Densho Digital Archive
Preserving California's Japantowns Collection
Title: Eddie M. Inaba Interview
Narrator: Eddie M. Inaba
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary); Jill Shiraki (secondary)
Location: Sacramento, California
Date: December 11, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-ieddie-01

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay, so we're gonna start. Today is Friday, December 11, 2009. We are at the home of Eddie Inaba in Sacramento. Interviewing, we have Jill Shiraki, and me, Tom Ikeda. And on the camera we have Dana Hoshide. And so, Eddie, thank you so much for interviewing today. So the first question is, can you tell me where you were born?

EI: Walnut Grove, May the 9th, 1917.

TI: Okay, so you were born on May 9, 1917, Walnut Grove. Now, were you in Walnut Grove, or was it like a... do you recall where in Walnut Grove?

EI: In the country, Staten Island. Small place.

TI: So this Staten Island...

EI: Yeah, Staten Island.

TI: And when you were born, were you born in a house?

EI: Yeah, a house, yes.

TI: Good. So let's, tell me first your brothers and sisters. Can you start with your brothers and sisters, and tell me all your brothers and sisters? Their names, of your brothers and sisters?

EI: Oh, name? From top I have a sister named Toshiko Inaba, and Akira Inaba is my brother, Mitsuru Inaba, my sister, then myself, and Flu H. Inaba, my brother, younger brother, and Tomiko Inaba, my sister, youngest sister, the baby.

TI: So you were the fourth one, you had two older sisters, one older brother. Okay, good.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: Let's talk about your father first. Can you tell me your father's name and where he was from? So your father's name was... what was your father's name?

EI: Hikotaro Inaba.

TI: And where was he from?

EI: One?

TI: Where? Where did he grow up?

EI: In Japan?

TI: Yeah, in Japan, where?

EI: Kumamoto-ken, Japan, just like Sam Sakata.

JS: Same as Sam, yeah.

TI: And do you know, in Kumamoto-ken, what your father's family did? What kind of work did he do?

EI: Oh, farmwork, in the farm.

TI: Now, why did your father come to America?

EI: Well, he was working at the Miyazaki-ken in the farmwork. He had a friend there, "Let's go to America." I think they came very young, too.

TI: And do you know about what year your father came?

EI: I don't know.

JS: 1885.

TI: Yeah, so my notes say 1885. Do you know what he did? When he first came America, do you know where he went?

EI: He went to the, Courtland, California.

JS: Courtland?

EI: Yeah. Where my older, my brother, older brother was there. No, no, my father's older brother was there.

JS: Oh, your uncle.

EI: Uncle, yeah.

TI: And what kind of work did he do?

EI: Farm work, making the Sacramento River levee and those things.

TI: And how did your father meet your mother?

EI: I think after ten, fifteen years, little older, I thought they... put together in Japan, I guess, and she came to Seattle and come to Courtland.

JS: Was your mother from Kumamoto-ken also?

EI: Yeah, same place.

JS: Same place.

TI: And when you think of your father, describe what kind of man he was. How would you describe your father? Like what did your father, was he a big man?

EI: No, no, small.

TI: And how about his personality? Was he...

EI: Yeah, he was good.

TI: So when you say "good," what does that mean? Was he a happy man?

EI: Yeah, happy man, drink, make own sake.

TI: So he liked to drink sake, did he like to have lots of friends come by?

EI: Yeah, come by, especially New Year's.

TI: How about your mother? What was your mother like?

EI: Same thing, but not, not as happy like my father.

TI: When, say, for instance, when you got into trouble, say you did something bad. Who would get mad at you, your father or your mother?

EI: Oh, my mother, but they're too old. My mother's too old. That's why we do ourselves.

TI: Oh, so you took care of yourself, you mean?

EI: Yeah.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So in the early days, you were at Canal Ranch. Do you remember Canal Ranch?

EI: Yeah.

TI: So tell me about Canal Ranch. What kind of work...

EI: Asparagus field.

TI: And what did your father do at Canal Ranch?

EI: Taking care of four or five hundred acre of asparagus, so Libby, McNeill & Libby, he used to work under that Libby, McNeill & Libby. So cultivating the field and take care of the crop.

TI: So that's, you said four to five hundred acres?

EI: Yeah, five hundred acres, that's right.

TI: Five hundred acres, this is for Libby asparagus.

EI: Uh-huh.

TI: So how many men did he work with to do that?

EI: Oh, we have Filipino, about forty, fifty people.

TI: And what was your father's role? I mean, what was his job? With all these people, what did he do?

EI: Looking after the, cultivating the asparagus and they used to cut when the time comes, take care, take care of the ground and everything. Worked for about fifteen years.

