Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Takashi Hori - Yoshito Mizuta - Elmer Tazuma Interview
Narrators: Takashi Hori, Yoshito Mizuta, Elmer Tazuma
Interviewer: Dee Goto
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 8, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-htakashi_g-01

<Begin Segment 1>

YM: My name is Yoshito Mizuta. My folks, father, my folks got the Welcome Hotel on Jackson Street, 517 1/2 Jackson. I think we moved down there -- I don't know long he had that, but we, the kids, the whole family, moved there about, in the early '20s.

DG: So you were how old at that time?

YM: Well, I was born in 1914 so must have been about six, seven, eight, something like that. I remember going to the Main Street School. I must have been about first grade then, first or second. And from Main Street School we -- that closed up around 1922 or '3, I think, and we all marched up to Bailey Gatzert. Bailey Gatzert was a brand new school, opened up about '23, I think. I think I was in the second grade then.

DG: So you all lived in the hotel.

YM: Yeah, we lived in the hotel.

DG: So how many rooms did the hotel have?

YM: I think it was about seventy. There were so many inside rooms that didn't have any windows or heat.


DG: Let's talk about the hotel now.

YM: Well, there were several rooms, inside rooms, that didn't have any heat or water or windows. And then the outside rooms all -- there were quite a few families, Japanese, all stayed in the one room. They all stayed in the one room. Some families were, they must have had four or five beds in the room.

DG: Your father came from Japan, right?

YM: Yeah.

DG: When?

YM: Must have been about early... about 1900, I think.

DG: And so he first worked where?

YM: I don't know. I heard he was like armory now. He was doing that kind of stuff, I heard.

DG: Like the railroad?

DG: Restaurant?

YM: No, watch maker, jeweler, something like that.

DG: And where did he come from?

YM: Hiroshima.

DG: Hiroshima. And then so how did he accumulate the money to buy the hotel?

YM: Oh, I don't know about that.

DG: Okay.

YM: There was quite a bit of difference between our ages 'cause he must have been in the forties when I was born.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

DG: Okay. So Tak, let's talk about your situation.

TH: My name is Takashi Hori and I operated the Panama Hotel from 1938 to 1986. We got into the hotel business 1929. I believe my father bought the Yale Apartment at 6th and Columbia, and in 1938 he sold that and bought the Panama Hotel at 6th and Main.

DG: Now, where was your father from?

TH: My folks were from Kumamoto, Japan. Came to the United States, I believe my father came here 1906 I believe, and my mother around 1916.

DG: And what was he doing at that time?

TH: Why working odd jobs. I believe he worked different places, mostly in the saw mills.

DG: And did you also then, live in the hotel?

TH: Oh, yes. I mean, what I remember is at that apartment we did live in the apartment, and then when we went to the hotel, everybody lived at the hotel.

DG: So we'll talk some more about that then.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

DG: Elmer?

ET: When we started running a hotel was back in 1948. We were... after we came back from the camp, my dad thought that he could run a restaurant because that was his main work in this country. And he was probably around sixty, but he thought he could manage it. So for two years, but we ran the New World's Cafe on First Avenue and Columbia. Well, it was a little bit too much work for him. I guess his heart started to... well, he found out he couldn't take it so we gave up the restaurant.

DG: But he lived until he was 104.

ET: ...104. But then we decided maybe a hotel would be a little easier. We had to do something 'cause you got to live and eat. And I came from the farm with 900 dollar after working for Mr. Nisaburo >Goto so I had the 900 dollar, and my dad had a few thousand dollars saved after the sale of the Ten Cent store. So since it doesn't cost very much to get into a -- actually you're not buying a building, just leasing. So in 1948 after we sold the -- no, no. Yeah, '48. We must have gone into the restaurant business in 1946, and we got out in '48 so we bought the Benton Hotel in 1948. And we ran -- well, my dad and I, we ran that together 'til 1949 so that would just be a year. Or was it... well, 1949 because I got married and in 1950 I found -- I mean, my father-in-law and mother-in-law decided they are too old and they were going to give up Eclipse Hotel, which is on 7th and Weller. So I thought that was a golden opportunity. They wanted $15,000. Since I didn't have it, they said they will take 2,000 down and no interest. We didn't have to pay interest on the balance. For every month, we put in, paid her $300 and somehow we got by, although the rent was $12 a month for most of the room, but there was 80 rooms. And most of the people there were Scandinavians, Rumanians, well, mostly like Swedes and so on. And there was a few Japanese and maybe a few Chinese. Let's see what else was the question?

DG: Well, you didn't say your name.

ET: Oh yeah. [Laughs] My name is Elmer Tazuma and I was born in 1916, but that was in Japan. And when I was almost two, my mother and I came to the United States in 1918 to join my father. At that time he had started in a restaurant called the Alaska Grill and that was between 6th and 5th Avenue on Jackson Street.

DG: So your father, though, had been here a number of years.

ET: Yeah, he was here -- I think he landed in Nanaimo, Victoria Island back in 1908. 'Course, I could be wrong. That's the way I remember. And then he went to Montana to work on the railroad, but he -- after working a few months, he decided he's not going to get any place so he went into hotel as a dishwasher, a big hotel in Montana, and learned how to, beside washing dishes, learned how to cook. And in time -- I don't know for sure, but I thought he made partnership with someone he knew and they opened up a cafe, something like that. So he did all right.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

DG: Well, mainly it seems like all of the pioneers were entrepreneurial, right, and always looking for a better opportunity. Why do you think so many people got into the hotel business?

ET: You're asking? Well, for -- in my case we didn't have much money. Of course, that was after the war though, and you didn't have to have -- I mean, my mother and father could run it. You didn't have to have knowledge of English, all you say is how much is the rent and that's all you have to say. And anybody could learn how to run a hotel.

TH: You didn't have to... you didn't need experience. Something that was easy to operate.

DG: And you didn't even need the language.

TH: In his case it's different. You needed language downtown, but if you were in the International District or Japanese Town or Chinatown or skid row, I think you could have gotten by without English. Isn't that right?

YM: Yeah. My folks, they didn't have any knowledge about English language. It's a wonder they got through, but especially my mother didn't speak very much at all.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

DG: Now, in your case, Salty, were your clients Japanese?

YM: Well, they were mixture. In the beginning it was mostly Japanese, but then a lot of Filipinos came in later and very few whites. I don't know if there were any whites. There were a lot of Filipinos and Japanese.

DG: So now we are talking about the 1920s in your case.

YM: Yeah.

DG: Okay and so there were maybe, what 100 hotels, Japanese owned hotels at the time?

TH: More than that I believe.

DG: Let's talk a little bit about --

TH: Like the hotels, it's not hotels -- what you think of hotel today is entirely different from what hotels were in those days. You would say more or less rooming houses.

YM: Yeah.

TH: Today there are certain standards. You have to have plumbing, you have to have bathroom, so many on each one. In those days they were a lot like Yoshito mentioned in the beginning, a lot of rooms without plumbing with just the bed in there, and still it was classified as a hotel.

DG: Now, we're talking about Yoshito Fujii wrote a paper about the hotels.

TH: Yes. No. He mentioned about the Welcome Hotel. See, like the Panama Hotel when I took over there's about twenty rooms are without no water in it. So I had Sam Tanaguchi's father put in plumbing for each of the room.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

DG: Well, there is some written material that says that they had in the very beginning before 1900 just one room with...

TH: So many beds.

DG: Right.

TH: Yes, well that was still classified as a hotel.

DG: And what were those beds? They were just slats of wood, right?

TH: I don't know actually what it was.

YM: In our time they were beds.

TH: Must have been beds.

YM: In our time, '20s, but a lot of rooms are considered housekeeping rooms, remember. You had a gas plate there and they could cook, called housekeeping rooms. Our rents were $4 (a month) for the inside rooms without heat or windows and then $4 a month. And the outside rooms with the windows looking on the street were $7 or $8 a month.

DG: So who did the work, the laundry?

YM: No, no, no, Mother did the housekeeping. I mean, cleaning, and making the beds.

TH: Laundry was sent out mostly. The Grand Union took care of most of the laundry.

YM: But the housekeeping rooms, they were supposed to take care of the rooms themselves.

TH: That's right.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

ET: When I took over the hotel that was about 1950 and Harbor Island, there was a lumber mill.

TH: In West Seattle there was, yes.

