Densho Digital Archive
Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL Collection
Title: Shoichi Kobara Interview
Narrator: Shoichi Kobara
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Watsonville, California
Date: November 18, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-kshoichi-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay, so we're going to start the interview, Sho. So today is Tuesday, November 18, 2008. It's the afternoon, and we're in Watsonville, in Kizuka Hall. On camera is Dana Hoshide, and I'm interviewing, and my name is Tom Ikeda. And so Sho, we're just going to start at the very beginning. Can you tell me where and when you were born?

SK: I was born in Watsonville. And I don't know for sure, but I was born on a ranch up there, Taylor Ranch. But that's where I grew up 'til six years old. And that's when my...

TI: Right, so before we go on there, so what was the date of your birth?

SK: That's April 23, 1922.

TI: Okay. So that makes you, what, ninety-six?

SK: Eighty-six.

TI: Eighty-six years old. Okay, eighty-six. And so when you were born, and you thought maybe Taylor Ranch, so that's not a hospital. Would that be like a midwife that delivered you?

SK: Probably, because I don't, never heard my parents... but those days, I don't think hardly anybody went to a hospital. So I'm pretty sure it must have been midwife.

TI: Good. And how about siblings? Did you have...

SK: A sister and a brother.

TI: And are they older or younger?

SK: Younger.

TI: And what were their names?

SK: Sayoko and Yoshimi. Yoshimi changed his name to Rod, he didn't like Yoshimi.

TI: Okay. Sayoko and Rod. And how much younger were they than you?

SK: They were about fourteen months apart, I think. We're pretty close.

TI: Okay, so each, like, fourteen months, then the next one, then fourteen months...

SK: Yeah.

TI: And who was the second oldest?

SK: My sister Sayoko.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So I want to talk about your father. Before we talk about your life, let me talk a little bit about your father. And so what was your father's name?

SK: Kaichi Kaihara when he was born, I mean. That's the family name.

TI: Okay, so that's interesting. So Kaihara is different than Kobara. How did, how did, where did Kobara come from?

SK: It's the next... the village is more toward the mountain than by the ocean. 'Cause my mother came from Yanai, which is right by the ocean. And they're a little bit up in the mountain more. Not mountain-mountain, but higher ground.

TI: Sort of like the foothills?

SK: Yeah. And they have ranch up there and mountain. I guess they called it yama. And Kobara was next family. Because my father, my grandfather's name was Kaihara, but can't think of his name now. He was, that's what my father told me, that he was involved politically when, to get Tokugawa to take, take Tokugawa over and put in Meiji, King Meiji. So they were involved in that kind of thing with Kagoshima and Kyushu. Southern Japan wanted to get... because Tokugawa was an isolationist. He didn't want any whites to come into the country, so they kept them all out. But Dad said everybody was thinking that Western powers taking over China and all that, so they can't just sit back and be an isolationist. He says, "Eventually they're gonna surround Japan and take over the whole country." So they were, got, tried to get, change Tokugawa. Because Tokugawa controlled Japan for about 190 years. They had really a lot of peace then, no infighting and everything.

TI: And so it was your, it was your grandfather that was kind of involved in that transition?

SK: Yeah, he was.

TI: And so when you say involved, what way would he be involved? Was it like as a, as a soldier fighting, or more politically?

SK: No, I don't think it was... more of a political thing. 'Cause he was telling, my father was telling me that when Perry opened the, came in to open the door so Japan could be, get involved with the Western world, I forgot the name of the diplomat that went to Washington to negotiate. And they thought the United States would be the best place to negotiate because all other countries were Portuguese or Germans or French, they're all different countries. But they wouldn't negotiate, they said, "Who are you to say something, a little island country?" So they couldn't get any negotiation going. So they decided, well, Japan has to build up a military power. So they said that's why they went to Germany. They figured that Germany had the best military power, so they got involved with Germany.

TI: And so this was all during that, kind of that early Meiji era, when they really started going around and finding, like, the best in the world. Like the best army, the best navy, best technology, to bring back to Japan.

SK: Yeah. So that's when the problems started, he said, because it was strong military people and strong, and it was peacetime. But he said the Western world would not negotiate, so the people that were going for more of a military power were getting stronger and stronger.

TI: And where was your grandfather in all this? Did he have, was he on a certain side during this time?

SK: Yeah, he was for, go for, open the door and build up a country. And that's when my father so young. Because when he was young, being a second son, he had no choice. So the father told him, "You're gonna either, I'll get you in the military or in the police." And he says, "I didn't want to go to the military or police." So that's when he decided he's going to come to the United States.

TI: Okay. But before we go there, we started this trying to figure out, so how did he go from a Kaihara to Kobara?

SK: That's after he came to United States. I guess they were neighbors, they're good friends, so the grandparents gave him, negotiated that when they died, that he would take one of his sons, put it in his son's name. So that was my father, Kaichi.

TI: But the Kobara family was in Japan?

SK: Yeah. No, next door neighbors. But the ironic thing is, my, Kaihara, they didn't have any children, either. So when I was about twelve, they said, "Send one of the, either myself or brother or his daughter to Japan to take over that family." And my mother and father talked it over and asked us, one of us, "Want to go?" We said, "No, we don't want to go." We were kids yet. So we never left. So they adopted a girl from some other... I don't know who it was, I don't know. And then she got married to take over the Kaihara family. But after my father was in the United States, he was working in the railroad. He found out -- because those days, a letter used to take over thirty days to come from Japan to the United States -- he found out that they made a deal, so he had to change his name.

TI: And do you know how he would do that? So legally, did he go someplace and have his name changed from Kaihara to Kobara? And the reason I ask was, you showed me earlier, his draft card. And there, it was Kaihara. So he was using that name when he dealt with the U.S. government, at least during that time.

SK: Well, I don't know why, how they did it, but that was quite a few years. So he was in Nebraska, and he found out, and I guess they, I don't know how they did it.

TI: Okay. Well, that's not that important.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So let's, let's go back to the point when he came to the United States. And so about how old was he, and you said he went to go work for the railroads.

SK: He came here when he was nineteen years old. 1898, I think. And he worked in Watsonville, I guess they had labor. In those days, there was a labor contractor that found work for everybody, and he was saying in 1905, he was working in Castroville, in the field. That's when Japan defeated the Russian, Baltic fleet, so that's, he said after that, the military got, "See, we could do anything now." So they got powerful, more powerful in Japan. But he believed in the United States all the time. That's always his, he said, "This is the only country in the world that's made up of all kinds of people." You go any other country, even if you go back to Japan from here, they discriminate against. That's why a lot of Kibeis were, they had hard feelings, huh? Japanese that were born here and went back to Japan. They don't, they didn't accept you hundred percent.

TI: I want to go back to when your dad talked about when the Japanese defeated the Russians. And he would sort of tell you, as a child, the story about that. How did he, how did he feel about that? Was he proud that this small country could defeat Russia?

SK: Yeah, that's what he was saying. That's why more military people got more powerful, and then they start talking about yamato damashi and all that stuff.

TI: But how did your father feel about that? Was he all for that? Did he think that was the way for Japan to go in terms of becoming a stronger...

SK: Well, he said, in a way, to get more respect and everything. But he said, "You can't fight the United States, it's too big." It's impossible.

TI: Okay. So let's pick it back up, so around 1905 or so, he's still in Watsonville. And then what happens?

SK: He got married to a, in Watsonville. He didn't talk too much about her. He was from Higashi family, he was a labor contractor. Then I guess the father-in-law or something found out they were recruiting railroad workers, so he decided to go to Nebraska. And then he worked there and then he got promoted to what they call section foreman, to run a crew of Japanese, Indians, black, Mexicans, all on the crew. And he said after he started working, they fix the railroad tracks, and he'd run the crew.

TI: This is your father you're talking about.

SK: Yeah. And he, somehow I guess he learned English enough to do that, 'cause he told me all kinds of story about living in Colorado, Nebraska, about hunting and fishing and all that. 'Cause he used to know the game warden, tell him where to go to hunt.

TI: Well, it was, perhaps unusual, too, to have a wife. So he was married. Did his wife go with him because he was section foreman?

SK: Yeah.

TI: And so she was with him in Nebraska and all these different places.

SK: That's why after, I forgot how many years, he told me he came back to Watsonville in 1917 because she was getting so lonely, she kept, you know, finally he gave in and came back to Watsonville. When he retired from there, Union Pacific, he thought maybe he can get a job over here. But I've talked to a lot of Irish people and they said it was controlled by Irish over here, railroad, and nobody else, even Irish that came from different section of Ireland, couldn't get in.

TI: Now, do you know if your father ever had any children with his first wife?

SK: No. That's what one of his, I guess, what do you call, he was always saying. Because if he had any children, they would become American citizens, so they could lease property and stuff. 'Cause in 1925, they had the alien land law passed. He farmed before that, but after that, he couldn't.

TI: Oh. So he was thinking if he did have children with his first wife, then they could have become U.S. citizens and then he would have been able to own land.

SK: Anyway, when he came back, that was around, almost the end of World War I, and the flu epidemic, a lot of people died, and she died, too. After she came back to Watsonville, she died.

TI: So is your father's first wife, is she buried in...

SK: Yes, in Pioneer Cemetery.

TI: Okay. So in 1917, she dies during the flu epidemic, and then you were saying that this was also during World War I.

