Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Hatsuko Mary Higuchi Interview
Narrator: Hatsuko Mary Higuchi
Interviewer: Virginia Yamada
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: February 4, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-456-5

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VY: So do you have memories of working on the farm as a child?

HH: Oh, yes, we worked very, very hard, helping my mom whenever we could. Of course, our schoolwork was always first. Every day it was benkyo shinasai, "study, study, study," benkyo shinasai. She just wanted us to do our very best, and so we did, we did our very best we could. Not straight-As all the time, but we did our very best. She bought encyclopedia books, Britannica, she bought sets of it to make sure we would books to do research with. And she would take us, no matter how busy she was, if we had to go to the library, she would stop, take us to the library to study. We were all very active, she would take us to our school activities. My brother, the youngest, he started walking all the way from Torrance to Palos Verdes country club and caddy for the golfers to earn extra money. And that was miles up the hill to Palos Verdes, and then he would walk home. And the money he saved, he would give to us to go to college when we were going to college. He would give me some money for college expenses, and he helped on the farm by driving the tractor. But after that, I think it tapered off where he was more of a teenager and just started playing around, but he helped. My mother did the plowing, the cultivating, harnessing the horse and cultivating the soil. I don't know how she did it, and she would plow and make rows and rows on these acres of farm. And we would help her by, she would plant cauliflower and we would drop the seedlings along the row, and one of us would come around and put the seedling into the soil and she would help irrigate all night long, she was just a worker.

VY: Had she done any of that before?

HH: No.

VY: So she just figured it out.

HH: It was something she had to do, she had no choice. And she did hire a Mexican worker to come and help her.

VY: Just one person?

HH: Uh-huh. And so he would do the plowing.

VY: Was it a big farm? Did you sell the vegetables?

HH: Ten acres. Ten acres of romaine and cauliflower. Yeah, she did it herself. She is an amazing woman. And even whenever she had the time, she would sew clothes for us, I can't believe all she did, and cook. We started cooking early, too, to help around the house. And I remember when we were all working, my brother would even fix lunch for us, because he was the youngest.

VY: It sounds like you all learned by example, she was such a hard worker and so devoted to her family, and you all learned that kind of work ethic from her.

HH: Right, we just had to work together. We had piano lessons and she bought a piano for us, had us take lessons.

VY: It must have been a very successful farm.

HH: Yeah, she made enough money to support herself. But when she sold the property, because the land was worth a lot by the time she retired, and when we got out of college, that's when she stopped.

VY: So when was that?

HH: In '62.

VY: So she worked that farm for a good (ten) years.

HH: Uh-huh. But then the sad part happens after that. Because after she sold the farm, then we had people that were interested in borrowing money from her.

VY: Because they knew she had money from selling the farm?

HH: Yeah, because then he was the, I guess, the broker kind of like, so he knew she had the money after she sold the property, and that's when he asked to borrow the money to invest in apartments. He was a builder, developer, and he built all these apartment complexes. So we would go drive all the way to Camarillo to go look at the property and my mother was so proud that she owned the apartment. But he was managing it, and lost everything. And so my mother was left with nothing after all her hard work, after all that working and selling the property.

VY: That's so awful. So she never got her money back?

HH: Never got her money back. Never got her money back, and so we had her live with us. And I just cherished those years that she was able to spend with us because we traveled every summer.

VY: What kinds of things did you do with your mom?

HH: We took her to... because she never traveled.

VY: Didn't have time. [Laughs]

HH: She was always working, working and so we took her to Arizona, wherever we would go, to Grand Canyon, to Monument Valley, to Oregon, to Washington, wherever we went, and she just absolutely loved it. We had a camper with a bubble top, and we would camp out, and she just thoroughly enjoyed all those years. And then, later on, she started traveling.

VY: By herself?

HH: With groups and group tours, and she would save her money.

VY: Did her English get better over time?

HH: No. [Laughs] 'Cause she relied on us entirely. All through high school, grammar school, I did all the translation for her.

VY: So your Japanese was pretty good?

HH: No, unfortunately, it's very broken. We were able to communicate and understand each other, but if I really wanted to say something to her, if I was really mad about something, I couldn't really express it the way I wanted to, it was kind of on an elementary level. But we understood each other and was able to have that emotional connection where we emotionally supported each other.

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