Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Jim M. Tanimoto Interview
Narrator: Jim M. Tanimoto
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary); Barbara Takei (secondary)
Location: Gridley, California
Date: December 10, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-tjim-01-0026

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TI: I wanted to bring you back to when you came back to Gridley, so you're the first family. When you would go, like if you'd borrow the car and go into town to buy the groceries, what was the reaction of the people when you returned?

JT: Well, Gridley is a small community. It had probably two, three thousand people more or less. And I knew a lot of Caucasian parents, 'cause I went to school with their kids. And I could call them by name, and they would talk to me and call me by name. But one day, my sister and I, we borrowed the car, we went up to the grocery store, and I knew the owner of the grocery store. And my sister picked out some groceries and carried it out to the cashier, to the front, and all the people that worked there all run back to the back of the store. They wouldn't wait on us, they wouldn't check our groceries. And the boss, the owner of the store wasn't there. And I looked at my sister and she looked at me and says, "Let's go," so we came home. After we came home, we told the people that we borrowed the car from, says, "Could you go back and pick up our groceries?" We told them, my sister wrote out what she needed. And so they went and picked up the groceries. Then the owner of the store came, came to the house, and he says, "Come on back." He says, "I'll wait on you personally." I knew this guy, and my brother, Mori, he knew his brother, went to school together, his classmate, one of his classmate. But I knew this man that he's already finished high school, and several years, maybe college, but he owned this store. The people that he hired wouldn't wait on us.

And another time, I met my high school coach. In my younger days, I was never a big guy, so I never got to join the varsity. I played on the B team or something like that, baseball, basketball, and I knew this high school coach real well. And Mori had gone through him, and he knew Mori real well. Well, anyhow, one day, I saw him, and I went up to him and stuck out my hand, and he looked me and he says, "You're on the wrong side." And that really bothered me. I still remember that, but he turned his back and walked away. And he was still teaching school at that time. And eventually, he quit teaching school and he became a peach farmer like us. And I think we had a peach meeting, and he was there, I was there. And I saw him coming towards me. And he started to say something and I says, "Get out of my face and just go to hell. I'm not talking to you." And I turned around and walked away from him that time. And all I know is that, I remember that. The rest of the stuff might be vague, but I distinctly remember that, that he wouldn't shake my hand. He just told me I was on the wrong side. And then I could see if somebody didn't know me, for the first time, and I put my hand out, I could see something like that happening. But for somebody that knew me that well, and told me that, looked me right in the eye and told me I'm on the wrong side, and he turned his back and walked away. For some reason, that still stays in my mind.

TI: Well, it had to be so personal. You grow up in this community, you know people so well, and before the war, they're your friends, and then something happens and it changes. It just shows you what life can do sometimes. But you would hope for better from people.

JT: Well, he's gone today, but even today, if he was here and he wants to apologize, I wouldn't accept his apology. And we lived out in the country, it was about four or five miles away, so I always had something to drive to go to school. And if I participated in spots, well, you practice whatever you was doing. And it was usually no way to get back other than walk, so I had a car. I had a Model A Ford. And this one kid, he played on the same team I played, and I used to take him home, because we would play together, and we got off at the same time, took a shower, and got ready to come home. Well, I used to take him home. Well, I've seen him since he got, after the war. He's not the same guy that I associated with him when I was going to school. At school, we were buddy-buddies, but now, after school, after the war, it's a little different. I spent a lot of time, and we, like I said, I had a car. And in those days, we did everything together. And today, I met him in a Ford garage one day, and he was getting his car serviced, and I was looking for a new pickup. The Ford didn't have what I wanted, but anyhow, I run into this old friend of mine. We just acknowledged each other and says, "Hello," that was about it, and "Goodbye." Nothing, notable communication, other than hello and goodbye.

TI: And do you think some of these feelings... from your side, I can still feel these feelings. Do you think other people in the community still remember all this and it's still there after all these years?

JT: You know, I would really like to have a crack at that, at the Rotary Club or something like that. I don't want to ruffle anybody's feather, but I would like to get up and talk about the way I was treated, how the government treated me, how "you people" treated me. I wasn't accepted as a citizen no more, I was an enemy. 'Cause when, the day after Pearl Harbor, when you went into town, you knew something was wrong. And after we got our land back, our lease back and we started farming, and in a number of years, everything was forgotten now. We're with the same group again. We started in the kiwi business, we had people coming in from all over the place. People from Gridley, people from Marysville, people from Sacramento, people from down south, people from out of state, we were one of the pioneers that pushed the kiwi. And yeah, we were rewarded. We made lots of money in the kiwis. We spent a lot of money, too. Uncle Sam couldn't believe a little minor crop like the kiwis, we spent about half a million dollars on the building and some equipment, and was taking depreciation out of that. And they sent an auditor out saying, kiwis, they can't... you know, it's such a small business, that what we're asking for for depreciation and all that, they sent an auditor out, and he came out and toured our plant, and it was harvest time. Well, that was end of story. He looked at that and he says, "Okay," it's all, what we claim is okay. They would allow it.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.