SK: Yeah, toward the end, yeah.

TI: And then what happened?

SK: Well, I forgot what year, they leased some property on Beach Road and farmed and made some money, so he decided he wanted to go back to Japan and get married.

TI: Okay, but before that, I guess, and I should have asked, so during, at the tail end of World War I, after his wife died, he tried to volunteer for the U.S. Army?

SK: He enlisted, yeah. Tried to enlist.

TI: Can you explain that? Why did he want to do that?

SK: Because other, a friend of his, they did, and then they were saying they could get American citizen once you get in the army. So he thought that was one way he could get American citizenship.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So did you ever talk to your father? So here, earlier you talked about how he was proud of Japan and its emergence as a world power, and yet, it sounds like he was very clear he was, wanted to be an American.

SK: Yeah. He says, "This is the only country in the world that you can become a citizen and not be an outsider. No matter what country you go, all over the world, you're an outsider. Well, here, the future is here." Even when the war started, he says, "Eventually we could work it out," he says. Had taken everything away and everything, but says, "Don't worry. You'll get, if you work hard and everything, Japanese will prosper here." He always said that. He never said they were discriminating us, 'cause I remember when we were, when the war started, when they put that exclusion order, some of the people, younger people, said, "Oh, yeah. Now, if the government's gonna put us in a camp, they gotta feed us rest of our life like Indians in the reservation." They said, "No, as soon as they say you can get out, get out." 'Cause that's no future. If you go in a reservation like the Indians, you're not going to, you're not going to be nobody.

TI: So it sounds like your father had a lot of wisdom about these things. When you think about history and how things played out, lot of the things that he said became true.

SK: Yeah. Just like when they dropped the atom bomb, about a month later, he says, "Mark my word, someday this atom bomb's going to come back to haunt the United States." And now we have to worry about it all the time. He was saying they wouldn't have dropped it on anybody else but Japan because Japan's not gonna do nothing about it.

TI: So your father had a lot of wisdom. I mean, you mentioned how he learned English kind of on his own. What kind of education did your father have?

SK: That's what I said. He didn't go to school. His father taught him at home. He was kind of a religious man, and real... as I look back, I learned more from him and a few other, older persons about facts of life and everything. Even these, you know about the "Forty-seven Samurai" and all that kind of stuff, he used to tell me all the stories.

TI: That's good. So let's go back now, it's after World War I, he had a small farm, made some money. And then you said he went back to Japan?

SK: Yeah, to get married. Because he knew, well, quite a few friends he had, they came from that area. And one of them, name was Suyehiro. He came a lot, quite a few, he's a little older. He came earlier and brought rice from Japan, and he grew rice in Stockton area, and he made money, so he went after -- because his family, Suyehiro family was in Japan. He came alone, the man. So he made good money, so he sold his, because he had to establish what they called Suyehiro rice brand, and then he sold it to a man later, he became the Kokuho rice. 'Cause his son wrote a story, and he told me how his father started it.

TI: And so I'm trying to figure out the connection. So this man Suyehiro was in Stockton, rice, so he sold it, went back to Japan. Now, how's that connected to your father?

SK: Well, my father knew him when he was farming the rice in Stockton. In fact, he knew other people, too. 'Cause I remember when I was small, every once in a while, those Kikkoman shoyu barrel, fish would come, salted in miso. And his friends would send it because Stockton area, there were striped bass. They were catching a lot of striped bass. But it was illegal to send striped bass, so they used to put the striped bass in the bottom, and then they called it, fish called shad, and it's not too good to eat, a lot of bones. They used to put it on top and send it to us. And he says, their friends sending that.

TI: And would that be, sort of, you said, preserved with that miso?

SK: Miso, yeah.

TI: So like kasu-no...

SK: Yeah, something similar, yeah.

TI: Similar to that?

SK: Yeah.

TI: And then the striped bass was on the bottom.

SK: Yeah, then it had one layer or two layer of shad.

TI: And then back then, they didn't want people to... so it was illegal to send that to different places.

SK: Yeah.

TI: Oh, interesting. But then the shad was okay. Do you know why it would be illegal to distribute...

SK: I don't know. I never asked.

TI: And so every once in a while, you'd get these really nice treats, then, from... in Kikkoman soy sauce, or shoyu.

SK: You know those barrel? I got one at home yet, but in the old days, less than five gallon, four gallon something in there.

TI: So this is a early taste of smuggling, I guess. Smuggling fish to Watsonville. Kikkoman. So your father knew Suyehiro, but then he went back to Japan, Suyehiro?

SK: Uh-huh.

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: But talk about your father. He also went back to Japan to get married?

SK: Yes, because I guess he wrote to him that there was a daughter from Furukawa, which is close to his place, which was my mother. She was twenty-one, twenty-two. So he went back and got married. But then I remember when I was about nine, ten, he came to United States. 'Cause my father was, he was, he wasn't a drunkard, but every evening, he likes to have a drink. And he's always blaming the wife, that can't make good sake or something, always blaming her.

TI: This is your mother?

SK: Yeah. So I guess my mother must have wrote to her brother that he's not... because there was twenty-two years' difference. He was forty-something and she was twenty-something. So anyway, he came to take her back to Japan, divorce, take her back, but my mother says, "No, I can't do that to my brother." The old days, I guess the brother, older brother was the pillar of the family and they... because her sister, same thing happened in Japan. He was kind of a drunkard, so in those days, you had to buy the sister back. So her brother, Furukawa, had to give a lot of money, and they had to give up some buildings or something. So she says, "I can't do that to my brother."

TI: Let me see if I can summarize this. So your mother wasn't really happy in Watsonville, and so she called her brother, her brother came here to --

SK: Not the brother, a baishakunin.

TI: Oh, the baishakunin came, to possibly take her back.

SK: Yeah, come to take her back.

TI: But she said no because she knew if she did that, her brother would have to have paid a lot of money or something for that to happen.

SK: Yeah. So they had three children our age.

TI: Okay. That's interesting.

SK: Learned from my mother, gaman, you know.

TI: So let's talk a little bit more about your mother. So what was her name?

SK: Chisako.

TI: Chisako?

SK: Chisako Furukawa.

TI: Furukawa. And do you know what kind of work her family did in Japan?

SK: I was surprised. Because when I was in the military, I finally got good relation with the company commander, he was a captain, and I told him I wanted to go see my uncle in Yamaguchi. I was in Tokyo, so I can't go on a weekend pass, can't make that trip and back. He said, so, he told me, "I'll give you two weekend passes in succession so you could go to Yamaguchi and visit the family."

TI: And so this would be your mother's brother?

SK: Yeah, and my father's family, too, we visit all over there. Anyway, I was surprised because my mother's brother spoke good English, so I could talk to him in English. Because he had a, his sister's son served in the Japanese army, so he hated Americans. So I never had good relations with him. He didn't like me at all. So he would talk to me in English. And he was a farmer raising rice and things, but he was also part-time schoolteacher. So that's how he, I guess, I don't know, he talked good English.

TI: Interesting.

SK: I was surprised.

TI: And what we had just talked about was -- we're jumping around a little bit -- but that was during the occupation when you had to visit.

SK: Yeah.

TI: So your mother's family, so farming, and then it sounded like the, also there was some education or teaching also.

SK: Well, they're a samurai family, too. And then it was, their farm was real close to the main town. So after the war, development came and they built an office building and everything on that property. They were fairly well-to-do.

TI: And so what town or city was this?

SK: Yanai.

TI: Okay, so they, your mother and father got married, and when they came back to Watsonville, they had three children and we talked about that.

SK: But the irony, too, is when my mother and father wanted to come to the United States, back, she couldn't come because she couldn't pass the... I don't know why, those days, her eyes weren't good or something, and they said, "You can't go." So then my father found out that if you come first class, they don't check your eyes. So he came first and she came later, first class.

TI: Oh, so there were, like, health requirements. But then if you came first class, they didn't check you.

SK: Yeah. First class, it's no, no checking.

TI: But then it was more expensive, though.

SK: Oh, yeah, and he had to, she had to come later. Get all through the paperwork. That's why always, he's blaming, the wives always give him trouble. They didn't have any children at first.

TI: So the first wife there's no children, the second wife, he had to bring her over first class.

SK: Yeah.

TI: She didn't make good sake. [Laughs]

SK: [Laughs] And things were rough, depression areas.

TI: Right.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: So let's kind of move more about your life. You had just started mentioning that at about six years old, you moved from Watsonville...

SK: Yeah, to Salinas.

TI: Okay, so let's talk about that. So why did your family move to Salinas?

SK: 'Cause he was running this ranch with a couple other families under him. They had sheeps, strawberries, apricots, pears, pretty big ranch out there. And my father asked -- because it was 1927 or '28 -- asked him could he get a better share. Running on a share basis, I guess. And the guy, Irishman told him, "You have no rights. You can't ask for anything, you have no rights." And Dad said, "That's it." And Yamamoto family in Salinas, there were three brothers. Two, one in the Sherwood Ranch and the other in Oak Grove farm. With the help of H.A. Hyde Company, used to be a nursery, he was partner with one of the brothers. The third brother was in Turlock, he was growing over there. So he says to go over, "The heck with you," and he left. So anyway, ironic that when we came back after the war, he lost all the, the guy lost all the ranch. 'Cause my in-laws were working under my father, and then there was another family. They stayed for a little while, how many, few years after my father left. But eventually they went, the Shikumas and something. But the time war came, they weren't there no more.