ET: Yeah. And a lot of young people without wives were in town, and they made up the bulk of our customer so we had lots of people who wanted rooms. We didn't have to go hunting for them. And Japanese as a whole tried to take care of the customer when they're sick, and help them out when they couldn't pay the rent. Like this Mrs. Kuriyama, she would back them all through the winter, and then when they go to Alaska, they would come back and pay her.

DG: Now, who is Mrs. Kuriyama?

ET: She ran what they call, the Snake House. It was about a block away from the county city building.

TH: She was on 5th Avenue between, I think... what is that street this side of Jefferson?

ET: It was Fir, maybe huh?

TH: It was Jefferson, around Jefferson, 5th and Jefferson, Kuriyama Rooms, that's right.

ET: Is that right? How about the Snake House, which was this side of James.

TH: Yeah, that was called the Kuriyama Rooms, they used to call it.

ET: Yeah, she was quite a... I used to call her the angel of skid row because we kick a lot of drunks out and the only place left is Mrs. Kuriyama's Snake House. You could see the name was fitting.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

ET: But you have to remember that Seattle was built on prostitution like the Central Hotel that I took over in 1957, the windows were inside the hall.

TH: Oh, is that right?

ET: So I suppose the girls stood on boxes and the customer would go from room to room, pick out the ones he wants. I mean, I couldn't see any other reason for that window being on the inside.

YM: The place where I was born was formerly a house of prostitution.

DG: Where was that, Salty?

YM: On Maynard and Weller. It was called the Indiana Hotel.

ET: A lot of these hotels, I think, were built for that reason.

TH: Well, the Dreamland Hotel on 6th and King, that was like that. The window on the outside faces the hallway and the rooms on the inside had windows facing the hallway.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

DG: So now all of these hotels were built in what era do you think?

ET: New Central and the Eclipse were built 1908. They were both same time so the Presley must have been built about the same time.

DG: And so this was --

ET: That was after the wash down. You know, Seattle got all that mountain or hills.

DG: The Denny Regrade.

TH: No. Around Jackson Street too.

DG: Oh, that other.

ET: Jackson was a hill, huh, at one time.

TH: Seems that way.

DG: So this was all between 1850 and 1900, right?

TH: No, I think that happened after 1900, I think. Well, I mean I'm not too sure, but...

YM: When I was a kid all the streets used to be dirt and sidewalks were planks, had wooden planks, even Jackson Street.

ET: Well, into the 1930s, I believe, Jackson Street between 6th and Maynard was plank.

DG: This was mostly south of Yesler according to Yoshito.

TH: Yes.

DG: But you were mentioning one or two hotels on James, which is north, but mostly south of Yesler.

TH: Well, the Japanese would concentrate either in skid row or areas south of Yesler.

YM: Main Street was a quite a place for Japanese.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

ET: See, even after the war the only building that we could afford to get into were run down hotels ready to be demolished. So when the minimum housing code came in, there was no hotel that you would put money in. They're ready to be torn down.

TH: Well, it's not only that, it's just so much work was involved in bringing it up the code and that's why they closed down.

DG: But the Japanese were willing to remodel some of these things?

TH: Oh no, no. That's why a lot of buildings were closed down. I mean, they couldn't afford to remodel.

ET: 15,000 units was closed.

DG: What year was that?

ET: About 1962, huh?

TH: 1972 was the bad one, bad year. 1962 was, I think that's the first time the housing code started. They didn't enforce it as strictly as they did in 197' -- I think around 1972 after the 7th Avenue fire. 1962 was after the Ozark fire they started enforcing. Then, I believe in around 1972 when that was really all out enforcement. That's when Puget Sound closed, isn't it N-P closed around there, yeah. Then Evergreen closed.

YM: Back in the '20s and '30s we didn't have any trouble from the health or fire department.

TH: No, there were, but it's very minor. Like the health department -- it was health and fire and building in those days, but it was very minor and the city overlooked a lot of things.

ET: The Ozark, was that downtown?

TH: Yeah. Ozark was around 7th Avenue downtown near Westlake someplace, isn't it?

ET: The fellow that started it, he was kicked out from the tavern, wasn't he? So he got some gasoline and ran around the hallway and threw the fire -- I mean, started, threw a match or something.

TH: Is that right? Well, there were three fires that really affected the hotel business. One was the Stewart Hotel on Madison. This is around 1941. Four person died there. Then the Ozark around in '60s, and 7th Avenue Apartment in '70, see. They were the three major ones that really affected, brought about the change in the housing code.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

DG: Okay. Now, let's kind of summarize the conditions of the hotels, okay. Now, so everybody back in about 1900, according to Yoshito's paper, there were about three hotels to start with. And then since then and they were all small and just rooms, like you say, with beds, right?

TH: That's right. That's what I get from his papers.

DG: And then gradually so those were cheap and easy to get into and easy to run, and then you gradually upgraded to better hotels.

TH: Better hotels, that's right.

DG: So then you were describing, Salty, when you -- the conditions of the hotels were still pretty cheap hotels, but you didn't have to worry about the codes and all of that at those times until 1960's.

TH: Yes. Well, the fire department was getting strict, but they weren't really enforcing. I mean, they overlooked a lot of things. They figured well, this is the type of building it is, this is best they can do, but after the 7th Avenue incident, I mean they really clamped down.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

DG: Now, wasn't the Panama Hotel one of the only new built hotels that Japanese owned?

TH: Well, that I don't know, but --

DG: But Japanese did built it.

TH: Yeah. The Japanese -- it was planned by a Japanese architect and the owner was Japanese, but I believe in those days that one Japanese could not own the land, Alien Land Law, and so they formed a corporation with some Caucasian involved. I guess the financing came from the Japanese and they bought in the corporate name. That's the way I understood it.

DG: And that was what year?

TH: I think 1910. And the Puget Sound was built by Japanese, Miyagawa, Mr. Miyagawa.

DG: About that same time?

TH: 1914, I think. I'm not too sure about the dates.

YM: How about the N-P?

TH: N-P was run by Japanese, but built by hakujin, I think.

DG: So there was very few hotels that were owned, though, most of them were leased.

TH: That's because the Alien Land Law.

DG: Now, the Alien Land Law didn't come into effect 'til 1924, but before that they couldn't own either?

TH: No, because they were not citizens.

ET: You could lease though.

TH: Yeah, you can lease.

DG: So after '24 you couldn't even lease so what happened then?

TH: No, you could lease.

ET: You couldn't own the property.

TH: I think the Alien Land Law was in effect even before '24.

DG: Well, that's official, I guess.

TH: I mean, I haven't looked into it so I can't say this or that, but...

DG: Well, that was mostly farm land so maybe the buildings were a little different?

TH: Could have been.

DG: So the only way you could own was a corporation.

TH: Yes, I believe.

DG: 'Cause the Niseis weren't old enough yet, right?

TH: Niseis were not old enough.

DG: Because you were probably one of the older Niseis.

TH: Yes.

DG: And it was in your name in --

TH: 1938.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

DG: Okay. Now, let's talk a little bit about the running of the hotels and who you hired.

YM: Well, we didn't hire anybody, just the family.

ET: Yeah, that was the beautiful part of it. Now, see like the Eclipse, we became like one big family. The people living there, they never ask except if it's really necessary. Otherwise, they paid the rent, we give them sheet once a week, and they took care of their room unless they are sick, then we go and help them out. But it was harmonious. It's not like a hotel where transients are going through all the time. It was like one big family. And in 1960 around that period, I think social security -- see, we were catering to the bottom rung of the population and social security was about 65 dollar, if I remember right, and they couldn't afford any place that was out of their reach. So we came in handy for them and that's one reason why we had a full house most of the time. The rent was cheap. Like in my case it was $8 a month, the highest was $20 because it had the water in the room, and we gave them gas, a change of -- we cleaned their room sometime.

DG: What about painting the room?

ET: Yeah, we painted the room.

TH: Yeah, we kept the room up.

DG: Salty, you were going to say something.

YM: Well, we had a lot of Filipinos and they all went to Alaska canneries in the summertime, but during the winter there is no work for them so they charged up all the rooms, and they paid when they came back from Alaska, quite a few. We had quite a few of them. (Narr. note: But in 1941, we lost on all the IOU's we had because Japan attacked the Philippines and the Filipinos went to California instead of returning to the hotel. Soon after, Pearl Harbor was attacked and we were evacuated.)

ET: They were young too, weren't they? Real young.

YM: We had housekeeping rooms so we used to give them sheets once a week and housekeeping was, we give them pots and pans, whatever we had. They used those things to cook.

DG: Did you serve meals to anybody?

YM: No.

