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-01-0007

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TI: With your brothers and other friends, I'm trying to get a sense of growing up in Fowler, what were some of the, I know you had, every day you had something, but say in the summertime when you're not going to school, what were some of the activities that you would do?

YM: Well, we used to, we lived on a farm where we had a fair-sized yard, and we used to have our friends, our classmates come over, and we'd have ballgames and stuff like that. We found our own entertainment. No electronics, of course, but we found our own ways of doing things. And we did a lot of tree climbings and stuff that kids usually do, and something that the parents won't allow them to do now.

TI: And so it sounds like the farm, your farm, was kind of...

YM: You found our own...

TI: Right, was kind of a center of a lot of activity.

YM: Yes, yes.

TI: That your friends would come over...

YM: Yes, definitely. But in the summer months, if it's the harvest season, everybody was busy.

TI: And in general, when your friends came over, were they all Japanese or were they different...

YM: They were mostly Japanese, yes, mostly Japanese. But we had a big community of Armenian nationality. So many of our friends were of Armenian background. So that was kind of interesting because they had an altogether different lifestyle. Not lifestyle, but culture, food, especially.

TI: Yeah, no, I read about this, that there is a strong Armenian community in this area. So I'm curious, how did the two cultures get along? Because they were similar --

YM: No problem, no problem.

TI: 'Cause it was similar, where your friends, Armenian friends' parents, they were immigrants, and so they were kind of like Nisei Armenian?

YM: Yes. As we recalled, the Armenian, they had problems, of course, in their country with the Turks, and they were more or less driven out. So they were one of these people who lost their place and moved into America, a hardworking bunch, all on the farm. Good neighbors.

TI: Yeah, what were some of the things that you noticed about them in terms of food or activities that was perhaps different than the Japanese?

YM: Well, it was different in many ways. There was no comparison between the Japanese food and the Armenian food. They talked about shish kabobs and stuff like that which we knew nothing about. They liked to eat lamb, which we didn't. So it was a treat for us to visit them.

TI: And so did you have the opportunity to visit some Armenian families?

YM: Yes. Yes, we did. But we didn't do too much of that, though. But we knew, we got along.

TI: Okay. And were you --

YM: My class are... this is something I'll have to throw in here. My wife and I were -- before we were married, of course -- she and I were the two Japanese in that class. Our grade school, eighth grade class, a total of, big sum of six. [Laughs] Four Armenian and two Japanese. My wife and I were the Japanese, and we had one Armenian boy, and the rest were Armenian girls. So we had no Scandinavians or Germans or Irish or anything. It was an unusual class, real tiny class. For whatever reason, it was the Depression, I suppose.

TI: And just Japanese and Armenian.

YM: Japanese/Armenian class.

TI: That's interesting. I'm curious, in general, were there certain types of work that the Japanese did and a certain type of work that the Armenians did? Like were there certain industries or type of farming that the Armenians did?

YM: No, no. The farmers were all the same, it's the same type of farming, everybody did the same thing, vineyard and orchards. Mostly vineyards in our area at that time. So it was pretty much the same, same type of farming.

TI: And you mentioned that the Armenians were hardworking. That same kind of description often fits the Japanese farmers. I mean, if you were to compare the farming habits of the Armenians and Japanese, how would you compare them?

YM: I think Japanese farmers were more harder-working, more meticulous, worked on the details a little bit more, their farms produced a better crop because of the labor that was put into it. They didn't mind working on weekends, so it paid off, I think. And I think this is the whole root of the evacuation, because of the Japanese farmers or whoever they were, they just did over and beyond what other people would do. And the Japanese farmers were very, very good, and the pressure was there.

TI: So you're thinking that there was, people were maybe envious or they were jealous of the Japanese farmers and that was one of the causes of the...

YM: Whatever it was, they didn't feel as though they wanted to put in the time, and they felt that we were putting in too much time. We would rent the farm and clean it up, really get all the stuff out of there, the weeds and things that was loaded. And they'd come along and wonder why we're doing all that. But we were looking at the end result, harvest time. And you have better product, that was it, and we didn't mind working. We were brought up that way.

TI: Did your father, did he ever socialize with Armenian farmers?

YM: No, not with the Armenians, but he did socialize a little with Caucasians. We had a very, some very good friends there.

TI: Like in this area of Fowler, did you ever see or witness or hear about, like, interracial type of dating?

YM: Not at that time. Not at that time, no. It was strictly very few, very few. Yes, we did hear of a few who went on to Fresno State College and who married a Caucasian, had a Caucasian wife, but very, very few.

TI: And how about just in general, just race relations between the various groups?

YM: I think Fowler was pretty good in our community. We hear, we hear many of the horror stories in other cities, but I think Fowler was very, very good. Farming community, everybody minded their own business until the war broke out.

TI: Okay, and we'll get to that.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.