TI: Okay. So let's go back to Salinas when you're a young boy now. What are some memories that you have of Salinas?

SK: I have no bad memories.

TI: Well, what were some of the good memories? I mean, what were, just like in terms of playing, what kind of things, what kind of activities did you do when you were growing up in Salinas?

SK: Well, it's nothing like nowadays. 'Cause when I went to Salinas, Natividad School, they had a one-room school. The lady taught all eight grade in one room.

TI: So there were eight grades, one...

SK: In one room.

TI: So that's the old, what they called the one schoolroom.

SK: Yeah. And you sit in different rows in the different grades, and she would assign things and go around. I went there for three years.

TI: And in that room, how many other Japanese were there?

SK: Let's see. Yamamotos had couple... yeah, I don't think there were more than eight or, seven or eight.

TI: Out of about how many were in the whole school?

SK: Probably about thirty-something, I guess. But the people didn't treat you any, bad or anything. I never had any bad experience. Even the teacher was really good to Japanese. Except when we went to move to Santa Rita district, that place had four rooms for each, two grade each. And at one time, I was walking by noon hour, and teachers were talking, "Damn Japs. We got lot of kids that, we have to build more rooms," and stuff like that. Because when more Japanese used to move towards Salinas because I guess they were running out of ranch in the Watsonville area. They were, more and more Japanese started coming in. In other words, lot of family had four or five, six, seven kids, some of 'em. So it was crowded. But by the time I graduated from the eighth grade, the principal especially, he liked Japanese, 'cause they study hard and always had good grade.

TI: Going back to when you heard that teacher say, "Damn Japs," do you remember how you felt when you, when you heard that, or what you were thinking?

SK: I wasn't thinking too much. But I didn't like it when they said that. I just never said anything about it. I come home and tell my father, you know, they always talk about, you have your rights in America. But my father always tells me, "You don't have rights. You have to earn your rights." When you're a little kid, you have to study hard and do whatever you have to do, and the parents' supposed to take care. That's their duty. It's duty. You can't sit back and demand rights, it won't work. That's when he would say, "Study hard." And my mother never spoke English, so she couldn't help us. My dad would help little bit, but not much help.

TI: So in other words, he was saying, "Don't let that bother you. Study hard or work hard, and that's how you will succeed or that's how you will advance."

SK: His philosophy was obey the law and study hard. And whatever you do, do the best you can. If somebody else could do something, he says, "You could do it, and try to improve on it. Do a little bit better." His philosophy was real good.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: So going outside of school, what was the Japanese community like in Salinas? Were there, like, community events?

SK: Oh, yeah. That's the only place it was at the church. Because that time, Salinas, I guess because it covered a big area, Castroville, all the way on, Monterey and everything, that head one, Tokuno Sensei, and then Fujimura and Fujikado Sensei came in. Then they started the Japanese school there. So my father said, "You gotta go to Japanese school." And those days, I guess our tuition was three dollars fifty cents a month per child. So we used to hate going to Japanese school every Saturday, but we had to go. Maybe that saved my life, because after I took the basic, that's when they put me into Snelling because I could speak a little Japanese. And they said, "Okay, you go Snelling, you don't have to go to France."

TI: Well, how many years of Japanese school did you go?

SK: I went to sixth grade. I don't know how many year it was, but about five, six years.

TI: And how many other students were in Japanese school? How large a school was this?

SK: Well, we had it in this, at the church, so we had little rooms in the side. And Fujikado Sensei and Fujimura Sensei, they were young. I guess reverend, they came from Japan, twenty-something year old, I guess. So they were the teachers.

TI: So these were the Buddhists?

SK: Yes. They became, they were reverends, but they were under, top sensei was Tokuno Sensei. And then Fujikado and Fujimura.

TI: Oh, so this is, so the Buddhist reverends were also the Japanese teachers, language teachers. About how many students were there? How large a school would you say?

SK: I had, they had it in different classes, so I don't think there was more than about twenty. You know, it's not a big school. Just on Saturday only.

TI: And in the overall community, Salinas, how many Japanese families were there?

SK: Well, there was quite a few. Because, like I say, it covered from Chualar, Monterey, Castroville.

TI: So maybe about, what, fifty families, or more than that?

SK: Well, there was quite a few in the stores. There was a lot of stores, drug stores. 'Cause that street called Lake Avenue is the, mostly Japanese store. And there was the other one, Market Street, there were Japanese store there, too.

TI: When you say Japanese stores, what would be some of the stores?

SK: Grocery stores.

TI: Yeah, grocery, what else?

SK: Dry good, shoe store, Togo shoe store. There were a couple of drug stores. One family was, they had a car dealership, barbers. Right next to the, one side of the street going the other way was all Chinese.

TI: Now, was Salinas, the community there, larger than Watsonville?

SK: I think so, toward the end. There were more people coming, moving in because of the area. It's a bigger area. And the strawberries before, after three years, they have to, can't plant in the same place so they had to move to virgin ground. And that's where more...

TI: Oh, so more were moving to Salinas because it was...

SK: Yeah, bigger area.

TI: So in addition to Japanese school, what about, like, picnics or other community events? Like Obon, did they have Obon?

SK: Oh, yeah, we had it.

TI: So talk about some of those things. What were some of the events that you remember?

SK: Well, those days, I guess you don't have lot of things. Only thing you go is, go fishing or family get-together and go fishing or something, and they had Obon odoris. I don't know. They don't have, like, JACL, that kind of thing yet. Not too much. They had Nihonjinkai, they were the biggest organization. They used to be the people that bring the Japanese movie, they used to show it in the hall. But I didn't like to go to Japanese movie, because it's always sad. So I had to tell my father, "How come Japanese movies, everything is sad, tragedy?" He says, "That's psychology." Says, "If you see how everybody is not that well-off and happy, you could think to yourself, 'See, I'm not that bad off. There's a lot of tragedy going on this world, mother dying or somebody getting hurt.'" Japanese movie, the old days were always that way. So I said, "I don't like to go through that." He said, "They're using psychology to teach you that you ought to be thankful that your life is not that bad. There's a lot of other people that's, have all kinds of tragedy."

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

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: So what other stories or things did your dad talk about? He has lots of these really wise sayings.

SK: Yeah. I always try to find the English version, but we used to play karuta. And that's, it's made up of game like "penny saved is a penny earned," or thing like that. "Ron yori shouko," in other words, truth is better than arguing. Always know the truth before you argue. It's a picture card, and one parents will read, then you have to go grab for that card.

TI: Oh, that's interesting. So it's a card game that kind of taught you values.

SK: Yeah.

TI: So it would be like you'd say one thing, and then you'd find the answer or the...

SK: Picture, yeah.

TI: ...the picture.

SK: Like they said "furuteru kasa, furuteru sasu," that means whether it's rain or shining day, what do you put out? That's umbrella. So there's a picture of an umbrella, you grab for it, see who gets more. But then they had a harder version where it's all written, sayings and stuff. More advanced, no pictures. You had to find the card.

TI: So this was a way of also teaching Japanese.

SK: Japanese plus proverbs, lot of them. Most of them were proverbs. "Inu mo arukeba bo ne otaru," means if even dogs, if they roam, they're gonna get hit by stick, stuff like that.

TI: Now, so was that common? Did lots of other, sort of, boys and girls your age do the same thing?

SK: I guess, I don't know. That was usually in the family. It's called karuta.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

SK: But he always used to be... he liked to lecture. Later on in life, you could realize that's the facts of life, that it's really education. But like I never fight, because my father always tell me, "Don't fight." He says, "If you're gonna fight, you gotta be sure you're gonna win." Otherwise, what's the use fighting? There's no such thing as fair fight. You're gonna fight, you take advantage of his weakness, if he's a great big, big guy, he says, "Why fight him? He's gonna beat you up." He says, "So back off." Because I had couple of time where kids, you know how it is, and I never did fight. I remember one time the principal sent me into the washroom, they had a washroom in the outside of the building, and I was arguing with one kid playing recess time. So he told me to, "Put the gloves on, you're gonna go out there and fight all you can."

TI: The principal told you this?

SK: Yeah. Seventh, when I was about seventh grade. And his name was Chet Broom. And put on the gloves and did couple of times, and I said, "I don't like to box. What the heck are we fighting for?" So we just sat there for half an hour and then went back and said, "We settled everything." So that's when that J.C. Fry, his name was J.C. Fry, the teacher, he was an elderly man, he kind of liked me after that. They had a woodshop in the back, I don't know why they had the woodshop back there, 'cause there was no instructor or anything. But by the time I was eighth grade, he used to tell me, "You go out there and make something." So I didn't have to take math or something like that. 'Cause he said, "You don't have to do that, just go out there." So I made a kitchen cabinet for my mother. But they had just hand tools, they didn't have any kind of machine. He really liked me because I would argue with him about something, and the guys knew that if we get him talking, we won't have to take certain tests or anything. So used to always tell him, "Ask him something." He, I remember talking about that time when communism and Germany had dictatorship, he used to tell me, "Mark my words, someday there won't be any communism. There won't be any dictators. Democracy is the best way to go, but," he says, "United States is gradually going socialism, and that's going to ruin this country." He says, "You gotta be, you gotta improve yourself individually," and stuff like that. And by god, that's what's happening now.

