Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: George Yamada Interview
Narrator: George Yamada
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Spokane, Washington
Date: March 15 & 16, 2006
Densho ID: denshovh-ygeorge_2-01-0030

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MA: After you returned to Spokane, what job did you start at that time?

GY: Oh, let's see. I went to Washington State for a while, chick sexing appealed to me.

MA: Oh, yeah, so what -- I was going to ask you about that, too -- what was it about the chick sexing that appealed to you?

GY: Oh, the money, most likely. Back in the early '40s, it was a good-paying job compared to outside employment. And I'm not sure, there were, they were all Niseis at that point, throughout the, throughout the United States. We were partly in the broiler business -- not us, but we sexed the chickens that were in the broiler business, but my end was, generally speaking, egg laying. And the only ones that counted in egg laying was the pullets, the female chicks. They laid the eggs. And if... let's see. The northeast, primarily, was egg-laying, and some of the better strains came out of Seattle area, like Mount Hope chicks, was a beautiful strain of chickens. Good-sized eggs, strong eggshell, color, and the color. Some of that I could remember from the '40s and '50s.

MA: How did you first hear about this chick-sexing industry? Were you recruited?

GY: It was in, yeah, it was in the Pacific Citizen. Every week you took the Pacific Citizen, and in it would be chick sexing. And primarily it was American, Amchick, what they call Amchick, American Chick Sexing, located in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. It was run, John Nitta, N-I-T-T-A, I'm not sure if it's still running now, but his son, after he passed away, I think his son took over. And I'm not sure if he, I thought he sold it, sold the firm. And right now, I understand the Korean segment are in it. And one of the things about the Nisei was we were all very amiable, we wanted, it was strictly business, but we were all amiable. We were able to talk to the workers that came in and took the chickens, boxed the chicks, along with the owner, and I think it was just an enjoyable time between the employers and employees.

MA: Why were so many Nisei recruited to do this?

GY: I think part of the secret that came out of Japan, what they called "vent sexing." Right at the vent there, you could tell whether it was a cockerel or a pullet. About that period, they were using pills to... what the heck was... there's a name. Anyway, the chicken used to be sold at market, those that were heavy, five-pounders. They used to give it a pill in the neck, and it turned out to be, they thought, was cancerous, so they stopped that. Then the next step was the surgical... surgical, I think they cut open by the, the chick, baby chick's leg, and cauterized, cauterized the male, I think, cauterized it, and then that was supposed to be capon, yeah. They called the capon, and capon became a larger chick, larger chicken.

MA: So what exactly was the, the technique that came from Japan?

GY: It was a matter of squeezing the chick to get the egg yolk out, the egg yolk that they lived on after they hatched, it would be eighteen days in the incubator, and three days in the hatching compartment. And in order for the chick to look nice and yellow and bright, they have to use formaldehyde mixed in some other charcoal. And when you walked in when the formaldehyde was not only for keeping it germ-free, but it also turned the white chicken yellowish color. There's something about a pure white chicken that didn't look just right, however, a little baby chicken, one day old, that had a yellow color, fluffed out, looked a lot better to the buying public, apparently. And oh, I'm not sure how long it took for us to be adept at it, but we, with our thumb and forefinger on the left hand, we opened the vent, identified on the rim whether it was male or female, and sexed, that's what sexing was about.

MA: What was your training like? How long did you train to do this?

GY: Gee, I really don't remember. I don't even remember going to school. I know that in order to make spending money, some of us have to go into Pennsylvania farm fields to pick tomatoes. And I guess we were good pickers.

MA: I see. So you had to, you had to go to school?

GY: Yeah, and earn a little money, spending money, or whatever you might call it. The GI Bill paid for the sexing part, school part. But anyway, it was an experience also for me to be able to travel the country.

MA: I see. So you didn't stay in Spokane and do the sexing?

GY: No. I worked in Raleigh, Charlotte, North Carolina, Spartanburg, South Carolina, I worked in Texas, Oklahoma the second year. And it was all seasonal then. However, as time went on, the improvement in the industry, it turned out to be year-round job. But then when I was in it, it was seasonal. I used to come into Spokane and nine month of, maybe six month of chick sexing, and then get laid off, so to speak. There was work, but it wasn't enough work. So we just let someone else handle it and I came back to Spokane and worked at Kaiser. Most of the time I think it was Kaiser.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.