepreneurs in the fashion that the Japanese did, but would go into various kinds of labor industries such as the coal mining or the steel industry and so on and work as laborers continuously in those fields. Whereas in the case of the Japanese, as I say, the interest was very much more towards establishing themselves independently and not continuing as laborers.

Now, in this type of background, the fishing industry was -- and the cannery work -- was the least satisfactory because it's a seasonal job lasting at most, only four or five months out of the year. And for people like me, we would go only two months during the peak salmon season. But it was also, on the other hand, a means of saving money because the pay would come at the end of the season and you would save every -- they would, since the contractors were covering all the costs of food, lodging, and transportation, you could save everything that was earned unless you happened to gamble away all these savings beforehand. Some of the Issei, unfortunately, were gamblers and people who, for one reason or another, were unable to keep what they were making. But, for others, why, it was a basis for accumulating savings by which you could establish yourself in whatever other career you might desire.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

FM: Perhaps I should tell you a little bit about the set-up of the canning industry at that time. As I have pointed out elsewhere, we have to think of the canning industry as something that was very new in Alaska. Alaska, as you may know, was acquired by the United States in 1867 which, curiously, is the same year that the Tokugawa feudalism ended in Japan and Meiji Reformation, Restoration came in that same, 1868, perhaps, came virtually at the same time. So... and then Meiji, when I think of the name Meiji emperor, I recall that my own birth, date of birth was July 29, 1912, which is exactly the same date that Meiji emperor died and Taisho came into his regime. So, you see, when you say the Meiji regime, I feel I have a direct connection with the beginnings of not only the Meiji Restoration, but of the beginnings of Alaska. In short, this is not a very long period when you, when the canning industry was being established in Alaska, when you look at it in this fashion. The canning industry was organized by large, ultimately, by large food packing companies like Libby and A&P, the Atlantic and Pacific Company and others of this kind, and they organized it by allotting contracts to other companies such as the Nakat Packing Company here in the Seattle area, organized by Scandinavian families. And then these companies in turn under the necessity of finding relatively cheap labor, would contract with Chinese contractors or with Japanese contractors, whoever could supply labor at a relatively cheap cost. Laborers... in this kind of industry where, that is seasonal, such as the fruit orchards and the salmon industry, laborer is very, labor contractors are important because they are not a population that is going to be readily accessible on short notice except through this kind of contracting system. And that's why the contractors, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, were of some importance.

The Chinese came in first and dominated the Alaska canning labor market for possibly ten, twenty years, but gradually, gradually were displaced by -- or fairly rapidly, were displaced by the Japanese contractors and this leads me to raise the question, why was it that the Chinese contractors were not able to succeed over the period of... a longer period when they had ample sources of labor available to them? In fact, there is the interesting question; why was it that the Native Americans, who were available in Alaska, were not used more extensively by these large packing companies as laborers in the canneries? And this is a very important and interesting issue sociologically because what you realize and what you find out if you analyze this sociologically is that there are certain kinds of organizational experiences which some people have and others do not, which enable people to become part of an industrial system such as the canning system. Native Americans -- it may surprise you to know -- cannot organize very effectively across tribes. Tribal units want to have exclusive control over their tribal group and whatever they organize and they have difficulty maintaining peaceful or harmonious or cooperative relations across tribes in the organizational situations of this kind. And curiously, similarly, the Chinese do not have a good capacity for organizing across, between kinship groups. Within kinship groups organization is very effective, bur across kinship groups or across large impersonal populations, their organizational capacity is relatively limited, a very interesting point about the Chinese. And this is a problem, as it turns out, in China as well as in the canning industry. If you have that situation, then it is very difficult to draw an impersonal body of laborers into any industry and this is the difficulty which the Chinese experienced.

Now the Japanese, for reasons of history, going back to the village life that characterized Japan in their rice farming economy, built up an exceptional, unusual capacity for cooperative relations among people who were not directly related to each other, and as a result of this background, the Japanese immigrants coming in from Hiroshima, or Fukuoka, or Tokushima or wherever they may, might come from, could easily get together and organize, as they did, in the communities on the Pacific Coast to which they immigrated. You will find, therefore, that Japanese communities of the Pacific Coast region were heavily organized in the degree that you would not find virtually in any other immigrant population, except the Jewish people. The Jews, curiously, have the same kind of capacity for organization that the Japanese have, community organization, and if we had the time I could go into a sociological analysis of why this is so. But in any event, this... then there is the additional question: why was it then, that ultimately the Japanese contractors were displaced by Filipinos, Filipino work organizations? And I'm gonna have to take that up later, but it's the same kind of an issue that is involved here, the system of relationship is the factor that determines -- the background experiences with systems and relationships, is the factor that determines who prevails and who does not.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

AI: Thank you, thank you for that background. I think the next area that you were going to mention was in particular, the Issei immigrants, and their experience and role in the cannery industry.

FM: Yeah. What I want to point out is that the Japanese immigrants, who I say came with this kind of unique organizational capacity, capacity for cooperative relationships is what it amounts to, which is, as it happens, very good. If you can cooperate, that's very definitely an advantage, but it has its own disadvantages, too, because you can be excessively cooperative and push under the rug all kinds of bad things which are going on, simply because you want to be cooperative. There are pluses and minuses in this kind of attitude. But, in any event, because of this capacity, the Japanese Issei were able to organize the cannery workers -- at least in the period from 1910 or to about 1935 or so when the Japanese contractors prevailed -- they were able to organize things and draw workers in. However, the canning industry is not one that really was attractive to the Issei, because, as I say, they had their orientation of becoming independent and becoming entrepreneurs to a large extent. That is to say, run their own farms, establish and run their own farms or establish and run businesses of their own. Seattle community, before the second World War was, I would say, to seventy-five percent of the working population, was related to independent businesses, such as the hotel business, groceries, dye works and cleaners, so-called, the produce business, all kinds of businesses of this kind and therefore with workers who were occupationally independent entrepreneurs or the clerical and other assistants within Japanese organizations, as I say, about seventy-five percent of all workers were related in this fashion.

The contractors there, the Japanese contractors who came in at this time, people whose names become well-known within the Japanese community, therefore were doing essentially the same kind of things, that is to say, organizing as independent entrepreneurs in an area where occupational interest was required. And what the entrepreneurs did was to draw on the available labor supply within the community to staff the jobs available in Alaska during the fishing season. For Issei, however, for reasons already outlined, this was not a type of work that was particularly of interest. As I say, Alaska's salmon cannery is a seasonal job, lasts at most only four or five months, and, while it has the advantage of enabling a lot of savings for a short period, it was not a lasting type of work and therefore you do not find that the Issei go into this kind of work to any great extent. Being good entrepreneurs, however, the Japanese contractors, who established themselves, then drew on other available labor resources, particularly the Filipino population, who were around in large numbers and because the Filipinos, at that stage of their immigration, were to a considerable extent single bachelors, unattached, as family people would be, were available for summer jobs and therefore, they became a substantial source of employment for the Issei, Issei contractors. So, for the Japanese Issei community, the contractor business was not extremely important except as a line of business.

For the Nisei, however, the Japanese Americans like myself, the industry was extremely important, because as the Nisei were growing at, in 1930, for example, I would say that, when I was, myself, twenty years of age, and -- let's see, I'm eighteen at that point, just coming out of high school. I was one of the older Nisei but between 1930 and 1940 then, a lot of kids -- and this, as you will note, is the Great Depression period when jobs were extremely scarce, this is a period in which the Nisei were coming out of, or entering high school, coming out of high school, going to college and so on, and the cannery industry, then, becomes a major source of financial savings by which they could work their way through college in a fashion that other groups were not able to do because they could not readily find this kind of work. And, in short, the Japanese contractors, at least in 1930, were an extremely important source of a type of work that the Nisei depended upon in order to, to advance their careers, which they, of course, wanted to do. So from that standpoint, then, for me, as well as for other Japanese Americans, I would say the... the canning industry was a really, very important factor in the career development that we were looking toward. I don't recall what I needed to go into...

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

AI: Um.. let's see. Perhaps you were going to say a bit more about the Japanese contractors --

FM: Yeah.

AI: -- and their way of setting up --

FM: Yes.

AI: -- the payments?

FM: Japanese contractors were well-established business people in the community and were highly regarded as so, and yet, on the other hand, they often had a bad name associated with their work. For one thing, contractors are people who are recruiting large supplies of other people of their own kind, Japanese Issei or Nisei, or when more extended, Filipinos and other groups. And because these are people, the employees are people who are not well-established, it is possible for the contractors to take great advantage of... unfair advantage of the workers. Now, in my experience, for example, with the Nagamatsu family, I never experienced anything adverse. And I don't recall that, ever hearing complaints about the contractors, but there were stories in the earlier years especially, of how contractors -- who were hiring Issei because, who were available because they were gamblers and so on -- would take advantage of these people by advancing money to them, getting them to gamble and lose all their money so as to be sure that they would come back the next year and so on. There were all kinds of stories of this kind of fraudulent or unethical behavior that the contractors were alleged to engage in. Also it was said that the contractors were making money by saving as much as possible on the employee payments and support that they were rendering for, supplying, and of taking off money for themselves. Again, I think this a rather unfair picture of what the contractors were like. They were certainly business people and trying to economize as much as possible, but on the other hand, they were doing so without being, to my, in my experience, unfairly or excessively greedy or excessively penurious in what they were doing. So, I personally never thought of the contractors as an altogether undesirable group of people. But, if one takes the view that contractors reflected potentially the uglier side of capitalism, why, that is... well, then there was the possibility that the contractors might be seen in this light.

In any event, what the contractors did was to work out with the packing, the American packing companies, contracts themselves, such as that they would receive, they would contract for the payment of, base payment of fifty cents per case of salmon, with a guaranteed minimum payment for forty thousand cases. In other words, fifty cents per case, forty thousand cases, twenty thousand, twenty thousand dollars would be available as base promise, guarantee to the contractor, with which he was to go out and hire however many workers as he could get, fifty perhaps, or even a hundred in some larger canneries. And then, if the pack exceeded forty thousand, let us say, hundred thousand sometimes, or as happened, in record packs two hundred thousand, they could save money beyond what was promised as the base guarantee.

Now the first year I went to Alaska, when I was fourteen years of age, we packed no more than ten thousand cases. And obviously, the company lost money substantially, since their base guarantee was forty thousand cases. When we packed only ten thousand cases it was a great loss, and in fact, this happened two years running. Alaska had very poor salmon runs in the year, the years when I started, 1927, '28. And the companies lost heavily. And the Japanese contractors, under those circumstances, made very little money. They might make three thousand dollars, let us say, but the rest of it went out in payment for covering, covering labor costs and so on. And unless they were cheating on all this, I don't think of the contractors as necessarily having been a undesirable group of people.

Contracting, by another standard, is again, not a desirable arrangement particularly from the standpoint of labor unionization. Contractors are an alternative with independent capacity for rake-offs of a kind that should actually or ethically be allotted to, let us say, the workers. And in this point, from this point of view, contracting, again, might be seen as an undesirable kind of arrangement. However, if you look at it from the standpoint of the stage of development of the industry, or of the community, contractors, in a sense, were a necessary part of the scene, especially for Japanese immigrants, coming, let us say in 1900 or 1910, with no experience in the American life and no capacity for speaking the language and so on. You needed someone like the contractor, who would intervene and provide jobs for you. So, I don't think of the contractors as necessarily a, an undesirable group, although, as time passed, the situation became such that contractors were less and less needed and more and more undesirable in a sense, something had to happen to change that situation.

AI: So, in essence, in the earlier years of the contracting system, especially from the point of view of Issei coming with very little English language ability and so forth, the contractors might have been seen as actually a service provider, in some respects, to the Issei --

FM: I would say so, yes, yes.

AI: -- community, in those earlier years?

FM: And they offered a function that I think was necessary in these immigrant communities, and therefore, although there was always a danger that they would take advantage of the fact that they had advantages which the laborers or employees did not, nevertheless, by and large, I found that the contractors, at least the ones I knew, were reasonably fair-minded people and that they did not unduly cheat workers as far as I know. I should tell you a little about the system of organization of the canneries because then you can see, in a sense, where the contractors fitted in and how the supervisory arrangement worked, and to tell you about that, I first need to tell you how the fishing industry was organized.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

FM: There are two main parts to the canning business, catching fish and bringing it to the cannery, and then canning, which is a factory operation. The catching fish was done, at least at the Waterfall fact-, cannery to which I went, essentially by the usage of traps. You can catch fish in several ways: by trolling, which the Native Americans would do, and trolling, of course, is simply a matter of dragging fishing lines and catching fish on hooks, very inefficient from a cannery standpoint because of the smallness of the catch under these circumstances. A second would be fishing boats going out to sea with nets and of, seine nets and of catching fish in that fashion. But salmon have a characteristic that enables a third way of catching fish, namely by traps. And the reason for the possibility of traps is that salmon, although they go out to the open sea for part of their life career, nevertheless end up swimming very close to the seashore or sealine-, shoreline especially at certain points in their lives and doing so in huge numbers, thousand, hundred thousands, swimming along the shoreline. And if, given this situation, if you set a trap so that they will swim directly into the trap, then, of course, they can be caught much more efficiently than by other means. And this is what the salmon packing industry did. The traps were huge blocks of logs with nets hanging down below them in the path of the fish runs, salmon runs. And they were set up in such fashion that at one end there would be a large opening, so to speak, with a tunnel that narrows down as you advance farther into the trap, and the swim -- salmon, unfortunately, not being smarter than they need to be, swim into these tunnels, so to speak, and end up on the far side under conditions where they then cannot return out of the trap and are caught therefore. Then if you have from the cannery, trap tenders, or fishing boats coming out with huge nets to scoop out the salmon from these traps, this is the way that they would load them up in their holds. This is the way they would be transported to the cannery and therefore available for canning.

At the cannery there are several kinds of jobs then that need to be undertaken to take the fish from the boat and end up having labeled cans available for the markets. The... and I want to go over each of these jobs because they bear on the point of which I ultimately want to get into about the kind of relationship which the workers had with each other. The first job is to unload the salmon from the boats or scows sometimes, and into the cannery. And this job, I've forgotten what it was called, but call 'em sorters because the sorting, sorting of the salmon was the most important function in this unloading process. There are four kinds of salmon: sockeye, coho or silver; humpback and dog. And they are listed there in descending order of price. Sockeyes are very valuable and dog salmon are the least valuable, although, actually, each of them has its own merits. In any event, because salmon are going to be packed in different cans, or labeled cans, you have to sort them at some point and the sorting is done right as, at the point of unloading from the fishing boat. Now, the people who pitch out the sal-. you pitch the salmon with, so to speak, pitchforks, must work in two ways: very fast because you've got thousands of fish coming in every day and you can't delay and the other thing that needs to be done is to have the sorter recognize, almost without looking, what the character of the salmon is, sockeye, humpback, whatever. What they do is, when it is, the humpback that is to be taken off the ship, then they are to pick out the humpback out of this pile of salmon and pitch only those onto the conveyer belt that goes into the cannery. And at the cannery side there are huge bins which are identified for humpback or sockeye or whatever, distinctively. So, the sorting starts at the boat and at the bins, why, there are additional sorters to make sure that the right fish go into the right bin. Now this is a... there are two skills involved here, one, the skill of recognizing the fish and two, the skill of doing this work rapidly enough so as to, and physically strong enough so that to, they might effectively unload as quickly as possible. At Waterfall, the work was done by Filipino workers. They were the most experienced in a sense, because the Issei at this point are the older people, unable to, they might have a capacity for recognizing different fishes, but they aren't strong enough to last at this kind of work and the Nisei, like myself, most of us are inexperienced and relatively too young and weak to last very long at this kind of job. So, Filipinos were then the prime candidates for this particular job at Waterfall.

AI: Just to give people an idea, could you describe a little bit about the size of these salmon? When you say that --

FM: Oh yes.

AI: -- the physical strength needed to do this job?

FM: Yes. The humpbacks, which are the most numerous, at least in Southeastern Alaska, are relatively small fish from as small as three or four pounds to a maximum size of eight pounds or so. Relatively, they are the smallest of the salmon. The biggest are the king salmon, but King salmon were not included here because they do, are not numerous enough for salmon canning and they are difficult to deal with as, at a cannery. In fact, I'll tell you that I had a special job about king salmon later on. But anyway, the dog salmon, which is kind of a offshoot from a king salmon, are the largest of the other salmon and they would measure, maybe as much as thirty inches long, but weigh as as much as twenty, twenty-five pounds. But most of them are under twenty pounds and, most of these fish are. Now the sockeye, which is the most prized of all the fish, beautiful salmon, would on the average be, let's say eight to ten pounds, beautiful, hard salmon, and coho, silver salmon, are somewhat bigger. So these are the size of fish and if you're pitching salmon of this kind, you know, eight, ten, twelve hours a day, that's not an easy job. You have to be strong and at the same time very quick in identifying the fish.