TI: But what was interesting is, so your friends had you kind of engage him in these, sort of, long conversations so that he would forget about giving tests and things. And he enjoyed these conversations.

SK: Yeah, he used to like it.

TI: And so how did you get educated about things like communism, fascism, things like that? How did you engage him in all these conversations?

SK: Because that's... those days, toward the end when I was graduating, McCarthyism and all that kind of stuff, I'd ask him about it, and he would get talking. Before you know it, he likes to talk, he's an elderly man. It was interesting.

TI: And when you did this, was this with the whole classroom just listening as you would do this?

SK: Yeah. And two classes there, seventh and eighth graders together.

TI: Oh, interesting.

SK: There was, I was the only Japanese boy. There was three other Japanese girls.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: So going back to your father, did he ever talk to you about the type of work that you should think about getting into? As you got through high school, and did he ever say, "Sho, you need to, think about this or think about that"?

SK: Well, I wanted to be a carpenter. Carpenter or architect. And when I went to high school, I took mechanical drawing and stuff like that. But then when I was in about the junior year, union representative came to talk to our class. So I asked him, "Could Japanese get into the union?" He said, "No, Japanese can't get into the union." So I went home that day and told my father, "What's the use of my going to high school? I can't in the union or something, can't get that kind of job, so I want to quit." He says, "No, you finish high school. Regardless of what, finish high school." Because those days, high was like now, you gotta have at least two or three year of college or you don't ever get any job. But he used to be proud... in the old days, anyway, Japan thought farmers were the backbone of the country and they grow food and everything. Said, "Don't be ashamed to be a farmer," he says. "You're gonna, everybody become a doctor," he said, "who's gonna feed the people? The farmer's the backbone." That's when I decided, well, that's the only way I'm gonna get ahead, so concentrate on farming.

TI: So let's talk about, so high school, what year did you graduate from high school?

SK: 1941.

TI: Okay, so this is, like, June 1941. Now, what did you do after you graduated from high school?

SK: Went to work, I mean, run the farm, helped my father.

TI: Okay, so at this time, your father, how large was your father's farm?

SK: The last ranch we had was eight acres, strawberries. And that was considered pretty big for a single farmer. 'Cause most of 'em were, big farmers had lot of sharecroppers. A normal family farm, three, four acres, that's what you could take care of.

TI: And at this point, did your father or the family, did it own the land?

SK: No. We were gonna buy one, twenty acres, and it was fifty dollars an acre in Salinas. We went to look at it, nice place near Natividad. But then we went, strawberry you had to have a well, there's no well there. So my father and I went to the well-digger, he says, "Salinas is hard to get water. It's gonna cost many more times than that land is worth." So that's when we decided to lease that ten acres one more year, and then one more cycle. That's when my father knew the real estate man, his name was A.V. Rianda. And he says -- 'cause I was only nineteen, I couldn't lease, sign the lease. So he said, "I'll become your guardian," and then I leased it in my name. Then the war started, we lost everything.

TI: Okay. So this Rianda became your guardian, that allowed you to lease the land.

SK: My name.

TI: Under your name. And this was that ten acres?

SK: Uh-huh, yeah.

TI: And then that's when you said, then the war started and you lost all that.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: So let's talk about, sort of, with the war starting, what were you doing when you heard about the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

SK: I can't remember exactly what I was doing. It was December 7th. But we thought my being an American citizen, that they won't take us. They would take all, just the non-citizens. So we were making preparations to stay there. And me, and my sister want to help me to run the place, but after I got -- and then later on, they said, "No, everybody gotta go."

TI: Now, before we go there, I'm curious, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, did you ever have a conversation with your father about, about the bombing and Japan's attack of America and what he thought about that?

SK: Well, he says, "Japan," he says, "politically, they knew they're not gonna win. They knew," he says, "you can't win against the United States. But their philosophy was" -- they think, he didn't -- "if we bomb Pearl Harbor, maybe United States won't come this far." They'll knock out the major battleship and everything, that maybe United States and Japan could get to hold their own position. Because that's what Japanese philosophy was. Fighting is wrong, but you have to do first what they don't expect. So that's why they do it. But he was always saying, "Eventually, United States is going to win." There's no way.

TI: So right away, he said Japan was, was not going to win this war.

SK: So he said, "You gotta figure on living here." 'Cause when we went to camp, we could have signed the, what they called the "yes-yes," "no-no" stuff. Says, "You gotta stay here because there's no future in Japan."

TI: So he counseled you or advised you to go "yes-yes" on the "loyalty questionnaire."

SK: It said, put "yes," but I won't volunteer. If they draft me, go.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: Going back to right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, you said earlier how when the war broke out, you lost everything. So can you describe that in a little more detail? So you had, you're leasing this farm. At that point, I'm guessing that you had crops that were...

SK: Ready to harvest.

TI: Were ready to harvest, so you put all this work. So describe how, what happened. What did you do with all that land?

SK: We took care of it 'til the last, because there was news and stuff that it'd be a sabotage, because Dad was saying maybe we ought to go disk it all up, you know chop it up. They said if you do that, it's sabotage, so you can't do that.

TI: Oh, so if you destroyed your own crops, they would consider that as an act of sabotage.

SK: Sabotage, yeah. We sold the crop for fifteen hundred dollars, the house and everything. They didn't have tractors in those days, just had trucks.

TI: So was that a fair price for all that?

SK: No. Two hundred dollars an acre for over eight hundred, ready to pick. So after the war, they said you can apply for damages. So I get in contact with the University of California, got all the statistics, what the market value was and average production and everything, and I filed a lawsuit against the government. But that time, I didn't know anybody in Watsonville, lawyer or anything, so JACL was saying they're gonna help you. So I got contact with Saburo Kido, he was in L.A., and I would meet him in San Francisco and talk over the -- 'cause I got all the statistics, how much production was, war years, average and stuff. I asked for twenty-five thousand, but he wasn't, Saburo Kido never helped. He just kept saying, "Settle it, settle it. Don't make a lot of fuss over this."

TI: Because the government offered you some amount, but not that much.

SK: Yeah. So finally they settled for five thousand. I didn't want to do it, but he says, "Don't sue the government," stuff like that. So I said, "Okay, settle it." When I got the check for five thousand, I told my mother, "Take a vacation to Japan," because she'd never been there since she'd been married. So she went and afterwards, Saburo Kido sent me a bill for $500, or ten percent. So I told my mother, "I ain't gonna pay that guy." "No," says, "don't do that, give him the five hundred." But he never did back me up or anything.

TI: So you didn't think he did a very good job in terms of...

SK: No. I mean, sure it was suing against the government, still, but it was open to do it. I heard some people that had a lawyer from Watsonville, they got more. I don't know how much, but...

TI: But that $25,000 figure, so that was based on your research, you thought that was about how much all that was worth.

SK: At minimum, yeah.

TI: And you sold it for fifteen hundred dollars. So someone got a really good deal on all that.

SK: Yeah, some hakujin family over here in Watsonville.

TI: Okay. So after you sell the crops and the house and all that for fifteen hundred dollars, then what did you do?

SK: You mean...

TI: Did you, at that point, where did you go? What was the next step?

SK: We waited 'til the WRA said, "Go to Salinas Assembly Center." But that was, I guess, I forgot what day in April, but I, my birthday was the 23rd, so about 20, around 20 or something, they were saying, they were asking for volunteers to go to assembly center earlier and help clean up the place and stuff like that. So I told my father, "Let's go." We just sit here for three more days doing nothing anyhow. We burned most of the stuff and stored a few things in the hakujin family. So we went there and do a little carpentry work and stuff like that.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: And so what kind of shape was Salinas in, the assembly center? Was it, what did it look like and what was...

SK: Well, lot of what they made this tarpaper cabins, I guess, like all of 'em, same kind of thing. But then they had someplace with the horse stalls and stuff, we had to clean that up, 'cause that used to be rodeo grounds. So did whatever they told us to do, we were doing it.

TI: And then what was it like when people started arriving? I mean, how did that feel, or what were some of the images that you saw?

SK: It's, those days, it's not like if we had to go in camp this day and age how we're living now. The old days, lot of people lived in, like strawberry farm or something, it's like a cabin anyhow. Only thing wrong is they put us all in a barrack with one room, so we had to hang curtains, I mean, sheets or something to partition the room. Just like in Poston, same thing.

TI: And when you were at Salinas, did you stay with your family?

SK: Yeah.

TI: So it was your mother, father...

SK: And three of us.

TI: and sister. And so describe like a daily life in Salinas. What kind of things did you do when you were there?

SK: Well, you get paid, what was that, fourteen dollars a month or something when you get in there, to do those work. So you had to perform whatever they tell you to do.

TI: And what kind of work did you do?

SK: Carpentry work, repair and stuff like that. But they didn't, we didn't stay there, they didn't stay there very long. Went in April, I think, and by end of, sometime in July, they closed it down. But you don't have any privacy because you have to go to, take a shower, you had that shower place, and bathroom was on, you gotta go out. So it's completely different.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: And when you were at Salinas, too, I understand that you got sick.

SK: Yeah. I got... I guess about the third, second or third month, I got appendix. And I guess it was too late, so it burst, so infection set in. So they were giving me that little red pill they called penicillin in those days. But that wasn't, it took me over a month to recover. So by the end of July, by July, everybody was gone. I was the only one left in Natividad Hospital.

