Densho Digital Archive
Friends of Manzanar Collection
Title: Bill Watanabe Interview
Narrator: Bill Watanabe
Interviewer: Sharon Yamato
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: February 8, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-wbill-01-0007

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SY: So back to your mother's family, which was quite a bit larger, right? She had quite a few siblings.

BW: Right.

SY: Can you give us an idea of how, well, if you remember her siblings.

BW: Yeah, so she came to get married. That was in 1932, and then my oldest brother, Kinichi, was born in 1934, and then at that time my father had rented an apartment, I understood, in Hollywood. I think there were a number of Japanese living in a certain part of Hollywood. I wish I knew what street or, it'd be nice, but... and so he --

SY: Was it considered Hollywood then? It wasn't, it was...

BW: Oh yeah, the movie making business was --

SY: Big.

BW: -- big at the time. And so my mother said it was a nice, small apartment and that my father had cleaned it up and made it very nice for his new bride, and so she said she has very pleasant memories of moving in. And then my father said --

SY: Did she talk about the whole experience of having met him for the first time or what that was like?

BW: Not in great detail, but I think she did notice that she was, like, three inches taller than he was. [Laughs] But when they picked her and my uncle up at the port they did another ceremony. They went to a person's house, and there was a Buddhist priest who did a second ceremony. Basically, I guess... I don't know, I guess that was a custom. So they did that and then they had a little party, small party of maybe five or six people, and then they went to their apartment. And then my father told my mother, "It's not gonna be easy, so take it easy for a couple of weeks and get established." And so she appreciated that. She felt he was very kind and understanding. And so he went to work every day and then came back, but my father used to say while they were living in Hollywood he could actually -- like they'd be making Charlie Chaplin movies right there on the sidewalk where they lived -- literally look out the window, and there, they're making a movie right there. And so my father, for a long time he would mimic Charlie Chaplin's motions 'cause he would watch them making movies right there, so I guess that made it kind of fun.

SY: So he had sort of a sense of humor, your father.

BW: Yeah, I think so.

SY: And how would you --

BW: Well, actually, both my father and my mother. On the Furuyama side they were very, I mean, everyone was a crackup. I mean, they were constantly making jokes and laughing, real loud laughs. On my father's side, not so much.

SY: Your mother actually came from a really large family.

BW: Pretty large, yeah.

SY: Do you know how --

BW: I think there must've been seven of 'em.

SY: Seven of them.

BW: I'm guessing. I can't remember.

SY: She was the second?

BW: Yeah, so there's Jiukichi, and then my mother, and then Tomiji, Tomio, Tomiye, and Miyeko, so six, there were six of them. No, Densaku, seven. I forgot Densaku.

SY: Densaku's the one that came with her, right? That, when she left Japan, he's the younger brother that came with her?

BW: No, it was Tomiji.

SY: So...

BW: Tomiji might be older than Densaku. I can't, they're pretty close.

SY: And what happened to Tomiji when, did he move into the apartment with your mother?

BW: No. So when they came here he was living with a Japanese farmer, so he became a hired hand on a farm, I believe in the Valley somewhere.

SY: And your father in Hollywood, the business, again, was farming?

BW: Farming. Every day he would go to a farm, the farm, and work and come back.

SY: So they lived in an apartment, but he worked off the, he worked for someone else on a farm.

BW: Right, right. And then eventually they heard about a Japanese farmer in the San Fernando Valley who wanted to go back to Japan. No, excuse me, about a Japanese farmer who needed help. So my father and my mother went and lived on that farm in the Valley, and so they worked there for a year or two, and then that farmer decided to go back to Japan, and so my father bought the business from that person.

SY: He was able to buy, buy a, I guess, a business, as opposed to land and...

BW: Yeah, he couldn't buy the land, but he bought the business, which included the stall at the flower market and which allowed him to sell his stuff.

SY: That might have been connected to your, your mother's...

BW: Yeah, so this farmer that my father ended up with was a friend of the farmer who took over the old Furuyama farm or something like that. It was some kind of a connection like that. I didn't quite get it all.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.