TI: So it sounds like hard work, asparagus farming.

EI: Yeah, asparagus.

TI: In those early days at the ranch, Canal Ranch, what are some memories that you have? Do you remember what Canal Ranch... like when you played, what kind of play activities did you have at Canal Ranch?

EI: I used to go to grammar school and high school, to Gold High School, I used to go to, and I moved to Courtland after I get friends with Sam Sakata.

TI: Okay, before we go there, let's talk about, remember the Thorton elementary school?

EI: Yeah, and I went to school, New Hoboke school, yeah. Still there.

TI: So that school is still there.

EI: Yeah.

TI: Do you remember any games that you used to play when you were a child?

EI: Game? I played... well, baseball, basketball, or I was kind of small, but played football. I played football in high school, two, three years.

TI: What position did you play?

EI: Quarterback.

TI: Wow. [Laughs] That's good. You must have been a fast runner or a good arm?

EI: I was a fast runner, I guess.

TI: Good.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: Then your father decided to go from Canal Ranch to Walnut Grove. Why did your father decide to go to Walnut Grove?

EI: Why? Oh, tough living on the ranch, hard working. I tell him, all the children tell him, "Nah, we better move out to a town, take it easy, find us a good job. I think we could do it." Somewhere we could all work then.

TI: So it sounds like he did it for the children?

EI: Huh?

TI: Because the children could get more work, or it was easier work for...

EI: Town.

TI: In a town, the work was easier?

EI: Easier.

TI: But not only for him, but also for you and your brothers and sisters?

EI: Brother and sister, yeah. And my dad and mom, too. Have a bar, those days. Filipino people are customers, Filipino people are cutting, asparagus cutters come in, would be our customer. We had a lot of business.

TI: Okay, so you started with a bar, and a lot of the, you said the Filipino workers came in and were customers.

EI: Yeah.

TI: Where was the bar located?

EI: In the corner, small. We bought the barbershop, Japanese barbershop corner, small barbershop, I forgot the name.

JS: Was it on A Street?

EI: Huh?

JS: What street was it on in Walnut Grove?

EI: I don't know.

JS: You don't remember.

EI: No, I don't remember.

TI: And then when your father had the bar, what kind of work did you do?

EI: I was still going to school, Rogers High School, I was in college a couple years in San Francisco. Then come back, help in the store. The store burned out, the Chinatown burned down that time, then we built a new building where the present store is now, Inaba Company, H. Inaba and Sons. And my brother went to Fresno.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Okay, so let me ask, so let me make sure I understand. So after high school, you went to San Francisco to go to college.

EI: Yeah.

TI: But then you came back to help out at the store.

EI: I helped.

TI: And then there was a fire, and then you had to rebuild the store, so you were working there.

EI: Yeah.

TI: Let me ask you about the fire. Tell me about the fire and how that changed the town.

EI: Changed town completely. Buildings gone. I don't know, something happened. [Laughs]

JS: Were you in town when the fire happened?

EI: Yeah.

JS: You were, so you remember?

EI: I don't know. I remember taking the merchandise out of the store.

JS: Oh, so everything was gone. Where you lived and the store?

EI: Everything burned down.

TI: So can you... tell me as much as you can remember, describe the fire and what happened that day when the fire happened? Do you remember, like, how you found out about the fire?

EI: They have a fire alarm going on, this is in Chinatown, own section of the town. So we all get excited, put the clothing on, and we went out -- I don't know what happened. Lot of things happened after that.

TI: So did people help to try to put the fire out? Was there, like, water?

EI: Yeah, water, but they can't do it, they can't control. Too big.

TI: How about, did people get hurt? Were people in the fire, did some people get burned?

EI: Some get hurt, yeah. I don't know what happened.

TI: And do you know what the, in the Japanese area of town, what did people do? Did people go in the Chinese part to help with the fire, or did they stay in Japantown?

EI: Japantown, yeah. They have a Japanese section, about 30 feet or something, about. That's saved, Japantown's saved, Chinatown was all burned up.

TI: But during the fire, what was happening in Japantown? Were people trying to protect...

EI: Fight with, the flame coming to the Japantown. Lot of big flame coming down.

TI: Oh, so there were big flames coming over?

JS: So when you heard the fire alarm, were you sleeping?

EI: Huh?

JS: It was at nighttime, the fire?

EI: Yeah, yeah. Midnight.

JS: So you were in bed.

EI: Bed.

JS: And you hear the fire, someone told you to get up and get dressed?

EI: Yeah, so about three o'clock in the morning.

JS: Wow. And then you ran outside, and you just saw all the flames.