ET: Unless they get sick and they can't go out, we'd bring them some soup. We were like a nursing home sometimes.

YM: Was there any welfare in those days?

TH: Sure there was. Welfare went into existence in the '30s.

ET: When they get sick we take them to the hospital in our car. We never called the ambulance unless they had to be carried out feet first.

DG: What did you do when they died?

ET: Well, the coroner takes care of them and a lot of them didn't have any relatives so we did, we went to the funeral, that is I did. You get to be like one big family. I mean, you get attached to them. In my case the tenants took care of my kids. They take them downtown to watch the train come in when they were small so we had it good both ways.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

DG: Is that the way it was when you were in the hotel too? You got to know the residents?

YM: Oh, yeah, a lot of families. Lots of families, Japanese families.

ET: That's before the war. Well, even our place, all these Japanese hotels they didn't -- families didn't rent apartments or anything, they rented one or two hotel rooms and lived there.

YM: Well, there was renting a lot of shops, empty shops, and families, huh?

ET: That's right.

YM: Main Street, King Street, quite of few of them. Under Nippon Kan too, Japanese families used to live in those shops.

TH: Well, all these grocery stores and things. They operate in the front and live in the back or live upstairs or something like that or there is dye works or groceries, laundries.

DG: So then right around on Main Street mainly and your Panama was on 6th.

TH: 6th and Main, yes.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

DG: And the Welcome was on Jackson, the next street down, and so your play area was that area too, the kids and all got together?

TH: Well, Main Street kids stayed on Main Street. People on the other side of Jackson played around King Street, isn't it?

YM: Yeah, King and Weller. (Narr. note: There was an empty lot at Weller St. and 5th Ave. It extended from Weller St. to Lane St. on 5th Ave. and went half a block east. It was called "Yutaka" Ground and that's where kids in the area from Jackson St. to Dearborn St. hung around and played baseball, etc.)

ET: Because that was quite a number of open lots.

YM: When we were little kids we played on the sidewalk quite a bit. (Narr. note: We kicked the football, played catch with the baseball. We also went to ponds south of Dearborn St. and pretended were were Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn with rafts and BB guns. We used to skate around the Union Station, go fishing for Shiners down on the docks, go shrimping, go fishing at Smith Cove, etc. It is impossible to put down everything we did when we were kids.)

DG: What did you do playing?

YM: Played with a milk tops and marbles. (Narr. note: We also played handball and games like Buck-Buck, played marbles on the sidewalks or at the empty lots on the dirt ground. We also played Run Sheep Run, Benjo, etc.)

DG: What do you do with the milk tops?

(Narr. note by YM: You try to tip over your opponent's milktops with your milktop. If you do you win his milk top.)

ET: Played with marbles and then down around Chinatown there was a few open lots.

TH: There was a number of open lots, yeah.

ET: So they played baseball.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

DG: So, did you go to movies?

YM: Oh, yeah. There was one right below our hotel, 5 cents. (Narr. note: Ice cream cones with 1 1/2 scoops of ice cream were 5 cents. When we had 10 cents, we would go to 5th and King St. to Brothers Lunch where we got hamburgers or hot dog sandwiches from 5 cents with everything on it: mustard, relish, onions, ketchup, etc.)

TH: Below your place, Jackson Theater. (Narr. note: According to the North American Times Yearbook, during the years 1916 and 1918 theaters in the area included: Jackson Theater at 519 Jackson St.; Bison Theater at 411 6th Ave. S.; and Denki-Kan at 513 King St.)

ET: There was the Globe Theater too.

YM: The Atlas was what? 10 cents? (Narr. note: We used to go to the skid row theaters. There were several and they were all 5 cents. The Florence Theater under Smith Tower was 10 cents.)

TH: Ten cents, I think. There was one around the corner on 6th Avenue that I noticed from these old directories.

ET: That's the Globe Hotel. I mean, Globe Theater.

TH: Is that right?

ET: I think so.

YM: They must've closed around early '20s (because I don't remember ever going there).

TH: Yeah, I think so.

ET: And then, of course, there was the Atlas.

TH: The Atlas was on Maynard. That was open by Japanese. Jackson Theater, your father and Mukais running it, isn't it?

YM: (No,) Mukais had it. (Narr. note: Jackson Theater had amateur talent night once a week and Taiji Takayoshi won anytime he got on stage and belted out "Sonny Boy" ala Al Jolson. He had the guts and our support always.)

TH: I thought your father had an interest in it.

YM: I don't think so.

ET: Yeah. Jackson Theater was where the bank is.

TH: That's right. Right underneath --

ET: Next to the alley.

TH: No, no.

ET: Because we used to go in free sometime.

YM: Half way.

TH: Half way, yeah. But there was back entrance in the ally, that walkway there.

ET: So one guy goes in and opens the back door.

YM: I never done that.

TH: Well, Mr. Mukai knew that, but he overlooked it because it's nothing but kids.

ET: Then we see the show three times.

DG: What kind of shows did you see?

TH: Westerns mostly.

ET: Yeah, westerns with Hood Gibson, Tom Mix, and all those people. They were heroes.

YM: There used to be rats running around in front of the screen too. (Narr. note: Other stars on the screen were Charlie Chaplin, Ben Turpin, Douglas Fairbanks, Harold Lloyd, Hopalong Cassidy, Sessue Hayakawa and Gene Autry.)

TH: That's right.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

DG: So was everybody in that area was Japanese then, all the stores and all the hotels.

TH: The majority of the stores were Japanese.

YM: Lots of Filipinos though. (Narr. note: There were restaurants, a pool hall and barber shop on 6th Avenue between Jackson and King Sts.)

TH: No. Filipinos after the '30s.

YM: '30s?

TH: No, late '20s into the '30s.

YM: They all... most of them went to Alaska summertime (and then to California for the winter to work on the farms mostly).

ET: Yeah, every store was practically Japanese on Jackson Street, huh?

YM: Yeah. (It was some Little Tokyo.)

TH: And then with the influx of the Filipinos in the late '20s that's when the health department -- I noticed reading the old minutes -- the health department start getting strict because they were crowding maybe three or four fellows would be staying in one room when they were supposed to be occupied by one or two. Yeah, you had that problem, I'm sure.

YM: Oh, yeah, (couldn't stop that.)

ET: Yeah. We went looking for hotel after we came back from camp, and we visited one on First Avenue and this lady says one room she had thirteen beds, $1 a bed. That was good money.

TH: What place was this?

ET: It was close to where Tets had... around on Seneca.

TH: Oh, up there.

ET: I forgot the name.

TH: Up that way. Oh Downtown.

ET: Downtown.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

TH: No, I understand that during the war days when service men come in, a lot of these hotels they would have three or four beds in the room or even cots out in the hallway. That's hearsay, but that's what some of these people downtown, operating downtown were saying.

ET: Yeah. When I was running the Benton, one soldier came in kind of early or, I forget, anyway at odd hour at night. And I said bed's not made, every room was taken. And he says that's okay. He paid me the dollar and a half or whatever, ran upstairs, went to sleep. We didn't have to make the bed.

YM: That Japantown was quite a place though huh? It started maybe from Yesler Way past Dearborn in the south and from 4th Avenue up to Rainier, huh? Rainier Avenue. All the places were, business were all Japanese except for Chinatown. Chinatown had Chinese. All the hotels and most of the shops except for Chinatown was all Japanese.

ET: Milwaukee was not run by a Japanese?

TH: I think you had a variety of businesses, you name it. Except maybe a funeral director.

YM: Milwaukee?

ET: Was that run by Japanese?

YM: Must have been.

ET: That's in Chinatown.

TH: Yeah, but that was -- most of the hotels even in Chinatown was run by Japanese.

ET: Like the Alps, (Atlas, Adams.)

TH: Alps, Milwaukee. You had everything. You had a doctor, you had a dentist, you had a grocery store, you have a clothing store, you have a 10 cents store, you got a drug store, you get restaurants.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

DG: You had a bathhouse.

TH: Bathhouse.

DG: How many of them there?

YM: Oh, quite a few.

TH: Yeah, quite a few. Maybe seven or eight bathhouses in the Japanese community.

ET: The Publix, when was that built?

TH: In the 1920s, I think.

ET: They built it like a submarine.

YM: Same as the American Hotel.

ET: You could walk in and walk straight out, but you can't turn around.

YM: Kinkarow was built around that time. (Narr. note: located on the S.W. corner of 6th and Main Sts.)

TH: Yeah, around that time.

YM: Before '30s

TH: Before '30s, yeah.

