Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: George M. Yoshino Interview
Narrator: George M. Yoshino
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Bloomington, Minnesota
Date: June 17, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-ygeorge_3-01-0003

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: And can you describe to me kind of where in Bellevue you lived?

GY: Well, to begin with, Bellevue is a big territory. So we lived in a place called Peterson Hill, actually, it's a hill, and on the bottom part of it, that's where they farmed. And from there, we went to another neighborhood called Midlakes, that was up on the hill. It was all dry farming there, we didn't irrigate or nothing, it was all dry farming. But the first farm we were irrigating water from a creek. Them days you stole it. Nowadays, you can't do that because the DNR would be right after you. But them days, you dammed up the creek and pump water.

TI: And tell me, so you would actually block the creek, it would kind of fill up, and you would literally just pump the water into the fields?

GY: It's electric -- or not electric, gas pump, water pump. And we had pipes out in the field, had sprinklers and so on. You need to farm, to irrigate, you got out in the morning and started the gas pump.

TI: And back then, was that okay to do or was that kind of, you weren't supposed to do that either?

GY: No. Them days, there was a lot of things. You can cut lumber and use it for firewood, nobody said anything. Nowadays, you can't do that. Fish, you could fish trout in a stream any time of the year you wanted to. Not anymore. Them things were... growing up, yeah.

TI: And what are some other things besides fishing and farming that you did as a kid that maybe people don't do now?

GY: No, you can't do it now. You know, it's just the law, that's all.

TI: Right, but are there other things that, what are some other things you did as a kid?

GY: Well, we walked to school. I mean, I think, sitting here and looking at the school and everything, I think we walked two or three miles. Rain, snow or sleet, we did it. Compared to nowadays, that bus almost comes to your house. We never had such a luxury like that. But my first bike was in '38 or something like that.

TI: And describe to me the Bellevue community. I mean, what kind of a community was it like now? Because now, it's a major metropolitan area.

GY: Yeah.

TI: But I'm wondering, what was it like when you were growing up?

GY: Well, Bellevue itself was located next to the water, it was Lake Washington. And it was a town by itself. And from there, it spread out into the suburbs, different villages. So we had, oh, three or four different places where the Japanese people farmed. Usually where I was, at Peterson Hill, we had about five or six farmers right down the row. They farmed about, oh, ten acres each, and they come to a place called Midlakes, and the same thing happened there. There was a row of Japanese people, there's about eight or so in there. And then they were scattered all over different neighborhoods. So if you put it together, it's not Bellevue, it's all combined together. So Bellevue itself was a town, and we had a place called Midlakes, there was a railroad going through there. So we built, they built a shipping shed where we loaded the boxcars, or not... the refrigerator cars. But them days, refrigeration was ice, you know, they blew ice on top of the lettuce or whatever, and they shipped it to Chicago. On the way, they had to re-ice it, so the re-icing things, I had a hand in that after I got out of internment camp because I worked on the railroad. And we stored ice in sheds during the summertime -- during the wintertime.

TI: And so that was a way to keep the produce as fresh as possible as it would go to these major places...

GY: Yeah, like lettuce and peas and stuff, they shipped it to Chicago. But the local product, like strawberries, you can't ship that. It went to the local market... tough work.

TI: When you talk about all the Japanese Bellevue families, now, did they own the land or were they leasing the land?

GY: Some of 'em, most of 'em owned it, according to the report that I have. But my dad didn't buy it right away, he was renting, I think. Toward the end there, I don't know how he got it, but we had a stand-in and used his name. And later on, it was transferred to me.

TI: So was this the lease or the land?

GY: Lease, that was lease yeah.

TI: Because back then, even the Isseis couldn't lease the land? They had to have either a Nisei or...

GY: A local-born person do it. So I don't know how ours came about, but I know that the guy that stood in, he used to be what you call a middleman selling produce in Seattle. And I know he signed the paperwork, then later on he transferred it over to me. But it was something else. I mean, somehow, according to the report I had, lot them purchased their land. But I couldn't figure that out because it was restricted, you know, them days. But according to a report, they even, lot of 'em purchased theirs.

TI: Yeah, the alien land laws prevented the Isseis from buying and leasing land. But I think a Nisei, once they were of age, could...

GY: Yeah, even before the age, they just put her name in there, you know. That's about all they can do.

TI: So you're right, a lot of them used what are called middlemen or surrogates to...

GY: Yeah, yeah.

TI: or lease the land.

GY: Yeah.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.