Densho Digital Archive
Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL Collection
Title: Emi Yamamoto Interview
Narrator: Emi Yamamoto
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Watsonville, California
Date: July 30, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-yemi-01

<Begin Segment 1>

MA: So I'm just going to start with a short introduction and then I'll start asking you some questions. So today is July 30, 2008, and I'm here with Emi Yamamoto. I'm Megan Asaka, the interviewer, and the cameraperson is Dana Hoshide. And we're in Kizuka Hall, which is home to the Watsonville-Santa Cruz JACL. So Emi, thank you so much for coming down here. I really appreciate it. So I wanted to start with some, some basic questions. So when were you born?

EY: 1919.

MA: What, what month and day?

EY: October 3rd.

MA: That's my birthday.

EY: Oh, is that right? [Laughs] What a coincidence.

MA: So where were you born?

EY: Fresno. Mono County.

MA: And what was the name given to you at birth?

EY: Emi Takata.

MA: And a little bit about your father, what was his name?

EY: Kanichi Takata.

MA: And where was he from in Japan?

EY: Hiroshima.

MA: And do you know what his family did in Japan, what type of work?

EY: Well, they were more or less, I don't know exactly but they were well-to-do. So the boys went, and my father came to America when he was a young fellow. And then he went back to get married.

MA: To meet your, your mother.

EY: My mother.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

MA: What was your mother's name?

EY: Nakamoto. Well, she's a Nakamoto.

MA: Nakamoto?

EY: Towa Nakamoto.

MA: And was she also from Hiroshima-ken?

EY: Yes.

MA: And did they meet through arranged...

EY: Oh, they were, pretty close neighbor. And the parents picked. They were neighbors, and he was a bachelor, he came to America and then went back and got married.

MA: And after he, he married your mother, did they come right to Fresno?

EY: Yes, that's about it.

MA: So they settled in Fresno.

EY: Uh-huh.

MA: And what type of work were they doing in Fresno?

EY: Well, farming. And then moved up to San Juan Bautista where I grew up most of the twelve years before I moved into Watsonville.

MA: I see, so you were born in Fresno but then moved to San Juan Bautista when you were very young.

EY: Uh-huh, my father's uncle was there in San Juan Bautista.

MA: And did they continue farming in San Juan Bautista?

EY: Oh, yes. Went along, and then he raised, seed farm, Fairmore Seed Company, 'til the Depression. And when the Depression came, lot of seed company sort of closed door, so whoever was raising seeds, because that climate is just right for the seeds. And they were closed up, so we all went to, it was Depression time, so we all had to find some kind of living. And we moved in, we found out that Watsonville had lot of, needed a lot of berry growers, and that's more or less family way to, for the survival of the Depression. And we came up here in 1928.

MA: So you came to Watsonville in 1928.

EY: Uh-huh.

MA: So it sounds like the Depression...

EY: Sort of changed everything.

MA: Yeah.

EY: The Fairmore Seed Company couldn't sell any seeds for a while, so then they, so they closed up. There was four families raising seed for, at San Juan Bautista.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

MA: So I wanted to ask you about San Juan Bautista and some of your earlier memories --

EY: Oh, yes.

MA: -- from living there. So what do you remember about San Juan Bautista?

EY: Well, I started the grammar school there, and then I went to both Japanese school and grammar school 'til I was fifth grade.

MA: And what was the name of your grammar school?

EY: San Juan Bautista school.

MA: And how many Nisei students were in the class with you at that school?

EY: Oh, there's about, more than a dozen in my class, but there was, all the classes were separated. Every class, we had eight classrooms.

MA: And who were your teachers? Were they mostly Caucasian?

EY: Yes, mostly. And then after regular school, then we walked about quarter of a mile down the road where the Japanese school is, and I went to Japanese school 'til the Depression really hit us and it all changed.

MA: How did you enjoy Japanese school?

EY: I did, I liked it. Because I had to always tell my folks whatever, I was the interpreter.

MA: Oh, you worked as an interpreter for your parents.

EY: I'm the eldest of the family. And that's why I had to go to both schools.

MA: So as the eldest, you probably had a lot of responsibilities.

EY: Uh-huh, interpreting.

MA: How many children were in your family then? How many siblings did you have?

EY: I had two, two brothers and... well, at the beginning there was two brothers, but a total of three brothers and three sisters. No, two sisters. I'm counting myself in. [Laughs]

MA: So there were five children.

EY: Uh-huh, yes.

MA: And you were the oldest.

EY: Yes, 'til the later part of the... there was a separate, I mean, a space 'til my last brother came. And that's when I had to, my father started his own farming, and I was responsible for it because I was the eldest, so I did all the farming work, driving and hauling and all that.

