Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Robert Moriguchi Interview
Narrator: Robert Moriguchi
Interviewer: Brian Niiya
Location: Granada Hills, California
Date: October 4, 2022
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-515-7

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RM: So I was in Pescadero for, when I was still young. Then we moved to, my uncle found a farming area up in Mendocino County, Manchester up in Mendocino County. So our family, the Satoji family, and the uncle that's below my father, Hachio, he was still single. But we all moved up there, partnered, and we farmed there. So the thing I remember of that was that Christmas, we went to an old one-room schoolhouse, red schoolhouse, typical one-room schoolhouse, and had a Christmas party, like Santa Claus, that I remember. I must have been four or five. That was my next... and then after that, my father got real bad ulcers, bleeding ulcers, and there was no way to stop the bleeding ulcer. All you could do is drink cream, drink cream to soothe it. And so he couldn't work, and so my mother had to do double duty. My brother was just born, so she would carry him on her back, go out in the field and work, come home, take care of my father and make, do all the cooking and all that, and then she would do the bookkeeping, and it was too much. So we decided that while he recuperates, we'll move. So we went to my mother's sister's place in Esparto. It's an orchard, farm orchard. He had almonds and peaches and figs. I can't remember. Anyway, a bunch of fruits. He had even dried apricots, he dried apricots. Very handy guy, Koki Tsuji, Koki Tsuji, he did that. And so we lived... so my father recuperated there, and my mother went to work at a labor camp, she was a cook at a labor camp, took my brother with her. So she had to get up at four o'clock in the morning and cook breakfast for the workers and then make lunch for them, make dinner for them, make their furo, the bath, and then after they're all done, she has to bathe my brother, then she'll go to bed and then she had to get up and do the same thing. So it was a rough job, but she did that during the, I guess summertime. And I went to school, I started first grade in Esparto. And then when my father recuperated, it was not too long. We moved to Half Moon Bay, and we went to work, my father went to work at a nursery, flower, they grew flowers. I was still in the first grade, but I remember he was on a tractor, worked in the fields, and I would get on the tractor with him. The sound of the tractor would be so monotonous, I would fall asleep.


RM: So Half Moon Bay, my father worked out in the fields on the tractor. And I would ride with him, and because the sound was so monotonous, I would fall asleep, and he would have to hold me to make sure I don't fall off the tractor, I remember that. And another incident I remember was, I guess when I went to school, my mother must have taken me to school, but I had to walk back. And I don't know if it was the first day of school, second day of school or whatever it was, but I was by myself, and I got lost. I didn't know where home was. And I started crying, and a neighbor knew where I lived, so he took me there. But I remember that. And then the third thing I remember in Half Moon Bay was that my mother gave me some money to go shopping and get some bread or whatever it was, she gave me a twenty dollar bill. You know, this is during the Depression, a twenty dollar bill was a lot of money. And on the way back, I lost the money, I dropped the money someplace, and I don't know where. And so I remember that, I felt so guilty. I still feel guilty about that. Yeah, I lost the money, the change.

BN: It might still be there.

RM: Yeah, look out there in the road. So those are the things in Half Moon Bay.

BN: Just to pause for a minute, your mother is Issei, so at home, did you speak Japanese at home?

RM: I was told that I spoke Japanese, and so I had to learn English. But once I had learned English, I think I just spoke English all the time because my mother speaks English, and my father, he's pretty good in English, he was here since he was fourteen years old, so I didn't have any trouble speaking English. But Japanese, I had to speak with my aunts and uncles, my grandfather, I tried to speak some Japanese.

BN: Even though both of your parents spoke English, you still spoke Japanese at home?

RM: I don't think I spoke Japanese at home although I went to Japanese school. I didn't go to Japanese school until I went to Pescadero. Now, after Half Moon Bay, we went back to Pescadero, to my grandfather's place again. And I was still in the first grade, I went to first grade, second grade, and I don't know if I was in the third grade when I went to San Francisco. But I always had, my youngest uncle is just a year older than I am, so I always had playmates. I always played with my two youngest uncles. My oldest uncle, somehow he was not with our gang. [Laughs] And so my two uncles always get blamed for whatever we do, because I'm the youngest so I don't get blamed. Like we would be smoking, we'd make it out of the weeds that that was growing, or we'd go into my grandfather's room and steal his cigarettes and things like that.

BN: And these uncles, these are your mother's...

RM: Brother, yeah.

BN: Because you were so young, they were just a few years older than you.

RM: Yeah.

BN: So you really... you had a lot of extended family on both sides, your father and your mother.

RM: Right. Also, in Pescadero, a little side note, actually. But Chiura Obata, when he was teaching at Berkeley -- this is what my mother told me...

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