Okay. From the bins, the next job is the, what we call the "iron chink crew." "Iron chink" refers to the fact that this job -- which involves taking the head and tail off and removing the fins and gutting the, opening the belly and gutting the fish -- used to be done by Chinese workers, very, very effectively by men who became skilled at sharpening knives so that they could do this work all day and not become overly worked and at the same time do it fast enough so that they could handle thousands of fish. But they mechanized this thing into a machine that you would have a, the machine, let's say, is to the left of the worker and you have a knife here, and sorters have laid out the fish with the head pointing in the right hand direction and the knife is right here, you could cut the fish head as this thing turns up and brings the fish through. Then, the sort-, the feeder grabs the fish and shoves the tail into this machine which is a rotary thing that cuts the tail off, removes the fins and guts it so as to send it on to the rest of the cannery. Called the "iron chink" and I never thought of, or nobody thinks of it as a deprecatory statement about Chinese, you know, the Chinese "chink," but, because you think of this as a machine, and a very effective machine. But that was the origin of the term because the Chinese were the ones who originally did this kind of thing manually and now then, the machine takes over and deals with this problem. This is one of the higher paid jobs, the highest paid jobs in the... because there is a certain danger to, to the knife being right at your hand, point of hand and you have to have skill to work fast enough to poke the tail into the machine.


FM: So at Waterfall, this was a crew made up of, in fact, it was a mixed crew of Issei and Filipino, the most experienced fish workers worked at the "iron chink," maybe there would be two or three of these "iron chink" machines in our... and each one would have its own crew of five people... four, four people. Nisei were working into this kind of work, also, at Waterfall, but Issei were in there and Filipino, the most experienced and the most skillful were being chosen for this kind of work. It would get paid particularly well. And when the fishing season started and the salmon day begins, the "iron chink" crew is the first crew to go in because they're the beginning of the canning process.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

FM: Then the fish go to what is called the "slimer tables." "Slimer" means that the gutted fish are cleaned out to remove the blood and whatnot that is in the belly of the gutted fish and make sure that the heads have been removed properly, the tails removed properly and so on, so as to be thrown on the conveyer belt to go on to the next process. Slimers were, again, fairly experienced people because you have to stand there with a water faucet in front of you and clean these fish all day and do it as cleanly as possible, took, required a little skill although in a sense it's an unskilled job. The more skilled you are, the faster the work is done and the more clean, the more cleanly the fish could be processed.

Then, the next job was the job I first went into called the filler, filling machine operator. The filling machine is a machine that fills cans, these cans with open top, base lid on, would be going around in a circle and the filler was such that you fed the salmon in on a belt in such a fashion that they would go tail first into the machine and there would be some, a chopper that would chop off the salmon and stick it into the can, shove it into the can so that you would get one pound of salmon in each can. Now to... salmon, of course, has a tail and a head and you want to be equal about what you get into the can and so in order to do it properly you would have the belly open, and put the tail of the next salmon into the belly and make sure that some of the tail goes into a fat part of the fish and it would slide along, then it would be cut off and fitted into the can. When I went, that was the job I was assigned. It was a totally unskilled job in a sense and suitable for a fourteen-year-old kid that I was. But it's very interesting that when you get into work of this... whatever work, whether it's picking strawberries or using a filling machine, there's a certain pride of workmanship that develops and you begin to develop an interest in how you can do this most skillfully and do it most effectively and so on and I found myself getting interested in this filling machine job.

So, as I say, this job is one that was handed to whoever comes in new. But in my case, I got in at a point where they... the one machine in the whole system that they were trying to improve in the salmon cannery was the filling machine. Continental Can Company was trying to develop a faster machine, I think that that old machine, when I first went in, must have packed maybe thirty to forty cans a minute. But that's very slow: thirty, forty cans a minute. If you could go two or three times faster than that, the whole cannery works much more effectively and that's what they were trying to do. And therefore, this old machine was being improved in such fashion that they now had a very much more complicated kind of mechanism and, but would function very much more rapidly and... I need to mention the supervisory structure here. The, there are white supervisors and there is also a Japanese supervisor, a foreman, under whom the Japanese workers worked. But essentially, the Japanese workers did not have to deal with the Japanese foreman so much as whoever happened to be the white supervisor in that section where you were. And the section where I was had a head mechanic supervising this operation because, as I say, they were trying to improve on the canning, the filling machine function. The most important improvement that they could get within the whole cannery system, this is the one thing that they were trying to improve and therefore there was a head mechanic that was standing around the filling machine almost all the time because this is what they were trying to change. And therefore, I became related to the, this head mechanic in a fashion that, in a sense nobody else... I, simply because I was interested in what was going on, I got related to the head mechanic in a fashion that I think, I wasn't sure of this, but they began to look upon me as a kind of a right-hand-man for this developmental operation that they were working on. And year after year as I went back I'd still work with this filling machine, a low pay, low function job in terms of skill management, but, in terms of this relationship with the mechanical development that was being undertaken, I was fairly important because they would tell me, "Now, feed the fish this way," or, "that way," or "What's wrong with this," or what... and I would deal with the mechanic in some fashion. In short, I got into a kind of a special role within the filling machine system that happened to be an accident of the time. They needed to develop a better machine and I became a cog within that development. I thought it was very interesting.


AI: So, we're continuing our interview with Dr. Miyamoto and you had just, before the break, were finishing up telling us about the filling of the cans and how you were involved in that process as part of the whole discussion of the nature of the work.

FM: Okay, to pick up from there, the cans would be... go from the filling machine to the, a table called the patching table and the function of the patching table was to fill cans which were not amply filled by the machine. And this was a job that was assigned to the Native American women, almost every cannery, I think this was true, that the one place where the Native American women fitted into the cannery was at the patching table. And they would simply sit there all day, as the cans went by on the conveyer belt, and pick out any that looked too unfilled and throw in, put in patches of salmon, or sometimes they would rearrange the salmon if it didn't look well within the can. And as I say, this is the job that was assigned to the Native American women. Now, the Native American women were often forty-, fifty-year-olds but, younger girls often worked, also, teenagers or even college-aged type. And maybe, well, I guess I can't get into the Indian villages at this point, but they came from a village nearby, this particular group, came from a village nearby known as Hydaburg. And I need to tell you more about Hydaburg at some point later.

This, the, incidentally, the Native Americans had no other role within our cannery, at least, and generally they did not work within the salmon canning industry. They simply could not function effectively within the kind of labor setup that we had competing against Chinese, Japanese, and Filipinos. And incidentally, the Indian, Native Americans, who were working at the cannery, these ladies, lived in a small group of cottages that lined a separate part of the canning, cannery layout. Incidentally, I will tell you later a little bit about the bunkhouse where the Asian workers were, and separately, in a set of cottages with cooking and other facilities, the Indian families lived there. And so they fitted in as a separate piece of this jigsaw that constituted the work force of the cannery.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

FM: Now, from the patching table, the cans would go to what were known as the vacuum machines, topping machines, that is, the top of the can would be put on the can and then it would go through a vacuum machine to expel all the air and of course this is for the function of preserving. And from the vacuum machine the cans would go to the next job. But I should mention, again, that the vacuum machine was like the filling machine, even more than the filling machine, a low-level job and the youngest recruit would usually be assigned to that job. Incidentally, these machine-, cans, bring to mind the fact that they had to come from somewhere. They came usually from an upstairs loft of the warehouse, kind of a warehouse area of the cannery and there was a crew in the upstairs loft known as the "can crew" that handled all the dry cans and the cases and whatnot out of which the cans were coming, so as to lay them out to drop down through a chute into the filling machine or into the vacuum machine as required, and that was a separate crew.

Incidentally, that crew, too, at least at Waterfall, was, was handled by a Nisei group of young people. As always, almost always happened, these crews were made up of ethnic units, that is Filipinos working with Filipinos, Japanese, or Nisei with Nisei and so on, except in some skilled jobs where they were all mixed as I say, at the "iron chink," for example, Issei, Nisei and Filipinos all worked together depending on who were the most skilled of the workers capable of handling this particular job. Incidentally, the Nis-, the can crew upstairs in Waterfall was, had the head of the crew who was my cousin. And he had a little, a small group of workers under him that is doing the job of supplying these cans.

Then the cans, filled now, would go to what was called the retort crew, retort ovens lined up in great numbers into which wagons of cans would be slid in and they would be cooked after being closed, shut tight, at whatever temperature, five hundred degrees or whatever, I don't know what it was, but, for a period of time so that -- forty-five minutes, one hour -- so that they would be cooked properly and preserved amply. And cans coming out of the retorts would be run through a lye wash process, always seemed a little dangerous, you have a big tub of water filled with lye, bubbling, and you had handle it with rubber gloves and whatnot. It was again, at Waterfall, a Filipino crew that handled the retort and lye wash crew. They seemed the physically ablest of the people for this job. And from the lye wash, the cans, these cans, now on trucks -- that is to say wheels -- would be rolled into a drying area and ultimately into the warehouse area where a labeling process would go on, and again you had a separate crew of those who handled the labeling and casing, other crews. And finally, the cases had to be stacked, ready for loading whenever the ship would come in for loading purposes.

Incidentally, at Waterfall, the, the case stacking job was again handled by all the biggest Nisei who were... and at Waterfall we had former football players and boxers and people like that, and usually kids who had grown up on the farms doing these jobs, because they knew how to do the physical labor of stacking case after case in these huge warehouses, throwing them around as high as, oh, the, as high as the ceiling of this room, for example. Now, as you may imagine, at least among the Nisei workers there, cannery work involved... that involved physical strength was a source of prestige status. And those who could throw the can, these cases highest or do it fastest or do it most skillfully were very much respected and admired as strong people. There was one guy at Waterfall who was known to be a person who could handle at the lettuce packing companies in the States here, three hundred pound ice, ice for lettuce storage. And he was regarded in Alaska as one of the strongest and ablest of the case packers. So this kind of atmosphere, who's the strongest, who's the fastest, who's the smartest, kind of competition always existed among the Nisei in some degree. It was, it created a climate of relationship that was competitive and at the same time congenial for the Nisei workers. The Issei, to my recollection, never participated in the Nisei function of this kind. So, Nisei and Issei were essentially kind of separate groups.

Okay, now I need to... and stevedoring, I do mention stevedoring here; that is, loading the ships. The ships would come in, freight ships, freighters would come in from time to time when the warehouse was getting full enough so that it needed to be emptied. And then the dock workers would help load the ships and sometimes we had to go into the holds of the ships because they didn't have enough workers in the, sailors on the ship, to load the cases. And so we all pitched in, in these situations, to do whatever was required. And again, physical strength, physical capacity was of some importance. And so we had a kind of a rating of each other as to who was able to do what, who was not. We had a sense, an image of who were the capable ones, who were not, in that kind of sense.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

FM: Now, I want to tell you about the organization of the personnel because, and here, we're talking both about the occupational organization, but also about the social organization of the relations. The A&P, as I say, company, at Waterfall had this contract with the Nakat Packing Company to put out cans of salmon. The Nakat Packing Company ran, I think, four canneries in Southeastern Alaska: Waterfall, which was ours, Hidden Inlet which is farther out, and Union Bay, another, and a fourth one that I don't remember. In any event, the Nakat Packing Company was considered to be one of the more elite of the packing companies in the sense that the layout was good, and the cans were thought to be well-packed and so on. There are, I would say that there are salmon packing companies I've seen in traveling around Southeastern Alaska, whose canned salmon I would prefer not to eat, they were so miserable-looking. But I think our cannery was, as I say, considered to be a model cannery and we were always out trying to set records of one kind or another as an indication of the kind of status we would have among canneries.

Now, the head of this company had... the white personnel had its own lodging area, separate from the Asians and from the Native Americans, and one of the choice areas, so to speak, nice view of the ocean or sea from where their lodging was. And they had a very attractive dining room compared to ours, individual living spaces and so on. The head of the Nakat Packing Company seemed to spend more time at Waterfall than at Hidden Inlet or Union Bay, but every now and then he would take off for these other canneries. Anyway, we saw him from time to time. And they would... they traveled by boat. They had their own yacht which would come in, or leave. The vice president, who spent even more time at Nakat... I mean, at Waterfall, was a man named Bushman. And I remember that his name was well-known here in the Seattle area, in fact, my wife knew his daughter because of the fact that she took piano lessons from the same teacher that my wife had. And then he had sons, one of whom, as it happened, was killed in a fishing boat accident during the season, one of the seasons when I was there. So the Bushman family was, often spent a fair amount of time at Waterfall. It was attractive enough to have them there.

And these were the people at the top. The, at least, I think the Nisei whom I knew looked upon these as people who were way up there on top, doing whatever they were. We didn't understand fully, but they were the top dogs in this system; and in a sense, we knew it. Then there was a white foreman, overseeing the whole canning operation, including, I suppose, relating to the fishing, the fishing boat crews that would bring the fish in as well. He had, in a sense, the management of the whole operation in mind. And I got, because of the kind of function I began to serve with respect to the filling machine that I described earlier, I got to know him pretty well. He and I had occasions to relate to each other, which I will tell about later, a little bit. And he oversaw this crew of mechanics and so on and the head mechanic I described before, who was trying to upgrade the canning machine, related most closely with the foreman. I could see that there were hierarchies of relationship that led straight down, in a sense, from the top dog through, down to us as low workers on the scene.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

FM: Incidentally, it came about in the last four or five years that I went to Alaska, that I no longer worked at the filling machine. For whatever reason, I was selected to do a job that the white personnel wanted done, namely to pack, hand-pack -- not machine-pack -- hand-pack, king salmon. Now, the king salmon came in numbers into our, because they would be caught in the nets, but they could not be machine-packed and so there was a question of what, you know, you don't want to throw away these beautiful king salmon, the best salmon there is, as a matter of fact. And so I had the job, I was given the job of hand-packing these king salmon, beautiful fish, weighing as much as seventy, eighty pounds, great, beautiful fish. My job was to cut off the heads and tail and so on. Got the thing, just manually handled the salmon in a fashion that the machines would for the other kinds of salmon. I had a, I had a separate area where I was to do this kind of work. So I got special treatment, and I got special pay for this. And all these cans of hand-packed king were going to Bushman and the president of the company and the white pack-, personnel at the top of this... just to indicate the kind of hierarchy of social relations that existed within the system, and in which I curiously played a part. I didn't have a keen sense of what I was involved in, but of course as a hand-packer, doing this kind of job, I think I had a kind of special status in the job.

Again, work, the sense of workmanship comes in here. You had to have very sharp knives in order to do this hand-packing work. And an Issei, an old-timer, taught me how to sharpen knives. He said, "I used to watch the Chinese cannery workers years ago who showed, they wouldn't show me, but if you kept an eye on what they were doing, you could see how they were sharpening knives so they would be sharp all day, even if you cut away on a fish." And he taught me that you should do this and that in order to have sharp knives, necessary for a job such as hand-packing salmon.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

FM: So then, there were other mechanics, and white mechanics and low, lower level workers. There was a white crew that had their own lodging, separate from the rest of the crew. Then there was the Nagamatsu contractor. He had a brother I didn't see very often, came to Waterfall. But Mr. Nagamatsu, one of the brothers, spent virtually all the time at Waterfall. Again, because Bushman and Fredell was there, he made this headquarters. And under him was a foreman whose name was Jack. I can't remember his Japanese name. We always called him Jack and that was it. Now, the relationship was -- between the workers and Mr. Nagamatsu as well as Jack -- was very cordial and I never felt that there was any difficulty, conflict between workers and these people. In fact, their attitude seemed to be, "We have hired you and as long as you can do your job effectively, why, there's no issue to be raised." And Jack, for example, who was a very nice and reasonably intelligent man, whom I liked very much, was never offensive at any time, to my knowledge. In fact, he was an extremely quiet man who almost ran the show by not doing anything. It wasn't that, that's not a true... but it was as if he was not doing very much. I mean, he was effective in that sense of minimizing his show of power or show of force and yet handling situations in such fashion as to in few quiet words, say do this, or that, and so on. And by and large you could say that the crews were well-trained enough so that they could handle their jobs without much supervision. The other thing is that Nagamatsu company was smart enough to retain or, smart enough and effective enough to retain workers year after year so they didn't have to oversee the crew all that much. In any event, the whole system worked very well without an excessive amount of supervision from the top, and this was true both on the white crew side -- white personnel side as well as the Asian crew.