MA: Oh, this is when you moved to Watsonville, right?

EY: Uh-huh. When we start, for a while, we were sharecropping, and then we went on our own when I turned seventeen.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

MA: So I wanted to know about your move to Watsonville. So you said that was 1928, so you were about sixth grade or so?

EY: Yes, exactly.

MA: And you said your folks started sharecropping.

EY: First, 'cause they didn't know how to raise strawberries, and so there was a chance, lot of Japanese people, when Depression hit, they went into sharecropping. And we got through the Depression, and when I was in high school, my father decided to be on his own. And there was lot of group of people, Japanese people, who wanted to start their own farming.

MA: So he went on independently.

EY: Uh-huh. My father didn't -- I was the eldest, and I had to learn driving and run the farm.

MA: That must have been unusual for a woman to have those responsibilities.

EY: Yes. I was the only one girl, about the only girl shipping out the berries, you know, hauling and bringing to the truck company that takes the berries up, the freight company that takes the strawberry into San Francisco and Oakland market. And for L.A. shipment, I take it to the depot and they, the train used to run with all the berries to L.A.

MA: And so you would drive yourself?

EY: Yes, I would haul everything. I was about the only girl.

MA: Did people treat you differently because you were a girl?

EY: No. It was just, I didn't even know the difference.

MA: How did you learn how to drive?

EY: Oh, a foreman of the, the original, when we first came to Watsonville, he was a strawberry sharecropping. And lot of Japanese people were sharecropping, that means we raised the berry, and they used to take all the berries, and the company had to do all the shipping and everything. And then we learned how to raise strawberry from that, and then about ten years later, lot of Japanese people, my father decided to be on his own instead of sharecropping. And while we were, in the first part of the farming, our foreman was a Japanese man, and he taught me how to drive. Because my father only drove a Model T, and here we had a chance to buy a car, and it was a used car. But then our foreman taught me how to drive, and that's how I learned how to drive. And then -- 'cause I didn't trust my father's driving, he was driving Model T, so I learned, he taught me how to drive a gearshift car. And from there on, I picked it up. And my parents decided to be on their own. And I was responsible for doing everything.

MA: Right, that's what you were saying.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

MA: So I'm curious about when you were, the time when you were sharecropping. So how many families would sharecrop on the same farm?

EY: Well, this was, he was a, Caucasian man was the person running the money and the farm, and it was, well, at the time we got to Watsonville, there was about half a dozen sharecroppers. We used to call 'em M&K Ranch. That, those two persons was the owner. And one Japanese man was the foreman, and he taught me how to drive a gearshift car.

MA: And were the families who were sharecropping, were they all Japanese families?

EY: Yes.

MA: And did the owner of the farm provide you housing?

EY: Yes, housing.

MA: And what was that housing like? What was your house?

EY: Just a regular, it was not much different from a farmhouse. There was a half a dozen rooms. There was about ten families started. And then we went from one, the boss found different places where they could rent the ground. Because those days, you only could raise berries one time, and you have to find a place. It isn't like nowadays where they fumigate and use same ground. So...

MA: So you had to move from...

EY: One place to another.

MA: to the next.

EY: It was around La Selva Beach, near that place, on the coast, San Andreas. And then I was old enough, we got established enough to start our own farm.

MA: And when did your father establish his own farm?

EY: When I was, I was 1936, because that's when I started running his farm.

MA: Okay.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

MA: So after you moved to Watsonville, what school did you attend?

EY: The Larkin Valley School. It was one room, classroom, it had, one teacher taught us all eight grades. And she was very nice teacher, and she was the daughter of Judge Smith from Santa Cruz. There was only four of us in our class, and other classes, there was only two in eighth grade.

MA: And were these all children of the sharecroppers around the area, all the students?

EY: Yes.

MA: And their families mostly were farming.

EY: And then there was a lot of old-timer, the property owners around La Selva Beach and all that. The whole school was all, only about thirty people, students. There was four in our class. We got, when we went to high school, we had enough education to go right along with the rest of 'em.

MA: So you got a good education at the, at the school.

EY: Uh-huh, one teacher taught all eight classes. But we kind of helped the teacher with the younger, it was nice.

MA: And did you also go to Japanese language school when you were living in Watsonville, that area?

EY: No. we didn't have no Japanese school. I went in San Juan 'til I was fifth grade.

MA: But after you moved to Watsonville, you stopped going.

EY: Well, I kept up but then my mother got us the magazine from Japan. And I'd been reading that, and I liked it, so I just, just learned it by looking at the newspaper and all that. Because in those days, they had the honji and then they had the kana, the primary, on the side, see. I liked it, so I studied myself after leaving San Juan. And in those days, they had the children's magazine from Japan, and it was for every grade, so it worked. I studied myself. [Laughs]

MA: How did your mother get these magazines? Was there a Japanese store that she would go to?

