Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Barbara Reiko Mikami Keimi Interview
Narrator: Barbara Reiko Mikami Keimi
Interviewer: Virginia Yamada
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: February 5, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-459-12

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VY: Okay, so after the war, your mom taught Japanese flower arranging. Did she do any other kind of work?

BK: Well, when we first came out, I think she used to do sewing. She used to do piecework, I remember, I think she used to make pockets on shirts. I know she bought a power machine and so she would be sewing pockets day and night, I guess. And I don't know where she took it, and then she got more work and did that, I guess just doing piecework, and she was also hemming handkerchiefs, doing the French hem or something and making handkerchiefs. She'd get paid by the pieces, I guess.

VY: And did she do that work out of her home?

BK: Yes, because I was still going to junior high or something. I don't know, I might have still been in elementary school and doing to supplemental income. And then my dad started gardening, so I don't know exactly how long he was working at the mattress factory. Well, I know he eventually got a route for gardening, and he became a gardener full time.

VY: Did he have his own gardening business?

BK: Yes.

VY: And did he have any employees?

BK: My brother. On Saturdays, my brother would help him. And then I know I went a couple of times when my brother went to summer camp or was out of town or was with his friends or something. Then my dad would take my mom and I to help him do gardening and then I liked the idea of walking behind the, I guess, motorized mower by then. And so I said, "I want to do it, I want to do it," So he'd let me do it. And then I remember looking at what I'd done, and it was the wavy zigzag trail that I left, so he'd have to redo it because he couldn't leave it like that. But my dad was always very... I mean, he always let me do anything I wanted to do, really.

VY: Why do you think he chose gardening? Was it something he had a passion for, or did it seem to like something he could figure out how to do?

BK: Well, I think that it was something he could figure to do, and he would be his own boss. And I guess, as he got the route, people kept asking him, neighbors or (someone) would, at the houses he was at, they would come and ask him to do their lawn. And I don't know, my dad was like a, people person, and I remember he would tell me about the ladies inviting him into the house and saying, "Oh, Harry, come, have some coffee," or, "I made some cake or something," and they would invite him in and give him cake and coffee or something. And, in fact, several times, the customers were... and I think a lot of these ladies were widowed. And so they would say, "Oh, bring your family over for dinner," and so we'd go to the house for dinner and the customers would cook him dinner and things. And so, I mean, I went to a couple, several dinners. I think my mom didn't really care to go, but I guess after they asked so many times, they felt that they should, so we went. I don't think my brother ever went, but I always, I was still young yet, so I tagged along a lot.

VY: What was that like? What were their houses like? Were they different than your houses?

BK: Yeah, 'cause we were in an apartment and they were in a house. So that was a big difference. They were always so nice and very inviting.

VY: And who were most of his customers? Were they mostly white?

BK: Yeah, they were white. I think he had a lot of customers in Glendale by the observatory.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.