EI: Yeah.

JS: But everybody in your family was safe.

EI: Safe, yeah.

JS: And then where did you go, because everything was gone, your home was burned, your store. So then where did you stay? Did you stay at a friend's house?

EI: Yeah, friend's house, small house. Schoolhouse, the Japanese schoolhouse.

JS: Oh, you went and stayed at the Japanese schoolhouse?

EI: Yeah. Small place. We divide 'em up, like a base camp, everybody's sleeping in one...

JS: Were there other Japanese businesses in the Chinatown section?

EI: Huh?

JS: Other Japanese families?

EI: Yeah. There was about two or three.

JS: Two or three.

TI: How did the Japanese, the two or three Japanese families, how did they get along with the Chinese families?

EI: Well, we just get on, we were so busy. Mostly we were too busy, the Filipino people.

TI: So what happened to all the Chinese families after the fire? Where did they stay?

EI: Well, they scattered all over the place, and they come back, built the small home and everything.

TI: And so your family rebuilt the building, your building. How long did that take, and how did you get the money to build the building?

EI: Well, it don't take too long, about three months or something, we made a two-story building. And then for a Saturday carpenter, he come in and work for us. And had the bank of Alex Brown coming in, he supplied us lumber and everything, lumber company and started us off. And in the meantime, half built or something, we get some guy from Sacramento wholesale house, I think we had a little bit of cash when we were going out. We put a down payment, and keep on accumulating. Then we keep on, keep going.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: You mentioned how the Alex Brown Company brought lumber in for you to build the place. I wanted to ask you about your, did you know any of the Alex Brown, or the family?

EI: Yeah, yeah.

TI: So tell me who you knew, who you saw.

EI: My dad used to know, when he used to farm in Staten Island, they're the one that supplied the money, money for my dad. And put all the crop in the mortgage, and he sell crops to the market and get the money to farm again, keep on doing that. My dad says, "We never go right, we get tired, so we're moving to the Canal where the big company is," we'd work, Libby.

TI: Okay, but then when you're now in Walnut Grove, like your bar, did any of the Brown family, like John Brown, did he ever come to the bar?

EI: Used to, when we met him. And John Brown and my dad was good friend, come to buy, he did. They'd drink sake together, friendly.

TI: So your father and John Brown, so John Brown was the son of Alex Brown, they were friends. They would sit and drink. How often would, how often would John Brown come to the bar?

EI: Oh, maybe every ten days or something like that.

TI: Okay, so about every ten days. What was John Brown, Mr. Brown, what was he like?

EI: Whiskey.

TI: Oh, he liked whiskey? [Laughs]

EI: One shot of whiskey.

TI: And when he was in the bar drinking whiskey, was he a quiet man or a loud man? How would you describe him?

EI: Quiet man like my dad. Talked with my dad, was still talking about the future.

TI: And did your father do much business with John Brown?

EI: Huh?

TI: Did your father do business with the bank?

EI: Yeah.

TI: And what kind of business did your father do?

EI: Farm business.

TI: Farm business.

EI: Yeah.

TI: How about with the businesses, I mean, like the bar, did he ever borrow money from --

EI: Yeah, yeah. After that, yeah, we had a bar, store account, all those accounting there, and they were supplying us. When we do import business and everything, he's the one that supply us the money, running, working capital.

TI: So the Brown, the Alex Brown bank was very important to your family and to you, because they supplied the money, the working capital to grow the businesses, to buy businesses, to help the export/import business. Interesting.

JS: So the Inaba Building, the new store you built in 1937, was that Alex Brown property?

EI: Yeah.

JS: I see.

EI: Dye property.

JS: Oh, that was Dye property.

EI: Yeah.

JS: But Alex Brown provided financing to help you.

EI: Yeah, but I paid it off, though.

JS: You paid it off.

EI: After three or four year, I paid him off. We all made money, too. [Laughs] Then we get into camp.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Okay, but before we go there, so John Brown knew your father. Did you know any of John Brown's children?

EI: Yeah, Brown, and there's a lot of... I'm about ten years older than the guy, but there's an insurance company he has. There's quite a few.

TI: Okay, so his son was older, ten years older than you were, so you didn't know him as well. Okay. So let's talk about all the businesses that your family had in Walnut Grove. So can you describe all the different things in Walnut Grove that your family did? So you had the bar and then the grocery store, what else did your family do?

EI: What else? We supplied the camp, asparagus camp, and they work and they contract and supply the food to them.

JS: Oh, you provided food to Canal Ranch?

EI: Yeah, to the camp.

JS: To the camps there.