Oh, and the, besides Mr. Nagamatsu and the foreman, there was also the cook. The cook is very important in a system like this. You know, if you eat every day, three times, or four times a day, and the food is not all that great... for breakfast you have misoshiru and rice and takuan or tsukemono. This is the kind of breakfast you would get. And if you have it day after day, at least for Nisei, if you're not accustomed to this kind of breakfast, why, seems a little painful. But, if you knew the cook, why, every now and then you could get a fried egg or something like this. And so there was this type of relationship involved between the workers and the cook, who was a very nice guy, he has his assistant, and their job, incidentally, was to keep the bunkhouse and the area clean and particularly take care of the bathhouse. The bathhouse was a typically Nihon, Nihonjin no furoba, you know, you build a fire underneath the ofuro and you have a space where you wash yourself and... I mean, you soak yourself and wash yourself outside. It was that kind of a ofuro. And, however, from a standpoint of hygiene you think, "Good God. I used to take baths with these fifty, a hundred other workers every day in the same tub," you kind of cringe at the thought of it. They didn't have showers. They probably do now. I'm sure they do, but... and the toilets were outhouses, and I won't tell you what the urine collection was. [Laughs] But anyway, the cook and his assistant were the caretakers of the bunkhouse area in that sense.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

FM: And then, as I say, the Native Americans were the low people on the -- oh, in terms of hierarchy, the white people are on top, at least at Waterfall, Japanese are the next level, the Filipinos are a level below that, in the sense that since the contractor's Japanese, and he's relating to the Japanese, the Japanese are the next level. The Filipinos are the latest newcomers, arrivals in the system, so they have the low level position, but, outside this group is the Native American population, totally scrap, so to speak, from the standpoint of the system. You hire them because they're around, but you could do perfectly well without them, very unfortunate. It is a, it is a, misfortune of the Native American that his style of life, lifestyle, before the arrival of the white man was such that it was not going to be geared to fit into white society. The mental outlook, the way you, the way you look at things and the way people are related to each other, except for possibly groups like the Iroquois Indians, most Indian populations just were not organized to fit easily into Western white society. Japanese, fortunately, were particularly well-organized for that. And so, even today, why, if you say, "Why is it the Sansei are successful?" You'd have to say it has to do with something about the organizational background that the Issei brought with them from these village organiz-, communities that the Issei grew up in, and which have been transmitted down through the Nisei to the Sansei and Yonsei and so on. But, there are populations, even the Chinese... Chinese, as Francis L. K. Soo says, do not successfully organize volunteer associations, voluntary associations. And that's a sign of the fact that they do not organize well in an impersonal world such as modern society and the modern industrial organization tends to be. Japanese, the Jewish people, particularly are well-suited in this regard. So, in terms of organization, then, if there is a hierarchy of this kind it's partly a function of the racial discriminatory segregational arrangement. Partly, however, it has to do with organizational, background of organizational experiences which the population brings to it. That is, just to point to the Native American situation, the Native Americans in Alaska, I always felt, were an exceedingly tragic population. Tragic because they were inundated by a population that took over the area and did not provide a setting, an environment in which the Native American population could easily fit in and be successful. Unfortunate, but that's the nature of the history of the American continent. Well... then, having laid out, so to speak, the picture of this background, maybe I should tell you a little bit more about what I experienced personally. Would you like --

AI: Oh, excuse me. Before you do that --

FM: Yes?

AI: -- would you say a bit more about the union aspect, of the structure of the union activity?

FM: Let me, yeah...

AI: Or, would that come better later?

FM: Let me leave that, let me leave that...

AI: Okay.

FM: after I talk about the personal experiences. As a last subject I will touch on.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

FM: My personal experiences... I went to Alaska as a fourteen-year-old kid and I had no concept of what I was getting into. I went because my cousin, who was older by a year than I, had gone and had a favorable view of what was involved. And I looked forward to getting into something like this that was different; going off to Alaska seemed like a great experience.

AI: Excuse me. Had he said very much about what it was actually like? Had he given you much of a picture of what he experienced up there?

FM: No, no, I don't, at least I don't recall that there was any talk up until the time I became interested in, let's say the spring of 1927, in going to Alaska. I had had never... I don't think I had a concept of what Alaska was like or hadn't heard much about what the experience would be. Nisei had been going, certainly since 1920 or earlier, perhaps, older Nisei than I. And 1927, why, when I went as a fourteen-year-old kid, I was one of the, one of the early Nisei to go to Alaska, it might be said. And yet, there were a fair number of other Nisei already going there, older than I. And so it was not as if I was a totally unique individual. 1927, well, the experience of getting into this kind of thing, especially for a young kid, was quite memorable, I suppose. I can remember fairly distinctly some of the experiences. For one thing, we were, I don't... as I say, I, the arrangement was set up partly because my cousin had already gone to Waterfall and knew the Nagamatsu contractor, partly through my father, who had business connections with the Nagamatsu contractors, and therefore, arrangement was set up for me to go for a rate of eighty dollars per month, and two months with lodging, food, and transportation costs already covered. That was an unusual sum, in my mind, and probably was for a lot of people back in 1928, '7, at least for anyone of my age. Eighty dollars per month, and I can still remember when I got back and got a check of a hundred sixty dollars, wow, I thought it was unbelievable.

The boat which we boated, went on, ultimately came to be Denali, Denali is the name of an area, Indian name for an area in Alaska. But the first boat we went on was some other name. Anyway, they were essentially the same kind of boat, two-hundred foot boat, freighters; small freighters. And they had cabins on the deck level, but underneath they, and there was no second-class, third-class, to my recollection, there was simply some cabins on this freighter plus an area for the cannery workers. The area for the cannery workers was known as the steerage. And the steerage meant the ship's hold with bunks set up so that it would provide for, you know, human transportation to Alaska. And on this two-hundred foot boat there must've been three hundred steerage people, I don't know, a huge number as far as I could tell. When I walked into this dark, dank area with bunks, maybe three, four stacks, stacked bunks, totally surprised me, I remember. And the smell, carry-over of fish fertilizer smell, something awful. You get used to it, but... and, it was the first time I'd seen a bunch of Filipino workers and here, they're bunking next to you and so on, kind of a strange, unusual experience, at least the first time.

It took, as I recall, three days to get from Seattle up to Waterfall on this freighter which would travel at most about twelve knots, mostly around eight knots per hour. [Laughs] You know, it's a very slow boat that goes up through the inside channels between here and Alaska. The food was terrible, the stink was terrible, the whole arrangement was terrible but fourteen-year-old kid, why, you kind of take it in wide-eyed, see that this is the way life goes on for... one of the great things about this experience was to go through the inside channels between here and Alaska. If you've ever gone on a cruise, Alaska cruise and gone through the Seymour Narrows channel, at least for me, it's an unforgettable sight. The... I've seen pictures of Norwegian fjords and this is what it's like, mountains coming straight down into the water and dropping down underneath without any beaches, no white beaches. And the channel is maybe a quarter-mile wide. And on a morning it would take us from Seattle to Campbell River, which is at the head, at this headwater of the Seymour Narrows, twenty-four hours. And we had to wait there in order to have a favorable, favorable tide so that we would not end up on the rocks which is at the inlet to the Narrows. But when you go through the Narrows, and it happens to be a still-water day, it's as if you see mountains mirrored in the water and huge mountains, green mountains on either side all the way up through the Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Island area. It's a spectacular sight. And I shall never forget what I saw, beautiful sight that I saw there. Alaska, too, has many areas of a similar kind, but this, this is, was particularly a special area, between here and Alaska.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

FM: Once you get up beyond Queen Charlotte Island, before you get to Ketchikan, which is the first stop for freighters like this, going up to Alaska. And Ketchikan, of course is at the Southeastern, tip of Southeastern Alaska. There is a stretch... funny, I... part of the Alaskan Sea, what was it called? Anyway, it's an area that can be extremely rough and I realize now, then, that as you came out from these channels into this rough area, especially if on a particular trip you got into very rough water, how threatening this sea could be in the Alaskan area. And so, when I read today about fishing vessels which were... on which people drowned because the fish-, boat went under, I can imagine what these huge waves were like that would hit the bow and bring tons of water over the bow into the ship. Then Ketchikan was another sight on this first trip, especially. Ketchikan is like seeing a frontier town in a cowboy movie today, little more heavily populated than those cowboys pictures show, but essentially like that: wooden sidewalks, dirt road, and along the strip where houses of prostitution were mixed in with businesses and shops and whatnot. Ketchikan could be a very attractive town but it's a product of commercialization today mixed in with what is leftover from the previous, earlier Indian days and it's not a very attractive mix, and so it was not very attractive in that sense. But for a fourteen-year-old arriving in the wilds of Alaska, this was very interesting.

On the way up, by the way, this old freighter that we were on would travel along at eight knots or whatever an hour, and we would be passed up by the Canadian boats, particularly Princess Marguerite or Princess Charlotte, going twice as fast and we would stare at these boats that would dash along at a terrific rate beyond us. And there were some other American boats that were going up farther north than we were going, that would pass us up at this, you know, cruiser ship rate. That was the kind of thing that kind of stuck in our minds because you had a sense of how, in a sense, niggardly your life was in the steerage circumstances of traveling on a freighter.

We went from Ketchikan to stop off into other ports at, in southeastern Alaska before getting to Waterfall. One of them was a port called Hydaburg. Now Hydaburg is an Indian village and it is the... and we would stop there because there is an Indian cannery there. But "Haida" is a name that I came to know later when I got to college as the name of the most distinguished Northwest Indian tribe in the area. H, capital H-a-i-d-a, although Hydaburg, the name of the town is spelled, capital H-y-d-a-burg, I think, and I don't know why the name difference exists. When you read in the anthropological literature that the Haida Indians were one of the most highly cultured of the Native American population, it is hard to believe that that is so having visited Hydaburg, because Hydaburg is a terrible, run-down town. And it is run-down because, again, as I said earlier, the Native Americans were never intended to fit into a white man's society and what they had before could have been very well-, functionally well-suited to the setting, but in being transformed in the course of thirty, forty years of association with white people, it came to be a, a kind of an ugly settlement for Native Americans. But it was the one settlement that they had in that area. And one of the main centers for the Haida Indians, I presume, inasmuch as the town's name was Hydaburg, and the only one I know of with that kind of name.

The Indian, Native Americans living there were, in my view, tragic in the sense that they obviously were not living at the level that they had been living before. Previously, the Kwakiutl Indians of the North, the Vancouver Island area and the Haida were regarded as the superior tribes of this whole area and they must have shown the kind of culture that would reflect that status. But what we saw, and what, and the way people regarded them -- white people and the cannery workers and so on -- regarded them, they were, so to speak, the dregs of society, or obvious misfits in some sense, didn't fit into American society. And I have always felt that Native Americans had the terrible misfortune of being inundated by or invaded by a population whose system they simply were not made to fit into. Terrible misfortune. And that was always the situation in the relationship of cannery workers with Native American population. It was as if we were relating to a population that obviously didn't fit. And yet, they were part, part of the scenery. It was alleged, and actually you could see the signs of it, that the Native Americans were afflicted to an extraordinary degree by syphilis or by venereal disease of one kind of another. This is the kind of picture, image that remains with you regarding the Native American population. And yet, if, if I had been smart enough to... or educated enough to try to find out more about them, I'm sure I could have reached a level of understanding of them that would have given me some appreciation for what their culture actually was like. But viewed as part of the cannery system, or cannery scene, or the commercialized industrial scene of American life, they were simply misfits, clearly, and it was a terrible shame that that was so. I just want to bear on that because they played a significant part in the background of what was going on there but, not a significant functional part in that scene; and I wanted to explain why I think that that was so.

So, from Hydaburg we went to Rose Inlet. Rose Inlet was the stopover before getting to... Hyda-, Waterfall and I mention it because there was again an iso-, incidentally, these were all isolated cannery stops, no town, nothing else. There was only the ship coming into a docks where the cannery is and the woods and mountains surrounding it, no other access except by boat or by airplane into this area. Rose Inlet was a stop of significance to me because it was still a Chinese contractor-operated cannery and somehow it seemed a lesser cannery than some of the others that we went to, but nevertheless, the Chinese cannery contractors were still operative in the whole area except that they were now functioning at a lesser level than the Japanese contractors were, who were "taking over," so to speak, the whole system.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

AI: Excuse me. So when you say that the Chinese contractors were operating at a lesser level than perhaps... would you mean that the canneries that they worked with were, perhaps had fewer resources, the canneries were less well-capitalized, they were perhaps more run-down?

FM: I mean exactly that; that they were not able to function competitively at the level of retaining the best cannery relationships or contacts. And I attribute it to the fact that, as I say, societies have organizational traditions, organizational histories. And the Japanese, for whatever reason, because of the small island background, because of the fact that their rice farms are at the bottom of huge mountains and they do not have space to expand, and therefore, because the Japanese were closely clustered one on top of each other, that is, the Japanese rice farms, you know, they're so to speak one on... and when you get that kind of situation, you, in rice farming, you have to have cooperation. And Japanese rice farmers, therefore, learned to cooperate under these geographical conditions which the Chinese didn't have to suffer under. But that led to a different kind of organizational history than in Japan. The Japanese, strangely, had a history of having to deal, cope with situations in which competition was carried on, but, it had to be carried on as cooperatively as possibly. You know, the Japanese language, as I say, the, the honorifics, you have to be very careful as to how you use honorifics and, or not use it, depending on who you're relating to. And it's a, for a Nisei it's a terrible problem to deal with the Japanese language because it's so difficult. In fact, for the Japanese themselves, it's difficult. I remember that I had graduate students from Japan. And one time I invited them to a lunch where a Japanese professor came over from Japan. I thought it would be great to have the Japanese graduate students, you know, because I can't talk Japanese so easily, and so the professor and the two graduate students are together at lunch with me. And I keep trying, I kept trying to keep the conversation in Japanese for the benefit of the visiting professor. And my two graduate students would gradually shift into English. And I said later, "What's wrong with you two guys? Why don't you talk Japanese?" when I was trying to get some Japanese conversation going rather than... they said, "No, it's not possible for graduate students with a professor, at a lunch, to talk comfortably in Japanese. You just can't do it," they said. English, you can talk. English is different. I mean, the atmosphere is different, but Japanese, no. Which points to exactly what I'm trying to say, the honorifics and the care with which you deal with social relations in Japan is totally different from, let's say, relation styles in America. Now, this is not simply formality. This is a way of Japanese relating to each other so that they can approach, relate to each other in a fashion of cooperation that is not possible if you use it under the American style. American style would be, you know, it would be impossible in Japan because you're engaging in direct negotiation with each other as to what will be acceptable and what will not. You can't negotiate in this fashion in Japanese relations.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

AI: Today is July 8, 2003. We're continuing our interview with Dr. Frank Miyamoto, focusing on the history of the cannery work in Alaska. And we're going to pick up today with some information about the structure of the organization of the contracting of the labor and a little bit of background on that in relation to the Japanese contractors in particular.

FM: And ultimately to the unionization of the industry sometime in the mid-1930s. So, I do want to start, however, by talking about the organizational set-up within the cannery industry which led to the contracting situation. As you might assume, then, naturally, the white people were the, the owners of the packing companies and so on, interested in packing salmon. As I said yesterday, it's remarkable that the canning industry got started so quickly in Alaska given that Alaska was simply purchased as late as 1867. And thirty years later, here are these canneries coming in. And I think the reason was that salmon is such a natural food for packing or for large public sale that it was the natural kind of thing to get into if the cannery system could be set up. So the packers then set up canneries... incidentally, they're all over Alaska. The one I went to, Waterfall, was in Southeastern Alaska near Ketchikan. And Tom Ikeda said he went to Petersburg which is also in Southeastern Alaska. There were others much farther north around Anchorage such as Cordova and then there were others over in Kodiak. So here are these canneries scattered around the country -- shoreline of Alaska.

Anyway, the one I went to was run by a company called Nakat Packing Company which had, was a subsidiary of the A&P, Alaska -- the Atlantic Pacific Food Company. And the function of Nakat was to produce large numbers of cans of salmon for sale in the supermarkets. As you know, A&P was, so to speak, the initial supermarket in the United States before the Second World War. They need workers. And the kind of workers you want in the canning industry is not the type you would want in a watch company or a shoe company, where you need skilled labor. These are relatively unskilled people you want in an organization like the canneries, especially because a cannery is a seasonal thing running at most, four to five months during the summer season and actually, the catch comes in a period of maybe two months, from June to the middle of September or so. It's a very short-run thing. Therefore, you cannot hire labor that will be steady and over the long run. You have to find the right kind of labor supply for that type of work. It's a little like the orchard pickers, kind of thing.

Now, for that type of labor they could have gone to the Native Americans, whom as I pointed out are not a suitable population for labor supply in American industry. And I'll point out a little more clearly in a moment why that is so. They could have gone to white workers but white workers, generally, were looking for better pay, better work than could be offered and furthermore, these companies are interested in relatively cheap labor, as cheap as they could get it. This, in fact, was always the complaint of... and on the West Coast here, from 1950 -- 1850 to the early 1900s, that the capitalists were trying to run down the laborers, run them down in the sense that they were trying to pay them the least possible and looking for workers who would work at the least possible amounts. Now, the supply from Asia of immigrants, Chinese, Japanese, and later Filipinos provided that kind of labor supply and a good part of the reason for the anti-Japanese, anti-Chinese, anti-Filipino sentiment that developed very early on the West Coast was due to the competition that arose from the import of immigrants, immigrant laborers who were thought to be undermining the worker status in the United States, particularly on the Pacific coast. And if, if these people, if the Asians had not competed in the labor market, I think there would have been substantially less discrimination and anti-Asian feeling than did develop, but this is the nature of immigration. Even on the West Coast -- East Coast, for that matter, to point out the reality of that time, you got anti-Irish, anti-German and so on kinds of sentiments built around essentially the same kinds of issues.