DG: Okay. Now, the bathhouse and everybody in your hotel went there to take a bath.

TH: No. Each hotel -- all these hotels did have bath, but it's usually bathhouses where you have Issei. A lot of Issei didn't like the small tubs and things so it was the Japanese people. There was no hakujins or anything going into the bathhouse, all Japanese. And then the families, like even if they had a home, a lot of homes. There were homes without bath. There was toilets, but their bath, maybe they use the wash tub or something. (They) had to heat hot water on the stove that's why they took the kids down there for a bath.

DG: Once a week or so.

YM: None of the hotels that the Japanese had had the private bath in the rooms.

TH: No, except the N-P. N-P and Milwaukee had it.

ET: Yeah. And I noticed that when we were running the Benton, you could say, you could count on maybe one hand how many people took baths. They were all hakujin. That was the way it was so we didn't have any expensive water bill unless you had a big leak.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

DG: Where did they do their laundry?

ET: They didn't do laundry.

DG: No, I mean the tenants. Where did they do their laundry?

TH: Well, depending on -- some tenants did it in their room, others took it out because there were a lot of hand laundries too.

ET: There was a sink in the hallway where they could wash dishes and whatever else they want to do so they did. And then we had a place they could hang their clothes at the Eclipse out in the -- what they call that?

YM: We had a sink in every room of our hotel, Welcome Hotel. (Narr. note: There were six restrooms and four bathtubs in a hallway bisecting the hotel, that was all.)

DG: So let's see then --

ET: The court, yeah. That's what they call it. That's where we string wire so they could hang their...

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

DG: So what would you say was the average length of stay of most of your tenants?

(Narr. note by YM: Japanese were permanent and so were some Filipinos. In the Depression years there were hardly any transients even at 20-25 cents a room.)

TH: Most of them were permanent.

ET: Yeah, they stayed until we carried them out feet first.

TH: But like Benton you had a lot of people going in and out. Not after you come to Eclipse.

ET: Yeah, that's right. Eclipse were permanent guests.

DG: So would you say that the Japanese served a social service kind of?

ET: Yeah, we were a nursing home. I mean, I was.

DG: A nursing home and what about counseling?

ET: Not much counseling because they kept to themselves. They hardly made friends. Like they say when you go into an apartment, you don't know anybody in that apartment, not even the person living across from you.

DG: Well, you were saying they were kind of a family though.

ET: I mean with us.

DG: With you, but not each other.

ET: Yeah, that's right. A lot of them were -- half of my tenants were drunk anyway.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

DG: Now, the laundry, you said, you sent out to where?

TH: Like the hotel laundry, yes. We used to send it out. Like we sent it out to Grand Union. I think that's where -- Grand Union did the majority of the Japanese establishments.

DG: Where were they?

TH: They were located on -- what is it, Washington?

YM: Washington between 12th and 14th on the south side.

ET: Where that Rainier Apartments.

TH: No, no.

ET: Right next to it.

TH: No, that's one block over. Rainier Apartments is on Main Street.

ET: Yeah, Grand Union.

TH: No, no.

ET: Oh, Main.

TH: Was it Main? No.

YM: Yeah, Main Street between 12th and 14th.

ET: I lived around there.

DG: But there was just one laundry? There wasn't more than that?

ET: How 'bout Shiro?

TH: Yeah, Star Laundry on Jackson Street, Shiro Iwana. (Narr. note: the Iwana family)

YM: Yeah, between 12th and 14th.

TH: And then Arctic Laundry Kadoshimas had on 8th Avenue.

YM: But the Grand Union used to take in the rooms private laundry if they want to send it out.

ET: Even H.T. Kubota used to haul the laundry up to...

TH: No, he worked at Grand Union.

ET: Oh yeah, Grand Union.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

DG: Okay. What about the Hotel Association, when did it start?

TH: Well, according to their records it was organized January 30, 1910.

YM: Before we were born.

DG: Why did they need a hotel association?

TH: Well, I think --

YM: They didn't know much Japanese so they had to get together.

TH: It's more or less one was first as a social group and then was to any information regarding business that they exchanged with each other to make it easier to operate. And as more people got into the business, they helped them, give them information, advice how to run it, or -- then I guess later on you had problem with the fire department, the health department, the licensing, different licenses and then in what? the '30s they started sales tax, wasn't it? Was it in the '30s or in the '20s? '30s I think, they had the sales tax, and then all kind of different problems start coming up. Maybe in the beginning there was no license involved, maybe there's not much taxes involved. All they did was collect rent and rent space, but then all kind of city, state, regulations start coming in and made it that, I guess, some people were operating without a license or running a boiler without a engineer's license and all that.

ET: One of the reason I think hotel was good is because for one thing you don't have to put stocks on shelves like if you ran a grocery store. Once you buy your sheets, they last almost forever so the money stayed in the bank. And let's see what else was there? I forgot what I was thinking about.

DG: You said that in the minutes there were twenty people on the first committee.

TH: First organizing committee.

DG: But basically through the years all the hotels belonged to this, right?

TH: Majority of them. I know after there were some hotels and apartments. Hotels mostly belonged to it. There were some apartments that did not join, run by Niseis or Sanseis, wasn't it? I think you had that problem too.

DG: And the meetings were in Nihongo?

TH: Nihongo.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

ET: See, my reason for joining was to learn how you could make money running a hotel. I never did learn what I should have learned because in order to make money you got to raise the rent. In my case I hardly ever raised the rent and that was a mistake.

TH: You know the times were such too and to raise rent you had to get everybody else to raise the rent. If somebody stayed low, you can't compete.

YM: Especially around '28 to '34, '35, you couldn't raise the rent.

TH: Yeah, after the '30s. During the '30s into... around the '40s it was impossible like you said.

ET: Was it 2 bits a night?

YM: Two bits? 20 cents.

TH: It was $6 a month at the most, I remember. When I registered for the office of price administration, right before the war they start rent control, I think it was.

DG: Well, Yoshito Fujii says it was 45 cents to 75 cents?

YM: A day?

DG: Including meals.

TH: Meals, yeah. It's possible. I'm sure it was.

ET: I think they used to have signs up "25 cents a night."

TH: Some places 20 cents. Well, during the Depression I think Ace Hotel on Second Avenue, that's the one Higano's ran, I don't know what kind of setup they had, but it was 10 cents a bed. So they must have had beds lined up like a dormitory. They had a great big sign on the wall "10 cents a bed."

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

ET: I just remembered. The reason why hotel was lucrative was because your customer was captive. In other words, if your rooms are filled, most of the tenants never moved until they're dead.

TH: Well, I think you use the wrong term. No. The business itself wasn't that lucrative. Would you say it was?

YM: No.

TH: If you ran it during the '30s and '40s --

ET: I'm not talking about that period. Nobody made money then.

YM: There were more vacancy than the [Inaudible].

DG: In those days?

YM: In the Depression years.

ET: I mean in the '50s. If you knew how to raise rent because --

YM: That's a different period.

TH: Yeah, that's a different period.

ET: See, like for instance when the 1962, when the World's Fair came, we could have. See, we were charging a dollar or a dollar and a half, but we could have advertised at $5 a night. We could have.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

DG: But then there was something in Yoshito's papers about how the Japanese didn't know how to be business-like and they gradually learned. So did the hotel association, did they talk about that at all?

TH: I'm sure they must have.

ET: But we were scared. We didn't want to chase customers away, but the Chinese were different. When somebody complained, they say Mrs. So-and-so, maybe you should find another place.

TH: Elmer, when did you start running the anou Eclipse?

ET: I started that in 1950.

TH: Well, Eclipse and Benton is two different type of trade too.

DG: So we're talking about before the war they were cheap hotels and you could barely make a living, and it had to be run by family or else you couldn't make it.

TH: That's right.

ET: You had to almost wash the laundry yourself if you want to save any kind of money. We did everything: plumbing, painting, even changing the rugs.

DG: So probably a lot of people got into the hotel business and there were a lot of hotels, but they also probably went broke.

TH: That's true. I wouldn't say a lot of hotels, there were some that did.

ET: One reason why if you run a hotel or apartment, you're so busy you got no time to spend money.

YM: You can't hire anybody (because you couldn't afford to).

