Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Esther Takei Nishio Interview
Narrator: Esther Takei Nishio
Interviewer: Sharon Yamato
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: September 21, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-nesther-01-0003

<Begin Segment 3>

SY: So now tell me, when you were born, through all of this, when, when exactly were you born and where were you born?

EN: [Laughs] Well, I was born in 1925 and I was born in, I think in Little Tokyo. I don't know whether it was a hospital or whatever, but I grew up in Venice. That's, that was where our home was.

SY: I see, so you, so your parents came to Little Tokyo to have you.

EN: Yes.

SY: Even though they were living in Venice at the time.

EN: Yes.

SY: I see. And then the, I don't know if you remember from your earliest memories, what, I would love for you to describe what Venice was like then.

EN: At that time it was, well, when I was born it was a lovely place because the canals resembled those in Venice, Italy, and there were lots of canals and little bridges over the canals, and it was a lovely place to live. And there was no Disneyland or Knott's Berry Farm, so people would come to the beach to sun themselves and go swimming and then come to the amusement pier to have fun and go dancing at the grand ballroom, and there was also a beautiful cafe called the Ship Cafe, which was shaped like a steamship. It was a very exotic place to grow up in.

SY: So it was kind of a, I guess, a vacation spot.

EN: Yes, like a little resort.

SY: And were, was it mostly tourists who would come there?

EN: Yes, and people, yeah, people that wanted to have fun. So we were usually busy, busiest on weekends, of course.

SY: I see. That was the big time. And can you describe this business that your uncle had established? What was that like?

EN: Well, the concessions were the kinds of games that you see at the carnivals nowadays, the amusement section. They're, I remember our, the first little place that you would come to on the pier was a string game, and that was right next to the ballroom, and the string game was a little booth and there was a, like hundreds of little strings that came from the back and the person behind the counter would gather all the strings and hold them in his hand, and you would pay a nickel, I think, at the time, and you were offered, you pull the string and, you pull the string and it would draw up a prize from behind the, not the screen, back there. And so it could be a big prize or a little prize. Usually it was a little prize. And then the, then the ballroom was next to that, and on the other side of the ballroom we had another game where you shot BB guns loaded with cork, corks, and you shot the corks against candy bars or cigarette packs to win, for prizes.

SY: And was there more? Is that --

EN: Yes, then next to that there was a booth where you could throw penny pitches, pitch games for prizes. And then next to that there was another special booth where we had a series of glass boxes, and there's a contraption that went up and down and on the counter there was a, what do you call it, pedal sort of thing, and you push the pedal down and there was an incline and little rabbits would go up. It was like a rabbit race. And that was a fun game.

SY: That's great.

EN: It was really cute.

SY: Yeah, it's amazing that your uncle, so basically --

EN: Well, this is all my dad's stuff.

SY: I see.

EN: That uncle had already left. And then further up the pier we had another booth where you pitched baseballs for, to knock the milk bottles down. You've see that at the carnivals.

SY: Right, yeah.

EN: And then later on we had a ride that was called the octopus ride, and that was very popular. And at the very end of the pier there was another long booth that had a galvanized ring, tub that went all the way around the room, and it was filled with water and there were little wooden fishes that went swimming by and had a little hook on their nose right here, and we had the fishing poles with hooks on the end of the line, and you fished for the fish. So if you caught a fish then you picked you up and there's a little tab on the tummy and you pull the tab over and it indicated what the prize was that you'd won. So we had all sorts of fun things to do there.

SY: I'll say.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.