Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Gordon Hirabayashi Interview II
Narrator: Gordon Hirabayashi
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), Alice Ito (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 25, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-hgordon-02-0002

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TI: And before you say that, you, just something you mentioned that reminded me of something when you said you weren't very good at making money, you and your siblings. At the last interview you mentioned something about your father in, in almost a similar vein where you said he wasn't that good at making money because he was almost too honest.

GH: Yeah.

TI: That, and this goes back to that, that initial question I asked about sorta the moral values. And it seemed that with your, your father, he lived every day sort of, being sort of this moral and just person. Maybe you can comment on that a little bit?

GH: Yeah. He did his preaching if you -- in effect by living it, rather than by talking it. And so if you wanna find out what system he went by, or what his principles were, you, you saw what he did, what choices he made, what he did accomplishing his objectives and so on. And it was a way which is not going to score high for somebody majoring in marketing and so on, because it's profit objectives that you're learning, and you cut the cost here, and, and you increase your benefits here and so on. You're learning those skills. We didn't get into that aspect at all. And so, we were all right for human relations, and in fact building relations, and building trust and that sort of thing along the way. Because that's, that's what he worked on. In fact it -- later on if we get to how my parents got into the nursing home --

TI: Yeah, we'll do that, but before you get to that I was thinking -- even before when you were still with the family back at Thomas, can you remember any examples of your father living to his principles that perhaps were detrimental to say making money or getting ahead?

GH: Yeah, well, we used to argue with him. Every farmer tried to pack the crates of lettuce with average size lettuce filling the bulk of it, and saving the dozen that fitted on top as the -- especially if you're taking them not to the packing house, but to the market, preparing stuff for the market. You made the box look very attractive. The top layer was significantly better quality and better looking than the layers below. The ones below were good enough to be in that box, 'cause you're selling stuff as grade "A" product, but the best ones you put on for looks, on the top line. That, that's, that was part of the skill of packing. But, he didn't over exaggerate that. In fact, he tended to ignore in putting in, and he'd be criticized -- hey, that's too small. He says, "Well this is still good. And it fits well 'cause the next one is extra large," and so on. And that, that kind of lack of emphasis on appearance was strong on his part. In fact, between the two, my mother was a better business person, business manager than he was. Because he, he was almost devoid of that kind of attention.

TI: You said earlier that you would often argue with him because you would think that what he was doing was perhaps not the way that it should be done. And yet I sense a respect for the way he did things.

GH: Well, it, it had, he -- his way had a way of winning respect and attention by the buyers. People would come to buy lettuce -- they're competing with other packing houses, and market objectives, places. And so, we were -- bulk of our stuff went to the packing houses. But we also sent stuff to Western Avenue, Seattle, for early morning delivery. And I did lot of the truck driving for that. Partly because driving the truck meant I gotta get up at 3:30 or four o'clock in the morning to drive it into Seattle, so I'd have it on the market there when grocery stores would come to Western Avenue shopping for the day's supply of groceries and vegetables, fresh vegetables. So they, they want to come by five o'clock or something so they can take their stuff back to their various --

TI: Right, right --

GH: Distribution points.

TI: And you're talking about the respect that the packers and others had. But, I was more trying to get from your perspective, a personal sense of the respect or how you felt about your father. There seems like there's the sense of -- he held to his principles and yet from a business perspective it wasn't -- it made it hard for the family.

GH: Well, it, it did in one sense, but, we're selling stuff at the same quality. So on that aspect, his emphasis was okay. But it did pay off when the buyers would say, "Well, we'll pay this" -- and when they're competing if Dad would say, well, gee, so and so was offering a little bit more than that, so what were they offering, or such and such. Well, I'll match that. And then, once an agreement is made, they had trust that he would follow through on the quality part, and don't shovel in a lot of lower grade stuff. And, and there was word among the buyers that when he agreed to something he'll stick to it. You can trust him on that. And so, we could hear that part. And so --

TI: And how did that make you feel?

GH: Well, that, that's the way that it oughta be, see, in terms of agreements. So we were all for that. We, we felt that particularly for taking stuff to the Western Avenue Market, Seattle Market for -- instead of packing houses -- sometimes we felt that he was too, too much emphasis on averaging everything. And not -- almost opposed to having a nice looking top, so to speak.

TI: Okay.

GH: If, if it meant that you're putting up a front, he was opposed to that sort of thing, you know, false front. That's the way -- he, he was opposed to false front. He wanted to be straight up and so he, he agreed that well, making it look attractive is all right, as long as you're not putting up a false front.

TI: Good.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.