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

TH: But I tell you, people in the International District, Japantown and things, those owners, the hotel, building owners, were very understanding. That's why they were able to get by and then another reason that they didn't think of buying property because of the owners gave them such a pretty good deal except for Rainier Heat. I understand a lot of people are problems with them, but like in my case we had a place on 6th and Columbia, and my father purchased that in 1929 when business was very good. Signed a 5 year lease and after about a year and a half or two years, business dropped because of the Depression, owners wouldn't listen to reason, they won't give (us) reduced rent, then you had a hard time. Then when after lease expired, you renewed the lease again, we got a better deal, but still things were tough. And they, if you didn't pay your rent in those days, the rent for the building, the owners would slap a notice you pay up in so many days or vacate.

DG: There wasn't too much discrimination against the Japanese.

TH: Japanese operators, no.

DG: Why do you think that was, the hotel people didn't feel the discrimination.

TH: Well, because their business is limited to the -- mostly to the working class whites or the Orientals. That's why.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

DG: Now, you had an incident though, Tak, coming back from the war. Now, tell me what you did with the Panama Hotel when you left for camp.

TH: Well, when I left for camp I put it under management with John Davis and Company. They hired help to operate it, but it was not, didn't come out good. When they had to pay so many clerks and so many, they had to get a manager, they had to get somebody to janitor, and maids and things, it just didn't pay. So after about -- I don't know how long -- they found somebody that wanted to lease the property and operate it themselves just like the Japanese did as a family. And we leased it out for, I think, three years or something. Then the lease had expired in, I believe early part of '45. They wanted to renew and I figured we'd be returning to the coast eventually so I didn't renew the lease. However, when I came back in August and I asked them that I want to take over, they just refused to turn the keys over to me. They said no. They're entitled to it because during that period they operated the (place), that they were entitled to an extension and all that, and they just refused to give me the keys until I hired an attorney to send them papers saying that they had to do it and finally got my keys back for the hotel. I mean, they were making money so they didn't want to let it go.

DG: Now, do you think there were other hotels in a similar situation?

TH: Well, I don't know of others. N-P is another one, but they were having management, but theirs worked out good. Atlas Hotel was all right, but I don't know of other hotels that had similar.

DG: Well, I'm thinking about some of the kind of politics behind the land acquisitions and so forth in the farmers. The whites wanted to take over.

TH: Well, that's what happened in the farming community.

DG: Was that not true in the hotel business?

TH: I think there were one or two cases, I think. Like the Takemuras at the Pacific Hotel, they had some kind of problem there.

DG: You sold yours, Salty.

YM: Well, before we left, yeah. Didn't get much, no. I didn't realize then that -- I thought maybe we'd never come back this way. I thought maybe they would ship us to Japan or something.

ET: Let's see, who was that? Tosh? His father had one near First Avenue and Main. The son's name is Tosh. He had a stroke.

TH: Tosh Tanemura?

ET: Tanemura, okay. What I heard Tosh's father happened to ask one of the tenants if they will run the hotel for them. And I don't know whether they kept all the profit. They said yeah because they just came from someplace, they were looking for work, but when the (Tanemuras) got back, they practically threw the key at them and said, "Thank you for coming back," and they just got out of it. They couldn't take it, but they ran it fairly.

DG: So what you're saying is that the hotel business is hard and not everyone could run it.

ET: Yeah. And then these people didn't know any better so they were honest. And the way that Mr. (Tanemura) said they were one of the lucky ones.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

DG: Well, it says in the Tolan Report that there was something like 206 Japanese owned hotels out of the 325 in the city. That was -- the Japanese owned hotel was two-thirds.

ET: What year are you talking?

TH: No, this is 1941.

DG: Right.

ET: Oh, 1941, huh?

DG: So did you feel anything about this dominance or anything like that?

TH: No. Japanese hotels were all, majority of them were located in the south end so I think it's different type of operation from those downtown.

DG: Okay.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

ET: The discrimination, I think, came in around the '60s and the way that worked is we held the rent down. They wanted to get rid of us so they could raise the rent up, and I think we did run into that kind of problem.

TH: Well, I don't know about that.

ET: Because at the city hall it seems like the councilmen, they understood that the whites wanted to get rid of us.

DG: Now, I read also somewhere that the city itself liked the fact that the Japanese would take care of all these lower class people.

TH: I believe so. It's not the city, it's more the welfare department, I think.

ET: Yeah, they understood that we are doing more than what we got paid for. We took over the welfare business so to speak.

DG: But then were the city more lenient as far as codes and things go as a result of this?

TH: Until around the '60s they were.

ET: But there were too few, see. The big apartment and hotel operator, they want us out of the picture.

TH: That's the apartment operation, not the hotel.

ET: Not the hotel?

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

DG: Let's talk about the Hotel Association some more. Okay. So it started in 1910 and you say it started for social reasons you think a lot.

TH: Social and business. I mean, to help each other.

DG: To help each other. Was there any exclusivity? I mean, did everyone get to join or did they...

TH: Well, I think it was open. Membership was open to anybody that wanted to join, any Japanese operator that wanted to join because meeting is conducted in Japanese, and you can't invite the American people or the Chinese to join. Everything was conducted in Japanese.

ET: Yeah. One of the reasoning, I think, according to Mr. Hara, very few people would be able or willing to go to city hall to have a discussion if they had a problem.

DG: So then they had to have somebody who knew English well to translate.

TH: That's right.

ET: Mr. Hara used to represent some people for fire problem.

TH: Well, yeah. He took any complaints or people come in and say I got this kind of problem or I have received this from the inspector and things, he would help them out with it. Or like new operators needed an engineer's license to run the boiler, steam boiler. You have to have an engineer's license. He would take them down there and put 'em through the regular examination.

DG: Now, who's Mr. Hara?

TH: Seichi Hara. He used to operate the Tacoma Hotel.

DG: And that was in the International District.

TH: On 8th and Jackson.

ET: Yeah, on the north side.

DG: Okay. And he was --

TH: Secretary of the association in the '30s.

DG: Okay. So he was a Issei?

TH: He's a Issei.

DG: But he spoke English well.

TH: Spoke English, yes.

DG: And then he did that kind of thing.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

DG: And what about helping each other, did they all work together to help each other develop the hotel business, do you think?

ET: None of us knew how to operate a boiler, for one thing.

DG: What did that entail?

TH: Well, actually it wasn't hard, but --

ET: It's like running a car, once you understand.

TH: But for an Issei to take the exam it was another thing. The operation itself was nothing. When you went to take the exam, they asked you how do you know what the limits are and all that and how do you clean out this or clean out that or the safety factors involved. And they question you, but these Isseis cannot answer that in English. Mr. Hara used to go along. Before he would go with them, he would give them the basic so then he says, "I'll ask that to you in Japanese, you answer it," but even if they gave the wrong answer, I guess, he would give the you know --

DG: Well, so did you have to do that too when you were officers, that kind of thing?

TH: Once or twice. I helped one Nisei lady get engineer's license, but to her I just took out the sample questions that, the standard questions they asked, and I told her what it was, took her to her boiler room, and showed her all the different things on it. So she said she had no problem. If you can understand English and be able to read English and study one or two booklets and get the basic knowledge. However, the Isseis not able to read, they're not able to understand English when they're questioned, so needed somebody as more or less as interpreter or help them along.

ET: Yeah. A lot of it was common sense questions like if the water runs out, what do you do, or if there is a leak in the boiler, what should you do. And if you don't know, what you should you do.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

DG: Okay. Talking about the hotel association, how often did they meet?

TH: They, according to the minutes, they had a annual meeting usually in January elect officers and things, then they had a spring general meeting, and a fall general meeting. Then in between the board, whenever there was some kind of problem, the officers called a board meeting. That's about it, I think.

YM: That was what year?

TH: From the beginning. I know they always had a spring meeting and a fall meeting and an annual meeting. Then in between was all the Board of Directors' meeting.

DG: These were not serious meetings, I understand.

TH: Well, the general meeting wasn't as serious as the board meeting. The board meeting were solely to discuss any problems that came up at that time.

DG: Now, how important was the Hotel Association as far as an organization in the Japanese community?

TH: I think it was one of the largest organizations in the Japanese community.

ET: It involved a lot of money if you add it all up.

TH: Yeah, investments. And then there was more hotels than there were the groceries or dye works or what other ones? There were a number of these business organizations, or trade organizations you might call them, but hotel had the largest membership and the largest amount of money invested in the business.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 34>

DG: Were there dues?

TH: I beg your pardon?

DG: Dues.

TH: Yes. Dues were very nominal, I think.

ET: Yeah.

TH: When we think of it.

DG: What did you use it for?

YM: What was it? About 10 dollars?

