Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: George Yano Interview
Narrator: George Yano
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda, Steve Fugita
Location: San Jose, California
Date: December 1, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-ygeorge_4-01-0003

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TI: Okay, so contract, and then he goes to work for Mr. John McDonald. So tell me about that.

GY: Yeah, John J. McDonald, again, through Chinese exclusion, a lot of these people that required laborers, especially something that's a lot of detailed work, hired Portuguese at one point. And then Japanese were the next ones available, because Japanese started coming in. And when my grandfather finished whatever it was with the railroad, he got a job with John J. McDonald right in Milpitas right where Ranch 99 is now, was McDonald's farm. He had a seed and fertilizer company. My grandfather ended up there. They had a little orchard there, and during the winters I guess my grandfather grew some vegetables between the trees like a lot of other people did. And over the years, that's 1906, and I think McDonald died in the late 1920s, I can't remember exactly. But it's in that report that I wrote. And during that time, he treated my grandfather like his son. My grandfather worked well, I guess, and so one of the things that happened, I think, going into our family background, is McDonald's, he's in the mausoleum up there at Oak Hill up on top. And his casket is up there. And when I took my daughter -- she was interested because she's never heard this part of it like anybody else. So sort of looked into it...

TI: And tell me why the mausoleum is so interesting. So you went up there, why did you go up there?

GY: Well, he's there. John J. McDonald's... it's in there. And we have always gone on Memorial Day or at least once a year, even the time from my grandmother, go up there and give flowers.

TI: Now, for you, growing up as a child, what did you think about going up to this mausoleum to put flowers at this white man's...

GY: I didn't think much of it, although I've heard of McDonald, my sister's named after her, her name was Elizabeth, I guess, but she went by Bessie, Bessie McDonald. And one of the things, early things I remember is after the 1950s, probably or late 1940s, we went to a rest home in Woodside where Mrs. McDonald was. And you know, in those days, Japanese never hugged or showed affection at all. And my grandmother was from the country. She'd never hugged anybody. But when we went there, Mrs. McDonald came out and my grandmother gave her a big hug. I couldn't believe it. My grandfather stayed in the car. And there was a real encounter with McDonald. And I didn't know much about it at the time.

TI: So let's go back a little bit more, because I want to understand what your grandfather, yeah, what your grandfather and Mr. McDonald, like what kind of work did your grandfather do for Mr. McDonald?

GY: Well, he was doing the labor and the farming and managing after they got people, managing the farm. Over the years, they worked so well together, and when the Santa Clara Valley was becoming populated, back in the 1920s, a lot of the agriculture moved to the central valley. And Mr. McDonald even said, asked my grandfather if he would take over the McDonald operations in the central valley, someplace in Stockton. And my grandfather went out there, and it was hot, mosquito-infested, and he just couldn't take it, and dusty. And so he told Mr. McDonald that no, he can't go there. And most of the people were over here in San Jose. So McDonald ended up going to Stockton and running a bigger operation there. They used more fertilizer and sprays and seeds over there. But I think they had a very close relationship.

TI: So your dad stayed back and then ran all the operations in the same...

GY: My grandfather, yeah.

TI: Your grandfather, in the San Jose area?

GY: Yeah.

TI: So that was an indication of how much, how well and how much he trusted your grandfather.

GY: Oh, yeah. And he used to give my grandfather his old car. Like my grandfather used to drive around a Cadillac. When I talk to the old people, he was driving a Cadillac that McDonald gave him. So it was, McDonald treated him very well. I think he was British and an immigrant.

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