TI: And so when you had a burst appendix, were you treated at the Salinas, kind of...

SK: It's a county hospital.

TI: Oh, so it's outside of the camp.

SK: Yeah, it's Natividad, it's a little bit away.

TI: And when you were in the hospital, did they have people watching you to make sure you didn't leave or anything like that?

SK: No. It was a ward, in other words, not a private room. They didn't put me in a private room. There was Chinese and stuff like that.

TI: Were people able to visit you, like your parents?

SK: Just before they left, yeah, to Poston, they were allowed to come.

TI: So you were the last Japanese America left in Salinas, then.

SK: Yeah, because I was stuck in the hospital. So one day, when I got well enough, they sent one FBI guy to escort me all the way to Arizona, private man. [Laughs]

TI: So how did you get there? By train?

SK: Yes.

TI: And so all the way there, you were next to this FBI man?

SK: Yeah.

TI: Did you ever talk to him very much, did you guys do that?

SK: Just kind of little talks. But he was a real nice guy. Sympathetic, but can't do nothing about it.

TI: I mean, did you feel like you were like a criminal? I mean, having to be escorted like that? Or what did it feel like?

SK: I didn't think about it that way. We didn't have any handcuff or anything.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So Sho, we're going to start, now, the second hour of your interview. But before we start at Poston, I just want to ask you a little bit about the various nicknames you've had in your life. One you mentioned earlier was "Crowbar."

SK: Yeah, because they couldn't pronounce Kobara, so they, a couple of guys started me Crowbar. When we were going to high school and all that, they always called me Crowbar.

TI: And so were these like other Japanese that --

SK: No, no. Hakujin.

TI: Okay. And would that, would that kind of stick so lots of people called you Crowbar, or just a few people?

SK: The Japanese, most of 'em called me Sho, Sho. Because even when I was going to grammar school with the Natividad, right next to the school was a family called Alvitra. He was a sheriff, father was a sheriff, two brothers were going to school. And when we go in high school, Alvin Brazil, his father was a deputy district attorney, we always got along good. When we were going Japanese school, there was two hakujin started coming toward, when I was about junior. Marvin Hogan and Blandi, Blandi. And Marvin Hogan, after the war started, I heard he went in and became FBI, because he came to Japanese school to learn Japanese.

TI: So it sounds like there was a pretty good relations amongst the different races.

SK: Yeah, and like I said, mostly it was white. But funny thing is, when we were in Salinas, when I was about, I guess maybe freshman or around there, people from Oklahoma came, moved to Salinas, and they called it Steinbeck story, the guy that wrote the Grapes of Wrath. And they kind of assembled in Prunedale and Alisal area. And I couldn't tell the difference. They called 'em Okies, but they said that they were from Oklahoma where there's Indian blood mixed into them. That's why the white people were, Portuguese or Italians, they kind of looked down on them and called them "Okies, Okies." I used to say, "Hey, they look just like you, they don't look any different." But they were discriminating against people from Oklahoma.

TI: Well, and I'm thinking about the people you grew up with, these different races. Did it change quite a bit after Pearl Harbor? I mean, did they start treating you differently?

SK: We didn't stay there that long. The only thing I -- because the year before, I graduated from high school. And lot of those white people around Salinas, they joined the National Guard and tank corps. So that's what I heard after the war, but then they were transferred to Washington or something. And then when the war started, they were shipped to Philippines, and lot of 'em got killed. So they were kind of hard feeling against Japanese. So I only went back couple of reunion in high school, but it wasn't, they didn't say anything bad about us or anything, but it wasn't a good feeling because a lot of 'em got killed, as classmates.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: So here's another thing I wanted to ask about your father. This is kind of switching gears, but did he ever talk to you about sort of being Japanese or Nihonjin and what that meant? Like did he ever talk about that Japanese had to be a certain way or anything?

SK: Yeah. He said, "You should always think you're Japanese." He says, "Don't envy somebody, 'wish I was white.'" He said, "Always think you're Japanese. And you have to do a little bit better." If anyone does anything, do a little bit better than the guy if it's humanly possible. You know, never say, 'I'm Japanese, I got no rights," or something like that. Don't think that way.

TI: Did he ever talk about, perhaps, even the Japanese being even better than other races or people?

SK: Well, we should have a better standard, he was saying. Don't say, "Just because I'm Japanese, I'm better," no. He said, "Improve yourself. Do a little bit better." Whatever you do, work, any kind of work. 'Cause all the years, well, worked, every place I've been, they usually compliment me on whatever. 'Cause I remember when I worked about six months in Utah, this family had a small coal mine. And went there in about the '20s. And then I never drove big trucks, but they had, I didn't work in the coal mine itself. 'Cause there were a lot of Japanese working around there in the coal mine. And I used to just drive truck up and down the hill all day long. And got about two, three months into it, the owner really liked me and said, he used to have me come to his home and help him in the moving things and stuff like that. And he always told me, my uncle, my mother's uncle, was running a restaurant there. He was about my age when I went there. And he was telling me, "I didn't know your uncle was a Japanese. When they get old, they all look alike," he says. And I found out Salinas, there was a Cominos family that run the hotel there, and he says, "Yeah, that's Greek." He was Greek, too. "Yeah, I know them," he tells me. So I got really friendly with them. He treated me real good, too, but six month I had to, my father was pretty sick. That was another thing.

TI: Yeah, we'll talk about your father's sickness. But before we go there, did your father ever compliment you? Like when you did a good job in school or work, did he ever compliment you?

SK: You know, the Japanese saying, "Oya baka ko baka"? That means you don't compliment your sons or daughter. Somebody else compliment them, that's the best thing you could, parents could hear. But you don't go out there and say, "Oh, my son got a good grade," or something. They don't brag. That was the old Japanese way. As far as, you know, we never, like nowadays, they hug you and stuff like that, we never, that kind of thing wasn't done then, when we were young.

TI: And do you think that was a valuable thing, a valuable trait to, for parents not to do that?

SK: I don't know. Nowadays, kids, grandkids, they hug you and everything. I think that makes you feel good. Which, when we were young, we'd go to Japanese families, they'll say, "Hi, how are you?" and all of that, but nobody hugged anybody or anything that I knew of. Maybe some of 'em did, but the obasan would come and say, "How was everything?" and stuff like that. "Do you study hard at school?" and stuff like that. Nowadays, it's different. I enjoy it when my grandkids come and hug me.

TI: That's good. That was really well-done. I've never heard that. But I've always felt that the Issei parents never complimented their, their children.

SK: Yeah, see, 'cause of oya baka ko baka. Parents compliment their own kids, that's considered bragging, and you're not supposed to brag.

TI: That's good.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: Okay, so we're going to continue the story. I mean, where we left it off was you had just been escorted to Poston, Arizona, by an FBI. So when you got to Poston, describe what it was like for you. What did it look like when you got to Poston?

SK: It was just a bunch of barracks and everything. And because I came out of the hospital, I worked in the fire department as a dispatcher, operator, because they says, "You can't do physical work." So I was a dispatcher at the fire department. Sit in the office and if there's a fire or something, call and just tell the chief, and he sent out to fight the fire.

TI: So I'm curious, were there very many fires?

SK: Not that much.

TI: So how many times did you have to actually dispatch?

SK: I'd only been there maybe about a year or so. Not too many. I went to one fire, and I learned how to operate all that fire trucks and everything. 'Cause when there's nothing to do, you ask question. And the fire chief was Japanese man from Carmel, he used to be a fireman in Carmel. His name was Kodama. He used to teach us everything what to do.

TI: And what kind of fires did you have at Poston?

SK: It's at the barracks. Something happened, and all those tarpaper on the side. So if one barracks gets on fire, it's a little, I don't know how many feet between those barracks, it wasn't too wide, so it'll catch onto the next one right away. So they keep watering other barracks, too, keep 'em wet. But we didn't have any camp -- I was in Camp 2, and we never had a big, major fire.

TI: Now, if there was a fire in one of the other camps -- so Poston had three camps, 1, 2, 3.

SK: Yeah.

TI: Would you ever have to go over there and help another camp with their fire?

SK: No, I don't remember ever.

TI: And how large was the fire department at Camp 2?

SK: We only had one truck.

TI: And so how many men would that be?

SK: I think there was maybe four or five guys.

TI: And so during the day, the men would just hang out and wait?

SK: Play cards or something. And then they would clean the fire truck and stuff like that. And if they do go to a small fire, sometimes they had small fires, they had to come back and clean the hoses and stuff like that.

TI: What are some other memories of Poston? Like the food, what was the food like?

SK: They've got to go to the kitchen, they had one kitchen over there. And women and stuff, they were paid fourteen dollars a month, I guess, to work. But the food was pretty lousy. [Laughs] I remember when I was a kid, I never ate mutton. So they had mutton stew and beef hearts, like that, and they put a lot of curry in there to camouflage the taste. But once you take one bite, you can't eat it. So the garbage, the garbage cans were full of people that are not used to eating that kind of stuff. Eat whatever you can. And I guess there were problems once in a while that were... guys that were director in the camp, stealing the good meat to sell outside because it was rationed outside. And they were saying that's why we always get lot of mutton, beef hearts, lot of stews.

TI: So when you heard this, these rumors about food being, sort of, stolen from the warehouse and sent outside, how did you hear about that, or who told you about that?