TH: Ten dollars a year. I don't know what it was in the beginning, but even here is says 10 or 15 depending on the establishment. You had a small hotel, maybe it was 5 dollars a year. A little larger place was 10 dollars and then the, larger ones, bigger ones maybe is a 15 dollars a year. Very nominal dues. So none of the officers were paid. It's just they used that money to -- well, for meeting purpose or meeting expenses or --

DG: Like it was 15 dollars and there was 300 names there?

TH: No, but I think you'll find some 10 dollars, some $7.50, 5 dollars.

YM: Depending on size or what?

TH: Depending on the size. I think it ranged from 5 to 15.

DG: And so then you had in your treasury maybe a thousand or 2 thousand or something.

TH: I think it was in the hundreds at the beginning.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 35>

TH: But later on I guess -- then when they had -- number of times I remember that they had special fund drive when they had some kind of big problem come up they needed the money.

DG: Can you think of a situation? What kind of problem?

TH: Like when they had the minimum housing code or some kind of -- they had something -- (Narr. note: minimum housing code was a city ordinance in September, 1962)

DG: Okay. Now, when was that?

TH: Minimum housing code?

ET: We hired a lawyer once for a 135 dollar. Fifteen minutes, was it?

TH: I don't know.

DG: What did he do?

ET: Represent us.

DG: For?

ET: For that minimum housing.

DG: To the city?

ET: I wasn't so sure. Not to the city.

TH: No. Minimum housing code was the city code, but I think you're talking about the time I think we went together with the apartment operators in opposing that, isn't it, or trying to water it down.

ET: This one was strictly Japanese hotel association because we paid all the bill.

TH: That I don't know. I don't remember.

ET: He was a great talker. Boy, he knew how to soften them up.

DG: Tell me what you needed to be softened up.

ET: Well, tell them to not push it right away. Hold the day, the deadline back a bit. If we had to do certain things -- I forgot what we had to do now.


DG: You had more problems complying with the code.

ET: Yeah.

<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 36>

DG: Now, what is this minimum code? What did that say?

TH: Well, minimum code, I think when they came in, had a minimum of floor space. Like the hotels, they had to have so many hundred square feet per occupant or something. And like one example was the Publix Hotel. I think their room was around 80 square feet and the code says 100 or something, 110. I don't know exactly, but we had to ask for a variance on that. And then they had one toilet and one bath for each ten rooms or ten occupants or something. Then a lot of hotels maybe had one bathroom, one toilet on a floor or two toilet maybe, and maybe it was one in fifteen or one in twelve had to ask (for) variance and that certain building they would approve without putting in another bath or toilet.

ET: Stairway had to be enclosed.

TH: Stairway had to be enclosed for fire safety and they had to have a outlet, electrical outlet, in each room besides your lighting. You could have a drop cord or anything lighting the room, but where you plug in things, it had to be a separate outlet. You couldn't take it off the same thing. A number of things.

DG: Now, we're talking about 1970?

TH: 1960s and '70s.

ET: Gee, I had a gas line so they could cook with gas, but they weren't too strict on that point.

TH: No, but it was the electrical outlets.

<End Segment 36> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 37>

YM: Heat, I think. (Narr. note: At the Welcome Hotel, we had gas plates in every room with which they could cook, but in the winter they were used to warm the place up any time they wanted to. It was a no-win situation.)

TH: And then the heat, you had to comply with being able to --

YM: (Two times tenants) sued me. (Narr. note: The first time, we went to court and the judge let me off. My lawyer said he knew the judge well and my war record helped. The second time, my landlord went to bat for me and due to his efforts we won.)

ET: Too cold, huh?

YM: You can't keep the heat on 24 hours, (but if you don't, you get in trouble. It was a very tough situation.)

TH: That was a problem that came about well, say in the '20s and '30s, I think.

YM: No, no. This was in (1947 for me.)

TH: But still, no it's the hakujins that complained, but that ordinance was already in existence in the early part before the housing code went into effect. And it's the hakujin people, even the apartment houses when we were running apartment house, you rented to a hakujin couple, the woman could just be in a thin blouse in the wintertime, and then they complain about heat. If they could just put on a sweater or something. It's hard when you have a central heating plant to get all rooms up to a certain temperature. Some rooms would be too hot and others would be cold and still some of these persons would just complain to the city and then the health inspector would come around with a thermometer and go into the room, feel, and take the temperature. And if you're not complying, they cite you for that.

YM: That was a big item, though, the heat. You sure get a lot of complaints. [Laughs]

DG: Well, were the Japanese owners pretty willing to accommodate these people, or they are able to work with them pretty good?

TH: I believe so, yes.

DG: Because you maintained the businesses and you didn't hear about the complaints outside that much.

TH: Well, like I was reading the old minutes and during the 1920s a lot of problem was the fire alarm and the fire extinguishers. They had to have so many fire extinguishers, and they had to have a fire alarm that went off. And a lot of these operators forget to change batteries, and they don't ring when the inspector come around.

DG: You mean they had fire alarms, battery operated, back then?

TH: Oh, yes. It was all battery operated because if it was on electrical current and the electricity failed, it won't work.

<End Segment 37> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 38>

DG: Okay. Let's talk some more about the Hotel Association. It was one of the largest Japanese --

TH: Yes, it was the largest.

DG: -- organizations. Was there any political competition between who was president and did it...

TH: Well, that I don't know because that was before our days, I guess, 'cause later on --

ET: I thought they practically kept the officers the same.

TH: Yeah, but no, no what she means that there were people that want to be president and couldn't get in.

ET: Oh, I see.

YM: We just had one person for long time before he got out.

ET: Like Yoshito Fujii. Wasn't he president for quite a while?

TH: No, Kubota was president for a long time.

YM: After the war.

TH: Yeah, after the war. Let's see, Kubota --

<End Segment 38> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 39>

YM: Remember, you were doing all the work running around to all the city departments and making a reports. (Narr. note: Talking to Elmer Tazuma)

TH: That's when Kawabe was president.

DG: Tell me about that.

ET: Yeah, I was helping Mr. Otsuke.

TH: That's when Mr. Kawabe went in.

ET: Yeah.

DG: And what did you have to do?

ET: We did all his work.

DG: I know. What was the work?

YM: Go to all the departments, complaints, and what not. (Narr. note: Elmer Tazuma did most of the leg work and reported back to the board. The President conducted the meeting, but Elmer Tazuma was doing all the reporting about what he had done.)

ET: Like making and sending out those letters. There was at least 200 letters we had to send out. That was a lot of work.

DG: Saying what?

ET: You have to --

TH: Well, keep the membership informed.

ET: Well, you have to put address on the envelope, put the stamp on the envelope.

DG: Like a newsletter kind of thing?

TH: Yeah, newsletter. He used to put out newsletter.

DG: But you said you were running around to the different departments.

YM: Yeah. You go to all the different departments.

<End Segment 39> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 40>

ET: Well, any time a problem comes up, we used to run down and --

YM: You used to...

DG: Like tell me about one of them times.

ET: Well, like one time the Seattle apartment operator said they want to go down to Olympia, and they wanted a Japanese representative because we were part of the industry. So I would be the one that had to go down there and speak up.

DG: What did you say?

ET: Well, one of the things I said is we had some very nice tenants, they were paying $45, but one day they found out they were low income people and they can get into brand new apartment for 40 bucks a month. Why should they stay with me? Until then they didn't know they were low income people. So this one fellow stood up and says -- he's one of the richest apartment operators -- he says, "I'm low income people too." I think they caught on that the governor wanted to make more low income housing and that's what we wanted to stop because once the governor gets into the picture, he could put up apartments all over the place because everybody is clamoring for it. They didn't want to stay with us.

DG: So by the time this is in '60s and '70s.

ET: Yeah, in the '60s.

DG: So the rooms weren't all filled by then. There was -- you needed to compete for customers.

ET: They were starting to promise low income housing and the governor wanted to get popular by adding his share. That was -- so we stopped it cold. What they did is they put it on the shelf.

DG: So the whole city, the hakujin operators too?

ET: Yeah, that's right. They didn't want the governor doing that.

DG: And you were just part of that.

ET: We were just a part of it.

DG: Okay. What about some of the other trips to the city.

ET: Well, the state wanted to put in a minimum housing code.

TH: The minimum housing code is the city.

ET: But I think they wanted -- or was it the health department?

TH: I cannot remember what, I know...

ET: There was a health department, but they weren't pushing it at that time, huh?

TH: It's the building department that start pushing the housing code after the 7th Avenue fires.

