Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: Yoshimi Matsuura Interview
Narrator: Yoshimi Matsuura
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Bloomington, Minnesota
Date: June 17, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-myoshimi-01-0022

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: So in general, if you had to compare Fowler, California, with Minneapolis, Minnesota, during this time period in terms of treatment towards Japanese Americans, how would you compare the two?

YM: Well, I think the difference would be that we stuck pretty much to ourselves. We didn't...

TI: In Minneapolis?

YM: In Minneapolis. I think it's because of who we were, and we didn't want to create any type of... we didn't want to disturb any neighborhood or anything, we didn't want anybody to start any rumors or anything. Tried to keep it quiet and look for a job, that was our main goal, to find some employment of some kind.

TI: So what you're saying, I think, is in Minneapolis, the Niseis were maybe less visible than when they were on the West Coast. So there were fewer problems or fewer...

YM: I'd say that except for the publicity that we got, yes. But of course, there were people who, the government did a pretty good job of pushing the issue.

TI: Now, were there any incidences of people maybe discriminating or showing that they disliked Japanese towards you?

YM: Yes, oh, yes. When I was looking for employment, it was very clear that they weren't gonna hire me because of who I was. I couldn't find employment, because I'd tell them who I was and so forth. But some places where I applied, they'd say, "Well, we'll call you," never hear from them. "Fill out this application, we'll call you." Here they have, they're desperate for workers, but they're afraid to hire you. So I decided to enroll at the Dunwoody Institute, which was a school that would train for war work in different types of subjects. And so I went over there and I figured, "Well, the best place would probably be some factory, I'll take up machine shop," so I went there. Got a job as a janitor, part-time job, thirty-five cents an hour mopping the chemistry department floor. And even there I learned a lesson doing that. I was mopping the floor, pushing the mop back and forth, and the supervisor came and says, "Oh, no, no. This is the way you mop the floor," and he grabbed the mop and he swung it around like they do on the deck of a ship, covering about eight foot at a time. [Laughs] And here I was doing back and forth about two feet at a time. So I learned a lesson.

TI: So was this time period pretty discouraging for you? Because you had first come thinking you were gonna get trained by the NYA, and then...

YM: Well, no, I was hopeful that I would get some sort of a training and looking ahead. Matter of fact, I think I did a pretty good job over there because I was promoted as a janitor. I went around, they gave me a cart to push around to empty out wastepaper baskets, which was much better than mopping the floor. So that was an improvement. Same pay. But anyway, at the school there, I was there for a short period. I found employment, so I told my (shop) instructor that I was leaving, and he says, "Well, boy, nobody left this place that soon." But I had a chance to go to work, north Minneapolis, person by the name of Roy A. Clapp, who had a small factory who was doing war work. Making dies, what they call dies to, for Twin City arsenal. They had a big arsenal here at Arden Hills, northwest of here. And they said it was to be used for loading gunpowders in 50-caliber shells. So it had to have a high polish on it and so forth. So I did that, and they were on incentive, but I wasn't on incentive. And the work I was putting out, of course, I didn't know any better, I was putting out work twice as fast as the rest of 'em. And the people were after the inspector, telling him, "Well, you're passing, you're doing something different here. How come his gets passed and mine don't get passed?" Well, I don't know, I was just putting it out faster. I found different ways, different than what they were doing.

TI: And so they would tell you how to do it, but then you would change it?

YM: I changed it, I did it on my own. Got a better result. And they wanted me on their incentive list to boost their profit. But my employer said, "No, he's going to be doing something else." So he had already made up his mind that I would not be on that. So he spent Saturdays with me on other things. I think he thought he'd use me for a different, more pattern making and prototypes and things like that.

TI: So more advanced work than the other people?

YM: Yes, without the experience. I didn't know why, but I didn't have the experience.

TI: But he saw something in terms of aptitude.

YM: He felt confidence that I can do it, I suppose.

TI: So while you're getting these jobs, what happened to, like, James and Howard and the other people who went to the NYA?

YM: James, James Katayama went to Rosacker, who had a floral operation, greenhouse. And went over there and worked as what they call a houseboy at the time. Taking care of a younger child and working around the home there, getting room and board and small change. He went over there, and Howard went to work for one denture outfit making dentures. He found a job. So they were employed elsewhere. And James eventually got a job with Munsingware (Co).

TI: And so eventually it sounds like the people who came for the NYA program were able to get jobs.

YM: Get a job, yes, we got a job. It was not easy, didn't come right away, but we got a job.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.