SK: People, I guess it gets around. I don't know how, but... then they had that, sometime, they had like a camp newspaper-like, newsletter, you'd hear about it. And people knew. It'd get around right away. There were some investigation going on every once in a while.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: Well, when you were in Poston, I guess one of the things that happened that was unfortunate was that your father got sick. So can you talk about that? What happened to your father?

SK: Well, I guess from stress and the disappointment and everything, he developed cancer, cancer of the rectum. So my father knew the Japanese, I forgot his name, doctor that was in Salinas, he evacuated to Chicago. So he wrote to them, him and asked him, "What do you do?" And he said, well, "If you come over to Chicago, I'd operate on you." So he, we made application to the camp to get out, but he never could get the okay to go. He got worse and worse, so finally the camp, I mean, they said, "We'll send you to Phoenix, Arizona," and have the operation done there at St. Joseph's hospital. We stayed there almost a month. But they treated me real nice over there. The nurses and...

TI: And so you went there with your father?

SK: Yeah, I stayed 'til the... and I brought him back to camp. And my sister and my wife -- we weren't married then -- but they came to visit. 'Cause we stayed there about a month.

TI: And what kind of, so they operated, and what other kind of treatment did they give him?

SK: They had to cut the whole bottom out. Then he had to have a bag there for his bowel movement. So they took... I bet it took over a year -- by the time they closed the camp and everything, he came back to Monterey. But it took a long time to heal because they took the whole inside out, and bowel movement was on the side. But by that time, I was in the army already, so I couldn't help. I think my mother took care of him.

TI: Okay, so let me make sure I understand all this. So your father was in Poston, so he was operated in Phoenix. But you also talked about going to Utah at one point.

SK: Yeah. And when he came back, came back from the hospital, and I thought I'd go to my mother's uncle's place in Utah and work there. Because we didn't have a cooler there, in the camp. So I thought I'll earn enough money to send a cooler in. Each one had to order their own, I guess, if they wanted it. Some people had it, some people didn't. Lot of people didn't have it.

TI: So when you say "cooler," like a refrigerator?

SK: No, it's a fan with the water running, and they hang that outside and blow it in.

TI: Because Poston was just so hot.

SK: Yeah.

TI: And so you wanted to go outside to make more money so you can buy a cooler for the, the camp.

SK: And then when I went to Utah, over there was too rationed: alcohol and then meat and whatever it is. You had coupons, we could only buy so much. Well, I knew my father wanted, liked to drink. I got that idea that, you know, you can't send alcohol into the Indian reservation. So I got a vinegar bottle, emptied it out, washed it, and put the... what do you call that, whiskey in, and sealed it up. And put canned peaches and a few other canned goods, made a thing, and shipped it in. They say you're not supposed to do that, you can't send -- but I figured my father was going to die anyhow, and he liked alcohol. 'Cause they used to make some in camp. They used to get raisins and stuff, I knew they were doing it, different families doing it.

TI: So you were able to smuggle in whiskey to your dad.

SK: Yeah, every month I used to --

TI: When he was at Poston, he was back at Poston?

SK: Yeah.

TI: And you got this up in Utah? You were able to get this in Utah and send it down to him.

SK: Yeah.

TI: You mentioned your dad liking to drink. Before the war started, would he have friends that would come over, or he'd go someplace and drink with them?

SK: More or less, he drank at home. He never went out bars, I never, ever saw him. But he always used to like sake or wine. I remember helping make beer, too. There used to be a formula you buy to make beers, and I used to help him bottle that.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: So you were in Utah for what, about six months or so?

SK: Six months, yeah.

TI: And then why did you leave Utah?

SK: Well, it snowed so much, you're up on a hill, and I'm driving truck up and down. And as the snow got more and more, those canyon, narrow, and one-way road, lot of 'em, got, was narrow. But as the snowplow keep pushing it off to the side, the road seemed like it's getting wider and wider. And I thought, "One of these days, if I slip and go to the side, I'm gonna fall over." And it was getting cold, I says, "I can't stand this." 'Cause I don't know, not like California, because Utah, the summertime, too, they call, what they call cloudbursts. It'd be sunshine here, but up on the hill you could see black cloud. And one time I was driving up to load up the truck, and they call, what they call tipple, where they throw the coal in as they bring it out of the mine. And you back right up to there and they open it and fill it up. Just as soon as I got up there, the boss's brother said, "Get out, get out." He said, "Get out of the truck." So I jumped out and went up to the side. And about five minutes later, the water came down like, into the truck and everything went down the canyon. If I'd have stayed there five minutes longer, I would have been gone, too. They call it cloudburst over there, and it just, when it rains, it just let loose. It's not that -- yeah, and then the sun comes out.

TI: But you'd have these cloudbursts, and then a flash flood would come through the canyon.

SK: Yeah, because it's all hill and canyon in there. So I was talking to one of the Japanese farmers there, and he says if you have seen what they call in summertime, hailstorm. And overnight, he says, you have a ranch here with tomato or something, and another guy has it over here, and it happened to pass over yours, they said it looked like a cattle went through it. It just knocks it right out. It's not like California, I would say.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: So after six months in Utah, it was cold, it was dangerous, so you returned to Poston?

SK: Yeah.

TI: And then, and then what did you do?

SK: Well, when I came back, I kept applying to get deferment because of my father's, through the Red Cross. And they were saying, "Well, if you work on a farm," I might get deferred.

TI: So getting a draft deferral, to not join the military.

SK: Yeah. So Seabrook Farms was recruiting.

TI: So explain that. When you say Seabrook was recruiting, how did they recruit?

SK: They came to the camp and say, "You want to work out, get out from the camp and work?" And being Seabrook Farms, we thought it was a farm. So three, four of us said, "Well, let's go." So went there and found out all it was is, Seabrook Farm was a farm, but the place they were recruiting to go work is a freezer plant, packing house. And there were prisoners of war working, Germans and stuff, working there, too. And about two weeks later I get a notice, "Report to the draft board." And I had to go to New Jersey, Fort Dix...

TI: Before we do that, tell me a little bit more about Seabrook. So, like, how many Japanese were there when you were...

SK: I don't know. There's quite a few. Lot of people went there.

TI: And what would be, kind of, the type of work that would be done there?

SK: I don't know what other people did, but bunch of us, we were in packing house, repacking frozen food. Blueberries and peas and stuff, that's been frozen when they picked it, then they bring it out and we put it in these little boxes and stuff.

TI: And what was the work like? Was it hard work?

SK: No.

TI: So you'd work, like, regular eight-hour days?

SK: Yeah.

TI: And then what would you do, kind of, the off time? Like on evenings or weekends, what would people do?

SK: I don't know. I never went out to the town or anything. I don't know anything about any cities around there, anyplace. Even when I was in the military by Fort Snelling, which was Minneapolis, St. Paul, I never went to the town, so I don't know.

TI: And so if you were not drafted, would you have stayed at Seabrook? Was that a pretty good place to be?

SK: No. I would have come back to California somehow.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: So after two weeks at Seabrook, you get your draft notice, and then you said you went, I'm sorry, to New Jersey or someplace?

SK: Well, Seabrook is in New Jersey. So then they gave us notice saying we have to report to Salt Lake City. So we came back to Poston and got sworn in in Salt Lake City.

TI: Okay. And then what happened after that?

SK: Then I had to go to basic training in Camp Blanding, Florida.

TI: And about what time was this? Do you know what year, or roughly the time?

SK: Let's see. It had to be around... end of '43, I think, '44. '43, '43, I think.

TI: Okay, the end of '43.

SK: 'Cause basic training, we had to do, is sixteen weeks. Because we had to do...

TI: Maybe the end of...

SK: '43. Because I only was in the service for eighteen months. And when I got out, it was in '45.

TI: But you were being trained as a replacement troop for the 100th/442 at this point.

SK: Yeah. So we had to do everything, from rifle to Howitzer, shooting, Howitzer.

TI: And so as a draftee, were you one of the early draftees?

SK: No, there were others. There were, about the time I was there, there was quite a few Japanese there.

TI: Okay.

SK: Some were way -- few weeks, a month ahead of us. Some of 'em went overseas right away.

TI: But at this point, at Camp Blanding, they were mostly draftees there.

SK: Yeah.

TI: Okay, so you were training... okay, so what was basic training like? How long, and what kind of training were you getting?

SK: Well, we had sixteen weeks, so we started our rifles, and all that, machine guns, everything. Mortars, .60, .80 mortars. And then we had to shoot the cannons, too. That's where I got that ringing in my ear, shooting the Howitzer. We didn't put any cotton in our ears.

TI: Okay, so after sixteen weeks, then what happened?

SK: They shipped us, I forgot... up north to get ready to go to Italy and France. And then the recruiter came because they were needing more intelligence for Japan, training. So they gave me a thing to fill out and answer some questions, "Okay, you're gonna go to Camp Snelling," to go to school there.

TI: Now, did you want to do that versus go to Europe?

SK: Yeah, I thought the less I had to go to combat, the better. If I go to training a long... eventually the war might be over.

TI: So did you, as a replacement troop, did you guys know the casualties that the 100th and 442 were taking in Europe?