ET: Oh, I see.

<End Segment 40> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 41>

DG: Let's talk some more about that 7th Avenue fire time. Now, when was that again?

TH: I think it was early '70s. That happened at the 7th Avenue apartment on 7th Avenue and Pike -- is that around Pike Street? Pike and Union? Someplace around there between -- Mr. Otoshi was running that at that time. And the stairway -- the fire spread right up the stairway and all that. (Narr. note: the 7th Avenue Apartments were located at 1421 7th Ave. between Union and Pike Sts.)

ET: He went after the fire extinguisher and he couldn't run, he was so old, and he left the door open.

YM: Central Hotel, Central School, huh?

TH: No. Central School, that's the Stanley Apartment he was running earlier. Then he bought the 7th Avenue apartment and it was operating that when -- that was a pretty big fire and I think there were some lives lost and that's why the city really start clamping down. That's when they wanted --

ET: One lady was smoking. That's the way it started.

TH: Yeah. I think it came from the --

ET: And when he went -- he shouldn't have opened the door, but I guess he opened the door and naturally it just blasted out.

TH: Blasted out and hit the stairway and that's why they wanted enclosed stairway after that.

<End Segment 41> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 42>

DG: So did a lot of the hotels have to do some changes then?

TH: Well, so because of that it was not only the fire situation, but then the building department wanted plumbing, electrical work. And the health department said we want this so each department start saying demands onto the operator and getting so that the mayor says, "All right, we are gonna enforce it." They put a time limit on it, which was bad in my opinion. They said within thirty days from this date all buildings have to comply or we'll send the fire inspector to close it. And that's what happened to the N-P and a number of other places because in order to comply within the certain period of time and so much work involved, they couldn't afford to do it.

DG: And that's when you hired the lawyer to ask them to --

ET: Yeah. And we went to this city council meeting and the Black Panthers were there, and they said, "Do we have to burn half the town before you people comply to this minimum housing code?" Of course, they're talking about houses they were renting on 23rd, and half the time the stairway -- I mean, they didn't help to keep the place in good shape. They practically help it tore -- they tore everything apart and nobody wants to help them fix it up. If they were going to tear it down, I mean.

DG: So then were you successful in delaying the deadline a little bit?

TH: No.

ET: When the Black Panthers got in there, they almost forced the people to comply with them and that's when -- what's this, Sam Smith? -- he just turned like this. Up to then, he was more or less catering to us and all of a sudden when the Black Panthers start making their feelings heard well, he just --

DG: This was the late '60s.

TH: '70s, I think.

ET: See, at the city counsel's office. They said they'll burn half the town down.

<End Segment 42> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 43>

TH: That's when Hiromi closed down Puget Sound too in '70. Well, actually the city got tough on the International District, but later I found out that there were places on First Hill that did not comply. I think years later there was one apartment house or house on... near someplace on First Hill that, there was a fire, somebody died, and it wasn't in compliance. I asked the owner -- I can't think of his name, but it's a fellow I went to school with -- and I asked him, I says how come you got by when we had to comply? He says, "Well, it's who you know." He was a political friend of the mayor.

ET: So in other words, the Japanese didn't know how to go about it.

TH: No, we tried.

ET: We weren't good negotiators.

TH: No, we tried. Well, Phil Hayasaka was working for the city. Was that human rights committee or something. On the surface, I guess, everybody has to comply, and we're gonna to make everybody comply, but there were a few that got away without complying.

ET: Yeah. Like Tak even, he said close me up. Naturally they didn't want to close him up.

TH: No, they didn't want to close any of the places. I mean, they told him -- like when we went down to the meeting at -- I don't know whether you went -- but with the fire chief, Hiromi went and Taniguchi went and I went, and Hiromi says will you give me one year to do it in, the fire sprinkler system, he's going put it into the Puget Sound. And he says, "Will you give me one year?" "No, thirty days is all you get."

YM: A lot of discrimination in those days, huh?

TH: I think the pressure was on the city, like you say, from the low income people.

ET: See, this began to cover houses, too, almost.

<End Segment 43> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 44>

DG: Did people start to get out of the hotel business then?

TH: Well, a lot of them did quit the business because a lot of these places were -- they were renting -- they're leasing the building and, therefore, owners aren't going to fix it, the operators aren't going fix it. Like take the N-P, that was owned by Hirano family, but they said they can't afford to do it and Puget Sound owned by Hiromi and he says he can't do it in such a short period. But at that time I guess the Evergreen closed, and the Milwaukee Hotel closed.

ET: I had to close the Eclipse.

TH: Eclipse and then the Ohio closed.

ET: That was in 1971.

TH: So a lot of places closed up. You would have kept operating if the owner had fixed it up for you.

ET: Oh, yeah.

TH: That was the problem.

ET: You couldn't put an enclosed stairway. I mean, it was kind of hard.

TH: No. If you didn't put in an enclosed stairway, you had to put in a fire sprinkler system.

ET: Oh, yeah. That's right.

DG: So what's the Eclipse now?

ET: It's still closed. Just a basement stores are -- not basement, first floor stores are open.

DG: So did the Panama, you enclosed it?

TH: No, I put in sprinkler system.

<End Segment 44> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 45>

TH: See, at first, when I first came back, I had to put in a sprinkler system in the basement because of all the belongings that people left there when they left for camp and then additional things that people wanted to ship to Seattle. They (wanted) to know if it (was) all right. They said, " Can we ship it to your place? Will you hold it for us?" So because of that, there was so much thing down in the basement, the fire department said you either have to get rid of everything or (have it sprinkled) so I sprinkled the basement first. At that time I asked the fire department well, "What do you think of my sprinkling upstairs?" They said it's a waste of money. They says, they told me they wouldn't do it, it's a waste of money. If I had done it earlier, I think I could have got it for half the cost.

DG: Well, so did you have a lot to do with people leaving their things there or did all the hotels do that?

YM: No. (Narr. note: We had no basement. Our hotel building was built on stilts and when the tide was high in Elliot Bay, the ground below was flooded.)

DG: Seems like your place had --

YM: He had the space. (Our hotel had no basement.)

TH: No. I had the space and then people that I knew and then (by) word of mouth. They get around. They says, well, you have space, could you put mine's in there. Could you put some more in.

ET: During your absence, did anybody go through it?

TH: Yeah. I know the person that was operating. See, I had a lock on there, but when I came back I saw the lock broken, and I asked them what happened. He said well, there was a water leak so he had to go in. I don't think there was a water leak, but he says water (leaked) so I found a few things missing.

YM: A lot of hotels didn't have basements. (Narr. note: Rainier Heat and Power was the landlord for many hotels. They supplied steam heat to the radiators. I think all of their hotels had no basements.)

TH: That's right.

YM: Lots of them. Like Rainier Heat and Power. (Narr. note: Rainier Heat and Power owned many hotels in the International District.)

TH: No. Like your place didn't have any basement, but I had a basement and it was vacant so...

<End Segment 45> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 46>

DG: How long did you run the bath?

TH: I beg your pardon?

DG: How long did you run the ofuro?

TH: No, I didn't run the ofuro. Ofuro was, that space was Mr. Sano was running the Hashidate Bath. But when the water department (started) charging for sewage disposal and the water rates went up, he said he couldn't afford it. The rates that he was getting, charging for ofuro so he just closed up.

YM: Is that when they all closed up?

TH: Most of them. I think Hinode-yu underneath the American was still operating.

YM: That must have been furnished by Rainier Heat, huh?

TH: Yeah.

YM: Hot water.

<End Segment 46> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 47>

DG: Let's finish up with the Hotel Association then. So is it still in existence?

TH: No, longer in existence because what is it? How many hotels are there under Japanese operation today? Maybe Publix is only one.

DG: So in summary has the hotel business been something that you think that has been good for the Japanese, yourselves, Japanese community?

TH: Well, it was something that was necessary.

DG: Okay.

YM: It was our livelihood.

TH: Yeah, livelihood. That's right.

DG: Would you do it again?

TH: Well, today there's other opportunities.

ET: I think most people would rather not.

YM: Before the families got together and run them.

ET: And unless you do most of the work, unless you are able to charge the money you could, you should have. Most of us didn't charge, we didn't know any better. We just, we worked. I mean, we didn't spend any money, which meant we did all the work. Like they told me when I was running the apartment, don't paint the apartment, hire, then I could raise the rent. But if I painted the apartment, I can't raise the rent. I mean, it would be harder. So you see there is a right way and a wrong way. Like I painted windows outside the building 40 feet off the street level, that's foolish. I should have hired somebody and then I raise the rent.