EY: No, she ordered in to Japan. And there was a magazine company that had all the magazine, like Shifu no Tomo and primary was Yonen Kurabu, and gradually raising. So I kept it up because I liked it.

MA: Yeah, and that's difficult to read in Japanese, I know.

EY: Uh-huh. But I went up to sixth grade in San Juan.

MA: Right, right.

EY: From there on, there was no Japanese school in Watsonville, where we had farming and everything, so my mother got us magazine.

MA: Yeah, you were able to learn on your own. That's great.

EY: Uh-huh, and dictionary, Japanese, Japanese-English, Japanese dictionary and all that. I liked it. [Laughs] But when I went high school, I had to give up my high school education. I just went two years, but I had to, the family needed me.

MA: To work, to run the farm, right?

EY: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

MA: So what religion did your family practice?

EY: Buddhist.

MA: And did you attend Sunday school?

EY: Yes, if we could, my parents used to bring us to church. We have Sunday school.

MA: And the church right in town here?

EY: Yes, Watsonville, yes.

MA: How far away did you live from town during that time? How long would it take to get into town?

EY: About twenty minutes, I guess. See, our home was close to the beach there. And in fact, our first strawberry field was right on the, next to the cliff, the beach at La Selva. And...

MA: And how often would you come into town?

EY: Well, like how they used to go get a grocery and things like that, so once a week, or not much. He wasn't much of a driver. [Laughs] That's why the foreman where we started sharecropping, well, Mr. Takasugi, he was the foreman. And he taught me how to drive a gearshift car. My father only drove Model T.

MA: Right. [Laughs] So what holidays and festivals did you celebrate with your family?

EY: New Year's, like the Japanese do in old time.

MA: And what would you do for your New Year's celebration?

EY: Oh, they made the regular sushi and the whole thing. And we made some mochi. [Laughs] They followed the traditions, Japanese tradition. And we still do, with this new machine, we make mochi. And until my mother-in-law passed away, she enjoyed, my husband got the machine. When we first got that pounder, and she used to love every New Year's that we make omochi. And I used to take the order for every family, and I washed all the rice, so when they come, everything's ready to make mochi. My husband got the, you know, the Japanese pounder, and after the machine came out, we bought that and helped, that thing helped. But it wasn't, Grandma just loved that old-time...

MA: Traditional way.

EY: So I used to, we used to buy a sack of mochi rice, and then I used to, they want so many pound out of that, and I have to wash all that.

MA: That's a lot of work.

EY: Uh-huh. But it was, Grandma used to love her children's family gathered at my place, and they were original pioneer from Watsonville, so she loved to come up from the Bay Area and gather all her children. [Laughs] But it was quite a job for me, but I enjoyed, they enjoyed it.

MA: That's a, a great tradition.

EY: Yes. We kept up the tradition.

MA: So your mother and father emphasized traditional Japanese holidays and cultural traditions?

EY: Uh-huh, yes.

MA: And they spoke Japanese mainly in the home?

EY: Yes. That's why I had to learn to translate everything.

MA: Right, so you were helping your parents, right?

EY: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

MA: So which high school did you attend?

EY: Watsonville High. And my advisor, when I had to give up education, he was a such a good advisor, he brought me some old books, and so I could read at night, so when I have time.

MA: And study independently?

EY: I only went two years of high school, and I had to give up. And those days, Japanese people were all, they all have sons that could handle the farm. And I had two sisters after me, then my brothers, see. So I had to run the farm.

MA: So that's why your father asked you to help...

EY: Yes.

MA: ...around the farm.

EY: Uh-huh.

MA: And so you said you were able to do two years of high school?

EY: Yes.

MA: And then when your father asked you to drop out of high school and help on the farm, how did you feel about that?

EY: Well, lot of, all the families had a lot of boys running the farm, and I just felt that I need to help him, too. So then, that's why my high school teacher came over, and he said, "How come," to my folks, how come I have to quit education. And I told him what the situation was, I had two sister after me, so my brothers were all...

MA: Too young to help out.

EY: ...too young to do anything. And that's what I told him, and he was such, he was a young teacher, man teacher, my advisor. He brought me some books and said, "You could use this at night or wherever, and study." And I really appreciate him.

MA: Yeah, because you were able to continue independently, right, studying on your own?

EY: Yes, uh-huh. And in the wintertime, I have more time, so I used to read and study whatever I could.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

MA: So when your father started doing independent farming, where was his land? Was it...

EY: It was on Buena Vista, you know where Buena Vista Ranch, Larkin Valley, where they had the flood this year.

MA: Right.

EY: And then Larkin Valley, and...

