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-01-0028

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TI: So Yosh, we're starting to run out of time, so I wanted to kind of finish up. So let's get back to Minneapolis, I guess. So you're in Tokyo, and you now return back to Minneapolis?

YM: Minneapolis, uh-huh.

TI: And is your wife still there?

YM: Yes. In the meantime, she had moved from north Minneapolis, she gave her apartment to her family, and her family was living there. I, matter of fact, I went to Kansas City when her folks came out here, because Kansas City had a great big central railway station, huge. And so I asked my lieutenant commander there at Fort Snelling, "I have in-laws coming in from the camp, can I go meet them in Kansas City?" And he says, "Yes, go." So I went. He gave me a pass, so I went over there, here I see them coming off the train, coming into that great big area, looking around, and they saw me. They didn't expect me, but they saw me there. And boy, were they happy. Because military people boarded first, so I got them and we got on the train, got them transportation back without any problems. So you have to do good deeds now and then, I did a few.

TI: And that was your family or your in-laws?

YM: That was my in-laws. Fujimoto family. My mother-in-law, father-in-law, and son.

TI: Good.

YM: One son, baby son, young son.

TI: So let's go to Minneapolis, and so what did you do after the war?

YM: After the war, after the war I went back to work for this person that I had been employed before. And worked on prototypes of different product that he was working on, new product that he was working on, which was fun. But I wanted to get into something larger than that, so I went to work for Warner manufacturing company, which was making decorator tools, competing with Hydes and people who were much, about a hundred times bigger than us. And they knew that we were around, of course, and it was challenging. I thought it would be challenging. But then, of course, all this happened where the supervisor went around and told everybody, "How would you like to work with a Jap boy?" and stuff like that. And it was rough. The first six, seven months was really rough. They wanted me to join the union, I won't join the union because I didn't want to be restricted to certain jobs. So I was a "Jap scab." And okay, I can live with that. I've gone through hell as it was, so it didn't matter. And one day as I was working on this one drawing, he says, "What are you working on?" I told him what I was doing, I gotta improve on this, thing isn't working properly. He said, "Oh, that'll never work," and he walks off. Twenty minutes later, he comes in with the president of the company, the owner of the company and one of the officers, and he says, "I'm having him do this." After he told me it isn't going to work, "I'm having him to do this," and explained what the deal was, and he walked off. This is who I was working for.

TI: That must have been very difficult to be in that situation.

YM: [Laughs] This is why it was rough. But seven months later, he died of leukemia, young fellow, died of leukemia. So they asked me if I would take over some of the responsibility. I told them, "No." Because I said, "You folks thought a world of Stan Olson," and I said, "I'm a different person. I don't think I want to do that." I said, "I don't think I'd be able to fulfill what you think that he was doing." And they talked with me for a while and I said, "Well, I'll try some of the responsibility," and so I took over the factory operation. And little by little, it was a smaller company, responsibility grows, we worked from there.

TI: And you were there for a long time.

YM: I was there for a long time, yes.

TI: And I'm wondering when you look back at that time there, was there anything in particular that stood out in terms of a project or a job that you're really proud of?

YM: Well, we tried to constantly improve on the product, of course, and come up, salesmen would come back and say, "Well, so-and-so's got this, can we improve on this or can we make one like it?" It would be patented, so I'd have to work around the patent, and redesign it so that we can work around the patent and still be able to manufacture at a competitive price. So it was challenging, I liked it, especially with a new product. And running the factory and working, managing the factory was not the best, because you're dealing with a bunch of people who are not too happy at times, they want more money, which is natural. But working with new products, I've always enjoyed it. So eventually, when I retired, I was working more for research and engineering end of it. Thirty-one years with the company. After seven months, I was ready to move on, but thirty-one years.

TI: So Yosh, unfortunately we're out of time. And this has been really good. There were some other questions I had, but I think we pretty much covered all the key things I wanted to do. So thank you so much for doing this.

YM: Well, I'm happy to have met you.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.