SK: Yeah, we used to hear rumors and stuff. But then toward the end, used to hear about how they fought hard. 'Cause one of my high school classmate, Tom Shiratsuki was same grade as I was, he volunteered. And I thought he went into the 442, but he was put into the 522nd artillery. And he, when he came out after World War II, he was a captain already. But after World War II, I haven't seen him. He went to Korea, too.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: Okay, so after the training, you take a test. You then go to Fort Snelling.

SK: Yeah.

TI: And then what was that like?

SK: In Minnesota, it's wintertime, it's cold. But you got to go to class every day. And there was mostly Hawaiian Kibeis, because you had to be really fluent in Japanese. And Japanese language not like American. You can't pronounce or something, you gotta learn, memorize all these characters. And we had to learn everything, so you just push. We just did the best we can. And then toward the end, European war ended, so most, about half of 'em were from Hawaii, they started goofing off. And they said, "You guys goof off, we're going to send you to Camp Ritchie," which is where they were, you had to impersonate Japanese soldier to get American soldier to see what Japanese would look like or something. So the guy would say, "Hell, I don't want to go over there."

TI: Now, why would the, why would the, some of the soldiers start goofing off after the war in --

SK: Europe ended.

TI: -- Europe ended? Because the war in the Pacific was still going on.

SK: Well, yeah.

TI: So why would they good around?

SK: Well, they figure you didn't have to go to Europe no more.

TI: Oh. So they, they kept that as kind of a threat almost, that, "If you guys goof around, we're going to send you into combat in Europe."

SK: Yeah. Japan, and go to Southeast Asia.

TI: Well, and you mentioned, you said the Hawaiians goofed around more. I mean, talk about that. This was really, oh, I guess, in basic training, you met a lot of Hawaiians there, too. But how were the Hawaiians different than the mainlanders?

SK: Well, they were more macho guys. They got chip on their shoulder. Not like Nisei in California. They didn't, they didn't like to be insulted or anything. 'Cause they, I remember they always, we get warning from the CO that you can't go to this bar or anything 'cause it had trouble. They were good guys, but they were more macho guys.

TI: And how did the California Niseis get along with the Hawaiians?

SK: We got along. They liked to play cards, and I used to play pokers and stuff with them. And I got to know one guy, he died already. But he's a few years older than I was, his name was Inouye, Tanaka Inouye. I found out he went back to the Big Island, he became district attorney there. And I visited him once, and he visited me once. But it's... they were more fluent, they used, they had Japanese school there in Hawaii more than over here.

TI: Okay. So how long did you have to train at Fort Snelling?

SK: Well... about four months, I guess. Four or five months, and then the war in Japan ended. So I thought, "Well, I'm going to get to go home." But before I know it, I was in Japan.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: So you were sent to Japan during the occupation.

SK: Yeah. I was there in December.

TI: And this was your first time to Japan.

SK: Oh, yeah.

TI: And so what, what, when you got to Japan, what was it like? What did you see?

SK: Well, I used to talk to that professor that was attached to the Tokyo police. And I says, "Hey, how come these Japanese women are hanging around with all these black people?" Well, he said, "They gotta eat," and black people were all in the, mostly in the quartermaster. They had lot of access to food and everything, so lot of Japanese women were hanging around with them to get food, he said. I says, gee, to me, I never saw that, Japanese hanging around with black people.

TI: And what did you, what did you think when you saw that?

SK: I think it was kind of disgraceful, but he was telling me, "What are you going to do when you don't have no food?" Especially like Tokyo, it's not like the country. Country they had food, but big city, they had hard time getting food.

TI: And so when you said Japanese women were there, in order to get the food, what would they have to do?

SK: I guess they were like prostitutes, I guess, most of 'em. Some of 'em, I guess.

TI: And so they would essentially do that to get food so that they could either get the food for themselves or maybe even their families.

SK: Yeah.

TI: And so that, I guess, is an indication of just the, maybe the devastation of Japan and the poverty.

SK: Yeah, poverty was terrible, I guess. Like he said, you gotta eat. He spoke real good English, 'cause I couldn't translate some of those hard Japanese, so I used to ask him, "What is this?" and he'd help me out.

TI: And when you talked with this -- he was with the Tokyo police, you said?

SK: Yeah. He was attached to Tokyo police.

TI: And when he saw Japanese women doing what you guys saw, did he ever talk about that? Did he say anything?

SK: Like we said, you gotta eat. Then he says, "You want me to introduce you to some nice Japanese girl?' I says, "No, I don't want to get involved with anybody." And there was lot of black market going on anyhow.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: So describe that black market. What kind of things would be sold on the black market?

SK: Well, like us, in the military, we used to get ration, one carton of cigarettes, so many candy bars and stuff. But I didn't, I guess I didn't have the nerve to sell on the black market. 'Cause a carton of cigarette was fifty cents, we had to pay. And they're selling it for 350 yen. And those days, the yen were two to one. So friend of mine, I don't want to say his name, but he was a good friend of mine. He knew, and he had a Japanese girlfriend, so he says, "I'll sell it for you." "Give me the money for the cigarettes, but candy and stuff, give it to them." So two to one, you pay fifty cents, and they sell it for 350. And two to one, so you get $175 for fifty cents. So I took the yen. And then pretty soon, they said, "You can't send more than your paycheck home." Because they knew the black market was going on, the army knew.

TI: Because some men were making so much money.

SK: Yeah. So then people that were there before the occupation, in other words, in the South Pacific or something, combat, they had unlimited amount. But like us, where we went after the war was ended, paycheck only. So the second in command, lieutenant, said, "Give me the money and I'll send it to your sister." So he used to send some money to my sister. Just like swords and stuff, I remember collecting, lot of places, we collected lot of swords and stuff. And we had to register to put, warehouse. So the lieutenant says, "You want a sword?" "Yeah," I says, "I'd like to get a sword." "Then go in and get the one you want." He says, "I'll send it in my name," because he was able to come back before.

TI: And where would these swords come from?

SK: Family.

TI: So families would sell them to get...

SK: No, they take it, you had to register.

TI: Oh, I see.

SK: Just like before, when we were over here, when they had guns or something, we had to register, and the sheriff would take it, hold it. And they give you a receipt, but it disappears, nobody does anything. So I got one sword, but it was not a real old Japanese sword, it was military sword, soldier had it. So I got one of those, I sent that. Not a really good sword. Because there was a lot of family heirlooms and stuff that was stolen.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: When you were there... well, let's talk about, so when you were serving in Japan, what was your job? I mean, what were you supposed to be doing for the army?

SK: First I was at general headquarter, Yusen Building, that's right across from the palace. And then I was sent down to the military police, 720 military, American military, which was the same place where the Japanese military police used to be. So we were attached there, we were assigned to each company, different company. And I was with Company B, and all we did was ride with the officer and go around checking all these MPs stations, see if everything's going okay, make the rounds, hotels and cantinas and everything.

TI: So you were like the driver for the officer?

SK: Yeah, and interpreter.

TI: Okay, so you would go around and drive and interpret.

SK: Yeah.

TI: And so was there a whole group of other Niseis who did the same thing?

SK: Yeah, there was quite a few. Three, four to each company.

TI: And what type of things would you see that would be...

SK: Mostly we would go check the MP stations. There's MPs... only one time I went to one USO place, and then couple of MPs were arguing with one black sergeant. Officers never go. He sits in the jeep and, "Go over there and see what's going on." And this sergeant, a great big sergeant, and I asked the other MPs what the problem --

TI: And these were Japanese MPs, or American MPs?

SK: American MPs. And they said, "Well, this sergeant has a razor in his boots, and he's giving us a bad time." So I asked this black guy, sergeant, "How come you're carrying a razor in your combat boots?" "It's none of your goddamn business," and he cussed me out, and he called me a Jap, and, "You're a gook, you're not an American." I just listened to him for a while, and I told them, "Take him to jail," husgow, they called it husgow. When I came back to the jeep, the officer said, "Why in the hell didn't you shoot that guy?" I said, "I can't shoot anybody." "Man, if he insulted me like that, I'd shoot him. And we would have stand behind you." But no, I can't do that. That's the only time in my life in the army that somebody called me a "Jap" and all that kind of stuff. I don't know. Because the colonel of the battalion, MP, he was from the South, and he hated black people. So there was no black MPs there. And sometime we had to go raids at nighttime, to hotels where they know the black marketers are, so that we get a briefing before. And he says anytime they make -- because they're in hotels, so some of them are, usually about midnight we raid the place. He says, "Anybody makes a funny move, shoot 'em first. Don't hesitate, because they'll shoot you and you're be there, dead." So I never had an occasion to shoot anybody. But that colonel, he hated blacks. And there were lot of Japanese ladies, women roaming around in the battalion all over, because lot of GI had girlfriends.

TI: So I'm a little, I guess maybe not... a little confused. So your job was, in some ways, to stop the black market, you had to do these raids.

SK: Yeah.

TI: But yet, you sometimes participated with the black market. I mean, what was, how did the black market work? Was it kind of... some were okay and some weren't, or what was that like?

SK: It was not okay, but it was understood that it was going on. 'Cause I know some Japanese guys got caught. They were in the kitchen, working in the kitchen and stuff, cooks. 'Cause if you get sugar or something, they were priceless. I know some of 'em, they got court-martialed. But everybody knew it was going on. Facts of life then.

TI: And so when you did a, like a big raid, I mean, what would you guys find? Was there like a lot of...

SK: Yeah, sometimes we would find a lot of what they call sugar -- sugar was one of the hottest items.