MA: And he was doing strawberry farming.

EY: Uh-huh, yes. And he was in sharecropping first. That was by the beach, La Selva Beach right there. And then when we found the, well, there was five growers, five of us farmers got together and leased the big ground. And then we shared the acreage, divided up the acreage. And then they put the well in and all that, and leased the ground to us. So we pay so much an acre, we rented that place.

MA: Oh, so was he part of this group of people, then, who...

EY: Yes, there's a five-family, we did that.

MA: And the five families went in together?

EY: Yes. We all had our own acreage. Somebody had five acres, somebody have three acre or four acre. It was, the whole place was leased. And that's how they did it in those days. All the Japanese people decided to be on their own, and so they leased the ground.

MA: And they did it in groups, it sounds like?

EY: Yes, more or less groups. Well, you have your own acreage divided. And then you put your own berries in. From there, it's individual, but the water, irrigation water and those things have to, all five families have to agree to pay their due, due and everything else. And other expenses that comes out for the farm there where we leased.

MA: I see. So you split some of the costs of, of that?

EY: That, yes. And we did that way 'til the war break out.

MA: And the people working the land, was it mostly families?

EY: Yes.

MA: Did you hire any other workers to help?

EY: Some, if you want... well, main season time, when it's, well, they hire some workers.

MA: And who were the workers that they would hire? Were they Filipino workers or other Japanese?

EY: Other Japanese, uh-huh. But we did mostly ourselves.

MA: Families.

EY: My sisters, you know, when summer vacation comes, I got a, my brothers and my sisters, and they all pitched in.

MA: And when is the main, was the main growing season for strawberries?

EY: Well, the season starts around April, and it lasts 'til a little before... little bit of October. That's six months, mostly.

MA: And what would the family do during that offseason, like in the winter?

EY: Well, there's cleaning up and keep the weeds out. Even if the berries not producing, you have to keep the farm up, clean up all the weeds that come up. And watch for the flood or anything, when we have heavy rain, just to keep up the farm. Because the berries last two years, two to three years, those days.

MA: And then you would have to move.

EY: Yes. Because they didn't have no fumigation. Right now, they have fumigation, they could use the old ground by fumigating and replant it in the same place. But now, those days, you had to go and always find the virgin ground.

MA: When did they start using the fumigation system?

EY: Oh, that starts after the war was over, when they put the plastic tarp to put the gas in, and cover it. You see all the berry fields, that's what they do.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

MA: So for you, after you sort of took over the farm and helped your father, what was, can you describe a typical day for you and what your responsibilities were on a daily basis?

EY: Oh, I get up early in the morning, and when we had the hired people help, maybe one or two people, but we used to get up, I used to get up early and make the family meal with my mother's help, and then usually when we were commuting some places, we had to make our lunch, so had a lot to do, and the younger ones have to go to school and all that. I'm the only driver. My father used to drive Model T, but I don't trust him with a gearshift car. So I did all the driving all over for the family, errands and everything, and work at the farm at the same time. And then I hauled the berries out twice a day.

MA: And take them to the depot?

EY: The depots. Like L.A. shipment, we had to catch a nine o'clock train, and then we'd go to the depot, Pajaro Depot there, and unload it there into the freight car. And ten o'clock, it ships out to L.A. for next morning's market. That's how it used to be for L.A. shipment. And San Francisco, we used to bring the trucking company, Clark Brothers. From there, they take it that evening, that evening, and then the following morning, when the market opens, that's where the berries...

MA: I see. So their main destinations for the strawberries were San Francisco and Los Angeles?

EY: Yes. And Oakland sometimes, but it's mostly San Francisco and L.A. shipment. And then during the summer, when the berries are real nice, we had our own corporation. You pick the berry little bit... not ripe berries, but a little bit green, I mean, you know, so they'll last, for eastern shipment.

MA: And where would the eastern shipments go?

EY: New York. So it takes about two to three days for the train, so you have to pick solid berries, so they last for a good market.

MA: And you said you had your own corporation?

EY: Yes.

MA: Can you talk about that a little bit?

EY: Oh, it's, well, there's all kinds, but we were in berry co-op. And it used to grow out of Sunnyvale.

MA: And was that mostly a Japanese farmers, strawberry farmers in the co-op?

EY: Yes, mostly yes. 'Til later part of the, now, they have air shipment, so it goes faster.

MA: And so would you have to go to the depot and the, every morning? Was that a daily shipment?

EY: Oh, yes.

MA: How many pounds would you be shipping every day, usually?

EY: It all depends on the amount of berry gets ripe. Because the eastern shipment, it has to be more solid than... lot of 'em go by, by air now, air freight.

MA: And would you get paid by the pound, or how would they pay you?