EI: Then at the end of, half year later on, we get all the money, whatever leftover. We made pretty good money, I tell you.

TI: And back then, what was "pretty good money"? How much money do you think your family, like every year, how much would they make, do you think.

EI: Oh, one season, about four thousand.

TI: So that was good money.

EI: Good money, those days.

TI: And when you made four thousand dollars, what would your father do with that money?

EI: Well, keep it for the next business, tomato farm, or beets, sugar beets farm, we'd go and supply them.

TI: So when you watched your father do business, what did you learn from your father?

EI: Oh, a lot of things, what he did. He had the guts to do that, the people, the money, I thought, "Oh, maybe I gotta do that, too." By yourself, I don't think, you give me the money, I wouldn't be able to lend the money to them. Dangerous. Overnight, they would all run away.

TI: I'm sorry, who would that be? Can you say that one more time? I didn't quite understand that. Can you tell me that one more time? I'm asking, so what did you learn from your father? And you're saying you watched him, and you thought you could do the same thing? But I didn't quite understand everything.

EI: Well, I don't know how to explain. They don't pay the bill, that's the main thing. That's why we gotta watch out. So I'd collect the bill.

TI: So make sure your customers pay the bill, that's what he told you, okay. And what else? So make sure people pay bills, what else did you learn from him?

EI: What else? Not much.

TI: How about Japanese values? Did he ever talk about Japan or what it meant to be Japanese?

EI: No, lot of things happened those days, during World War II.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: Okay, so let's talk about that. So when we, on December 7, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

EI: Yeah.

TI: Do you remember that day?

EI: Yeah, I remember.

TI: So tell me what happened that day for you.

EI: I was at the bar serving the customer. That day, when I opened up the bar, have the radio on, "Japan attacked the United States," can't believe it. But they said so. All excited, that's all.

TI: And what did your customers do when they heard?

EI: Same thing, they don't know.

TI: And who were your customers? Were your customers Japanese, or were they different, like Japanese, Filipino?

EI: Filipino, Mexican, or other people.

TI: And so after people heard the radio, did anybody say anything to you because you were Japanese, like anything bad or anything like that?

EI: They know that. They know.

TI: So did you talk to your father about what was going to happen to the business and everything?

EI: No, we don't talk about it. We can't, no time. We got to protect our business.

TI: Now, on December 7th and right after, do you remember the FBI coming to Walnut Grove?

EI: Yeah.

TI: So tell me about that. What happened?

EI: Oh, they pick up the good leadership, Japanese leadership, take 'em away to internment camp or something, I don't know.

TI: Did they ever come and talk to your father?

EI: Huh?

TI: Did they come and talk to your father, the FBI?

EI: No, they don't bother. I don't know why.

TI: 'Cause I was thinking that your father was such an important businessperson.

EI: I know, but he doesn't stick the head out to the outside too much. I think some of 'em who, Japanese put outside the, head outside, the people, to the people, they're the ones got picked up.

TI: Okay, so the ones that were kind of more, that talked more outside were the ones they picked up. So pretty soon, people got orders that they had to leave Walnut Grove. What did you do with all the businesses?

EI: I sold it to the Caucasians that were working for my other store. Say they'd be glad to take care, so return it when we come back.

TI: So did you sell the business or did you just, like, let him run the business?

EI: Huh?

TI: Did you sell him the business or did you --

EI: Yeah, sell him.

TI: Okay, but the idea was, when you returned, he would sell it back to you?

EI: Yeah, that's right.

TI: And the same thing with the store?

EI: Store, yeah. Rented.

TI: You rented that.

EI: Yeah.

TI: To the same person or someone different?

EI: No, same person.

TI: And who was this man? Do you remember his name?

EI: Mr. Ray Allen. Ray, R-A-Y, Allen, A-L-L-E-N.

TI: Okay, Ray Allen.

EI: Yeah.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: Okay, so Eddie, before we talk about going to camp, I want to ask about some of the businesses in Japantown. Do you remember the old pool hall?

EI: Yeah.

TI: So Koga Pool Hall? Tell me about that. What was that like?

EI: It was right across the street from us, and I used to go play pool over there to the evening, enjoyment. And there was my wife over there, working on the pool hall, and his brother was doing barber shop. And then...

TI: But going back to the pool hall, so you said your wife, so this is your future wife. So this was someone that you met at the pool hall?

EI: Uh-huh.

TI: And what was her name, your wife's name, what was her name?

EI: Sue Matsueko.

TI: And describe for me the pool hall. How big was it? How many tables did they have?

EI: Two, that's all. Two tables.

TI: And generally, how many people would be in the pool hall?

