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Title: Margaret Junko Morita Hiratsuka Interview
Narrator: Margaret Junko Morita Hiratsuka
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Skokie, Illinois
Date: June 15, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-hmargaret-01-0002

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TI: Let's, let's, why don't we start with your father's family, and can you tell me how they came to the United States?

MH: Well, only my father came to the United States. It's my mother's father that came first to the United States. So I could talk about my mother's...

TI: Well, let's start with your mother's side, then, since they came earlier.

MH: Yeah, they came earlier.

TI: So your mother's father...

MH: Father, came to the United States, I think when my mother was five years old, so I figure that was 1904.

TI: Okay.

MH: They left my mother, (...) my grandfather and my grandmother came to the United States and left my mother with (her) grandfather's family. And I think they, the reason my grandfather came to the United States is he had originally graduated from a business college in Japan and worked in a bank for several years, and then the bank went out of business and he was out of a job, so then he decided, he read an information book about going to America and he decided that that's what he wanted to do. So in 1904, I think, he came to America with my grandmother.

TI: And where in America did they...

MH: Well, he got a job in the Alaska cannery, and he and his brother formed a company called AB Keon, and they were a foreman and job recruiters for eight canneries that they had a contract with. And so one brother stayed in Alaska and the other brother stayed in Seattle, and they had an office on Jefferson -- no. Yeah, on Main and, where is it? Let me see what, where'd I write down? He, they had an office. Jackson and Main, they had an office there and they took turns. One year one brother would stay in Alaska and one year the other brother worked in Seattle. And they sent a lot of the college, Nisei college students to jobs up in Alaska, and they were very happy to get the jobs because they got paid very well.

TI: Well, and the role that your grandfather and your uncle played was a really key one in terms of --

MH: The cannery.

TI: You're right, because so many people wanted those jobs because they were very good.

MH: Yeah.

TI: Do you know how he got that job?

MH: Well I guess they just were very good workers and they, and so they got contracts with eight canneries and that's what they did. They sent the boys up to Alaska.

TI: I forgot to ask, what was your grandfather's name?

MH: Sataro Minami. And they changed their name from Uyeminami. They shortened it to Minami, although Minami was the original name, because for business purposes, I guess, when written in Japanese it could be read either Kamiminami or Uyeminami, and it was confusing. So that's why it's short --

TI: So they just simplified it.

MH: Yeah, back to Minami.

TI: To Minami. And your, his brother? Do you remember, what was --

MH: Oh, Kikuzo Uyeminami. He never changed his name. Just my grandfather went to Minami. But in 1930 my grandfather sold his shares in the business and he went, he started in the hotel business. That's when he leased and managed the Holland Hotel at Fourth Avenue and Jefferson in Seattle. And since the hotel did very well he built up, on two floors to the hotel.

TI: So he, was he able, he owned the hotel?

MH: Well, I think he leased it and he operated it.

TI: Because I was wondering because of the, back then you had the alien land laws.

MH: Yeah, you couldn't...

TI: So unless you were a citizen...

MH: Citizen, you couldn't buy it, yeah. So I think, although he, he...

TI: Yeah, I was just wondering, possibly your older brother or something, he could've...

MH: But 1930 he was only, well, ten years old he was then.

TI: So I was curious about that.

MH: But I think he just leased it. But it seemed like he had a share of it somehow.

TI: So 1930, he was in the hotel business.

MH: And then, yeah, my, he sold the shares in the cannery business, and then he needed someone who knew the Japanese customs and the Japanese language, so then my father was then hired to that job. And that's how my father got involved with the trade at the, my grandfather's hotel. And it was considered one of the best hotels in Seattle at that time, and the army and the navy officers and the Japanese --

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.