Now, the Asians are a highly desirable labor supply for this reason: that because they cannot enter into better kinds of work, they have to start with whatever the American opportunity offers. And in order to get access to this kind of population of laborers, there was a need for people of Asian background who could recruit workers readily, capable of understanding and speaking the English language and the English, American culture, but also capable of dealing with workers of their own ethnic background. So contractors, then, are a kind of a natural type of enterprise that would develop under these circumstances. And that's why, in a sense, it was almost automatic, almost necessary that contractors come into the scene. Asian, Chinese, or Japanese or Filipino contractors who would set up enterprises and supply the laborers that the companies wanted. These contractors worked by setting up, by receiving some, at least in the case of the cannery system... maybe I should back up a moment. I should tell you that these contracting systems were developed not only with regard to the Alaska canneries, but also with regard to the lumber and logging industry for hiring labor into, especially in the early period, into these sawmills that dotted the Pacific Northwest, also in hiring them for railroads, the Great Northern and Northern Pacific and other railroads that were functioning out of the Seattle area. And even in the farming areas, in order to get farm laborers, initially, contractors supplied laborers. So, contracting, as I say, was a kind of a natural given the immigrant situation of the early, or of the late 19th century and early 20th century.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

FM: In the case of the canneries, the contractors were guaranteed a certain amount, let's say twenty thousand dollars for the season, and they were to supply labor within that allotment. And they could do so, if you... if as in my case, for example, I started off with a low-paying job of eighty dollars per month for two months, $160. If you consider that, let's say two hundred dollars could be given to fifty workers, well, that's ten thousand dollars... correct, isn't it? And then you have, if the... then you have ten thousand dollars left over for other kinds of costs as well as the profit to the contractor. That's what you would call the minimum. Then, beyond the basic guarantee, the contractor is allotted so much for surplus, whatever production exceeds the basic, let's say, forty thousand cases, or whatever that is agreed to. Given that situation then, the contractors are in a position of cheating on the laborers if they wanted to, or they tried to, by, by reducing the amount of pay that they would give as much as possible, and also by, by limiting the living conditions which they would offer or supply to the workers, and so on. So there is an area here of fraud and undesirable, unethical behavior on the part of the employer, the contractor, that gave the contractors, in many situations, a bad name. Part of the problem was that they could advance money to these workers before they went to Alaska, and then once in Alaska, especially if they had bad habits such as gambling and so on so that they would use up money more rapidly than they earned it, they had, in a sense, a kind of a slave labor condition created with respect to these workers.

My experience was that I never ran into anything of this kind. The contractors were honest as far as I could tell, they... and I think in many ways they had, they needed to be if they wanted to have a relatively stable supply of workers summer after summer. Now how do you get a stable supply of workers for a seasonal job? You do so by tackling people who have need for summer employment. And the Nisei were particularly suitable for that kind of a situation because Nisei were, especially at that time, students in school. They are let out for summer jobs and they need summer jobs. The Filipinos, who were immigrants in the early 19... 20th century, often were working in other jobs at, relatively low paying jobs, and the attraction of the salmon cannery to them was that... well, back up a moment. There were among the Filipinos, also students, like ourselves, young people who were attending school and needed money in the same fashion that we did. But in addition to that, many of the Filipino workers were those engaged in low-paying jobs elsewhere, whether it was dishwashing or domestic work, whatever, or farm labor, or even less so in industries like railroad and sawmill. In any case, they were often engaged in, at the early stage of their immigration, in relatively low-paying jobs and therefore, when it came to the, considering the offer from cannery contractors, working for them at a relatively good savings possibility, they then turned to that frequently in, as a labor supply. So, these conditions, then, created the condition, circumstance where contractors were able to supply these packing houses with the kind of labor that they wanted, relatively cheap labor who would, however, be relatively stable over summer after summer, and could carry on the canning work that was required in these enterprises.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

FM: I remarked yesterday on the issue that, of why it was that Native Americans could not have been used. And I want to point out again, that Native Americans, who were, in a sense, a natural labor supply in Alaska, are like Native Americans everywhere else in America, really unsuited for becoming a part of a social system such as modern capitalist, the modern capitalist world offers. Both in mental orientation, both in mental perspective and also in their organizational, that is, social organizational habits, Native Americans just do not have that background that fits them for the world that is characteristic of the modern Western civilization. You could put it the other way, that if modern Western civilization -- the people of the modern Western civilization had to fit into the Native American world, it would be an extremely excruciating kind of condition for these so-called, the civilized population. It just would be very difficult for them. And it's, so if you turn it, the situation around, why, Native Americans have a kind of unfittedness for the world that was imposed upon them, that made them unsatisfactory as members of this kind of society. It's a tragedy that this is so, but that is why, I think, sociologically, why Native Americans have suffered so much as a minority in the American society. You could say that they were less well-fitted for this world, even than the black slaves were bought in, brought in. African society was better organized for participation in the kind of world that the whites were imposing on them than were the Native Americans of North and South America.

So, it is an interesting point that the kind of social organizational experience which one brings into the world of work that is offered them that makes a great difference as to how they may function in that world. It is an interesting point, sociologically at least, that there are these background differences that can make a difference in the adaptation that the person makes to, or members of that society or group makes to the opportunities that are offered. I can extend that to even the case of the Chinese and that Filipinos, that they were less suited for, in a sense, fitting into the capitalist society than were the Japanese. Curiously, the Japanese, because of the kind of organizational structure that was developed in the rice-growing system of Japan under the Tokugawa period -- and, of course, historically from the early history of the Japanese society, because of that background they acquired a organizational scheme that was well-suited to fitting into a capitalistic world. The fact that Meiji industry -- I mean, the Meiji Reformation was so successful in transforming Japan in a matter of half a century from a feudal state to a modern power, so to speak, indicates the kind of readiness that was characteristic of Japan for adaptation to the Western world that was imposed upon them. And the immigrants who came during the Meiji era then, were people who were drawn from that kind of background and were therefore well-adapted to, or well-fitted for taking advantage of the opportunities which American society offered them.

Now the Issei, then, come with that kind of interest of trying to make it within a society like the United States, and in order to make, to take advantage of it they wanted to get ahead as rapidly as possible, not in so much, in these industries which were offered them, but in some kind of other individual enterprise of their own. However, the industries which required labor at this time were a stepping stone for the Issei. They could use it for five, ten, years in order to save enough money to establish their own farm or their own business or get training in a profession. It was this kind of opportunity that led them into laboring jobs in the initial phase of their immigrant years and were, as I say, a stepping stone for something else that they were mainly interested in.

In the case of the Chinese it is a curious fact that historically, their society built, based essentially around the strong and powerful family system, was not organizationally well-suited for adaptation to the kind of opportunities which the Western world today offers. And so there is a transition going on in Japan -- China, even today that is going to take a little time before they make, so to speak, the kind of adaptation to the new world that industry and technology is creating for them. Even Korea, I think, is moving ahead more rapidly because of their better-fitted or better-suited organizational background for adaptation to this modern world. In any case, going back to the Chinese contractors, they could not supply labor as effectively as the Japanese contractors back in the early 1900s, and in due course then, the Chinese contractors, although they got in first, in this canning industry, were displaced by Japanese contractors. Now the Japanese contractors have a capacity for doing something that, as I say, the Chinese were not able to do. They could bring in laborers from, so to speak, anywhere as long as they would work for the contractor, which is a little more of a problem for Chinese under their social system of accomplishing. And this was, I think, one of the reasons why this displacement occurred.

Also, although Filipino contractors also came in, in due course, at this stage, this, let's say in the 1920s, for example, or 1910 to 1920s, where the industry was still in this early phase of development, the Japanese contractors did have an advantage over Chinese -- the Filipino contractors in that they, again, had this kind of entrepreneurial background or history behind them that they effectively used in organizing the labor population in the canneries at that time.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

FM: Subsequently, however, it turns out that these same conditions, which of course created America of the Coolidge/Hoover days, led to the condition where the system no longer functions effectively. As you know, the Depression came in 1929. And the Depression came not only in the United States but worldwide because the kind of system, kind of laissez faire individualistic capitalism that was characteristic of the world system as it was moving ahead at that time, was not really well-suited, well-suited to take care of all the conditions which need attention if the system is to work effectively over time. And therefore, the Depression occurs here in the United States. The Coolidge/Harding kind of system, it is found, is not workable and somebody else has to come in and change this world. You will notice that Franklin Roosevelt had a quite different kind of philosophy as to how the society should be organized than did Hoover and his predecessors.

So, something was happening in the, not only America but in the world capitalistic system that was changing even the world of the cannery system, if you look at it from that point of view. What happened was that the, for example, in 1930s, early 1930s, although labor in the United States was already organized under the AFL, the American Federation of Labor, this system called trade-, trade unionism was being undermined for the same reason as I have just mentioned, the breakdown of the old capitalistic system and a new type of union was rising, a mass union, a more democratic union, if you, if we might put it that way, namely the CIO, the industrial --

AI: Congress of --

FM: Co-,

AI: -- Industrial --

FM: Yeah.

AI: -- Organizations?

FM: Conference?

AI: Congress?

FM: Congress. Yes. Congress. Couldn't think of... my brain doesn't function effectively any longer, Congress of the Industrial Organization. Anyway, CIO took over, became a very powerful union movement in the 1930s and really came to dominate the American scene for many decades. Because, as I say, the system was no longer what it had been before. And accordingly, you're gonna get a change in the cannery system as well. And what happened then was that in the 1930s, which is a period when I was working in the canneries, I saw that something was happening there which I had not anticipated when -- well, I was only fourteen when I first went to the cannery. But I, nobody, I think, really anticipated what was going to happen there. What happened was that the, in line with the changing atmosphere, the changing climate of worker/management relations, the management, in this case the contractors, no longer were -- proved to be as acceptable as they had been before. And I've tried to outline the conditions which made the management as contractors effective. But now then, in the 1930s you've got the situation where the system has been stabilized, but stabilized under conditions which the workers no longer are willing to accept. The CIO and the labor union movement, at least in the United States, came about as the result of protest.

Of course, labor protest was always in the air in the United States dating back into the 19th century, and certainly in the early 19th -- 20th century, why, you had some major labor protests that, that... achieved considerable prominence in the media, but it was not until the Depression that the protests came to take on new significance. Given the Depression and the rate at which workers were being... being discharged, unemployed and so on, and threatened in their security, then, given that situation, the nature of the protest changed so that mass movements of laborers seeking more power than they had before began. And this, as I say, is the setting within which the cannery situation produced a different kind of circumstance.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

FM: Now, in the 1930s, what we have in the cannery is the rise of the Filipino workers over the prior higher status of the Japanese. I don't know that I made it clear, but through the 1920s in the canneries, at least those I saw, it was clear that the Japanese workers had a higher status than the Filipino workers. It was simply that the contractors were Japanese to begin with and the Japanese workers had gotten in earlier and they therefore had preferred status. And then, in a sense, the attitudes within the, the canneries were like those of the society at large, the Filipino workers at that time being largely single, male immigrants, were looked upon with a little less respect than those who were a part of the established society, in a sense. And this kind of condition was reflected then within, was reflected in the cannery situation. But the Japanese, the Issei, Nisei, and even the Nisei, were more of a middle-class-oriented population because of the kind of background that I've described. The Filipinos are what you might call a proletarian-oriented kind of population. Most of the immigrants to the United States, in fact, were what you might call proletarian-oriented in the sense that they did not have a sense of trying to make, gain their status within the established system so much as... that is, the proletarian-oriented don't see themselves, the working-class see themselves as separated from those who are above them, whereas the middle-class-oriented people see themselves as part of the same system as those who are above them and therefore are trying to work up into the larger -- into the superior system -- status. And if you have this kind of difference of mentality, then you respond differently to something like the unionization movement. Middle-class-oriented people looked upon unions as something questionable or dangerous, whereas the proletarian-oriented people, those who don't see themselves as having access to the system, or the better status within the system, but are a layer of people below who are struggling to get up there somehow, they are the ones who are going to protest against the established system. And this is what happens, or did happen in the CIO transformation of the labor movement and what happened within the canneries. The Filipinos increasingly seek power within this employment structure and you could see that the -- especially given the changing climate of the economy, economic system in the United States -- the decline in power of the contracting system.

AI: Excuse me. May I ask just --

FM: Yes.

AI: -- for a little more clarification? So it sounds as though what you're describing here is that as the Filipino workers increased in numbers in the canneries, and also as they were increasingly drawn into the union activities, which were, in their case, under the CIO, at the same time, were you also suggesting that the Issei, Nisei, the Japanese and Japanese American workers were not as interested in or involved in the unionization work and possibly even suspicious of it?

FM: As I said, the Issei were already a declining population within the cannery worker system. The Nisei were there primarily as students and so they didn't have the stake in the labor system of the cannery that, let us say, the Filipinos had. For Filipinos it was a matter more of, you know, life earnings. Whereas, for the Nisei, the cannery work is simply a step toward something else and the something else is being a doctor, being a professor, being whatever else, but within the system, the given system, they're gonna try to rise and achieve a status within the established system. So the orientation is a little different, you see. You're not going to protest against the system, you want to make, using this, this position in the cannery work as a stepping stone to something else within the system. Whereas, the proletarian-oriented, this attitude I'm talking about, is a group of people who don't see themselves as being accepted in the larger system, in fact, this is characteristic of the CIO workers, whether white or black or whatever. They saw themselves as outside the system, you see, and they said, "We're gonna move these people up on top out if we can, and, or at least control them in a degree that had not been true before." A revolution is, of course, a total turnover, a removal of the people at the top and then the lower level moves up and takes over. Well, this is not a revolution in the 1930s, but it's a reformation in which those who are outsiders, those who are out, say, "We want more power, we want more control than is provided by those at the top," and that's the kind of change that was occurring in the 1930s under the New Deal.

And what I'm saying is that the Nisei, Japanese Amer-, Japanese, by the nature of their position within the, within the society, their youngsters moving up within the system, they don't have this kind of orientation of protesting the system and they're, they, in a sense, were accepting the system. This was simply a kind of stepping stone to something else within the system. Filipino workers, for them, many of them, this was a different kind of a situation. They needed to have better control of the management condition, or management status than was being provided. And therefore, they seek it through union as a means of protesting more effectively against the system. And so for a proletarian-oriented population, protest and active participation in this effort to displace those who are controlling becomes a very meaningful kind of thing. For the Nisei, I don't think it was so. We realized that something was happening here, but on the whole there was not an intense interest in being a part of the movement to displace.

I should tell, point out that when I talk about these differences, it's not as if people are one type or the other. You get a whole range of attitudes. And so within the Japanese population there were many who were -- not many, some who were union-oriented or proletarian-oriented intellectually if nothing more. For example, I used to play around, so to speak, with the commies on campus in the 1930s. I never became a Communist party member. I never, in fact, was a "pinkie" as they used to call them. But, I got exposed to that kind of attitude in the 1930s and my attitude was a little different than that of many other Nisei. And some Nisei, of course, were extremely conservative at the other end. They were just like, so to speak, the contractor population in their orientation towards the economy. True of the Filipinos as well. Some Filipinos are extremely conservative, some are radical, but the, what is different is that the distribution within the Japanese population, let's say, is somewhat more towards the conservative end and the distribution for the Filipinos, somewhat more to the radical end, or revolutionary end if you'd like. So, when you take the average of the two populations, why, one is a little more conservative than the other and this is what is, what was characteristic of the Filipino population. Therefore, when the changeover came in the mid-, that is to say, unionization movement in the canneries became increasingly powerful, it was mainly the Filipino workers who were involved in that movement and I would say they came to take over or displace the contractors. In the meantime, however, of course, as this transformation is taking place, contractors are not ready to give up. They have a nice situation, they've been earning their money through the system as it has existed. They want to preserve it. But as the 1930s progress onward, the whole economy is changing from, let's say, the AF of L type of mentality to CIO. The whole society is changing from the Hoover type of mentality to the FDR kind of mentality. When you get this kind of changing scene, even conservatives realize that something is happening, we've got to change.