EI: Oh, about twenty-five, thirty people.

TI: A lot of people. [Laughs]

EI: Some played card.

TI: So in addition to playing cards and pool, did they, was there drinking, like beer?

EI: Uh-uh.

TI: No drinking?

EI: Soda water.

TI: Just soda water.

EI: They're young, so they can't have a beer.

TI: How about things like smoking? Did people do a lot of smoking?

EI: I know some people smoked, but not too much.

TI: And when people played pool, did they sometimes gamble? Did they bet on games or anything?

EI: I don't know. I think so.

TI: And were the twenty people, were they all young people?

EI: Young people, oh, yeah.

TI: Like your age kind of thing.

EI: Yeah. Under twenty, about. Seventeen up to about twenty-five.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

JS: What do you remember about your wife?

EI: Yeah, that was my wife.

JS: Yeah. You got married right before the war?

EI: Yeah. About two, three months before we get into the camp.

JS: So after Pearl Harbor, then you and your wife decided to get married.

EI: Yeah.

JS: And how did that happen? Was that an arranged marriage?

EI: Huh?

JS: How did that happen? Were you already dating your wife?

EI: No. If I don't get married, they're going to take me to the army. So my folks get all excited about, he asked me, "Is there a lady that want, girl that want to marry you?" "Yeah, maybe." I didn't propose yet, but I proposed then.

JS: Oh, so they suggested you get married.

EI: Yeah.

JS: So you wouldn't get draft...

EI: No, I didn't get drafted, no.

JS: You didn't get drafted.

TI: And what kind of wedding did you have in Walnut Grove? Where did you get married?

EI: Oh, they used to have a big wedding, big parties. Those days, right after the war, so we can't have no party or anything. We got upstairs, you know, that new building, nice place, we got about twenty, thirty people, maybe thirty people, wedding over there. Like my home.

JS: Oh, at your home.

EI: Yeah.

TI: Okay, so let's move on. And as people are getting ready to leave Walnut Grove, did you ever talk to your father or mother or brothers about what might happen? Do you remember talking about that?

EI: I don't know, I can't remember.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: So let's go on. So from Walnut Grove, which camp did you go to first?

EI: Not Amache...

TI: To Merced?

EI: Merced.

TI: Merced?

EI: Merced to Amache.

TI: And let's just ask a couple questions about Merced. What were your impressions of Merced? What was Merced like?

EI: What?

TI: Yeah, what was Merced like? When you got to Merced, what did it look like?

EI: Looks like? Like a big barrack camp, that's all.

TI: Let's move on, then. From Merced, you went then to Amache? When you got to Amache, what kind of job did you have?

EI: In camp? Oh, was working in the camp, relocation camp. All the people get there, we worked... then afterward, I went to Chicago and worked for the, Libby, McNeill & Libby.

TI: Okay, so after camp, you worked for Libby. But before we talk about that, let me ask about your other family members. Like your father, what kind of job did he get?

EI: Oh, stayed in the camp. He can't do anything.

TI: But in camp, did he have a job?

EI: No. Well, just help with the camp, they worked together, that's all. I think worked for twelve dollar, about eight dollar, twelve dollar, it was.

JS: What about your brother Richard?

EI: Richard?

JS: Did he have a job at camp?

EI: Yeah.

JS: What was his job?

EI: Huh?

JS: What job did he have at camp?

EI: Oh, he managed a barrack, one block barrack.

TI: So he was a block manager?

EI: Block manager, yeah.

TI: Did anyone work in the co-op? Do you remember the cooperative store?

EI: Yeah, yeah, co-op.

TI: So who worked in the co-op?

EI: My brother.

TI: And which brother was this?

EI: Richard Akira Inaba.

TI: And describe that. What would working in the co-op, what kind of work would that, what would he have to do?

EI: I don't know, look after the co-op, I guess.

TI: But he would have to order food, or order supplies and then sell it?

EI: Yeah.

TI: And then manage all that.

EI: Stocked up.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So let's move on. So you were in Amache, you said you went to Chicago. Why did you decide to go to Chicago?

EI: Not much. I didn't decide anything too much. Just go around and came back to Granada and helped at the outside grocery store, and the store owner, I was taking over running my business. I work over there few months, he'd like me to run the place. So I bought the place with my brother Richard, run the place for a few, maybe one year or so.

TI: And this is in Colorado? This is in Denver area?

EI: Denver, and then we moved to Denver.

TI: Okay, wait, let me make sure I understand this. So... or is this, oh, in Granada, okay. So let me summarize here. So from Amache, from the Granada camp, you went to Chicago just for a little bit, worked for the Libby company, but then you came back to Granada and did a store with Richard for about a year. And who were your customers at Granada, the town, who were your customers?

