Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: Don Maeda Interview
Narrator: Don Maeda
Interviewer: Carolyn Nayematsu
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Date: October 13, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-mdon-01-0011

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CN: So you came to Minneapolis St. Paul. Were you able to find a job?

DM: Yes, I, let's see, I was 1-A at that time and there was a lady, Mrs. Colby, she was a... she was just a do-gooder type of woman that had a desk at the employment center down in St. Paul. And it was just her. She was just there to help relocate the Japanese people who were coming here. She found my dad a job as a dental technician and I, my first job was at Booth's Cold Storage, is right on Kellogg and St. Peter right at the foot of the -- and it was hauling these big cartons of frozen stuff out of the train, out of the freezer lockers into the trains and it was just too heavy for me. And so I only lasted there maybe a week and then she found me, about four of us, well, she found us a job at a Cudahy packing house, it was across from South St. Paul, Swift's and Armour's were in South St. Paul and Cudahy was across the river in Newport, and we went to work in the packing house. And the packing house is all the Mexicans and African Americans end up in the lower end of the job down in the hide cellar where they drop all the hides that are all full of, you know. And then before they're sent off to become leather they stack the steer hides and the sheep hides and every hide, you lay it down and you put a layer of rock salt to cure the, and then you're all full of, and your clothing is all, boy, I thought I knew all the bad words in the, but I learned a few new words down there. [Laughs]

But I lasted there until I was actually called back to the service, And then I, so I left there and I came back and I got a medical because of some disabilities that they hadn't found the first time and I came back and I found a job at a Goodyear Tire Shop, and all that was rationed, tires were rationed, it's hard, but I was working on the service floor and there were three of us Japanese boys they hired and there was a real nice manager, he took us boys and treated us well. And to our knowledge we didn't have any trouble with the customers. And his name was Mr. Deindorfer and then he got transferred to Ohio to a Goodyear store, and they brought in another man named Harvey Smith. And the day that Harvey Smith came, we could tell he did not like us, you could just read it in his face, and we were, well, we had worked at Goodyear maybe a year and a half together, before this change, and we worked there a couple months and he called us up, Harvey called us up in the office and says, "Well, we got to let you Jap boys go. Too many customers are complaining about you Jap boys working on their cars." And so he let us go. But in the meantime we had a service manager at Goodyear that had transferred over to U.S. Royal distributor, so we all went, his name is Tony, we went over and talked to him and told him what happened and he hired all three of us right there.

CN: Really?

DM: And so, we went to work and I worked at Goodyear for another year or so. I was getting to the age where my parents wanted me to go to school and I was not a student and so I realized I was not college bound and my dad being a dental technician, talked to a couple of dentists, and there was a dentist that had a technician working in his office and he, this dentist was so busy because a lot of the dentists were in the service so they hired me as this helper and he trained me, he broke me in. And we worked together for nine years in this dentist's office and Ed decided to open up a lab himself and he asked me to come along with him. And he explained to me, he had had a partnership down in Florida that didn't end happily, and so he says if anybody he would take me in as a partner. But because of his bad luck as a partner he didn't -- so he gave me a real good deal, commission and bonus every month and just the two of us started this lab and it grew to be over the years, I think at the peak there were about twenty-five people. Well I was kind of a, whenever he was gone I was kind of the manager for him, so he treated me well. And then, that was in 1964. And then in 1980 his wife was ill and he was seventy and he was ready to retire and he wanted the three of us to buy him out, and we never could come to an agreement as partners. And so then I had several of the accounts at the lab said that, "Well, we'll help you set up and we'll send you work," and so by then my kids had all gone off and I had a family room that was just sitting there and a laundry room that had room for whatever I need, to put over, that need water, so I opened my own lab in 1981.

CN: And you still have your lab.

DM: And I had a, I think I started out, I had about, six, I think at the peak I had about eight accounts and that's pretty hard for one man to keep up. And eventually, as these dentists retired or found different labs, I slowly, but I ended up with two old, not old, they were dental students that came down to the lab to work on weekends and evenings, and I ended up, two of them I'm still working for after all these years.

CN: Goodness.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.