What happened for the cannery contractors, therefore, was that they hoped to stall the transformation enough by favoring the establishment of the AF of L type of unions rather than of a CIO type. CIO union leadership is much more radical, much more demanding. AF of L type always worked more within the system. Middle-class kind of, AF of L was a little more middle-class-oriented than the CIO. This is kind of different. So the contractors, in trying to stem this tide of unionization, then took the, so to speak, last available possibility of seeking, seeking an AF of L type of organization rather than a CIO. I think you mentioned Clarence Arai as a person who figured prominently in the Japanese community as a union organizer. And what he did was to work towards, or what he did, as I recall, was try to establish an AF of L type of a union as this changeover was occurring rather than to move over towards the CIO type of union.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

FM: Now at the Waterfall cannery as it happened, we had two men come in who reflected this changeover. They were George Taki, Taki, Takizawa, I think is what his name was and Dyke Miyagawa. Dyke is someone I knew from much earlier in my life, very intelligent guy who, whose political orientation was much more radical than that of most Nisei, and he believed in the unionization in order to displace the contractors. And George Taki, I was never quite sure what, who, what kind of person he was, but he had necessarily to be a person who didn't fit into the Japanese system. He had to be the kind of person who was not totally fitted into the Japanese system, so to speak, and is therefore off far enough outside the system to be able to be critical of it, protest against it, and so on. He was that type of person, I would say.

Now, incidentally, protest arises only if there, if you have -- well, unless a person's being totally unreasonable, protest usually arises because there are some conditions which need to be protested or deserve protest, protest. And there were obviously conditions that were, very bad conditions that needed to be changed, and I'll go into that later. But as long as things are going well enough for your own life, as in the case of the Nisei, who were students, and who just needed money to be sa-, that they could save so that they go on to, could go on to college or whatever, things are okay. As I say, in the case of the Filipinos, however, this was more of a employment issue for them. That is to say, it was more important for them that they had, get better earnings than they... to get as much earning as possible, more so than in the case of the Nisei, and so, again, this basis for protest was stronger among that population than in the case of the Nisei.

So then, in the mid-1930s, with people like -- and I suppose, to back up a moment, I suppose it was true that people like George Taki and Dyke Miyagawa figured in this changeover because in a sense they were, they could represent the Nisei, the Japanese sector of the labor population, also could relate to, as Japanese Americans, part of the Japanese system, so to speak, relate to the contractors in some sense so that a transition could be achieved from the one condition to the other. And I think this is how people like George Taki and Dyke Miyagawa figured in this transition from contractor to union organization of the labor market. I really don't know a great deal about this transition. I saw it coming, and I was part of it. I saw what was happening, but again, for me, cannery work was simply a means of my getting thorough graduate school at the university which I was attending, and so I no longer paid close attention to what was happening in that phase of my life.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

FM: One other remark I should make is that I, because of the nature of the work I had been doing, I got into, I became acquainted with the foreman, the white foreman, the white head mechanic of the Waterfall cannery, more closely than most others in the workforce, the Asian work force, and so I was aware of what, how they were reacting to this unionization process, perhaps more clearly than were the other Nisei. And what I saw was that for the white owners, management, they saw again, that the unionization was kind of inevitable, but they, and they were trying to understand it so they would come to me for my interpretation of what was taking place. And in that sense I could see that for them, too, they would much rather have kept the system as it was under the contractor system, unions were a pain for management, then, and as it is now, but... in many respects, at least. But they were also aware that this kind of transformation was occurring throughout the entire American economic system and that it was kind of inevitable in the cannery. Therefore, they would try to understand it as best they could, get a sense of what the workers' feelings was -- feelings were, and get a sense for what was coming ahead. This was the kind of mental activity that they were engaged in as far as I can make out.

AI: That's so interesting, when they came to you and asked your thoughts on this, what kind of thing would you say to them?

FM: Well, when, as the change was occurring, Filipino workers, especially, would begin to, became increasingly aggressive in making demands. And the manage-, white management, then, tried to understand what it was that they were asking for, what was reasonable, what was not and so on. They were trying to sense how much, how they could defend themselves in a sense, but how much they had to, to yield in order to keep the system working effectively. With respect to the people I was talking to, foreman, the foreman is the person who was an overseer of the whole system and needed to keep the system functioning effectively. And the head mechanic, who was a kind of a right-hand man to the foreman, also had the same kind of concern. So for them the concern was, "We don't want this work force to blow up in some fashion. How are we going to maintain them so that the work will be effectively carried out?" And yet, they had to recognize that something was happening here, changing, that they would have to allow for. So this is the kind of mentality that, I mean, the problem that they were trying to deal with. And so they would come to people like myself to get as much information and advice as possible in light of the fact that they were not, they were now faced with a totally new kind of situation. They didn't know who to communicate with. The contractors no longer were effective tools of communication between the workers and themselves. Contractor, incidentally had, incidentally had under him a Japanese foreman, named Jack. I think I mentioned that before. And, but he, too, you see, is no longer functioning within the communication system between the white management and the working population. So they seek out people like me as kind of... but they had to deal with George Taki and Dyke Miyagawa. On the other hand, they see Dyke Miyagawa and George Taki as somewhat on the other side, the protest group. And so they get, want to get information in a sense that would enable them to, to maintain a functional organization. And I think this is what they... they, I think they were smart enough to see that they were not going to prevent this transformation of the union, and the question was how to effect this so as not to disturb the system totally. And then, the danger, of course, was that it could be, totally blow up if it became kind of a revolutionary situation, people went on strikes and so on, why, general strike, that would be a terrible thing for the canning industry as they would view it.

AI: Right. So they could see that they, that they'd like to prevent that type of thing from happening.

FM: Yeah, yeah.

AI: And it sounds as though you found yourself in a position of, kind of an intermediary --

FM: In a way.

AI: -- structurally?

FM: Yeah, although I recognized that my capacity was limited. Nevertheless, I did become kind of an intermediary. Well, I was not negotiating relationships, but I was, I became a source of information and I hope, not to the detriment of the workers, but nevertheless, I was trying to give the management a sense of what the situation was. And in that sense, I did have some awareness of what was happening in the system. And I think I functioned in that kind of role partly because I, being a sociologist, and I was always, already, a graduate student with some background of understanding for the organizational problems. They looked upon me as someone who provided them useful information in their effort to continue management of a system that was rapidly changing.

AI: Right. So, in other words, they could see that you would be a keen observer. You were actually within the conditions of the cannery and could see those conditions. You were in contact with other workers.

FM: Yes.

AI: And yet, at the same time, you were very well-skilled in communication and were able to communicate with them in terms that they were --

FM: [Laughs] Well I, yeah.

AI: -- they were comfortable, also.

FM: I'm not sure I was as knowledgeable as I needed to be or as effective communicatively as I needed to be or whatever, but anyway, you're right. They came to people like me, because they needed that kind of resource.

AI: What kinds of things did you try to communicate to--

FM: Well, I --

AI: -- managers?

FM: My concern mainly was to give them an understanding of what the workers felt about these circumstances. And the fact that there were serious shortcomings in the living conditions, for example, and what the workers were protesting. I could convey a sense of these, because I felt it myself. On the other hand, I, there were some who were being unreasonable. You know, or at least I viewed them as unreasonable. People wanted to strike, for example, and I didn't think it was in the interest of the workers to have that kind of breakdown of the organization at that time, and so I tried to give advice that might help prevent that kind of extreme conflict.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TF: What was Japanese reaction toward Dyke Miyagawa or George Taki? What was their reputation --

FM: Yes.

TF: -- in the Japanese community?

FM: Dyke Miyagawa was intelligent, well-respected by Nisei. I don't know what the Issei feeling about him was, because... and in a sense it didn't matter. The Issei no longer functioned effectively within the worker population. As far as Nisei were, went, they were likewise, no longer an effective worker population in the sense that they didn't have enough stake, as much of a stake in the system to insist that this should be rather than that and so on. They were going along as students, mainly, who needed money or a means of savings for the summer. And that's the nature of cannery work for most of the Nisei at that time. So, but, Dyke and George Taki were socially -- ah, I should mention... in due course, the offices which Nagamatsu as contractor and Jack, his foreman, used, which was part of this bunkhouse set-up, which I'll describe a little later -- when Nagamatsu and the contractor left, I can't... there was some point at which they no longer came to the cannery and Jack no longer was a foreman. Then George Taki and Dyke Miyagawa were in those offices. So, there was some point at which a transition occurred and I can't even remember clearly just exactly how that occurred. But, you could see that something had happened. You know, the people who are running the show are no longer the same people. Okay, coming back to your question, George Taki was looked upon... he had to be, so to speak, a person who was really not quite a part of the Nisei, even the Nisei system. He had to be different enough to be, you know, out there gunning for a union, which is not the kind of thing which Nisei of that time were engaged in. So, to be different in that sense, he had to, he was not fully a part of the Nisei system. Now, Dyke Miyagawa was also different in that sense. He was more of an intellectual than most Nisei were. But I think he was also better aware of what the Nisei system or Japanese system was like and functioned more easily within the Japanese system. So I would say he was better-liked, or better-accepted. George Taki was looked upon with a certain suspicion as to, or a certain question as to what he was trying to do, and many of the interpretations was that he's in there for his own good, his own interest type of thing.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

AI: Well, just before our break, you had told us a little bit about some of, well not, quite a bit about some of the union activities and the shifts going on globally, nationally, and then in the cannery situation, and in particular, at Waterfall, and also had mentioned Dyke Miyagawa and George Taki. And we also had a question about Clarence Arai and some of his union activities.

FM: Yes, I, I knew Clarence Arai vaguely, not, certainly not well. I knew his background a little more, mainly because at one point in his university career, he attended the University of Washington, and after his undergraduate years he went on to do a master's thesis in Sociology. As I recall, it had to do with the Japanese community in some sense and I don't rem-, I don't know why I can't remember what his thesis was about, but in any event, I do remember that he wrote some interesting things about Japanese people, and so I thought well of him in that regard. However, he went on to get his law degree here and then set up a law office within the Japanese community, that is to say, his clients were especially Japanese, more-, yeah, I'd say especially Japanese, especially the Issei who, for whom he was the first lawyer available. Tom Masuda came a little later to fill in the gap there. But also, working for the Japanese kaisha, such as... that were located here in Seattle, such as Mitsui, Mitsubishi, the banks, Yokohama Specie and so on, all of whom required some kind of American representation in the legal system. And Clarence Arai, and later Tom Masuda filled that position.

Now, because of that, Tom -- Clarence Arai also became prominent in the local Japanese politics; that is, the politics that the Japanese community became involved in, particularly with respect to discrimination and anti-Japanese hostility. This was partly, of course, a function related to his legal activity since issues came up such as, concerning anti-alien land law problems, who owned what and what could the Japanese retain, issues of this kind. And therefore, Clarence, as a lawyer, naturally became involved in political issues of the community, probably involved in some degree in, even in international issues having to do with the kaisha which were representing Japanese companies. But in any event, because of that position, when the local Japanese association, the Nihonjinkai, became concerned with the requi-, need for a political organization of the Nisei that could represent the Japanese point of view and defend the Japanese position against the strong anti-Japanese hostility that has existed on the West Coast for many years, especially came to a head, of course, in the Immigration Act of 1924. In that setting, the Issei were, and the Nihonjinkai were very keenly interested in organizing the Nisei in some political fashion so that they could counter the anti-Japanese hostility that was seriously affecting the position of the Issei immigrants and the Nisei community here in Seattle. Clarence was one of the oldest of the Nisei here. James Sakamoto, who came back in 1928 to establish the Japanese American Courier, was another of the people, of the Nisei of this age, and several others. But when the Nihonjinkai proposed a -- oh, forgotten what it was called -- progressive citizen's league or something, that would represent the Japanese point of view, that is to say, a Nisei organization. And this then became the basis for the Japanese American Citizens League, which was organized here and also in California sometime in the late 1920s. And as such, as I recall, Clarence Arai was named the first president of JACL.

So, Clarence was, in this sense, then, a political or, at least a community leader in the Japanese community, both for the Issei and the Nisei. I must say that I always, contrary to what I had felt about his MA thesis, which I thought was intelligent and well-written, interesting... I always felt regarding his political role in the community, that he was, as I felt, something of a windbag, shooting off in a fashion that didn't, in my view, mean a great deal. And perhaps this reflected the kind of difficult position, politically, that he saw himself in. As a lawyer for Japanese companies and for the Issei of the local community, he had to represent the Japanese point of view, and at the same time, in appealing to the American society and trying -- as a political leader who would establish some kind of power of the Japanese within the American system, he had to appeal to the American system, and this ambiguous situation for him, I think, created more of a problem than he was readily able to deal with. And therefore, as I say, I thought to some extent he was something of a windbag when it came to political pronouncements about what the Nisei should do concerning this and that and so on. Reflecting, I suspect, the kind of paradoxical situation he found himself in, of representing, or being, being pressed by two quite different political orientations: the Japanese on the one hand and the American on the other. Nevertheless, he was a leader of the JACL from early on.

He, I... curiously, I have a sense that he was also, also a member of the University Officer's Training Course. I may be wrong about this. Somehow, I have a sense that he represented the, what was called on campus, the ROTC, the Officer's Training Course. He was, was he? Yes. And you know, he would wear his uniform and so on. He represented, so to speak, the American military on the one hand and then he represented the Japanese companies on the other. This is the kind of contradiction that I think bore on him and he, in trying to deal with this contradiction, he sounded, as I say, to me, a bit of a windbag, and didn't make much sense, spouting off all kinds of things. Hundred-ten percent Americanism on the one hand and then saying or stating things that I thought were totally unconnected with that kind of a view. He was, however, prominent enough to become appointed by the city as a Japanese -- or a member of the Seattle Public Library board. And at the same time he had union connections, as I recall, AF of L union connections dating back to the pre-union, cannery unionization issue. He somehow, in my mind, is connected up with the AF of L to some extent, or Dave Beck's organization, or something in a fashion that tells me he was, had some connection of this kind. As I say, I think all this had to do with the fact that his legal opportunities came up in this area or that and so on and he would represent that point of view. But, those attitudes were not the attitudes of those... organizations were not necessarily, however, compatible with each other, and therefore he would be saying things this way or that and so on, that, to me, did not make consistent sense.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

FM: When the unionization issue came up in the cannery worker system, I believe what happened, as far as I know -- and I have no clear personal knowledge of these matters so I can only talk about what appeared to me to be the case -- was that the contractors, Japanese contractors, in the 1930s saw that their position was slipping away from them and therefore that they, and that the, as the unions made increasing demands on them, that they would have to yield to, they would have to defend themselves against the pressure of the union. They turned, then, it seems to me, to Clarence Arai to try to stem this tide and I suspect Arai tried to organize then a, an AF of L or relatively conservative union, union, in contrast to the more radical kind of unionization that the Filipinos were pressing for at that time. And I had forgotten totally about this, but your mention of the fact that this kind of unionization occurred, does recall to mind that at some point, or at some stage of the cannery unionization process, that there was, in the picture, the possibility, or there was discussion of the possibility that this kind of union headed up by Clarence Arai might be established.

I think changes of this kind, however, necessarily reflect the events of the largest society at all times. And in the larger society, as you know, the, what was happening was that the AF of L, the American Federation of Labor, the trade union was under the gun in 1930 because of its conservatism and with the increasing, rapidly increasing protest of the laboring population in the United States, for democratization of union activities, the trade union was, was less and less successful in maintaining its position and there, very soon, came into the picture the Congress of Industrial Organization, CIO, which dominated American labor scene for at least a few decades. And the Filipino organization, I think, was ultimately, certainly it became a CIA -- CIO type of union. In any event, was organizing in a different fashion than the AF of L type of organization that Clarence Arai represented.

In the larger scene, then, the CIO were moving ahead in a fashion that the AF of L simply could not defend itself against. And the same thing, so to speak, happened in the cannery workers system as well. I sensed from very early on that the AF of L's union was not going to succeed and I saw it as an effort of the contractors to stem the tide of something that they wanted to prevent. But I did not, as I recall, feel that there was any chance of success of Clarence Arai's union. That's about the extent of my knowledge of Clarence Arai and his involvement in the cannery union activities.

In contrast, at the Waterfall cannery, as I said earlier, there were a couple of people who represented the CIO union, who were an increasingly noticeable presence there. George Taki on the one hand, Takizawa, and Dyke Miyagawa, and in a sense they suddenly appeared on the scene, and very shortly, the offices at the bunk-, the Japanese offices that were part of the bunkhouse set-up, which Nagamatsu, the contractor and his foreman, Jack, occupied, suddenly were taken over by Taki and Miyagawa and these former heads of the Japanese, I mean, the Asian crew no longer were there. And I have no clear recollection of how that kind of transformation occurred, transition occurred, but it, nevertheless, clearly happened in a fairly rapid succession.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

AI: We also had a question about whether it was noticeable following, among the Japanese, either the Nisei or the Issei, of any of these union efforts.