EI: Oh, customer is the local people who worked in the relocation center, the Caucasians. And mostly Japanese people from the camp, they come and buy fruit and vegetable, something good.

JS: So some people were still in camp.

EI: Yeah.

JS: But you were running the store.

EI: Outside the gate.

JS: Outside the gate in the town.

EI: Yeah.

TI: And so what I've heard is, it was pretty easy for people inside camp to go to the town, Granada, and do shopping and then go back to camp. And so that's... that's kind of an interesting situation there.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So you did that for one year, and then Granada, I think you then said you went to Denver?

EI: Huh?

TI: So after Granada you went to Denver?

EI: Yeah.

TI: And so what did you do in Denver?

EI: When the camp, Amache, closed up, I came back to Walnut Grove, and my brother Dick went to Denver and had a small grocery store over there. And that's the place we start our wholesale business, import business, making, handling the soy sauce, miso, they make, and more other Japanese food, where I could handle this, all over the country.

TI: So whose idea was this? Whose idea was this to...

EI: Idea? Well, I don't know why we were doing the business together. We both have the same kind of idea, I had. We like to do the wholesale business, import business after the war.

TI: Now, when you started this business, did you think it might be a risky business to do? I mean, a wholesale business with Japanese foods, I'm thinking it'd be maybe hard to get the food, hard to distribute. How did you figure this all out?

EI: I don't think it was risky food at that time. Buy it in cash and sell it in cash. It's not risky, and we did that.

JS: Who was making the shoyu and miso?

EI: Oh, just the people, old men.

JS: People in Denver?

EI: Denver, all the grandpa and those places, all over the place.

TI: But you would distribute all across the country everywhere?

EI: Yeah, every place.

TI: Before the war, there were companies that did that. What happened to those companies?

EI: They closed up. Some of the big companies, they start, well, but they get merged with other company.

TI: And so right after the war, it was like, pretty open. I mean, there wasn't too much competition for this. And so there was manufacturing in Denver for, like, miso, shoyu, and then you would distribute it around the country.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: And you said you came back to Walnut Grove. And so what did you do in Walnut Grove?

EI: We opened up our own store, grocery store. And my wife and, I think my dad helped a little bit, they all worked in the store before we moved to Sacramento.

TI: I'm curious, when you came back to Walnut Grove, do you remember ever seeing Mr. Brown? Did John Brown come visit your father? Do you remember any of that?

EI: Yeah.

TI: So John Brown came and visited your father?

EI: Yeah, yeah.

TI: So describe that. What can you remember about that?

EI: I don't know. My dad talked to him.

TI: Do you know what he said or anything like that?

EI: Said hi and everything. Still helped when we do the import business, I asked him, "I'm going to do this import, wholesale business," "Yeah, go ahead." He never asked me, "How much do you want," or anything, he just kept on letting me have it, so I get ten thousand, go up to a hundred thousand. Let me buy the merchandise, rice is so expensive, too. I handled all the rice.

TI: So this was very important, that because of your relationship with the bank, the Brown family, he gave you all the working capital to be able to buy all this, all the goods. And you said up to a hundred thousand dollars sometimes?

EI: Yeah.

TI: That was a lot of money back then.

EI: Lot of money those days. Big money. I was surprised.

TI: Now, during this time... to me, it sounds a little risky. Did you ever worry that you're borrowing so much money...

EI: That time? Sure, I worry.

TI: ...and if something happened, that you might lose everything?

EI: Uh-huh. I worried.

TI: Did your father worry, too? Did he know what you were doing?

EI: Yeah.

TI: What did he tell you? Did he ever tell you that maybe you're doing too much or too big?

EI: No, he didn't tell me nothing. "Do whatever you think. Just do whatever you think." Dick and I, two, the son he has, "Yeah, do whatever you want."

TI: Did you ever get advice from Mr. Brown? Did John Brown ever advise you? Like maybe he told you...

EI: Do this and that?

TI: Yeah.

EI: No. He don't tell me.

TI: Did anyone give you advice? Did any businessperson say, "Eddie, this is what you should do to..."

EI: No, I never heard anything. Except my older brother, family, "Better not stick their head too much."

TI: And so it sounds like you just kind of learned on the job. I mean, lots of people go to business school or they work in the business for a long time, and they get lots of advice before they do this. It sounds like you just learned on your own, almost.

EI: Yeah.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: Now, did you travel very much? Did you have to travel to different cities and meet people?

EI: Yeah, that's right. I traveled all over the place.

TI: So tell me some of the cities. What were some of your major markets? Where did you have to travel a lot?

