Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Marshall M. Sumida Interview
Narrator: Marshall M. Sumida
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: April 8, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-smarshall-01-0001

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MN: Okay, today is April 8, 2011. We are at the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco. We will be interviewing Marshall Sumida. On video camera is Dana Hoshide, and interviewing will be Martha Nakagawa. Marshall, let's start with your father's name.

MS: Shimata.

MN: And your mother's name?

MS: Masako Murakami Sumida.

MN: Which prefecture did they come from?

MS: Okayama.

MN: Can you share a little bit about your father's background?

MS: My family background?

MN: Father's.

MS: My father, he's from Okayama. He was a third son of a farm family, so because of he's a third son, by Japanese custom, the first two sons are, inherit the family business, and so he was told early to, that he would be on his own. I think on his own prerogative, since he had to be on his own, he wanted to come to America. But I never really got to know my father because I didn't speak Japanese and we were learning, going to Japanese to learn how to speak a family conversation, but I never really got to talk to him about his life.

MN: Now, when he came to United States, what kind of business did he get into?

MS: Well, when he came to United States he came from a farming family, so he first landed in Vancouver and then he walked down across and ended up in Florin, near Sacramento, and was helping in the farm association, farmers. Then after he got married to my mother they slowly migrated down to Los Angeles. I don't know how he got into this business, but an Issei family named Mogi was, had a sewing machine business. I think they had a Singer franchise, but the Japanese income was so low that they can't afford to buy new, new sewing machines, so my father started to sell used Singer sewing machines. Since they were in the sewing machine business nobody, Japanese didn't know how to use a sewing machine, so my mother became a seamstress and learned how to use the, sew with a Singer sewing machine a little. I had three older sisters, so she became a dressmaker, dressing my three older sisters, and she got to be a pretty good seamstress, so when, when the boys came she, we were, she also sewed the clothes for us. And some of the clothes that she made looked feminine. It was, and she, the shirts that we were in were sewn like a woman's blouse, but she used good material, linen and things like that 'cause it was, when, whenever I dressed in one of my mother's clothes that she made, the teachers would use me as a model and show my mother's skill on it. It worked out that my father's business, she was a, became an important part of it, that teaching the farmers' wives how to sew with a sewing machine. So the former owner, that was fairly successful, so he retired and went back to Japan and lived comfortably. My father was, eventually had six children, so had to work, but by the time I graduated high school in, that was in '39, but before, I guess business depression, so because of the, my mother's help and my sisters working for a Japanese trading company, food, we were able to survive, but if, the business depression, business was so bad that, luckily, luckily, because of the war, we didn't have to declare bankruptcy because of the high risk of bankrupt businesses, so we were able to salvage whatever we could and sell. Because we learned about the evacuation early, my father, my mother liquidated the business by help of my brother in law. My father was picked up shortly after the war by the FBI and taken to Fort Missoula, Montana, so my brother was shouldered with the responsibility of closing the family business. But fortunately, we didn't have to go bankruptcy, because of the war.

MN: Where was your father's business located?

MS: In Little Tokyo, in Los Angeles. 325, I think, 327 East First Street, right across the street from the Fuji Theater.

MN: Now, there's two addresses. Your father had the Singer sewing machine company, and then he had another business. What was the other business?

MS: Well, he liked sports, so he had a sporting goods store, and he was interested in the Japanese sports. They had a baseball league, Los Angeles Nippon and stuff like that. And later on, when the Niseis grew up, then we had the various Japanese clubs in different parts of L.A., which started the league in basketball and baseball and things like that.

MN: What was your father's business called?

MS: C. Sumida & Company. Yeah, later it was Sumida & Son, but not for long. I was, I'm the son, but I was never in business.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.