EY: Paid by crates. And it has to pass the inspection. If it gets a reject, it just goes to the local market. It's not worth it. So when you're picking the eastern shipment, it had to be a little solid. But then recently, because they have better...

MA: Faster transportation for berries?

EY: Transportation and the way they grew the berries. So it's a lot easier.

MA: Right.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

MA: So I wanted to talk about Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, and what you remember of that day, and hearing of the news that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor.

EY: That was really sad. I was, that was, it was... Japan was kind of like that. We didn't know whether it's gonna be a war or any things like that. So we're, we had, I was gonna put the bushberry by the La Selva Beach with... she's Mrs. Hashimoto... her husband, his mother, the family...

MA: The Hashimoto family?

EY: Hashimoto family, the boy. Anyway, Mr. Takatsugi, that's Shoko's, he's the one, the main person that taught me how to drive like I told you.

MA: The foreman.

EY: Uh-huh. Well, her husband's, the family was close to the foreman, real close.

MA: So the Hashimoto family and the foreman were close.

EY: Uh-huh. And so, and he was gonna, we was gonna raise the bushberry together where, the new place where we rented, we were getting ready to put a bushberry in because everything was on the edge. We didn't know whether, what's gonna happen. And so... but I, we decided that we didn't know what's gonna happen, so I contracted with the seed company, be just a one-year deal. So we're gonna start planting some parsley for the seed. And before we know it, it was all went to, fall apart to the evacuation. So that's when everything closed up.

MA: So how did you hear about Pearl Harbor?

EY: Well, since we were, where we were gonna put bushberry, and we didn't know, it looks kind of wobbly with what's gonna happen. So I, we contract, that we contracted a seed company, so we just put parsley in for the seed, seed on that year, for that year, instead of waiting for putting, instead of putting bushberry or something in, won't produce or anything, it was scary. And then before we know it, Pearl Harbor came and everything fell apart.

MA: And how did your parents react to the news about Pearl Harbor? How did they feel?

EY: They didn't know this was gonna happen. Took them, a big surprise. And we were, everybody was, didn't know what to do, where to go or what happened.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

MA: And you told me earlier that you met your husband, and you married right after this time, after Pearl Harbor?

EY: Uh-huh, yes.

MA: How did you meet your husband?

EY: Well, I didn't, it was a Japanese-style, but I knew his sister in high school when I was going. But somehow, his sister, younger sister and my sister were in the same class, and that's how I met her, and she kind of liked me. But anyway, my sister, same class with her, and they were friendly, so you know that. And I heard that she, she knew, I got friendly with her, too, being my sister's friend, and then she told my mother her brother was looking for somebody for him. [Laughs] And that's how they introduced me.

MA: And what was your husband's name?

EY: Henry.

MA: Henry Yamamoto. And when did you get married?

EY: After the Pearl Harbor, so it'd be February 15th.

MA: And what was your wedding like?

EY: Oh, it was, nobody could get together. We had a family wedding at the church, but the FBI were picking up everybody, see, so not more than so much could get together. So not everybody in the family even could get together, so just main person and the parents and probably sisters and brothers, that's about it. But they couldn't travel, lot of 'em that lived far away, they weren't allowed to travel anymore. So just the family pictured, got married. And the reverend and some of the main persons... right after our wedding, the FBI picked them up.

MA: Picked him up from the church?

EY: Yeah, church. There was somebody that, they gave the names of the main person, people in the Japanese Association, so when we got married, we weren't allowed to go any further than fifty miles. Then by the time we got married and went up to San Jose and came back, and lot of the main persons and Japanese Association people, FBI picked them all up.

MA: Was your father ever targeted by the FBI?

EY: No. So... but like some of the main Japanese Association persons, quite a bit got picked up.

MA: And for your wedding, it sounds like the...

EY: Only the family could get together.

MA: Right, 'cause the curfew and the travel restrictions, really.

EY: And travel was only fifty miles.

MA: Right.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

MA: So when you found out the Japanese were gonna be removed from Watsonville, what did you do with the, with your possessions and the farm?

EY: Well, this family that, that my husband's family was living in Freedom, and they, they were renting the, one of the houses, and they were such nice people, they said, "Just leave everything in the house," and she'll take care of the, our valuables. So we'd have to, I brought my, from Larkin Valley into my mother-in-law's house, and we all stacked 'em in there. And they watched it for us. And so, and then after that was a big uproar. My mother-in-law, she had some of the boys in Japan, so she wanted to go back to Japan with the whole family so it'd be all together. But my, I guess some of the old people, they didn't believe that Japan lost, so they had to, they said they wanted, she had a couple of boys in Japan, so she wanted the whole family together. And lot of, lot of these old people just didn't believe that we lost back there. And then, so we, we found out, and we know that we lost. And so my brother-in-law, the oldest son, he said, "We could always go back if you want to." But right now, believe U.S. government to stay and see what other people do. So we were the last one to be let out.

