Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Michiko Frances Chikahisa Interview
Narrator: Michiko Frances Chikahisa
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Skokie, Illinois
Date: June 17, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-cmichiko-01-0002

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TI: And then when he's in southern California, what does he do?

FC: I don't know. He did a variety of things. At one point he was working up in Mount Wilson, which at that time was kind of a resort area, and so he was working as a cook's helper. So that was probably one of his early jobs, 'cause he remembers taking that red car -- that was at the foot of Pasadena, and they'd take this trolley car up to Mount Wilson, which is then considered quite a high mountain. And he learned to cook and he stayed there for a short time, but he was always restless. He's looking for something that was more grand, so he left and I think he went to work in the produce markets at that point, being sort of like a swamper, helping with loading and unloading. And then for a short time he ran a grocery store right in the, that market area on Ninth and San Pedro. It was kind of clever 'cause he said his grocery store was called Red Awning Grocery, so he was, he was kind of, tried to be very Americanized.

TI: And I'm curious, when he was Red Awning, did he have a red awning?

FC: I guess he did because they had these, a lot of little shops along there on San Pedro.

TI: That is interesting. That's a very savvy marketing type of thing. I mean, especially if he had a red awning because then people would remember.

FC: The name, yeah.

TI: It's easy to...

FC: We never asked him that, but he did say that he named the store the Red Awning. [Laughs] And I don't think he did it for long, and then he bought into the wholesale markets.

TI: And describe where the wholesale markets are relative to, I mean, is this one that's not too far from Little Tokyo?

FC: There're actually two large wholesale markets in Los Angeles. One is sort of city owned and that was the Seventh Street Market, was on Seventh and Central, and it's turned out to be a very large, prosperous place now. And then, but he was involved in the Ninth Street Market, which was kind of a private enterprise, and it was on San Pedro and Ninth Street, not too far, and there were a lot of Japanese along in there, Tenth to Twelfth and Central. And so he actually was living as a bachelor someplace near there, because my mother's uncle, who was, had come to the U.S. much earlier, was actually like a Christian evangelist and he ran this boarding house for the Issei single men. And he ran it like a mission; he would teach a little bit about Christianity and he'd feed the guys, and so my father stayed there, I guess, while he was working as a swamper for the market. My father really loved this man. He said he was such a person with such character and he was such an honest and conscientious man, so he, they struck up a very, very close relationship. And so the uncle is actually the one who wrote home and tried to arrange the marriage between my mother and my father.

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