FM: Yes. I should talk about that. Again, my involvement in the activities, union activity was rather minimal. In fact, it was minimal. So, so I have no clear recollection of what happened. My feeling, or my recollection is that the, in the nature of the Japanese Issei orientation -- well, the Issei, because they... the Issei workers... well, let me back up a minute. Mr. Nagamatsu, as an Issei contractor, had a position. He wanted to prevent the unionization. And Jack, his foreman, as an Issei, probably had a position. But most of the Issei workers was, as I said, kind of a marginal working population within the Issei community and I don't recall, I don't think they could have held a position that would materially affect what would be the outcome of this development. And I don't recall that they expressed themselves strongly about it. If they had a position, I'm sure it was in favor of retaining what had existed before because, in a sense, their life circumstance depended on it. But, I don't recall that they came out very forcefully to defend that position. As far as the Nisei, Japanese Americans were concerned, the Nisei, as I say again, were a kind of marginal working population in that they, the Nisei were all, virtually all students, in high school or college, and this is a way of paying their way through school. It was much less of a commitment to this type of work than was true for Filipinos and other people. Therefore, again, I don't recall that they held a, a strong position on the matter of unionization. For them it was a question of, "What shall I do that will help me retain my position in succeeding years?" and they became very concerned then of being able to function within the union's set-up so that they would have a union card with which to return to the work. But, I don't recall that they took a strong stance in any direction. I suppose if... my guess is that if any kind of position was taken, the Nisei probably at some point decided that the unions were going succeed in displacing the contracts, contractors and increasingly supported the union movement. But, they were certainly not among the leaders, as I recall, of that union activity.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

AI: You know, I did have one other question. Going back to Dyke Miyagawa, since you had mentioned that you had known him for quite a long time --

FM: Uh-huh.

AI: -- I was... and also, that you admired his intellectual capacity, I wondered if you ever had any conversations with him or if he ever tried to persuade you in a sense, to become more active in supporting the union activities or the union point of view?

FM: No. Two things, as soon as I would finish the cannery work I would be off to my graduate work activity. And part of the last two years was spent in Chicago, so I wasn't around to see him or to be involved in anything here. And even in, during the period when I was still here, as a graduate student, again, the campus is a kind of an isolated center away from the world of, the real world. And Dyke and I never had contact or any reason to discuss the union. Therefore, I didn't see him in those periods. Regrettably, in the sense of not knowing what was going on, I didn't have conversations with him or with George Taki, Taki, as I now wish I had, so that I could tell you more about the cannery workers. What I knew was, incidentally, there were people, Filipino leaders in the unions, unionization process whom I knew from the campus. They were graduate students or had been graduate students, and, and in a sense I approved of the unions having people whom I considered to be intelligent and solid leaders. But that, again, was world a world different from the world I was involved in, namely the academic world on campus, and I didn't see those Filipino students for a long period once this unionization activity started. So, again, I felt myself remote from this union activity. It's regrettable, but that was the way it was.

AI: So, that's interesting to me that also, among the Filipino workers, that some of the active union leaders were themselves going on to higher education.

FM: Yes.

AI: Yet, at the same time, being very active in the labor movement.

FM: That is, yeah, which is, in a sense, what you might expect, that the Filipinos were, on the whole, population, certainly among themselves, they would speak Filipino. Ilocano. And on the other hand, those whom the Nisei would most readily get acquainted with and deal with were, on the whole, people who had tried at one stage or another to get some kind of American education, usually starting with some high school or whatever and then moving on to college. And, as I say, I knew two or three of 'em from the college, university campus. And they were among the people who became the leaders of the union activity. And so, in a sense, this, this is the way you would expect it to be, that the most intelligent, or the most far-, farseeing, the most foresighted, would be the people who would be out in front in this kind of activity.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

AI: Well, perhaps, in wrapping up this section on the union activities, I was wondering whether, in your last couple of seasons at the cannery, if you noticed any changes, whether in living and working conditions --

FM: Yes.

AI: -- the pay, or perhaps other kinds of changes which may or may not have been tied directly to the union --

FM: Yes.

AI: -- activity?

FM: There were changes, as I recall now. But in my recollection, they were not dramatic. The food changed, and improved. I'm sure, it must have been -- yet, it was not, not the kind of change that would... that led me to remember it clearly, until you raised the question as to whether this was so or not. As I recall, instead of the bathhouse, suddenly we had shower, shower heads, it was just a large room where men would shower, kind of set-up. And that was an improvement. The bunkhouses were still the bunkhouses that we always had before. The toilets were not improved as far as I can remember. And the work was not really very different. What happened was, that, the one important thing that I remember clearly was that suddenly, in order to get the job, one would go, not to the Nagamatsu contract office, but would go to a labor union office. And you'd have to have a union card in order to be a worker. And that was a matter of concern for many Nisei because it wasn't a sure thing that you could get a union card, even if you had worked for many years in Alaska. You had to get approval of some kind for this. I don't recall whether there were any Nisei who did not get a job, but I do know that there was a concern about the getting the card which would enable them to get, go to the cannery that they had had in the past. That was a dramatic difference.

And that being the case, the position of Nisei relative to Filipinos now suddenly was different, clearly. And also, in the canneries, this let to the circumstance where you had the sense that the Nisei were no longer in the superior or advantaged position over the Filipinos that they had been in before. The advantaged position of the Nisei before was not clear. It was just a kind of a mental attitude as to what was true of the circumstance. But nevertheless, the attitude was, you now had to deal with a different kind of leadership in the canneries than before. However, the jobs, jobs as far as I can recall did not change all that dramatically. What did change was the composition of the workers was increasingly more Filipino than Japanese and this was a result of the union card requirement and also the fact that your friends are no longer going and therefore, things are changing in that regard, in that sense, and therefore, you're not going to the cannery as Japanese Americans might have otherwise. So this kind of change went on. This meant that positions within the cannery also gradually changed, but the positions were already affected, primarily, not by ethnic background, but by skill, number of years of experience, intelligence in a sense, how bright were you in dealing with the more complicated kinds of problems. And at the time when I started, under the contract system, there were Filipinos in skilled positions as well as in the unskilled positions just as was true for the Japanese and Japanese Americans. So I didn't see that that circumstance changed radically, except that, as the composition of the work staff changed, you had obviously more Filipinos in higher positions than before. So that's my recollection of it.

AI: And perhaps, just to clarify for people who may not realize, that in this case, the union was led by, largely the Filipinos.

FM: Yes, I would say so. It was increasingly, and they were the leaders of the protest that created the CIO univers-, the union. People like Dyke Miyagawa and George Taki, as I recall, were part of this kind of leadership of the union movement, but I don't know to what extent they survived in those leader-, or remained in those leadership positions. Increasingly it became a Filipino union. Yes. And I think, again, I mentioned earlier the kind of mentality that makes a difference in what kind of working population you have. The Iss-, the Japanese people, by history, the immigrant population is middle-class-oriented, surprisingly so. And the reason is that the history of Japan, even under the Tokugawa period, was already becoming a kind of a middle-class-oriented population, even at the level of the tenant farmers and the low level farmers from whom the immigrant population was largely drawn. The organization of the society was such that it was middle-class-oriented enough to make it possible for the Japanese society in, under Meiji, to suddenly transform itself into a capitalistic system. And you can understand why the Meiji transformation was so successful and so quick given that this kind of middle-class-orientation was already embedded in the Japanese population. So the immigrants, then, coming over from Japan, are not the kind of immigrants who largely populated the immigrant population on the East Coast, or even on the West Coast here who might be called proletarian-oriented, or at least working-class-oriented in the sense that these were not people who felt themselves tied to the larger system or felt themselves as having the potential of moving up within the existing system. Rather, they saw... the working class population sees itself as somewhat distinct from those who are running the show up here, the workers, they see themselves as someone who's having to get their employment from this managerial class up there. Whereas, as I say, the middle-class-orientation is, "I'm down here but I expect to get up there," and how do you do it, well, by education for example, or by other kinds of means of getting up there. This is not the orientation of a working-class population. Now for historical reasons, as I say, the Filipinos were more of a working-class oriented population, therefore, in a sense, better fitted for union activities, which is a protest of the lower level population against those in the upper level society rather than a middle-class-orientation which is a population just trying to get up there to join the people up there. You see, the Nisei, after all, are products of the Issei background and were oriented in that fashion more than the Filipinos. And the Nisei, therefore, are not, were not as effective as union organizers or participants in that kind of movement.

AI: [Addressing TF] Did you have any additional questions on this section?

TF: Not really.

FM: If not, I'd like to move on.

AI: Yes.

FM: Yeah.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

AI: Well, then we come to some of your own personal recollections in addition to the ones that you've already provided, of your own experience --

FM: Yes.

AI: -- in this cannery situation.

FM: It's curious, when I... the fact that you called on me to talk about canneries. I was trying to remember things about my personal experiences with respect to the cannery. And it's very interesting; the things I remember are of a certain type. One, they are the bad conditions which I met. That is to say, they were so bad that they struck me as, what a horrible thing I'm getting into, that was one side. And then the other thing I clearly remember, are the great relationships I established with Nisei friends. Now, this latter point I think is interesting because Nisei society, or for that matter Japanese American society, is remarkable in the, in with respect to the strength of the relationships which exist in the Japanese American community. If you go into other immigrant populations, let's say the Italian immigrant population, for example, which came to the United States about the same time. I don't think that there are these kinds of lasting relationships that seem to exist in the Japanese American population in the same sense that we have it in the Nisei-Sansei community. Now you might say this is, well, possibly due to the fact that we have a racial element involved here. And that may be, but, the Chinese, for instance, who came here earlier than the Japanese, and who are racially, of course, distinct as the Japanese are. It's interesting that the Chinese have always wondered about and in a sense envied the Japanese Americans for their capacity to establish something like the Japanese American Citizens League. It's very difficult, or almost impossible, for the Chinese Americans over this, many generations that they've been here to establish a national organization of Chinese, at least their capacity for doing so is very much more restricted. And this is true of their, their other organizations. Japanese have, you know, manifold organizational arrangements ranging from the Protestant churches, as well as the Catholic, their veterans organization, organizations of this and that and so on all over the place, so to speak, surviving into an era when you would think that now that the Issei are gone, why might we expect an ethnic association to persist? In a way this is a bad sign, a bad sign in the sense that you might say, you might say, well, the Japanese Americans simply are a cliquish population set apart, away from themselves and they don't join the American, larger American society. But as a matter of fact, I think these organizational connections which the Japanese Nisei have are a means, serve as a means of their stepping into the larger society and becoming a part of it, in the sense, for example, of JACL is... JACL has been a background for the rise of some political leaders on the American scene, or in the sense that, for example, Lori Matsukawa, who was well-fitted into the larger society, nevertheless retains connection with the Japanese American organizations. There's a connection which Nisei, Sansei maintain with their own group but which doesn't prevent them from getting up into, involving themselves in the larger society. And this does not happen always in ethnic populations. This is a point, in fact, which your leader, Steve Fugita, bears upon in his book.

Getting back then to the point you were asking about, the question was, what do I remember about cannery life. The point I was trying to make was that one of the things I clearly remember are these great relationships which I established. Now, these great relationships that I refer to of Nisei with whom I started working way back in 1927, '30 are not relationships which persisted over a period of time, but there's a curious fact. There was one year, sometime around 1933, '34 when I knew and respected a Nisei who was working in the cannery, that's what, seventy years ago, almost. And recently I saw this man's name at Keiro on a list of people who were residing there. And I had an immediate sense of identity with him although I haven't seen him for seventy years. And this is what I mean by the relationships which get established among Nisei and Sansei in that kind of setting. The reason why the Nisei have a sense of relationship of this kind, again, draws upon their Japanese heritage, peculiarly.

You may know the concept ninjo. Ninjo was a characteristic of the Japanese people, very distinctive characteristic of the Japanese people. Ninjo means -- as literal translation leads one to say -- means human feelings for the other person. But the human feelings, doesn't make really clear sense as to what it means. Sociologically, I think it means something, ninjo really means something like this: that a Japanese person in relating to another Japanese person doesn't simply start talking and engaging in interchange of the kind that Americans will. Japanese people, in order to relate to another person, has to consider the other person's possible inner feelings and so on, kind of look inside, so to speak. And we call this sympathetic interaction, sympathetic in the sense that sympathy means feeling as the other person feels, within myself. I have to feel the way the other person feels and then relate. Now everyone, all humans relate in that fashion, especially in the family, they relate in that fashion. But in impersonal relationships you try, you may minimize that kind of activity because you really can't understand the other person very well anyway. But Japanese are curious in this regard. For example, in order to carry on a Japanese conversation you've gotta be aware of the honorifics, to be employed, in Japan, and in order to use honorifics correctly, there are all kinds of levels of honorifics that you use, you have to sense what the other person, what his status is, you know, if he's lower than you, that's one set of honorifics, or non-honorifics. If he's way up here, then you've gotta use a different kind. And also, honorifics change. If you are trying to be very courteous to the other person you change the level of honorifics than if you were just exchanging informal conversation, there's all this kind of nonsense that goes on in Japanese in a relationship that is not required in Western communication. So, a Japanese, in order, even to carry on a relatively impersonal conversation, is already engaged in this kind of trying to sense the other person's inner feeling in a degree that is not characteristic of most relationships in other societies.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

FM: You read Japanese novels and, or you read, well, think of another thing... one thing that I used to notice about Japanese movies, at least the old-time movies -- I'm not sure what they're like now. Old-time Japanese movies, things moved so slowly. Why, people's faces changing gradually and action is taking place, it's so boring to watch this slow development of what's happening. For Japanese that's very important. You have to have time in order to sense what the other person feels and he thinks and so on, and so you move slowly, you go through a lot of formality in order to cover up what's going on internally. Internally, what you're trying to get is a better sense of what the other person is, what my feeling towards him is, you know, this kind of... this is not required in American relationships. In American relationship you go at it directly, much more directly, and if things come to a conflict, okay, then you deal with the conflict. Japanese avoid conflict and they relate to each other. Now, what I'm trying to get at is that Nisei, curiously, Sansei, I think, have absorbed something of this style of relationship. It's almost inevitable because this kind of transmission of a style of relating takes place at the level of mother handling an infant. And it's the way the mother handles the infant that makes the difference as to what kind of attitude you develop with regard to relating to the other person. I can tell you some studies that, very interesting in this regard, that, for example, one study a friend of mine has done finds that Japanese mothers, with respect to an infant of one year old, is very much concerned to react to the child, carry it more than American mothers, react to the child, than is the American mother. The American mother will let the child play for itself and do what it will, give it much more independence, so to speak, than will the Chinese -- Japanese mother. Japanese mothers are constantly more aware of the child and not only aware of it, but aware in a way different from, let us say, Chinese mothers. Chinese mothers are also aware of their children but if something happens that they want to correct, they will say, "Now, do this or that," there's a kind of adult mastery, control of the situation that is absent in the Chinese -- Japanese mother. Japanese mother does not control in the commanding sense but rather tries to adjust with, if the child's tendency is in that direction and that's not desirable, then move him away, or if the child's direction is that way and you want to develop it then help move him, there's a kind of interaction that goes on with the Japanese in which the Japanese mother has to sense, so to speak, what is going on in the baby, infant, and this is the character of Japanese handling of babies, transmitted to the Nisei, and transmitted by Sansei to Yonsei. It's a curious kind of socialization process.

Anyway, when you get that kind of relating to people sympathetically, as I'm describing, you get a stronger sense of tie of relationship, even in a matter of half a year or a year than is true if you simply go at it this way. So, Japanese relations are stronger over the long run than is the relationship of non-Japanese. And you know, it always has surprised me how groupie the Japanese people are. Anytime they do things, something, there's group of people doing this or that and so on. You see these congre-, in tour groups that come from Japan, there's a groupieness. And the thing that always impressed me was that in the Japanese samurai pictures, the, you know, the West, Japanese Western pictures, when an action takes place, sometimes there's the swordsman fighting against the swordsman, but, most commonly there's a group of guys who run this way, a group of guys going that way, group of guys tackling each other. There's a groupieness of the Japanese. It's, in that Seven...

TF: Seven Samurai?

FM: Yeah. Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. [Laughs] You know, there's a group of people. In the American people, picture, what is it? What happens? If there's gonna be a showdown, here's a cowboy on this end, here's a cowboy over here and they get their guns out and shoot at each other. One man against one man, you know. That's not the way... well, they also have groups of guys. The Seven Samurai was transformed into an American movie of a sort. So, you have groupieness, but, more typically, the shootoff between Americans is one man against the other man. Japanese almost never so, group of people doing this, group of people doing, well, the groupieness comes from this kind of background that I'm talking about, trying to sense of what the other person... so, and the reason why you want to sense this is that you want to avoid conflict and you get, so to speak, agreement with the other person before you act on anything. And so, therefore, in Japanese politics you don't get the senator standing up and saying this, and I believe this and this and this and you better do this and this and this, and you don't get senators conflicting. You have, before all this happens, you have the senators getting together in the hotel room and discussing and then there's a man representing something but he represents a group point of view in the Japanese politics. It's a very different style of relating to each other than in the United States and then America, and the consequence is the group relationships among Nisei is really a very profound thing in, and even among Sansei, I think, curiously, very interesting.

