Densho Digital Archive
National Japanese American Historical Society Collection
Title: Harvey Watanabe Interview
Narrator: Harvey Watanabe
Interviewers: Marvin Uratsu (primary), Gary Otake (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 12, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-wharvey-02-0005

<Begin Segment 5>

MU: Now, how 'bout your education? How, how high did you go in the American education?

HW: well, I went to high school.

MU: High school.

HW: Yeah, and I had the opportunity to go to aeronautical school, but I told my father, I said, "I can't get a job so no use wasting my time going to aeronautical school."

MU: You didn't think about going to college?

HW: No, because farm -- farming and farm labor was a big thing. The thing that was making the, or having a business in town. So, all of the, frankly, all the Nikkei families that we knew, associated with, were all in some phase of farming. Either working on the farm or growing vegetables, or having, you know, a farm. It was not bad, you know.

MU: And, at that time, you were making a pretty good living, I guess, or fair living?

HW: Yeah, good living.

MU: And college for a lot of people was out of the question, I think.

HW: Anyway, yeah. I think, in retrospect -- I mentioned it before -- but the reason why we were sent to Japanese school was because of the 1924 decision and the Isseis not knowing -- if the situation ever arose -- they might be suddenly, family and all be sent back to Japan. And better have Japanese language instruction more available all over.

MU: Now, you're talking about 1924, the law there, the Alien Land Law?

HW: Yeah, uh-huh. So anyway, they had formed a Japanese language school in Visalia, at the Buddhist Church. Then they decided to send the people from the country -- on Saturdays and Sundays -- and the kids that lived in the city would go after school, weekdays.

MU: Was your father one of the organizers of the Japanese school?

HW: I think the, all of the parents agreed, you know. All the fathers agreed that's the way it ought to be done.

MU: And who was the teacher?

HW: Well, there were two teachers. One, at the beginning it was the Buddhist priest there. And, later on it was a fellow who functioned as a, as a arm of the Japanese consul. But he was a, he was a citizen and a college graduate.

MU: U.S. citizen?

HW: Yeah. And he was the one teaching us Japanese.

MU: They must have done a pretty good job because your Japanese -- you were able to read, write and speak it.

HW: Well, I could speak it, but reading and writing was kinda tough.

MU: So, how many years of Japanese school education you think you received there?

HW: Well, I think about three years.

MU: Three years?

HW: Yeah. But then I had all of this background of working with these, you know, working with... and since I -- fairly young teenager, I was a straw boss for the crews. And the crews were all Isseis from Japan.

MU: So, you were conversing with them in Japanese?

HW: All the time, yeah.

MU: So, you learned a lot through experience?

HW: Just, just through conversation, yeah.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.