Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Alan Kumamoto Interview
Narrator: Alan Kumamoto
Interviewer: Brian Niiya
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: February 7, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-464-8

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 8>

BN: So then when your dad comes back...

AK: That's when he works in an air conditioning place and earns some money.

BN: This is in Chicago first?

AK: In Chicago to get enough money to buy the car to get us to Los Angeles to open the house in that timeframe.

BN: Now, when you say "open the house," did you already own a house?

AK: it was my grandfather's house.

BN: So this is the one on Linda Lee that you were mentioning?

AK: Bonnie Brae.

BN: I'm sorry, Bonnie Brae.

AK: And it was so, I guess they had neighbors or somebody to watch it, and then we had to... after Joe and them came, we added rooms and things like that, because my grandfather was coming from Denver, he decided he'd move there. So we wanted to make sure the garage was converted to his library and this study, and the back of that was the bedrooms for my grandfather and mother, and that was that wing. My uncle Joe always worked, well, at that time, in the produce market, so he would bring home bookkeeping after they closed the market, so that they would have the billing and the payments and all that type of thing. So he worked for Trio Produce for many years, and they had a couple people and all that. So he was in one of the other rooms. Then in the front room was where they had their bedroom, and then we were in the back on another bedroom with a kitchen in between.

BN: So who was the first to return?

AK: We were.

BN: So your family was the first to go back.

AK: Right.

BN: You were the ones that kind of...

AK: We opened it up, basically opened it up.

BN: So there wasn't anyone living there at the time.

AK: And then, so Little Tokyo became closer, there's a Beverly Boulevard bus that would take you to downtown and so forth, so it was pretty convenient. It wasn't next to Little Tokyo, but it was close enough. And Maryknoll was there, Nishi was there. And my mom and dad get into mainstream things, and they get into community things. So as an example, my mom was part of a garden club that Chief Parker, Police Chief Parker was part of. She liked it, she would be active with the Chinese groups or whatever. And so she was active with Catholic stuff that was mainstream. But still she would be active with the Little Tokyo side. So that's what, there was a plan. My dad becomes the first non-white bowling association president, L.A. Bowling Association. And he was proud because he used to go to the National Bowling Congress every year and get a new pin. He would not just be part of the American Legion, he would not be just part of the different politics of the Little Tokyo community, but he would also be in the mainstream. He had a hard time, when we came back, he had to work for many of his schoolmates who opened up pharmacies, but didn't have a relief pharmacist, or didn't trust even your store to anybody. So they would be working seven days a week and all that type of thing. And so when they needed a relief person, they said, "Here's the keys," and they'd leave, take a couple of days off or something. So my dad, I know, was bouncing around, he finally found work at Thrifty Drug Store. And the unions and all that type of thing, so he was active with Thrifty and the unions, and he never wanted to be a store manager, "Just do my nine to five kind of thing. The unions will protect me or take care of me. And I could go bowling, I could go fishing, I could go golfing," so he did all those kinds of activities.

BN: So at the time, was it because he was Japanese that he had a hard time getting, like a mainstream pharmacy?

AK: Oh, yeah.

BN: So was he one of the first hired by a mainstream company?

AK: Yeah. Those kinds of things. Because this is 1945, so 1946, 1947.

BN: Did he stay at... once he was working for Thrifty, did he stay at --

AK: He stayed at Thrifty's until he retired.

BN: Was it a particular Thrifty's or did he move around?

AK: No, no, they moved around.

BN: Because there were many Thrifty's.

AK: Right, right. Well, it was a chain store. And you get seniority in the store or whatever. And then because you're the head pharmacist there, the management would want him to become a manager, because he'd see the manager having to go there if there was a leak on the roof, open it up, if there was a robbery or whatever, and then he'd have to open it and close it and whatever, so he said he just wanted to do his profession.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.