Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: Harry Umeda Interview
Narrator: Harry Umeda
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Bloomington, Minnesota
Date: June 18, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-uharry_2-01-0001

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TI: So today is Thursday, June 18, 2009, and we're in Minneapolis doing interviews for not only the Densho Project, but the Twin Cities JACL. On camera is Dana Hoshide, and I'm the interviewer, Tom Ikeda. And observing is Steve Ozone from the Twin Cities JACL. And so Harry, I'm going to start from the beginning of your life and ask you, do you remember when you were born?

HU: May 12, 1915.

TI: And do you remember where you were born?

HU: Sacramento, California, on a farm.

TI: And who delivered you? Do you know, did people tell you --

HU: Midwife, and I heard I came backwards.

TI: So like a breached...

HU: Yeah, my legs first. [Laughs]

TI: So that was dangerous.

HU: And you know, way out in the country, we didn't have any doctors, we didn't have any pharmacy or grocery store. And that's how it began.

TI: And what was the name given to you at birth?

HU: What was that?

TI: What was the name that they gave you when you were born? What was your name?

HU: Tsutomu.

TI: Tsutomu.

HU: And later on, "Harry" was put on. My name "Harry" was put on.

TI: And where did "Harry" come from? So who gave you the name "Harry"?

HU: Oh, my friends, and the way I'd been acting, I guess. And it stuck all the way.

TI: Okay. So next I want to just ask about your father. Can you tell me your father's name and where he was from?

HU: Yeah. Let's start talking about my parents. That's where I started. My dad, they were all born in eighteenth century. My dad went to school there, he was able to read and write. He was about five-foot-two inches, strong, healthy, and he always had a thinking, the way he wanted to live. He wanted to accomplish, he talked about challenge, and he said, "Never give up. If you try once, you try the other way, and you'll make it." He said, "Never forget to work a little extra. Your reward will be bigger." That's what my dad always said. And evening meals, he would talk about again, talk about the ranch, where the attention needs, the new area, he worked hard. The only reward he had every day for working hard was a glass of wine. Just one glass of wine all his life. He made his wine from a crop of, old crop leftover in the fall. That was my dad. My mother --

TI: Well, before your mother, can you tell me what your father's name was and where in Japan he grew up?

HU: They were from Wakayama-ken.

TI: And what was your father's name?

HU: (Takejiro Umeda.)

TI: That's okay.

HU: I think it'll come back.

TI: Yeah, it'll come back later.

HU: Let me talk about my mother.

TI: Okay.

HU: Her name was Masaye, she was about five foot tall, kind of heavy-set. She didn't go to school, she couldn't read nor write, but she had many friends when she was growing up. And had learned from these friends many good things. Her most important thing was making friends. She told me, "Without the friends, you don't have a life. If you find someone who is not friendly, if you keep talking, you'll become a good friend. The more friends you have, the happier life you will lead." That was so... she used to teach me how to say thank you. Or, "If you make a mistake, you say you made a mistake, 'I'm sorry.'" She knew how to apologize. And I had my mumps, I had my chicken pox, and Mother would come to bed, she said, "You better get up. If you stay in bed, you won't be able to walk." That's about the only answer she had, or anybody else. We didn't have any doctors. And she says, "Even though you don't want to eat, you gotta eat. That's where you gain your strength. You're gonna beat that mumps and chicken pox." And that's the way it was. And she had many friends. She had a plot of land where she grew vegetables and flowers, and friends came from downtown. She always gave some to take home. And we had a chicken coop, twenty, thirty chickens, laid enough eggs for the family. And we had meat, chicken meat. We didn't have any beef or pork, there's no place to come and sell, or grocery store nearby. That's how we lived, off the land. We never went, we never went hungry, we always had plenty to eat. But once, oh, two or three months, my dad go with horse and buggy downtown, get bags of rice and shoyu and miso, bacon, flour, and parts of the plow, farming implements. That's how we had contact with the business. And, you know, my dad, father, knew where they were coming, because my mother's sister was already in Sacramento operating a farm on a share basis. And that's where they came and learned farming. After about two years, they found a place to farm, forty acres --

<End Segment 1> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.