MA: So this is later on when the war was ending.

EY: Yes, finished.

MA: And your mother-in-law had sons in Japan, living in Japan?

EY: She had one boy, and she didn't realize that he was killed, see. She thought if she'd go back with all the rest of us, she could put the family together. There was a lot of people that don't believe it, and they decided that they want to go back. They didn't believe that news of U.S. And we, we believed that we were fighting against that, and they waited 'til the last minute, and she decided that we can always go back if it's true. So my husband's oldest brother convinced her to stay back and follow the crowd. And she finally, so we were about the last people to get out relocation camp.

MA: Out of camp, yeah. So I wanted to go back a little bit and ask about your parents' farm. And what happened to your parents' farm as the Japanese were leaving for camp?

EY: My parents' farm, well, they were, we were renting the ground, see, so we just returned it to owner. But some, and then WRA, War Relocation company, they helped everybody to find the grower or wherever, they could have a, they could follow it and the government would help them. So one of the Caucasian men, people, took over my strawberry farm, and we got paid a little.

MA: But I imagine there was, you lost a lot of money, because that was right in the middle of the season, right?

EY: Yes. But it's better than to let it dry up.

MA: Right, right.

EY: Uh-huh. So they took care of it, and that, the land leaser have to agree with this, too, because there's wells and everything. That's why War Relocation Authority helped us a lot.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

MA: So I wanted to ask you about your memories of Salinas Assembly Center, and your, what you were thinking when you first arrived at Salinas.

EY: It shocked you, that's all you could think. But it was, same everybody, that was rodeo ground. Well, everyplace that had those kind of place, it's lot of filth and everything.

MA: And what were your living conditions in Salinas?

EY: Oh, it was just a barrack with, it was five family in one barrack.

MA: And it was you and your husband and your mother-in-law?

EY: Yes, and her family, and my brother-in-law's family. And we had a little share, three room, shared everybody. And it was kind of filthy with the rodeo ground being horse manures and everything. What happened for me, I had acute, acute appendicitis from there, and you know, and then they took me to the County Hospital because assembly center is close to County Hospital. They had the little, one doctor was taking care of the few people, but in case of emergency, we had to, they would take us to County Hospital, 'cause it was close to assembly center. And I had acute appendicitis. I was by myself in the army truck, and they took the appendix out.

MA: Wow.

EY: It was scary.

MA: And this was after you were in Salinas?

EY: Uh-huh, assembly center.

MA: How long were you in the hospital?

EY: About a little over a week, and then they brought me back to assembly center where they had a temporary place.

MA: And then you stayed in the, like in the clinic in Salinas?

EY: Uh-huh. And then...

MA: Did they have a, you said they had a doctor in camp, like one doctor or something?

EY: Uh-huh, yes. Then the emergency, delivery of babies and things were all sent out to the County Hospital because it's close to.

MA: But they would transport people by army truck?

EY: Yes. And nobody could come, I went by myself and had the surgery and took the appendix out.

MA: So no visitors, no, your husband couldn't come with you?

EY: Nobody could. Kind of scary.

MA: It's very scary.

EY: But what an experience.

MA: And how long were you in Salinas?

EY: Well, we all had to get out by Fourth of July.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

MA: And you actually went to Tule Lake, is that right? You didn't go to Poston?

EY: No, because my sister-in-law had, she was under the doctor's care, and people had a history of tuberculosis or some kind of contagious disease, they had a chance to go to a safer place, 'cause they were going to Arizona.

MA: Where the climate was a little better.

EY: Hard, yes. I had some classmates that went without letting them know that they had, they had that kind of problem, contagious problem. And when they went to that hot country, lot of 'em passed away.

MA: I imagine the dust as well, and the hot climate.

EY: And my sister-in-law, she was recovering from tuberculosis. When she was at home, she got released from the hospital at home, but she had a record, so we had to go. I split from my family and I wouldn't see them for five years.

MA: So your, your parents and siblings went to Poston, and you and your in-laws went to Tule Lake.

EY: To Tule, uh-huh.

MA: And you weren't able to see your, your family.

EY: Uh-uh, 'til it's over. It's quite an experience.

MA: Yes. So can you tell me about your journey to Tule Lake and how you, how you got there? Was it by train?

EY: We had, in the train. Train, I guess, there was couple of carloads of people. Some people hid, hide their, have that problem, went with the big gang to Poston, and lot of 'em passed away due to bad climate, you know, hot climate, they didn't have appetite.

MA: Right. So when you arrived at Tule Lake, what, what kind of living conditions did you have? Barracks?