TI: And just in general, the role of... I was thinking, when you would drive around with the officers and they would use you both as a driver and as interpreter, but if you're going to the U.S. MP stations, why would they need an interpreter? When would your Japanese language skills come in handy?

SK: Well, if it involved Japanese people, or they have documents or something, they would get it and says, "What's this about?" And some of it, unless you know real good Japanese, you couldn't translate it perfect, so I would go to the police station and talk to the Japanese interpreter, and he'll interpret everything.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: And how important do you think it was to have the Niseis, Japanese language speaking speakers in the MPs? Was that a valuable thing?

SK: I think so, but I think they did more good during the wartime because they could translate lot of the documents. With American, lot of 'em couldn't do it, so that, they did more good, especially in the southwest Pacific and stuff.

TI: Well, and how do you think the Japanese viewed Japanese American soldiers? When you would need to talk to a Japanese national about something, and they would realize you're a U.S. soldier, what kind of reaction did you get?

SK: Mostly like, I used to have a good, not good friend, but I used knew one place with a camera shop, and I liked to look at different kind of camera, and I'd like to buy a camera. I had good relations with 'em, 'cause they were, for them, it was hard to get cameras. And the PX used to sell cameras, Minoltas and stuff. They were not high-grade cameras. So he would say, "Go buy me one," I'd buy it for him.


SK: So I finally bought one, got me a good German camera, so I brought that one home. Because things were hard to get over there. So GI had lot of excess.

TI: And so the Japanese would -- they'd approach you more easily because you were Japanese American?

SK: Oh, yeah. They were, I never had a hard time with any Japanese people.

TI: And how do you think the U.S. Caucasian soldiers treated the Japanese? Do you think they looked down at the Japanese?

SK: Yeah, some of 'em did. Because I remember riding those trains and stuff, women or something, they would come from the country, they used to load everything on the back, and they'd come in, pushing their load in to get in, because it's always jam-packed. Some of the GIs would go like this and push 'em out, and everything like that. But yeah, most of 'em were okay, but there some guys that, they hated Japanese. And I guess you can't blame 'em, we're at war.

TI: Did that carry over? Did some of the U.S. Caucasian soldiers then look down upon Japanese American soldiers?

SK: Well, I never, I never personally had any experience.

TI: Or how about, do you think you as a Japanese American treated Japanese differently than the Caucasians, then? Did you think the Japanese American soldiers treated the Japanese better because of the common heritage?

SK: You mean the Niseis?

TI: Yeah, the Niseis.

SK: I guess so. I mean, sympathetic. To me, it was, I mean, I never had any problems.

TI: Earlier in the interview, you talked about visiting relatives. You got that double weekend pass. What was their reaction? Did they know that you were in Japan?

SK: Well, like he was saying, most of them said, "Shikata ga nai," it's, can't help it, it's your duty when you're in American army. 'Cause my uncle's sister's husband went in the Japanese army, and he hated Americans, so I didn't hardly talk to him. But my father's side, he was a navy captain, and I talked to him. He sounded, "What are you gonna do? It's war." But you can't say, "I don't want to." So I never had talked to him really long or anything, but he said, "Well, we each had to do what we had to do." Because I didn't realize that the family that we grew up with had a son my same age. And when we were about twelve or so, he had to send one of the sons back to Japan, because he had to take over the family or something. And I found out after the war that he got killed in the Japanese army. And then he said in Japan they had what they called onkyuu. The mother or the father, as long as they live, government give them money. So that they're living over in the United States, she used to get money. I never asked her how much or anything.

TI: Oh, because their son was killed, they get --

SK: In Japan. Instead of like we, if we get killed, we got what, ten thousand dollar or something, issued. But they had some kind of thing that as long as their father or mother is alive, the government would send them money. And she's hundred and four now, and she's still getting money.

TI: Oh, interesting.

SK: And she likes to go to Reno. I mean, now, she can't go because she's in a wheelchair, but they still take her to Indian casino.

TI: Using the Japanese, the money she gets from Japan?

SK: Yeah. She said, "My son is always giving me this money."

<End Segment 26> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: When you were in Japan, I think you got word that your father was not doing well. So can you explain that?

SK: Yeah, my sister got contact with the Red Cross, and they said, "Well, he's not going to live for very long, two months maybe." So the Red Cross -- that's when Red Cross really helped me. They got everything ready, flew home to Japan, from Japan, on a cargo plane. Took me sixty-four hours. They didn't have jets in those days, it's a cargo plane, so you sit on a bench.

TI: And sixty four hours because you had to do lots of hops to get to...

SK: Yeah, all the island, Kwajalein and then Hawaii, and the longest one from Hawaii home.

TI: And so when you got back, where was your father? Where did you meet your father?

SK: Well, they had to, the camp was closed already, so they came, I guess they knew the family from a long time ago, Tsuchiyamas in Monterey, so they went to live there in a shed in the back. And then mother worked in a cannery, Monterey cannery for a while, until they, until they came back to Watsonville.

TI: And how sick was your father when you got back?

SK: Well, he was in pain. It was getting worse and worse, and Dr. Koda said, "He's not going to live very long." And so my father asked me to go see Dr. Iscamp, and ask him if he could give me kind of thing to go to sleep. I begged him, but he says, "I can't do that. If I do that, I lose my license."

TI: Oh, so your father wanted some kind of drugs or something to just end, end his life.

SK: Yeah. He knew he, there was no future. But within two months, less than two months, he died.

TI: During that time, were you able to have any, any conversations with him?

SK: Not much, because he was in constant pain. The cancer was all over now. They were giving him painkiller, but it didn't really help.

TI: And so after, while this was going on, where was your brother and sister?

SK: My sister was in, with what's her name? One of her friends when she went to Wisconsin to do housework. And my brother, he was going to high school in camp, and then when I went to Utah, I took him with me, he went to school there. Then he came back, and then he got drafted. But he had a, he used to play basketball, and he cracked his elbow. So his elbow wasn't hundred percent, so they put him in limited service, so he didn't have to go overseas.

TI: So after your father died, then what happened?

SK: We stayed in Watsonville and started working.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

TI: And over those years, how had Watsonville changed?

SK: Well, I started working, Carl Wada, he was recruiting for labor work. So we worked for, with him, thin lettuce or cutting beets or pick blackberries. Anywhere there was a job, he would send us. 'Til I got a job with Sheehy, I started working over there, irrigator. So then there was a Filipino guy that used to work for him, and he asked me, "Do you want to drive a tractor?" and I says, "I never drove tractor. I drove horses, but never tractor." Said, "I'll teach you." And I started driving tractor, irrigating, maybe fourteen, fifteen years, 'til I found the ranch and bought the ranch.

TI: And about what year was that when you bought your ranch?

SK: 1959.

TI: So 1959 you bought a ranch, and how large a ranch was this?

SK: It was 20 acres, but I bought the first 10 acres with the option to buy the other ten. So I bought, soon as the option came up, I bought the other ten.

TI: And where did you get the money to buy this? Was this something that you had saved?

SK: I had saved enough, but when I had children and everything already, the wife of the Sheehys, she said, "I'll lend you the money." So I borrowed ten thousand from them, and in a couple of years, I paid it back.

TI: And do you still have the farm and the ranch?

SK: Yeah.

TI: So all these years, you've kept it up. Is it still actively being farmed?

SK: I leased it out this year.

TI: So up until last year, you were still farming?

SK: Yeah.

TI: That's amazing, Sho.

SK: And my son-in-law was helping, but he wanted to retire. Young people, when they get about sixty, they want to retire.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

TI: Now, tell me a little bit about your family. So when did you get married?

SK: '48.

TI: And what is your wife's name?

SK: Helen Yukiko.

TI: And where did you meet her?

SK: Like I say, when we were little kids, my father, he worked, her father worked under my father. So we're family friends forever.

TI: Oh, so you've known her all your life.

SK: Yeah.

TI: And how many children did you have?

SK: Three.

TI: And can you tell me their names, your three children?

SK: Yeah. They don't have Japanese names. Bruce, Patricia, and Gordon.

TI: Good. You know, I'm at the end of my questions, and I just wanted to ask you, just in general, when you think back on your life and all the things that you've lived through, is there anything that kind of stands out as a, as a way that you'd like to live your life that you've learned, what's important to you?

SK: One thing my father always told me, "Life is like nature. If you have children, don't protect them. Let them do what they want, because," he said, "it's like farming. You plant something under a big tree or something, it'll never grow. You're protecting it too much. Let them do what they want, and if you can help 'em, help 'em, but don't try to tell 'em what to do." Maybe they didn't do what I would've liked them to do, but that's the way nature is. Says, "You gotta be like nature. You don't overprotect." In other words, you can help 'em, but don't try to -- because you're a doctor, don't try to make him a doctor, because he might not like to be a doctor, and he's not going to enjoy it the rest of his life. That's what sticks in my mind, always.

TI: Well, I think those are great words.

SK: Because he says, "Nature is the main thing in life," he says. That's what, now, we're talking about green, green, we've got to protect the nature. And that's the problem we're having now, because too much people and too much pollution and stuff like that. And I think that's a good thing to learn, that everybody can't be a doctor. If it did, we'd starve to death.

TI: That's good. Well, Sho, thank you so much for doing this interview. This was fabulous in terms of all the information, so, again, thank you.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.