Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Kunio Otani Interview
Narrator: Kunio Otani
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Rebecca Walls (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 31, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-okunio-01-0036

<Begin Segment 36>

RW: Tell me about what you remember from your first days working in the business.

KO: Well, back in those days, things were quite primitive. And all you needed was a shovel and a wheelbarrow, and you could be in business. So, if you needed dirt, you just went out in the field, and dug just plain old, any kind of dirt you could find, and bring it into the house, greenhouse, and use it for potting or whatever else. And I can remember times when we used to have pretty severe winters here, the ground would be frozen down about two or three feet; and we'd have to take a pick axe and go out there and break up that soil, and haul it in, and thaw it out before we could use it. But, things have changed now but those are some of my early memories of the greenhouse business. And at that time, there were quite a few cut flowers and vegetables being grown in the greenhouse, too. Cucumbers, and -- particularly cucumbers I think, and maybe some tomatoes. But there a lot of cut flowers were being grown in the greenhouses and out in the fields, because they weren't importing very much stuff from California, other places. Unlike now, there's no cut flower business to speak of around here, because it's all imported from different countries, not only the states, but different countries. But, yeah, things were pretty old fashioned in those times, and things are different now.

RW: And you're saying that, the greenhouse business, you can always use extra hands. Your workdays must have been pretty long then, when you were working...

KO: Well, we tried, I think they tried to keep it down. But six day was, I think was a pretty normal work week. And generally, in the greenhouse business, there's no overtime either; and I hear that even today, some of the places don't even pay overtime, although I don't see how they can get away with it.

RW: What was the most challenging for you when you were working in the greenhouse?

KO: Well, trying to find my niche, I think. I wanted to contribute, and seeing where I could fit in and help the company was -- and try to help myself too, along the way -- I think that was the big challenge. I ended up in sales, and I seemed to be able to handle that a little better than I could some of the heavier work. So, that became my job in the greenhouse.

RW: What did you enjoy about sales work?

KO: Well, mainly, meeting the customers, and doing a good job of selecting plants. At that time, the driver picked out the plants, loaded 'em in the truck, and delivered 'em to town. I think doin' a good job there, and trying to learn the names of all these different plants that you were hauling around. That was interesting, yes.

<End Segment 36> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.