EY: Barracks, same as assembly center.

MA: And it was the same, so you and your in-laws and your brother-in-law's family? Same people?

EY: Yes, three family there, and three of us had a room next to each other.

MA: Did you have a job in camp? Did you work?

EY: Well, I, I didn't, but my husband was a cook. He was one of the, head chief in our block.

MA: As a, as a cook in camp?

EY: Uh-huh. He worked all, 'til the end.

MA: So your family stayed in Tule Lake until the end of the war?

EY: Yes.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

MA: So do you remember the time when they transferred people out of Tule Lake and brought others in?

EY: Yes, that was segregation.

MA: The segregation. Can you tell me about that time, when that happened?

EY: Well, people that was for America, the "yes-yes" people, went out. And lot of different relocation centers came into Tule Lake, and they had quite a... what do you call it? This kind of problem.

MA: So it had to do with the "loyalty questionnaire"?

EY: Uh-huh.

MA: And people's, based on people's responses, they would either send them out or bring them back in.

EY: Stay out. So it came, lot of 'em came from a different relocation camp, and they were prepared to go back to Japan.

MA: And how did the camp change after that happened?

EY: There was all kind of demonstrations. So my, my brother-in-law asked to tell his mother that we had all these little children, and what are you gonna do? Take 'em back to Japan and let them suffer? They didn't believe that they lost, see. That's the main thing. And so we, she didn't want to stay here, but then we convinced her to, "You better, you could always go back there if you want to." So we stayed 'til the end before they released us.

MA: Right. So your mother-in-law wanted to return to Japan, but your brother-in-law and the rest of the family convinced her not to go.

EY: Uh-huh. So that was quite a thing, but lot of family did that. But they stayed 'til the end.

MA: And you stayed until the end of the war in Tule Lake.

EY: Uh-huh. And then we got released.

MA: Do you remember hearing about the end of the war and about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

EY: I lost my grandmother in Hiroshima. Well, she didn't die right away, but the radiation got, 'cause she was an invalid, see. That's war, can't be helped.

MA: Yeah.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

MA: So where did you, after the war ended, where did your family go? Where did you and your husband decide to go after leaving Tule Lake?

EY: Well, we went back to Fresno, because my, my sister-in-law's family was out there, and they had a place to stay. So we didn't have no place to stay, so there was a chance of working out there. And so we stayed there, and he worked in the valley, and it was too much for him. He got sweat rash and everything else, and so he was born and raised in Watsonville, so he needs a cooler climate. So we came back to Watsonville.

MA: What type of work was he doing in Fresno? Was he farming?

EY: Vineyard, yeah, working in the vineyards [inaudible] and orchard there.

MA: And were you also working at that time in Fresno?

EY: Huh?

MA: Did you also have a job?

EY: Well, harvest time. But I had two little boys then.

MA: Did you have your sons in camp?

EY: Two of 'em.

MA: While you were in camp?

EY: Uh-huh.

MA: And how, when you were in Fresno, how did people treat you, treat the Japanese people coming out of camp? What was the reaction of the people in town?

EY: I don't know very much about that, because we kind of stayed quiet and worked where they told us to work. So my husband worked in the vineyard and orchard, and he wasn't used to the hot weather, and he got blistered, sweat blister and everything, so he decided to move, and move into San Jose and raise strawberries there.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

MA: And how long were in you in Fresno?

EY: I think just a short time, about two years.

MA: Two years in Fresno. And then you moved to San Jose.

EY: Uh-huh, raised strawberry.

MA: Did you work for a company or did you...

EY: We worked for Driscoll.

MA: Driscoll?

EY: Uh-huh.

MA: And were you sharecropping, same?

EY: Uh-huh. And then somehow we had a chance to come home to Watsonville, and raised strawberry here.

MA: And how long were you in the San Jose area?

EY: About two, two-and-a-half years, I guess.

MA: And were most of the sharecroppers, especially in San Jose at that time, Japanese?

EY: Uh-huh, yes. Lot of 'em. Between San Jose and Gilroy, there were a lot of 'em.

MA: And all people who had come out of camp and settled there?

EY: Mostly, uh-huh.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

MA: So you returned to Watsonville, eventually.

EY: Uh-huh.

MA: What was the connection to Watsonville? Did you have a friend who asked you to come back, or did you want to be with your family?

EY: It's, one of my, when we had berry farm at Driscoll at San Jose, my sister-in-law wanted to find, and saw in the paper about they want the sharecropper in Watsonville. So my husband, they knew my husband in Watsonville, so he, they went into direct, to grow with him. And then, so the Driscoll berry farm was advertising in the paper where it was around Salinas. And we stopped at one strawberry stand, right there on the side of [inaudible]. My husband asked where this place that Driscoll advertised, and it happened that my husband's real good friend's place, he had berries over there, and he had a little fruit stand pretty close to the golf course. And this fellow said, "Why don't you come back and raise berry over here?" And we had a place to stay and everything, so all of a sudden, we came back to Watsonville.