Anyway, this is what I remember about the cannery, the relationships, the friends I made, I can't even remember some of the names, but, like Dick Yoshimura, who runs Mutual Fish, he and I go back, way back to the 1930 cannery days and we still feel, naturally, easily, related to each other and yet, I hadn't seen him for fifty years, or seventy years almost before seeing him again when he was... and this happens again and again with respect to people I worked with in the canneries. So that's the part of cannery life that I especially remember.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

FM: But, going back to the bad things, I remember the bad things. What was bad? Well, to begin with, the steerage condition of going from Seattle to, to Waterfall in this freighter, only about two hundred feet long, low tonnage, I don't know how many, eight thousand tons, whatever. And down, and at the upper deck level there are these cabins for the hakujin workers. Down below are the Asians, Japanese, Filipinos, Chinese, whoever. And it's just a big dark hole -- this is a nice place -- but it's a dark hole and you have bunks, maybe three levels and if you're lucky, well you get one that's a middle level. Bottom one is not very nice because it's, all the smell is down there and the upper one you have to climb up and... but nevertheless all these bunks are laid out, you know, one after the other very close to each other. And it's a stinky set-up. And the food is terrible on these, and they kind of dish it out for you and you sit at this table and eat quickly and get away from it.

The one nice thing about these trips on the boats, great thing I remember are these beautiful areas we would go through. From here to Campbell River at the middle of Vancouver Island, nothing much to see, it's terrible, horrible trip because the boat is so slow. And you just have to live there twenty-four hours from here to Campbell River, it seems, and, amazing that one would, could take so long getting from here to there. But once you get into the Seymour Narrows it's a beautiful sight and I shall never forget the first time I saw it and I guess I remember the last time I saw it. It's just a phenomenal sight of going through this canal, channel, with mountains, huge mountains coming straight down in the water and dropping down, somewhere down below. No beach, no white beaches, but the, if especially on a calm day when the waters mirrors, mirrors the mountains, it's, and you have some birds, geese flying by or something, it's just incredibly beautiful. And this is the kind of thing I remember from these trips.

The other part of the trip that I remember are the occasional storms we would run into in... what is that called? Hetica Strait or something, north of Queen Charlotte Island, we'd get into this open water area of the Pacific Ocean and occasionally when it's windy, stormy, this two-hundred foot boat would be shaking up and down because of the huge waves that would bounce it around. And I'd think, wow, what a scary thing this is. But, that was only a matter of six hours and it's okay. However, if you experience that, you then realize what it is that the Alaska fishermen face when they go out into the Bering Sea or out, somewhere out in the Gulf of Alaska fishing for salmon or crab or whatever. You can understand why every now and then there's a huge accident that kills two, three, four, a dozen people and it's a frightful thing to encounter when you face it.

Okay, about, among the bad things, the first, especially the first time I went to Alaska, the food at the cannery -- well, I should describe the bunkhouse to you, I think, the layout of the cannery first. The layout of the cannery, and this is fairly typical, I think, although Waterfall, as it happens, was a very beautiful place, again. And that was another thing I enjoyed about Waterfall, and caused me, I guess, to go back the twelve years, successively. Waterfall is an isolated, well, it's on an isolated part of Prince of Wales Island in Southeastern Alaska, about eighty miles from Ketchikan. And there, it's in an inner channel where there are islands on the other side. But you can also see breaks between the islands where it's looking out into the Pacific Ocean, so, this was the kind of isolated area it is. And in order to get out, in and out, you have to have this boat or fishing boat or airplane, occasionally airplane would come in, even back in 1930, already, there were airplanes flying in and out, occasionally. In this... and it's beautiful enough so that, today there's no longer a cannery at Waterfall, there's a summer resort. And the resort area is built up such that people with yachts going north will stop there and enjoy the pleasures of a very attractive spot in Southeastern Alaska. It's called Waterfall because there is a waterfall about, let's say, well, say a mile's walk from the bunkhouse. And my friends and I would, rather frequently, take the walk up to the waterfall because we could enjoy that and the stream, the river that was coming down. The river coming down was also interesting in itself because by late August when the fish would stream into their spawning area, this river, which was perhaps a hundred feet wide at the sea outlet and would become narrow as it went up the mountain, would be full of salmon, millions of salmon, so to speak. You almost have the feeling you could walk across the top of the backs of these fish because of the numbers that would wade into this river and literally you could throw out hooks, un-baited hooks, two or three on large hooks and just pull them in and you'd catch two or three fish this way. So this is a dramatic area, and there was a nice beach, beach wide enough and nice enough so that we could play football there. And this is part of getting to know my Nisei friends, you know, play football, we'd play basketball, we'd play sumo or whatever. And, and, of course, fishing and crabbing were part of the activity.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

AI: So, just before this break you were describing the physical beauty of the setting of the cannery, and maybe if you could also discuss the layout of the buildings there.

FM: Yes. What I'm describing is the Waterfall cannery. And many canneries were like this, however, isolated canneries, nothing else but the cannery and the workers required to carry on the work there. At Waterfall, in this beautiful setting, as a cannery, had to have a dock that would be deep enough and long enough to handle freighter, freight ships that would come in and load the cases of salmon when they were completed. So you have the dock, and the dock, of course, serves as the place where the fishing boats and the scow, the trap tenders come in, so you have to have a set-up for unloading the salmon at that point. And from the unloading you had to have channels or a conveyer belt or canals, so to speak, that would transport the fish from the dock to the canal -- the cannery itself. Now the cannery itself is essentially a long warehouse building and at one end is the intake of the fish and put into bins the size of this room, twelve by twelve, maybe or, and deep enough to hold as many as five to ten thousand fish. And there would be many of these bins because at a given time there might be as many as thirty thousand fish brought in on a given day, rather unusual to have that many, but you had to have space for that. Then, in this long warehouse kind of set-up you'd start with the "iron chink," and the fish as it's fed into this first machine would be run down the length of this warehouse kind of set-up, through the slimer position, the filling machine, the patching table, the can topper, vacuum machine, down to the, the, ovens at the far end. And at the far end, because you have the ovens, you have to have a steamer set-up for creating the hot water and hot steam for cooking and usually a diesel engine down there also attached to the steam engine arrangement to power the whole electrical system of the cannery. Then you had to have a second warehouse along parallel to which the fish cans which already filled and cooked and so on could be moved over, and there they would be labeled and cased, and the cases would have to be piled up so as to be ready for loading on the ships when they came in. So, you had two long warehouses side by side, one for canning, the other for warehouse, warehousing the cases.

Then you would have another lodging area for the white workers, always separate from the Ja-, Asian workers. The white workers had a very nice dining area for themselves and separate rooms for themselves, I think. And as it happened, at Waterfall, because the supervisory people, or the executive people, like Mr. Bushman and his family would come, they had separate houses for them as well, very nicely painted and so on and so on.

Then the Asian bunkhouse was set off in another area, in a somewhat marshy area, but in a way attractive in its own way. Now, the bunkhouse is a large, two-story building, perhaps 125 feet long and 50 feet wide, 60 feet wide, about 25 feet on each side of this long bunkhouse divided by a corridor down the middle, and each of those two areas would then be filled with bunks for anywhere from fifty to a hundred workers. And these fifty to a hundred workers would be housed in rooms, as I say, about 12 x 15 feet in measurement with two tiers of bunks, one up, down and one up. As it happened in our bunkhouse, three, three up and down on one side, that makes six, six bunks, plus two more on the other side plus a little closet area, so to speak. No closet, but a place to hang your clothes and so on or store some things. So you had this kind of arrangement where maybe eight people would be assigned to each room, with each room going all the way down one, the hallway. This is the upper level. And downstairs is the kitchen, the dining room area. The dining room is a just simply large area with a lot of tables. A little like the evacuation centers which I remember from the wartime years. Enough tables to, well, as a matter of fact it was a little different from the evacuation centers. The relocation centers, the incarceration centers were places, the arrangement was such that you had long tables where, with benches attached where families could eat together or a bunch of guys would sit down and eat together. We did have at Waterfall, separate tables of, round tables for maybe two, six people at a table, something like that. And so it's a slightly different arrangement than at... but then there was also downstairs, offices for Mr. Nagamatsu and his foreman, and some storage area and things like this.

There was an area also where the... there was also a game of poker or rummy going on. Gambling was a fairly characteristic feature of canneries and you might have, usually it was only one table at our place, but you could have two tables there for that kind of activity. And at Waterfall there was also a group of benches at one side for shogi games and go games, or some other games if people chose to do them, but, the shogi and go were the most common at our cannery. Those who were not gambling as intensely as these regulars were might do their gambling in their bunkhouse sleeping areas, sleeping quarters where there were benches that guys would sit around and talk with each other or play games with each other, so there was that kind of facility in these bunkhouses. So that's the Asian workers' bunkhouse that I'm describing, set away from the cannery warehouse and the storage warehouse and from the white people's residential area. Finally, there's a third area, residential area, lodging area for Native Americans, and they had cottages, small cottages where they could cook and bed and so on, separately from the rest of the population.

One of the problems of this cannery, of every cannery, is that you, the fish refuse from cutting and gutting and so on was, were simply dropped into the bay where this... and therefore, if the tides were -- as they often were -- unfavorable, the fish heads and whatnots were washed ashore in the area where all these residential areas were located and the stink, stink from it could become very bad at times. On the whole, however, I thought of the setting as attractive. I never thought of it as unattractive. There were areas for doing, setting up basketball courts, for example, or we could sit around in the warehouse playing other games and things of this kind. So the facilities were, for us at least, Nisei youngsters, quite satisfactory in those respects.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

AI: Excuse me. I was wondering about the kind of the organization, if you will, of the recreational activities, if there were some differences by ethnicity or by generation, you know, the older generation or the younger generation?

FM: Yes, there were. Issei didn't play basketball. [Laughs] In fact, I should comment about the age distribution of the workers, which you asked about legitimately. With regard to the Japanese workers, there were two sets, the Issei and the Nisei. And if you say, "How old were the Issei?" No, three sets, four sets of Japanese, let me put it that way. There were the Nisei and Issei but also among the Nisei there were the Kibei. And among the Issei there were a few young Issei, although most of them were the older, but there were some young Issei and I should not forget them. Now, what's the age range? Of the Nisei, when I went, as I say, I was fourteen years of age. I think that was kind of a little on the young, very young side, but let's say the age range of the Nisei was anywhere from fifteen to thirty years of age, more like most of us were fifteen to twenty-two, school-aged. But a few Nisei could be the older ones. I almost can't remember anyone who was much over that, over twenty-two or so. The Kibei were somewhat of the older group and they included some Kibei who were perhaps twenty-five, even up to thirty. And I'll talk about relationships in a moment. Then of the Issei, most of them were the older Issei and the age, I imagine, went up to above sixty. Although cannery work at times is heavy physical work and so if you get very much into the older age, why, it's an impossible thing, and yet, there were some who were over sixty, I would guess, and most were around fifty, seems to me. But some Issei, that is to say, young immigrant Issei from Japan were somewhat younger, and I just don't recall why they were there or how they figured as a part of the working population, but I do remember that there were some young Issei, maybe forty years of age or even thirty-five, that were in that population. You know, they could have been those who had been called over from Japan by families who were here and they needed work and fitted in that way.

Now as for the relationship between the Issei and Nisei, Kibei: Nisei and Kibei were almost, necessarily separate. They... no, I shouldn't say necessarily. They were, they tended to be separate because somehow there was, there was a difference in background. For example, Kibei, I don't rem-, recall any Kibei who played basketball, and they didn't play football. They didn't simply associate naturally, easily, with the Nisei in that regard. On the other hand, fellows like Dick Yoshimura and his brother, name slips me at the moment, whom I knew even better than Dick, they were young enough and attitudinally close enough in our, to us so that we... and as we worked together, why, we just became very good friends, and so they were part of the Nisei group in a sense. I don't know that Dick Yoshimura remem-, thinks of himself, even, as a Kibei, but by background he was in the sense that at that time he was one of those who had come back from Japan and didn't easily fit into the Nisei group in the sense that Nisei grew up feeling and thinking a certain way, different from those who were trained in Japan.

With regard to relations with the Issei, there was simply a sharp break between Nisei, Issei and Nisei in terms of social relationships. But on the other hand, as I say, with regard to go and shogi, some Nisei would become interested in these games and the ones who were skilled at it were the Issei, so you play with them. And, if it came to gambling, I don't remember Nisei being involved in the gambling tables, but the Issei were. The Issei were playing with Filipinos. They were close friends in that setting, but outside of these work relationships and so on, there tended to be ethnic separation simply because the Filipinos talked Philippines language, Japanese Issei talked Nihongo, and Nisei talked their own lingo, and just separation among these categories of people.

And then I should mention the relationship with the Native Americans. Almost no contact between Asians and Native Americans except at work and except at the dances which were occasionally held. The dances were put on by the Filipinos particularly. I think they were mainly the organizers of the dances, although, maybe the Japanese were involved in it, I think it must've been... well the, I think it was the Filipinos, because they were the guitar players and the musicians, so to speak. I don't remember any Nisei having skills of that kind that would lend themselves to organizing the dances. Anyway, at these dances then, the only females around were the Native American girls, or women. And so then, as far as Nisei went, I think, imaginatively, a lot of Nisei spent quite a bit of time thinking about these Native American girls, they're the only female figures one could see in this area at that time. And, but, even at the dances, the Filipino fellows would go and ask the girls to dance and so on, but on the whole, Nisei would go to see the dances and attend and occasionally one of the more daring ones would ask a Native American girl to dance, but by and large, here are these Nisei fellows rubbernecking, so to speak. They're standing on the sideline watching it as to what's going on and kind of enjoying thinking about, maybe I should ask the girl to dance or not. And there was a lot of joshing around and so on, but the number of people who dared to ask a Native American girl to dance, remarkably, relatively few, at least in our setting. And the question arises, what's wrong here? I mean, why weren't they asking the girls to dance? It wasn't as if they didn't know how to dance. I think it was simply that there's a feeling of, about the Native Americans that, that I find a little difficult to put into words, but let me express it this way: you would express a little surprise that Japanese ever married, for example, a Native American, stayed in Alaska. I mean, it seems, why would any Japanese want to do that? And yet there were some. And they were the ones who were bold enough to engage themselves in a relationship with... well, the attitude that leads you to raise the question: why, why would you have Japanese relating themselves to Native American women in this fashion is precisely the attitude that set the barrier, I think, about even dancing with them. There's a kind of a fear of establishing a relationship that, you know, would go over the bounds of what people would think of as normal or not strange, and I think this is the kind of a barrier that the Nisei youngsters, who were high school age mainly, or even college age, however, a kind of barrier that Nisei felt about relating themselves to Native American girls, some of whom were quite attractive, really, but you didn't, you had the feelings, you know, you talk about them and josh with them occasionally, and have a fair amount of interest in girls, but to really get related to them, that was a dangerous, threatening thing in a sense and you had this barrier of not getting involved that much on the part of Nisei.

AI: May I ask you --

FM: Yes.

AI: -- for yourself, being that age yourself, did, you probably weren't consciously aware of this type of situation when you were at high school or early college, but I'm wondering if you, if it, if you ever thought yourself of asking one of the girls to dance or, if you just... or if it really never crossed your mind like, oh, no, I'd never consider --

FM: Oh, no, no. I think, for all of us. It was obvious. Were talking about it, you know, "Shall we ask 'em?" "No, no, no." "Why don't you?" You know, "Why don't you?" But, so, there's a general atmosphere of yeah, let's, let's, are you, you know, "double dare you" kind of thing. Well, why did these Nisei hold back? Well, in the first place, Nisei of that time, back in the 1930s, were scared of girls anyway, so to speak. I mean, the idea of Nisei dancing with girls was a little strange even among Nisei, Nisei male, Nisei female. To ask for a dance is a little... so there's that kind of barrier, and then on top of that, the kind of thing I was talking about. And so, there's this kind of attitude of, you know, do you dare to do so? And something that interested, so to speak, all the guys, but it was a dare, and end up not, not doing it. That's my answer to you. Yeah. Well, let me see, I was talking about what was bad.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 34>

AI: Oh, I'm sorry, sorry to interrupt you again, but, before going on, you had mentioned in some detail about the bunk situation, the bunkhouse. And I was wondering about whether there was some internal separation there between the Filipino and the Japanese within the bunkhouse?

FM: Yes, there was. I think there were some situations of Japanese, Nisei or Issei being bunked in the same room with the Filipinos, and I don't think there was anything wrong with that situation, that is to say, wrong in the sense of any difficulty about arranging things in that fashion, but it just didn't happen, generally speaking. One, because many of the Filipinos were relatively new immigrants to the U.S. and they spoke relatively little English and their conversations were Philippine, and it was difficult for them to relate to non-Filipinos. But in addition to that, there just was a natural tendency for these ethnic groups to go with their own ethnicity. And this was true even at the dining room tables. Nisei would sit with Nisei, Issei would sit with Issei, and Filipinos would sit with Filipinos and so on.