EI: Every other week I'd go San Francisco, San Jose, Bay Area where all the people are, and Watsonville, Salinas. And this way... although I have help or two, you know, I go every week to Stockton, Lodi, and Sacramento, it keep us busy.

TI: And when you would go to each of these cities, who would you visit? Who were your customers in these places?

EI: Japanese people.

TI: Japanese people or Japanese businesses? Would you go to the...

EI: Japanese businesses.

TI: So were these grocery stores?

EI: Grocery store. Yeah, I went to, many times, Seattle and Portland, Chicago, that's where I traveled to in those days.

TI: And so when you have all these customers in all these different places, how did you ship your food to all these places? Did you have your own shipping, or did you use other shipping?

EI: We have our own, sometimes big shipment, we have our own truck. Not my own truck, I got a special truck to work, delivery, and mostly by ship and truck, train.

TI: And so it sounds like, as you got more and more customers, it got bigger and bigger and bigger because you would order more food, you'd have more customers, then you started shipping to all these places.

EI: Uh-huh.

TI: How did you manage all this? This is, again, a big operation. How did... did you have lots of workers to help you?

EI: Yeah, working.

TI: So tell me about that. How many workers did you have to hire to do all that?

EI: Oh, we had about thirty in Sacramento. San Francisco about thirty, thirty-five. And I have...

JS: Los Angeles?

EI: Huh? Los Angeles, you know, it was different corporation.

JS: Oh, different corporation.

EI: Yeah. I have a chance to buy that, I went down, I sent the boys down to get the inventory and everything, and those people said, "Let us take care of this," he said. So, "Okay, okay." I'm too busy anyway. But still, I have stock in there. I have stock in Hawaii, I mean, Japan, shipping department, [inaudible] company in Tokyo.

TI: And in all these places where you have workers, you need places for them to work, you need warehouses, so it becomes a very large operation, all, it sounds like, mostly West Coast places. Very impressive. Do you recall, at your peak, how many assets you had on your balance sheet, like the size of the business, how big it was?

EI: Money-wise, you mean?

TI: Yeah, money-wise, like on your balance sheet, asset-wise, how big you got.

EI: I don't know. I hate to tell you. Involved everything.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: So I'm going to ask Jill, is there any other things you want about the business?

JS: Maybe about Fresno.

TI: Okay. So tell me about Fresno. You mentioned...

EI: Fresno? Yeah, we have a retail store over there. My younger brother was running it. And we closed the place up as soon as, I think, after ten, fifteen years, we closed up the place. When my brother passed away, two brother passed away, by myself now.

TI: And so your younger brother started this, I think you said it's a retail store?

EI: Yeah, retail.

TI: Retail.

JS: Star Market?

EI: Yeah, supermarket.

TI: How big was Star Market?

EI: Star Market? You know the one we had over here? Market over here, that used to be a supermarket, that kind of big market. We rent the place now.

TI: And then you said for about twelve, fifteen years, the business ran, and then you shut it down afterwards. And I want to get clear, why did you shut it down? Was it because your... yeah, why did you shut...

EI: Why I shut that?

TI: Yeah.

EI: Can't make it go.

TI: Okay, so it's difficult to...

EI: Yeah, yeah.

TI: Now, when you think of yourself, do you think of yourself as a pretty good businessman?

EI: No.

TI: Like when you think about, when you go to a place, like a grocery store, can you tell whether or not it's run well or managed well? Can you see different businesses and say, "Oh, this is a good business?" And, "Maybe this one's not going to make it?" Are you good at looking at that?

EI: Well, yeah, I think about those things, but I couldn't remember much of it. I just keep on going. I got so many business to do.

TI: Now, how involved are you now with your businesses?

EI: Huh?

TI: How involved are you now? Do you still work, do you still look at the business?

EI: Yeah.

TI: And so how much do you do now?

EI: How much work?

TI: Yeah, how much work do you do now?

EI: The boys be doing all the work now. Yeah, I leave it up to them. They keep up the business we start.

TI: Do they ever come to you for advice?

EI: Yeah.

TI: And what kind of advice do they ask?

EI: They want to get all kind of advice. Oh, maybe three time a month, importing-wise, what to do, what not to do. "This is a big mess we're in. What shall we do?"

JS: What do you tell them?

EI: Yeah, unless they tell me. We got big problems, there's a company in San Francisco, lease expired, so we got to find a big place, that place costs several billion dollar to move the warehouse and get the warehouse, I lose more money, no [inaudible] company, bank. So we got to get Sumitomo or something. Still working on.

TI: As you were growing, did you continue a relationship with the Alex Brown Bank?