MA: And what about your parents? Had they returned to Watsonville?

EY: No, they went toward Fresno.

MA: And when did you see them for the first time after the war?

EY: They were first back into San Juan Bautista, that's where I saw them after, when they came back. And...

MA: Must have been a great reunion.

EY: Oh, yes. But they didn't have a place to stay, so they stayed at the hostel. Right now, it's a Japanese American Citizens building. I went to Japanese school over there when I was twelve years old, before we moved to Watsonville.

MA: And this was San Juan Bautista?

EY: Uh-huh.

MA: Okay, so they made a hostel for the returning families?

EY: Yes, temporary hostels.

MA: And how long were they in San Juan Bautista?

EY: Who?

MA: Your folks, your parents and your family?

EY: Oh, not too long before they went, they went to Fresno again. That's where my sister was staying with her husband and his family. My father used to live in Fresno were I was born.

MA: That's right.

EY: Uh-huh. So he kind of wanted to go back there. So my brother and his family still lived in Fresno, they bought the property.

MA: So they never came back to Watsonville, they remained in Fresno? And so you and your husband were working, strawberry farming, in Watsonville. And this was with your, your friends that had asked you to come back.

EY: Uh-huh, were very close friends.

MA: And what are the name of your friends who, who you were working with at the time? What's the family name?

EY: It's the Sugikane.

MA: Sugikane?

EY: He passed away now, but the family is there. It's a big family. And my mother-in-law, my father-in-law, they were same place in Japan, old-timer. All my, all my brother-in-law, they were all born in Watsonville, old-timers.

MA: Your husband's family?

EY: Uh-huh.

MA: What did his family, were they, were they farming?

EY: Uh-huh. Farming and the boys worked out, and they used to go cut lettuce. There was a lot of...

<End Segment 19> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

MA: Tell me about your, your children. How many children did you have?

EY: Four.

MA: Four children.

EY: I got 'em all out of, they all got their education. I have three boys and a girl. I think the education, so they got their full education. And now my oldest boy, he's an engineer, government, and second boy, he wasn't too interested in education 'til he got old enough and realized he needed education. So he got out of high school young, so he went back. He went to the army, came back, and then he realized that he needed the education. So he finished up junior college in Cabrillo, and then transferred into San Jose State, and he got his degree. And my third son, he's a, he liked medical, so after he got out of school, he was accepted at U.C. Irvine, and he got his degree there. And my daughter also liked medical, but she finished the school and she went to university down south, and came back, and was working at the medical group here in Watsonville. And then she got her degree in the medical, but she died. She had juvenile arthritis, which took her life. That's all my children. [Laughs]

MA: Well, I think it's wonderful that they all went to college.

EY: I didn't get the education, so if I could, I wanted them to go to upper school if they want to. Fortunately, they all decided to go upper school. My second boy wasn't too interested, so he joined the army, and he came back, and he was young, see, so he came back, and then he decided you needed an education, so he went to San Jose State and got his degree.

MA: Sounds like a wonderful family.

EY: Well, I didn't get the education, see, so if I was lucky enough to send them to school, I want them to. And hoping that they will like education, that's the main thing.

MA: So you really stressed education because you felt you couldn't have an opportunity to pursue your education.

EY: So my oldest son, he's working for government, and he's ready to retire, but he says he's enjoying his work yet. [Laughs]

MA: So you've been in Watsonville for a very long time. I was wondering if you could talk about the changes you've seen in the community over those years.

EY: Oh, yes.

MA: It's changed a lot, I bet.

EY: A lot, very lot.

MA: And did you and your husband farm up until you retired from farming, from working?

EY: Yes. We were strawberry growers. [Laughs] That's how we got to send the children to upper school if they wanted to, I mean, if they're interested, and all of them did so far, so I was lucky.

MA: And the strawberry industry stayed pretty, pretty strong?

EY: Uh-huh, they helped us. 'Cause we, I didn't get the education I wanted, and my husband, too, after high school, he had a scholarship, he could have gone, but he had to help his mother, 'cause she was a widow. And all the boys pitched in and helped her.

MA: So is there anything else you would like to share, or any messages you'd like to give to younger generations?

EY: Well, just to keep up their education and do what you can, what you can. That's the main thing. Don't give up.

MA: Well, I think that's a wonderful message. So thank you so much for sharing your story.

EY: That's my story.

MA: Yeah, thank you. It was, it was great.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.