TH: Well, yes. When you're running, it's possible maybe to raise them. But in the days we were running the hotel, I don't think it was possible to raise rents. I mean, things were bad.

ET: Everything started to change about 1975. That's when you don't do the work yourself, you hire out. And in the long run, you come out ahead without breaking your back. Only I didn't wake up.

TH: Well, it was because it was a shortage of housing that came about.

ET: See, I had a property manager and the manager. The manager was always drunk so I did all the work. And the property manager told me to go to Las Vegas, don't come here, but I didn't understand him. If I went to Las Vegas, I'd still have the building.

DG: As a whole as I have observed the owners of the different hotels, all of you are pretty frugal people.

TH: Well, we are Depression era kids.

YM: Everybody was.

DG: Hard worker?

ET: Yeah, we did everything. You name it. We even became almost like doctors. Yeah, we give them medicine, aspirin, maybe.

<End Segment 47> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 48>

YM: I didn't have to get a boiler license.

TH: Yeah, you were buying heat.

YM: Yeah. So many hotels in the south end, south of Jackson.

TH: That Rainier Heat was something.

YM: They had I don't know how many hotels.

TH: The majority of them were.

ET: You didn't have to have any license?

YM: No.

TH: No, because heat was -- no. License meaning engineer's license to operate the boiler.

YM: There was no basement to put a boiler anyway. Came from the plant, Rainier Heat plant.

<End Segment 48> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 49>

DG: So is there anything that you want to add about your involvement in the hotels that we didn't cover? Let's just finish with each of you. Salty, do you have something?

YM: Actually, we -- financially we didn't do much and we sold it for a pittance when we left. I wasn't sure what was going to happen to us in those days.

DG: When you left for camp relocation, incarceration?

ET: I think if you understand the hotel business, like Mr. Fujii used to say, all you have to do is raise $2 per unit or -- and then half a year later or a year later, raise another $2. Nobody complain.

YM: Yeah, but they moved. [Laughs]

ET: But nobody took him up. We were charging the same old rent. So actually we threw away our chance to make some money running hotels or even apartments.

YM: Everybody would have to raise it. Otherwise, they move to the next hotel.

TH: That's right.

<End Segment 49> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 50>

DG: Let me just -- this is not necessarily just about the hotels, but just to end. We were talking upstairs a little bit about the Issei social community and the political community, the political atmosphere. What -- you guys were all part of like Nikkejinkai and those organizations, right?

ET: Yeah, we were part of the Issei family.

DG: Well, upstairs you were talking because we were going through who was president of the different organizations and things like that, was there a hierarchy in the Japanese community as far as like hotel operators and different greenhouse operators and different things like that?

ET: Some were pretty well educated, weren't they? I mean, they really sparkled and those others that didn't have much education, they kind of held back. That was more -- certain people were very prominent like Hosokawa-san. He was able to deliver a good speech.

DG: Who was that? In the hotel association?

TH: No, no.

DG: In general?

ET: Yeah. You let Mr. Hosokawa get up and talk, like JACL had a meeting at the Bukkyokai right after the war, and we didn't know which way we were going to have to go. There was nothing we could do and the JACL was being blamed. So Mr. Hosokawa more or less stood up for the JACL and he was very effective. That's Bill's father. I was there. I was surprised how well he could talk. So those people who could talk naturally became leaders.

<End Segment 50> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 51>

DG: Now, okay so what I'm trying to get the picture of is since we're talking about the Hotel Association and you say that was the largest organization, what other organizations were there, like JACL and what else? Nikkeijinkai?

ET: Bukkyokai.

DG: Okay.

ET: Well, as far as -- like the Hotel, Mr. Uchida was a president for a couple years, huh?

TH: Of a hotel? No.

ET: Wasn't he?

TH: Which Uchida are you referring to?

ET: You know, the New Central Hotel.

TH: No, no. He wasn't.

ET: He was very good at talking though.

TH: Maybe he was a board member, but he was not an officer.

ET: Is that right?

DG: Wasn't there a chamber before too?

TH: There was Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Japanese Association too. Well, there were two different organizations, but I think they were two different, but one, I guess you would say.

DG: Now, weren't all of you as far as business owners sort of part of that too?

TH: Well, I mean we're Niseis and we were too young before the war to be part of any of those organizations. Were you or what? No, your father was involved in those days, but if the father is involved, the kids don't.

ET: A lot of it was spoken in Japanese.

TH: All of it was.

ET: And we couldn't speak that well.

YM: They had a whole bunch of, whole number of how many Kenjinkais. They were prominent. They all used to have their own picnics, the kenjinkais.

DG: That was another segment.

TH: Well, if somebody here would read these books on Japanese history in the Northwest, I think they can understand it better. You ought to have somebody in the Densho Project reading those things.

DG: Yeah, we're trying to. Okay.

<End Segment 51> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 52>

ET: There's a big -- the Japanese language was principally spoken because the Isseis were running the show.

DG: Before the war.

ET: When they started to die off or turn over to the Niseis, then it started to change.

DG: And you say that just in the last president or two, you had bilingual.

ET: About 1970, huh.

TH: That's right.

ET: That's when we almost took over.

DG: When you were president, Elmer, you did the meetings in Japanese?

ET: Both English and Japanese. Best we could, I mean. And I have to be dragged in too. Nobody wanted to take the president's chair.

YM: Well, we got a president later, but you were doing all the work, I remember.

ET: I just happened to fall in that period when there was a lot of negotiation that had to be done.

<End Segment 52> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 53>

DG: Okay. Well thank you very much. It was a good discussion. I guess, today's date is June the 8th, 1998. [Interruption] Oh, one of the things that Yoshito mentioned is that the first hotels had Japanese names, you know like the Fujii Hotel and the Hashimoto and Nishimura or... what was it? Nakanishi or something.

TH: Something like that, yeah.

DG: And then after like about 1915 they started changing to like Eclipse and Atlas.

TH: Yeah, Meiji-ya, Kusuno-ya, Hashimoto-ya. I think it's because they were catering solely to Japanese immigrants that's coming in. And if you put up a sign saying Atlas Hotel or the Panama Hotel, these immigrants, they can't read English so if they wrote in -- I am sure these signs (were) written in Japanese also.

ET: And another reason, wasn't the hotel had a girl's name? I'm not sure and that indicates that it's a house of prostitution.

TH: I wouldn't know.

ET: This is what I -- I don't know why I keep that in mind, but I know in France where we were staying at this -- or was it in Switzerland? -- we went to this hotel, La France, and the rooms had all girl's flowers, flower names. So evidently --

DG: Well, that's interesting.

<End Segment 53> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 54>

DG: Well, talking about Salty and your name, a lot of the Nisei have these names like Tomato and Onions and Junks. Why do they have all these names?

ET: Why do they call him Junks?

DG: Everybody has a nickname almost.

YM: Junks Ikeda, Junks Kurose.

TH: I don't know.

YM: I don't know how it come about. Started when we were kids, huh.

TH: Well, maybe like Junks Kurose, maybe his name was Junro. It could be because so easier to maybe it derived from that, from his name.

DG: That means that the Japanese names were harder to pronounce.

TH: That's right.

DG: So they gave each other a nickname.

ET: Yeah, like my brother Junkichi, we called him Junbo.

DG: Jim.

ET: Well, now he changed it to Jim.

YM: You were Shizuto all the time.

ET: Shizuto, that's right, after the war.

ET: Frank gave me Elmer.

DG: Who's Frank?

ET: Frank Yoshitake.

TH: Oh, is that right?

DG: Well, a lot of people got names from their teachers.

TH: Yeah, Frank. He was Hisatsugu when he used to go to school, Bailey Gatzert.

ET: Hisatsugu, nobody could pronounce it so they call him Frank. I mean, the teacher did, I think.

TH: Oh, but I remember him going to school always Hisatsugu.

YM: Fleezy, Popo, all kind of them. (Narr. note: Other nicknames include: Footsie, Gramps, Maximo, Bola, Gedunk, Monks, Shrink, Lover, Jumbo, Fat, Okie, Bonesy, Zipper, Mustard, Mud, Fudge, Horse, Taxie, Dyke, Halfy, Chick, Turk, Shadow, Conk, Punchy, Squeeky, Juggo, Digger, Beefo)

ET: Hippo.

DG: That's interesting. We will have to figure something out there about the names. That would be interesting. Okay. Thank you.

<End Segment 54> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.