Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Art Abe Interview
Narrator: Art Abe
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: January 24, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-aart-01-0016

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TI: So as this was happening, at some point, a couple months later, word got out that Japanese were gonna be removed from Seattle. So what happened to the store?

AA: Well, we, we had a, we tried to put it up for sale, and we had one customer living across the street, he was in the jewelry business, and so they, government shut down all the non-essential businesses. And so he wanted to buy the store, but he didn't have enough funds. And so my dad said, "Okay, we'll cut down the inventory as much as possible," and so we had a big fire sale. And we were selling things below cost, and we had heard some complaints from the Safeway store that was a few blocks away. We said, "So what?" we had a thing called the Robinson-Patman law that stated that you couldn't sell things that drive out the competition.

TI: So that's interesting. So Safeway complained because they thought that you were being unfair in terms of making it hard for them. So some of their customers were going over to your store to buy things much cheaper.

AA: But anyway, were able to get most of the inventory in the back, just the things that were on the shelves, they were all purchased, with all the equipment.

TI: And so this other, this former jewelry store owner, at that point, did he then buy the business, the store?

AA: Yes, he bought the, a fellow by the name of Spring, he bought all the fixtures and the refrigerators, ice cream cabinets, scales, and all the shelving. And he bought that at a substantial discount. But before we had a sale, my aunt May worked for a family up on Capitol Hill by the name of Ringstad. He was the assistant postmaster for the Seattle, City of Seattle. And at that time, there was talk of sugar rationing, and Mrs. Ringstad asked May, "Hey, your brother-in-law's got a grocery store. Do you think we could get some sugar from him?" And May called, and my dad said, "Yeah, I guess we could." Sugar used to come in 100-pound sacks at the time. And so I remember loading that 100-pound sack in the car, taking it up, up there. And she says, "Hey, don't bring the sugar in." Says, "We'll leave the garage door open, and you drive in the garage," we closed the garage door and I unloaded the sugar. They didn't want the neighbors to see what was going on. I thought that was kind of interesting.

TI: Yeah, that is. How about, were, did any of the customers show any acts of kindness towards you or the family during this time?

AA: Yeah, there was one family named Walsham that took a few pieces of our furniture that we didn't dump. And they kept it for us during, for the duration. But we got rid of just about everything.

TI: So this customer essentially stored your, some of your furniture for you.

AA: Well, not... just a couple of pieces that my mother wanted.

TI: Do you recall customers, as people knew that you had to leave, any customers just coming to say goodbye?

AA: Yeah, there was one customer that visited us in Puyallup, they were outside the fence and we had to visit through the fence. I remember one, one other customer that had... she was still single at the time, but this is a young girl that she had quite a bit of money on the books. And just before we left, she came back, she had gotten married to this one guy, she and her husband came and paid off the debt. I don't recall anybody else doing that.

TI: So as you probably left, and if you looked at your books, there were probably quite a few people who owed your family money.

AA: Oh, yeah. We lost hundreds of dollars, never did recover any of it.

TI: And people just probably felt that since you were being taken away, they wouldn't have to pay you, so they just...

AA: Yeah, I guess so.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.