Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Tom Matsuoka Interview
Narrator: Tom Matsuoka
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Ridgefield, Washington
Date: May 7, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-mtom-01-0026

<Begin Segment 26>

TM: So around July. Anyway, I didn't even stay a month or so in Pinedale. We moved to Tule Lake. Next day I went to work, for Tule Lake is a farm. I don't like stay in the camp all day. I stayed in the camp already. So I stay outside, work in the Tule Lake farm.

AI: What kind of farming was it?

TM: Most was potato, lot of potato. And we were on the farm making that daikon and nappa and all that kind of stuff and so doggone many of them. They used to ship them out to Minidoka and some in down in south California. Anyway, we used to make lots, that's kind of vegetable and butter. Acre and acre was potato, and I was working in the potato field, irrigation and... well, then it's about time to potato harvesting in the camp. Meantime, the name Sasaki and we used to call Lefty. He was from Orting, and that's near Sumner, originally. He came to recruiting to beets labor and if you go out for sugar beet labor, you can go out from camp. "How about you want to go out?" By gosh, I sure want to go out. So I asked Kaz and she said she will go out, too. Well, they said, "If you go out, best way, have a six men together. Six men together, because the six men is a crew. So we figured me and Kaz, Rae and Tats and Ty. We have five of 'em, one short. So we took Kaz's sister and made six, six-man crew. And we went for the sugar beets harvest. [Smiles]

AI: How old were the kids?

TM: Rae? How old? [Looks at daughter, Rae] How old was it?

RT: Fifteen.

TM: Fifteen. Fifteen, fourteen, twelve. That's right. So we went out. And Tule Lake was still pretty nice weather because potatoes never harvested yet. Oh, we went to Chinook, Montana... there's already snow all over the place, snow the place. So we start hard, hard work in the sugar beets labor. Man, was it hard, but we done pretty good.

AI: Where did you live when you were doing that?

TM: In Chinook? Chinook, we went to a farm. There is Gotti brother, his farm, we went. Then we finished the harvesting. Then he said, he hired me for feeding sheep. Everybody said they gonna stay here and go to school. That's why we stayed that winter. And the next spring come and they send me over to camp while recruiting beets labor. And that's what the sugar company did. But I went and I bring quite a few people I know. All that Tok's family, your family, [Looks at Tosh Ito] all Shimogaki family, and then Chappie Yasui from Hood River, all they come. And some stayed in Great Falls and some came to around Chinook. Well, then that year we finished the Gotti brother's place. Then Lundeen's place was you people was working, I think, was quite acreage left. [Looks at Tosh Ito]

TI: Yeah, it was Meyer's place.

RT: They went to Meyer's.

TM: Oh, yeah. You stayed in the Meyer's place, yeah. And after Meyer's place done, went over there helping to Lundeen's. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Then we went helping Lundeen's and they, Gus Lundeen want whole family, Tok Hirotaka's family and my family. He want to move to his place. Meantime, he came to how about start fire. No. Fifty-fifty sharecropping business. And so me and Tok talk and, "That's all right. Let's, let's take that."

So Tok and I get together and then we went in the fifty-fifty sharecropping at Lundeen's farm. Well, then we started. We supposed to be finance the labor, Lundeen is supposed to finance all the equipment and gasoline and material. Well, we started and meantime, she [Points to daughter, Rae] graduated high school, and went to college and Tats is graduated high school, he went to the army. Well, my crew getting pretty, shrinking. Then Kik and Mits, they left. They went to Minnesota, Minneapolis, they start work there. Well, so I kind of short labor and I'm supposed to be finance the labor. And those day sugar company recruits sugar beet labor and they, if you ask them, why they supposed to be give us some labor. I had all kind of labor. I had German prisoner labor, and Bahamian labor and those white slave labor. You know, all country, Kentucky and all that Missouri, and anyway it's all that real country slave, you know. What I hire when you help me? [Looks at Tosh Ito]

TI: I kind of think it might have been Mexican.

TM: Mexican. Anyway, I had lots of Mexican all the time.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.