EI: Huh?

TI: As you kept growing and growing, did you still use Alex Brown Bank as your bank, or did you start using other banks?

EI: Yeah...

JS: When you moved to Sacramento, did Alex Brown help you build new store, or no?

EI: No. They come to me but I thought, "Oh, we'll take care of it over there." Bank of Sumitomo says, "We'll take care."

TI: Okay, so you started using different banks.

EI: Yeah, yeah.

TI: When you decided to use a different bank, did Mr. Brown or his sons ever come talk to you about trying to keep your business?

EI: Uh-uh.

TI: Did they try to talk with you or anything?

EI: No. I think they're worried, too, I guess. But I finished, I paid off everything.

JS: So when did you, and why did you decide to close the store in Walnut Grove? 1950, something like that?

EI: '50. We can't take care, too small.

JS: Too small?

EI: Yeah.

JS: And Walnut Grove, did Walnut Grove change a lot? Was the town of Walnut Grove changing, different?

EI: Yeah, changing.

JS: Yeah, how did it change?

EI: I don't know, nothing doing. When we moved out, everything gone.

JS: Everything was gone. Not too many people anymore?

EI: Yeah. But they're retail, so I sold it to a Japanese owner.

JS: So a new Japanese owner took over the market?

EI: Yeah, my retail shop.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So we interviewed Louie a couple days ago, but Louie is younger than you.

EI: Yeah, way younger.

TI: So I want to go back and ask you about Walnut Grove, kind of the old days before the war. Because Louie told us a little bit, but he was so young. And so I wanted to ask you about Walnut Grove, what are some memories of old, the old Front Town? What are some memories you have?

EI: Yeah. About Louie?

TI: Well, like, for instance, can you tell me about, you told me about the pool hall. What are some other places you liked to go?

EI: Oh, where I want to go? Yeah, they had lot of place, but played sports, baseball, basketball, all our places.

JS: So you were on a baseball team and also basketball team?

EI: Yeah.

JS: And you traveled to other towns?

EI: Yeah.

TI: And how good were the Walnut Grove teams?

EI: Oh, pretty good. Quite a bit Japanese, so pretty strong.

TI: And how about Japanese sports like judo, sumo, kendo? You didn't do that?

EI: Yeah, before. Only time is when they have... boy, getting tired.

JS: Getting tired?

TI: Yeah, so we don't want to push this too much. So, what about maybe the Japanese language school? Do you remember that?

EI: Yeah.

TI: And what was that like?

EI: I went maybe one, couple years, I don't know.

TI: And how about just getting along with the different, like the white community? Because when you went to Walnut Grove, they had a segregated school, the Oriental School. But then in high school, you went to the same high school.

EI: Yeah.

TI: How did you get along with the white students?

EI: Well, I went to New Hope grammar school from first grade to eighth grade, and go to high school another two, three years. Before that, 1925 or something, I used to go Oriental, to segregated school, I don't know after that.

TI: But when you went to high school, was it hard for you to go to a school with white students, or was it just the same?

EI: We were mixed with the white students.

JS: How about on the football team?

EI: Yeah.

JS: How many Japanese on the football team?

EI: Oh, about five, six. Sam was a pretty good star, halfback.

JS: Uh-huh, Sam Sakata.

EI: Yeah, Sakata.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: So let's talk about after the war. When you came back to Walnut Grove, after the war, how did it change? You know, before the war it was a certain way, after the war, what changes were there at Walnut Grove?

EI: What changed?

TI: Yeah, what changed? Or is it the same?

EI: Same. Nothing much.

TI: And why did you move to Sacramento? From Walnut Grove, your family moved to Sacramento. Why did you move?

EI: We built a supermarket over here, so I have to take care. And I have to move my import business to Sacramento or someplace, bigger city. So better communications.

TI: So that makes sense, because it was a bigger place, your business was here, so you had to move. And how big was your family when you moved from Walnut Grove to Sacramento? How many children did you have?

EI: Not much.

JS: Your children were born in Walnut Grove?

EI: Huh?

JS: Your children, Sandy, and everybody was born in Walnut Grove?

EI: Oh, my...

JS: Your family.

EI: My family, yeah. They were born in Walnut Grove.

JS: Did you have any children when you were in camp?

EI: In the camp? Couple.

JS: A couple were born there?

EI: Yeah, Kenny and Alvin.

JS: Kenny and Alvin, and the girls were born after.

EI: After the war, over here.

TI: So, Eddie, we're gonna stop the interview now. We finished. Thank you so much for doing this, it was very good, very interesting. So thank you.

JS: Thank you.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.