AI: Would you say there was any element of prejudice at that time?

FM Yes...

AI: I mean, was that an obvious...

FM: You know, it is a kind of prejudice, it must be. It's like, why do you hate oranges, type of prejudice, it's hard to explain, but prejudice in that sense. But not prejudice in the sense of, you know, "I refuse to be bunked with a Filipino." I don't think there was that kind of prejudice, it was just that your preference certainly was in the direction of being with friends you liked and enjoyed and so on and so on.

AI: But it wasn't a matter of hostility?

FM: Yeah.

AI: Overt hostility.

FM: And to expand on that point, then, I don't recall any hostility, ever, between Filipinos and Japanese. Occasionally there were fights between two Filipinos, or between Japanese, but the instance of conflict between Filipinos and... it must have happened but I don't remember them. And not, by and large, there was no ethnic hostility or even a sense of ethnic discrimination involved in our relations as far I can remember.

Going back to the food thing, what was... food is, in a situation like that is always difficult. You know, even at very good institutions, where they feed you well, if you eat the same institutional food month after month, pretty soon you get sick of it. You can't put up with it. Well, so, in that sense, why, institutional food at the canneries was difficult to live with. But on top of that the food was not very good. Contractors were trying to minimize costs and breakfast, for example would be misoshiru, rice, tsukemono, maybe and some fish, fish possibly might be served. But basically it was a very minimal kind of breakfast. And lunch and supper often a mix of chop suey type of mix, food. And again, fish figured prominently, salmon figured prominently in the meals that were given us. And you can get pretty bored or tired with, of this type of food. I think the food changed under union organization. For one thing, Filipinos liked their own style of food and there was that kind of change anyway. And then the, there was a greater Americanization of food as I recall after the unionization occurred, whereas under the Issei contractors, why, there was much more Japanese-oriented type of feeding.

TF: Can I ask one question? Did you have any time to go Ketchikan while you were in the cannery site and then get like different food or meeting people?

FM: Yes. I did. And it... and we did. That is, my group did. And it was a function of whether, how well you got to know the cook. The cook was an important figure in that sense and if you got to know the cook and became good friends with him, why he would cook up an egg for you sometime or give you an apple or whatever that, extra that you'd normally not get. So if you developed a good relationship with the kitchen, why, there was some advantage to it. But by and large, people didn't take too much advantage of that kind of thing because the cook had to be careful not to show too much, too much favoritism to one group or another.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 35>

FM: I wanted to talk about the bad conditions of health there. I guess I already have. The toilets were poor, extremely poor. The bathing was perhaps the worst thing in that you're using the same water to bathe in that the next guy... the Japanese furo style. And I always had a little difficulty putting up with that, but, when the unions came in, as I recall, showers were installed and we had that arrangement. But the worst problem with respect to health was that this is an isolated community, cannery, and if one got sick in any serious sense, why, you would be in real trouble because you'd have to be flown out and the air flights were not all that readily accessible. However, two things: one, I don't remember that people ever worried really very much about this, about the health conditions, even with respect to bathing and so on, we got so we would put up with it and thought of it as not a condition that was all that threatening. And then the companies were fairly careful to take care of people when they did get sick. I recall at one time I got a boil on my wrist and continued, and it was a boil that wouldn't heal, partly because I was handling fish all day, and there was a kind of danger of its, of the infection spreading, and at that point the... Mr. Nagamatsu and Jack, the foreman, became concerned enough so that they ordered a airplane flight called in. I was flown to nearby Craig, I think it was, town, where there was a doctor who lanced it for me and took care of it and I was back at work very shortly. And this is the way in which problems of this kind were handled. The airplane would be called in and the patient would be flown out as needed to wherever had a good medical facility. Now, this place called Craig was only ten miles away from Waterfall. So it was a short flight. And I remember because you get up in the air and you can see the cannery down there, very beautiful mountains and so on. Beautiful flight through the cann-, but, and seeing a different town was interesting. But the point is that they did try to take care of workers, which was, I think, from their standpoint important, because if serious illness occurred in these canneries and people were not cared for, why, they would lose trust of the workers, and that, of course, would have been very damaging. So then with respect...

AI: Oh, excuse me. Still staying on the health topic. Do you recall any major injuries? You had described the work process and the machinery and it sounded like, and the lye baths, and I thought --

FM: Yeah.

AI: -- well, there is a potential for some severe injury there.

FM: There was potential for severe injury and yet, when you raise the question, I don't remember ever there being a serious injury at the work situation. And I think that possibly tells us a little bit about the nature of cannery work. Cannery work was not physically all that demanding, although there, some of the jobs were demanding, but, it was not a dangerous kind of work. Now, my cousin, who went to the same cannery and used to work at the "iron chink," went to a sawmill one year, and he cut off a finger. And thereafter he couldn't work at the "iron chink" because the cold water would affect him so the, when he came back to the cannery, the foreman assigned him to another job. But bearing on the point that sawmill was much more dangerous than cannery, you see. Although he was working at perhaps one of the most dangerous jobs in the cannery, namely at the "iron chink" which has a knife pointing straight down to where your hand is, you see, and this thing comes around and as the fish flips over it cuts off the head and goes on then and you put it in the machine. He was doing that job, considered to be a dangerous job, not dangerous compared to the sawmill where he lost a finger because he was, the saw he was pulling just missed, I mean, hit his finger in a fashion he didn't anticipate. So, in terms of danger, curiously, cannery work is not a dangerous work.

However, if you went out on the fishing boats, then it was dangerous, but the white people were doing all this. They were getting paid for it so perhaps they could not, would not complain about it. And the workers who went out on these fishing boats and so on, had in mind more "what I will get in reward for what I'm doing." They're not thinking about the danger as much. That's why you still have fishermen going into the Bering Straights and so on.

<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 36>

FM: Then, with respect to the work itself, well, yeah, I've already told you about the work itself. It's terribly tedious type of work. You know, you do the same thing over and over again. And this could go on twenty hours a day sometimes. I, in fact, that's one of the features I should mention. That in my job, when the season got busy, we had one, well, we had a bad season, as I said, the first year I went. We loaded, we packed ten thousand cases of salmon. That's a very bad season. Ten thousand cases of salmon hardly paid the cannery enough to, well, certainly lost money. Forty thousand cases, the cannery would make a small profit. But we had a year when we had a record pack, 220,000 cases, as I recall. Waterfall, you know, felt that it had broken the record of cases packed and everyone, including the workers, was, were happy about this, and everybody makes a lot of money, especially the owners. Workers don't gain that much, however, when you pack 220,000 cases of salmon, at least at Waterfall, I worked literally twenty-four hours a day for two weeks. Now that obviously is not possible. [Laughs] What happened, I didn't work twenty-four hours. You had to take breaks, one-hour breaks for dinner and meal, okay, take three hours off, that's twenty-two hours, twenty-one hours, and but even twenty-one hours continuous work. Why was that so? Well, Dick Yoshimura and his brother and I were cleaning machines. So we had the job of cleaning machines and therefore, after all the day's work was done, why, we then start in working for three hours cleaning machines. Well, if you had a long day of fifteen hours of work you've got another three hours of sticking around cleaning machines and doing other chores, and that's how I had this job of working, maybe twenty hours a day sometimes. And how do you manage that kind of thing? You're not sleeping, presumably, but we would sneak out each, Denny and his brother and I would take turns sneaking off during the day and sleeping in the, some area of the warehouse or the cannery where nobody would find us, and we'd take a two-hour break every now and then. And this way we could manage. And when I think back of those days I think, how could I have done what I did? But, under pressure, why, you can do all kinds of things, the human body is amazing in that regard. So, on those, in those seasons where we had record packs, why, we worked long hours, and really, health-wise, that was the really bad thing about this job, that we were pushing ourselves beyond normal endurance, but, on the other hand, they did pay us overtime for these extra jobs and therefore I was making enough money to go to... this was in a period when I was going to graduate school, I was earning enough so that I could go to the university and do graduate work without having to work during the school year. And that was a great bonus. So those are the conditions that I remember about the, the bunkhouse layout, and so on.

<End Segment 36> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 37>

FM: Now going back to this matter of friends, many of the people, Nisei, who were there in the years in, when I was attending, are people whom I knew down here. And so the question... it really revolves around the fact that the Japanese community, the Issei community back in 1930 was a community in which families and people were related to each other down here in a way that normally you don't find that much association within a community, among, certainly not in the white American community, but even among immigrant people, there's not that much association taking place. And this is somewhat a characteristic of the Japanese people, you see. Why does this happen? Well, as I said, Japanese have a capacity for organizing and they organize Boy Scouts, for example, or they organized... they had these, in the, you may have found in the Japanese American Courier, pages of stuff about the Japanese American Courier basketball league and baseball league, and football league. Each season, Courier would run a league of sports activities and it's not only one or half a dozen teams, it's a whole series of teams, not only here in Seattle but down in White River, down in Fife, even from Yakima they would come in and play against... and these are Nisei teams against. So, the contact range in the Japanese community was considerable simply because the organizational characteristic of this community. You had camera clubs, you had university students clubs, you had dances organized by this group and that, it was just a terribly organized society. But as a young person growing up on Beacon Hill, where I had white friends, I used to wonder, why is it these white guys can't get together the way that... it's so much more fun if you can, well, I'd think on a Saturday morning, gee, if I can get a baseball game going among my white friends up here, now occasionally you could, you could, but it was not as if there was total disinterest, but somehow it was much more difficult to arrange things like baseball games or a joint activity of some kind. There was a Boy Scout troop I was a member of up in Beacon Hill, where I lived, all hakujin friends. And we went on camping trips occasionally, I mean, among a group of us. And yet, it was so much easier to organize these things in the Japanese community. As I say, I also had contacts in the Japanese community and I subsequently became a member of the Boy, the Japanese Boy Scout troop, as I recall, after leaving the American one, simply because the American one had much less activity and I didn't find it all that exciting. And then, down in the Japanese community there's this Boy Scout troop that does all kinds of things all the time, including attending bazaars which the parents are holding, whatever. It's so much more interesting that I naturally got drawn into. Well, coming back to the cannery life, these are contacts that I had established through my twelve, thirteen, fourteen years earlier and then I come to Alaska cannery and I know at least a dozen, two dozen people who are going to the... that makes a totally different kind of situation than if I'm going into a totally strange situation. So cannery work was of that character. And if you talk to anyone who went to cannery you immediately find out that they, "Oh yeah, we, I was there and Pete was there," and now, you know, get this kind of conversation going, and we did this and we did that. It's a "we" kind of thing because it was the Nisei group associating with each other in the cannery that is the kind of thing which is remembered. And if you then ask, why is it that the Nisei are able to organize JACL today as they do? Why, this is the kind of background you have to refer to. People had lived together and associated and worked together in some fashion way back when, 1930, 1940, different from a lot of other ethnic populations.

<End Segment 37> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 38>

AI: Oh, you know, in addition to the, to the friendships and the relationships among the Nisei, I wanted to ask you, you had mentioned briefly, earlier, a little bit about your contacts with some of the old-timers and I think you had mentioned an Issei who received the New York Times, and another person who helped you with your knife sharpening.

FM: Yes, okay, those are interesting. The man who read the New York Times, very unusual person, so he's an exception and I don't know what, I wish I had been enough of, mature enough to try to find out more about his background, but what I imagined was that this is a man who came from Japan, he was from Japan, of a very good family back there. I mean, he, this is a man who knows about bonsai, reads Shakespeare and knows literature, he must have come from a good family in Japan, but was a black sheep, perhaps, of some kind, maybe he gambled too much, or what... he just didn't fit in, I mean, couldn't stay in Japan in the kind of background so he's over here and I don't, really don't understand where he fits into the Issei society over here. He must have drifted around. One of the things he, that was unusual about him was that he came to camp, he was in the same bunk room with, he was there the first year I went, when I was fourteen and we bunked in the same room maybe three years. So he was coming to our camp at least three years. And he, his job was at this "iron chink" machine which is one of the highly skilled jobs as we thought of it, which means that he had been going to Alaska many years before. So he knew... and this is a man, maybe forty-five years of age at the point when I, where I know him. And he came to Alaska with, as I said, a shotgun, or a rifle -- no, he had a rifle, very unusual for... but he had in mind that in Alaska you can hunt, and this is what he would do. He probably had done hunting in Alaska and therefore had a rifle with him. Now, Issei with rifles, not very many, certainly not in Alaska, I mean, people who went as cannery workers, not many who had this kind of hunting orientation. That's a kind of upper-middle-class point of view, isn't it? And you didn't have that ordinarily. So, this man was very unusual. He was a very handsome man, could have been a movie star, Japanese movie star, trim moustache, you know, and a way of speaking that gave you the sense that he had a command of the situation. And I learned a lot about English literature from him because he taught me about the New York Times, about literature and things like this. And he took an interest in me because I had a kind of an intellectual orientation that most Nisei probably did not have. But he probably saw me as pretty naive also, so he didn't try to... give me a little sophistication, a little understanding of what the world, the real world is like. He, I don't know, just a very unusual man as I say, I wish I'd learned more about him. I simply sensed that he must have come from a very good family background in Japan. In 1930 we didn't have Issei in the Seattle community who had this kind of breadth, a man who reads English and the New York Times, a man who has an interest in bonsai, a man who will go hunting, not a very common type of Issei. The Issei of 1930 were people who came from Kumamoto, village of some farming background. This is more typical of the... or Hiroshima was a common background. But they were, again, from villages in Japan with relatively limited background. So I think this man had a good family background but was a black sheep, he didn't fit into the family, got thrown out and so he comes over here and wanders around doing whatever. He might have been married as some point and, but he was not when I knew him. He was just an independent soul. And, as I say, he took an interest in me because I had a kind of an intellectual orientation that he wanted to train, perhaps. But yeah, I wish I had learned more about him.

Now this man who taught me how to sharpen the knife, he was, he was a man who I used to see at the gambling table occasionally, not very often. He played shogi very well. My brother -- I mean, my cousin who played shogi said he was very good at shogi. But also, a man who had a lot of experience in Alaska, he told me about going to, to Kodiak or someplace where he met this Chinese man who showed, who had a skill in sharpening knives. And this Chinese would not tell him how it was done but he knew that this fellow had the sharpest knives around, so he says, "I used to watch him, when he was not aware, late at night. The last thing he would do is sit at the, at his bunk and sharpen knives, ten, fifteen minutes every night." And he said, "You do it this way," and that's what I observed. And he himself was very skillful at handling fish and cutting fish and things like this and he was, he thought I could learn so he taught me how to do some of these things. Well, my relationship with this man was simply in that setting. He just took an interest in me because I was doing a job of cutting fish and so on where I needed sharp knives and he felt he could... and he also showed me how to handpack, which is the job I took over. In fact, I guess I took over the work from him. He was, he had the assignment of doing these king salmon handpacking and I think I took over the job and he taught me how to do it, therefore.

There were other Issei... there was a man, one man named Osumi, I think, who, very quiet, very genteel kind of person, but he was not exceptional in any educational or any other sense of that kind, just a very... and another man who worked at the "iron chink." So he was kind of top level among the Issei and, but a different type of personality totally from this Mr. Nagai whom I described a moment ago. So we have these various individuals. I guess --

AI: May I ask you --

FM: -- we're pretty much at the end of our...

AI: We are, but may I ask you, what is the secret of sharpening knives?

FM: Ah, well -- [laughs] -- isn't that... really there's nothing much to it except spending time regularly. Your knife edge has to be, you use a stone, what do you call these?

AI: Oh, the whetstone?

FM: Yeah. Anyway, you have these, well, if you have a large stone on a wheel you may want to sharpen it initially that way and then use the small stone to work on. And essentially, the point is that you need to... the knife makers sharpen it in such fashion that it'll be sharp enough initially but not so the points will break easily, however, for most purposes you're not gonna use a knife heavily so the bevel on it ought to be lower than... usually the bevel is such that it's too, the angle is too, too sharp. And so you increase the bevel on it. That makes the edge sharper, like a razor and it's a matter of doing it systematically ten minutes a day, whatever, and well, for, I would say, if in your kitchen knvies, why, if you would sharpen your kitchen knife once a week using this kind of technique, and then, in addition to that you have to use an iron, what they call it. And I got pretty good at that kind of thing. You angle the iron and if you do that every time you use the knife, why, then you can keep a knife very sharp, even kitchen knives. So work on your knife once a week with a stone. And then use a knife -- I mean, with the bar. Well, I don't know if... we can go on and on, but...

AI: [Addressing TF] Well, did you have any other question? [Addressing FM] This has been tremendously interesting and we really appreciate your time and your thoughts and the information you shared.

FM: Well, I, yeah, I'm happy to give the information.

AI: Thanks very much.

FM: Thank you.

TF: Thank you very much.

<End Segment 38> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.